When we set out to launch Change State 18 months ago, we did so after spending more than a decade listening to frustrated clients share what they were missing from their current recruitment marketing agency relationships. Again and again, we heard the same similar requests: Better attention to detail, more responsiveness, fresh ideas on marketing avenues, new tools and technologies that could add value to their organizations, and plenty more. The two common questions we heard were:
“Who do you recommend as a recruitment marketing agency? We don’t like ours.”
“You seem smart. Why don’t you start your own agency?”
Eventually we did the latter. And the subsequent year and half has been an incredible period of growth that’s reinforced our initial hypothesis: Many companies are indeed looking for a new voice and true partner to help support their evolving recruitment efforts.
Although we’ve been vocal before that we’re on a mission to raise the bar for recruitment marketing agencies, this past Friday brought the conversation to an unexpectedly tense level, when, as a cheeky Halloween joke, we announced Change State was dressing up as a ‘legacy recruitment marketing agency.’ If you know me, you know I love a good (bad?) pun. So we picked a punny company name/image that played off a current large recruitment marketing agency. What we didn’t take into account were the feelings our parody company could elicit by being linked to one ‘large recruitment marketing agency’ in particular.
The TLDR of the next 60 minutes while the post was live: the agency we were referencing did not find it humorous, voiced their concern, and we took down our post. (We’re not big fans of conflict. And honestly, I felt bad that someone took our post so personally.)
It may go down as our first real external ‘conflict’ at Change State (Hey, it has been 18 months. That’s pretty good). It also gave me a chance to step back and evaluate our company’s values, our personal values, and to make sure our messaging and public-facing content is representative of and reinforces our own beliefs.
As I reflected on the situation during my Saturday morning trail run, a mentor asked what I would’ve done had the scenarios been reversed – that is, if the punny company name sounded similar to Change State, thereby poking fun at our lack of responsiveness, attention to detail, etc. I said that if I thought it was funny, I hope that we would’ve laughed about it and shared the post as well. But would that have really been my reaction? In the heat of the moment, I’m not quite sure. I think all of us are often overly protective of our brands.
I think back to the old ‘I’m a Mac. I’m a PC’ commercials as a great example of how the spirit of competition within an industry has pushed a whole industry forward. That’s the spirit of competition that we’d like to foster, as we have great relationships with many other recruitment marketing agencies (Hint: If you run an ad agency and don’t know us… accept our LinkedIn requests. We’ve reached out to all of you to say hi, and we’re pretty friendly). But I’ll be the first to admit when we may swing and miss, and Friday did strike a nerve with a competitor. My sincerest apologies, and a thank you for the opportunity for self reflection.
Potentially lost in the quickly-removed Halloween post (really, it saw 100 views) was a broader message we presented in costume: The world of talent acquisition is different from where it was ten years ago.
It was easier to directly measure how and where recruitment marketing agencies drove value. But we have access to tools, technology and data that didn’t exist when I first started working in the job board space in 2007. And the best recruitment marketing agencies should be helping their clients across all aspects of their recruitment marketing processes – not just spending advertising dollars.
So we wanted to take a moment to share some specific areas that we’ll continue to work to highlight. Along the way, we hope that we can push other recruitment marketing agencies and company recruiting teams to raise the quality of their work, because we believe poorly managed recruitment strategies impact far more than an individual organization.
How can we build awareness and do better?
Education: We see a glaring lack of knowledge sharing across many areas of talent acquisition. And this means that new tools, trends, technologies often get lost in a sea of buzzwords. We’re guilty of it at times, too. It’s also why we started The Changing State of Talent Acquisition podcast. We get our energy from learning and developing ourselves, and one of the best ways to learn is to talk to someone new. Each week, we get a chance to hear and share stories from other leaders in the world of talent acquisition – from practitioners to company founders, each week is a new story.
There Is No One Size Fits All Solution: It’s easy to continue buying the same job ads and same platform access year after year. We can all point to the largest job board and largest sourcing platform in recruitment. But there is no one size fits all solution for clients. And this rings true when it comes to recruitment technologies and candidate messaging. We’ve preached a vendor-agnostic approach to recruitment and have great relationships with CRM partners, applicant tracking systems, job boards, and more. An HR technology stack that’s right for one organization may be completely wrong for another.
To truly understand how to help clients, you have to understand how your recruitment tools, technologies and messaging plays together – which is why we invest so much time educating ourselves about the new tools and technology that continue to join the HR tech marketplace. It’s difficult to grasp all the potential connection points in a typical candidate and recruiter hiring process. That’s why an understanding of a company’s HR technology setup is a key step in building out an effective recruitment marketing strategy.
Job Aggregators: You’ve heard this one from us many times before. In the never-ending search for the cheapest click, our industry is killing the candidate experience. What do we mean? Far too many job boards have popped up as Google for Jobs has become the defacto ‘starting point’ for job searches. But the ugly reality is that our move to ‘pay for performance’ advertising has created a glut of job boards, all fighting for real estate on Google. What results is often a never-ending loop where candidates – who are actually searching for jobs – end up in a frustrating job-board-centipede experience (™) often with a very dirty path to actually apply.
Buzzwords: The deck is stacked against clients when it comes to vetting new technologies. AI and machine learning are terms thrown into most vendor presentations. We’ve found that many clients are unfamiliar with programmatic recruitment marketing, social retargeting or even pixel tracking. One of our next projects will be building out a dictionary of recruitment buzzwords to help companies navigate an increasingly crowded ecosystem.
What are a few easy things you can do to take a big leap forward?
Apply to your company’s own jobs. Search for them online. If we’re paying more attention to what candidates are experiencing, we’ll all be more aware of how to best invest our marketing dollars.
Invest time to learn about new technology. One of the most disappointing aspects of COVID is the effect it’s had on HR conferences pushing to virtual, or cancelling altogether. There was $1.65 Billion invested in HR Tech in Q3. Companies may not be ready to push forward with new HR tech purchases today, but the more you know what’s out there, the better prepared you’ll be to have vendor conversations when the time is right.
Share what you learn with others. There’s a lot of content being pushed across social channels today, but so much of it amounts to patting each other on the back. The real value is in sharing content that facilitates discussion. If you find an article you’ve enjoyed, tell us what you’ve learned.
If you’ve been on a call with us, you know we’re the first to admit if we don’t know something. Transparency is one of our core values, so if we don’t know an answer we’ll go out and find it. And as we continue down this journey, we also need to hold ourselves accountable and be transparent when we can do better. We may have missed with our punny company name, but our broader message remains the same: Expect more from your recruitment marketing agency.
Luckily, we have six months to figure out an appropriate April Fool’s Day joke. You can bet we’ll be making fun of ourselves this next time.