How to hook “goldfish” candidates3 min read.
We sat down for a chat with Recruiting Daily's William Tincup to catch his views on the importance of employer branding. Particularly when it comes to younger, digitally literate, candidates...
If you’ve any interest or involvement at all in the world of recruitment and employer branding, chances are you have encountered the footprints of William Tincup through his podcasts, social media and of course business title, Recruiting Daily.
We figured, as a storied pro in the recruitment and talent acquisition business, who knows first-hand that today’s candidates hold unprecedented power in a historically tight labour market, that he would be worth talking to.
It was a good hunch.
“Candidates are like goldfish,” Tincup says. “They have the memory of going across the fishbowl and when they turn around it's a brand-new world.”
“When a candidate gets to your page, whether they come through Indeed or something like that, but they get to your careers page, and you have their moment of attention, you've got to strike right then.
“If they're interested in something and they've made an application, you've got to get with them right away. Again, whether they're right for the job or not, if it's not a fit, okay, that's fine too. Then let them know ‘hey, we like you, but this isn't the job for you. We've got other jobs that might be for you,’ etc. But you've got to triage that in a faster way than you did the year before. And you've got to be high quality, high personalisation.”
Gen Z and some of the younger millennials are Digital natives. Born into an online world, they are a lot more discerning when it comes to content and experiences, so almost instant engagement is crucial Tincup believes.
This means delivering value immediately.
“They grew up with a little X in the right-hand corner of their life. So, at any moment, they can just X out of something.
“I didn't grow up that way. If someone sent us a 3000-word job description we would read the job description, probably write out notes, print it out. We'd have done all that stuff. They're going to scan something, see if that's interesting to interact with and if something displeases them along the way – X, we’re out.”
Beyond speed and content, Tincup also identifies ongoing desire for human connection in employer branding, partly in reaction to encroaching AI automation. He advocates brands using rich multimedia and showcasing authentic employee stories.
Immersive content builds those vital emotional bonds, while extra functionality like live chat functionality (which is maybe a little harder to deliver on than a Chatbot) can further humanise the candidate experience.
“Can a candidate get on your career site, and then chat with an employee? Can they watch a video of someone like them that went through the application process?
“They want to see more humanisation than they did before, and I don't think that's going away. I think that actually becomes more striking in the future because of everything that gets automated. It’s great, however… we want more humanisation, and we want more human connection. Your employer brands have to facilitate human connection.
“Yes, you can use technology and yes, you should use technology. But if it creates a negative brand experience, this is not the candidate group that will stick around and fight through your ugly process.”
‘Always on’ employer branding
Just as brand marketing is grounded both in research and creative execution, Tincup believes talent attraction equally needs data, planning and strategy and has little time for brands operating employer branding only episodically.
During downturns especially, he is an advocate for preserving budgets for competencies he deems non-negotiable and ‘always on’ like employer branding, payroll, and benefits systems.
“Car companies like BMW and Mercedes are always investing in brand. Whether or not their sales are up or down. They're always investing in brand. We should be thinking the same when it comes to talent, and our brand.”
Unfortunately, he finds most leaders only learn such lessons the hard way, opting for cuts today over sustained brand building for tomorrow.
But even that can be turned into a positive if you lean into authenticity and don’t turn away from harsh realities in recruitment marketing.
“We should tackle negative things too,” he says. “If it’s something like, we missed our earnings the last few quarters, that should be something we talk about.”
“As a candidate all I care about is that you tackled the negative. You didn't hide the negative. I think brands that do that are just dumb. Candidates have access to all this stuff that they know, so why would you hide it? That's just dumb. Run right into it. Go ‘you know what? You're going to read about it in news and whilst you read about it let us tell you what really happened’. And now you know the real story from us.”
Owning setbacks signals confidence and respect for the audience. Positive-only messaging conversely reeks of insecurity and fuels doubts over what goes unsaid.
Convincing the sceptics
Only through immersive education can naysayers start to understand the power that employer branding holds for engaging talent amid intense competition.
“Teaching and training them to see the world the way that we do, I think is critical,” Tincup argues, “because it's not just showing them what's important, but it's showing them examples of what's right and what's wrong”.
“We've got to do a better job of conveying ‘here's what's right about this employer brand.’ So, it's less voodoo. You know. It's less mysticism. Less of an art project. And I think a lot of people that are outside of employer brand view it as very subjective. It's not subjective at all. It's very objective. You do it right or you don't.
“Regardless of what goes on in a labour market, employer brand should always be something you spend money on, because it is brand.
“No one wants to work with for a company that's retrenching, they want to work for somebody that's got momentum and excitement. That looks like they're doing things well and that, again, speaks plainly, clearly, honestly, about what they're doing.
“Even if it's a B2B company that makes boxes, they still have vendors that they buy from and customers that they sell to. It's important for them to still show that they're a vibrant successful company. So, the idea that we’re in what we used to call a candidate driven market and an employer driven market. There's no such thing. There's just a candidate driven market. That's it.”
- Engage talent continuously, not occasionally
- Interweave authenticity across employer touchpoints
- Don’t fear technology, but use it wisely
- Incorporate humanistic content showcasing your culture
- Remain responsive to meet candidate expectations