How to use content marketing to attract (and keep) the best talent

Sonja Sharon

For growing companies, attracting and retaining the right talent is a real pain point. Here’s how to use content marketing to attract, excite and retain the best candidates, with examples and tips to show you how it’s done.

Content marketing for recruitment

Content marketing for recruitment

Using valuable content to help win more of the right business is a familiar goal. But content marketing to attract more of the right candidates? Would that work?

For growing companies, attracting and retaining the right talent is a real pain point. It’s a candidate’s market right now. Here in Bristol, for example, tech talent is in particularly short supply:

“Competition to attract talent to our region is fierce, and with 70% of tech companies locally already citing a lack of supply of highly skilled workers it’s time to do something about it.” Liz Humphries, Bristol Calling

Recruitment can be expensive and frustrating, and the cost of getting the wrong person in post is huge. Is there anything a business can do to attract the people it needs to get to the next level?

In short, yes, and that thing is content marketing. By consistently telling a clear and compelling story through the content you share across your digital marketing channels, you won’t just pull in more of the right leads, but you’ll pull in more of the right people who’ll want to work with you too.

“From a recruitment perspective, it’s working extremely well. We’re in a very competitive marketplace when it comes to good, experienced candidates. People are coming to us because of the Project One Values animation we created – they’re joining us on the back of one piece of great content!” Geoff Mason, Content Director, Project One

In a crowded market where everyone is fighting for talent, your content can be a real differentiator. Have you got yours right?

What candidates want

“Candidates are looking for a balance of employer-led content and content from existing employees and peers.” – North American Candidate Experience Research Report, 2016

Potential employees think about job applications in exactly the same way as potential clients make critical buying decisions. They do a lot of their own research upfront and expect to find content online that educates them about your business before they apply. They’re looking to see if you’d be a good fit for them. Content plays a crucial role in them finding your job opportunity and it’s a major influence on their decision to apply.

Changing jobs is a difficult, emotive decision and the more you can do to get the word out, answer people’s questions, excite them about your opportunity and allay any fears, the better chance you have of securing their interest and drawing the best people towards you.

If your content does its job properly then more of the right people will find you. Those that do are far further down the path when it gets to interview stage: they’re convinced it’s you they want to work for. This means your offers are far more likely to get accepted. Give them what they need to understand the role, your company and what’s expected and the chances are they’ll make better hires too.

Two independent businesses getting their hiring content right

So how do you put content marketing to work so you attract more of the right staff directly? Here are two examples of smaller businesses getting their content just right.

1. Lessons from ISL Recruitment

ISL is a Bristol-based recruitment company. Specialising in the tech and engineering sectors they help businesses who struggle to attract the right talent. They’re growing fast so it’s vital that they attract their own talent too.

ISL Recruitment group photo

Director Alan Furley explains their content-focused approach to hiring the best people:

“Our strategy is people first. We know that if we focus on hiring the right people then clients will come. Let’s get our content right for staff first, and then we’ll look at how we can use it to attract more of the right clients.

Back in 2016 we didn’t have much of a voice in the market. We hired mainly through other recruitment agencies, and with stiff competition, our success rate in terms of offer acceptance was poor.

We have worked hard on our story and content over the last couple of years* and it’s really paying off now. We have a visible presence in the market. We’ve won two UK Great Place to Work awards, and good people are coming to us directly through our content and social media activity.

We still use external recruiters when we need to but our offer to acceptance rate is far better now. Candidates regularly reference our content and articles. (In the last couple of months 4-5 people cited one article (link) in their interview). When they come for the interview they’re pretty convinced they want to work for us which makes for far better conversations and conversions.

There are other unexpected benefits too. Our content helps get the right people in to see us. The right people stay longer and we’re definitely seeing a positive impact on employee retention. It also shows my team the confidence we have in talking about our values externally.

So there’s a dual purpose for our recruitment content. Not only does it attract new potential employees, but our current people love the public recognition – the posts and photos we post on LinkedIn & Instagram. Although they cringe a bit to begin with, they actually really love that we’re giving them the recognition and public praise.

We survey recent hires to ask them about their buying journey when researching jobs and choosing to apply to ISL, to help us refine our content further.

The ideas we’re sharing, and the buzz this is creating really seem to make a difference. Yes, content takes hard thinking, time and work but the investment is really paying off – more of the right people, less wasted effort, money and time.”

There’s so much life at ISL – look! Who wouldn’t join?

Valuable hiring content ideas to steal from ISL:

“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” ― Simon Sinek

[*Disclosure: Alan and ISL’s internal recruitment manager Mattie from ISL have been valued members of our Valuable Content group coaching programme at Pub School to get their content thinking sorted.]

2. Lessons from Simpleweb

Simpleweb home page

Along with many others, I’m a proper fangirl of Bristol software and product company Simpleweb. They have little problem recruiting great staff (and clients, and fans like me). Their content tells the Simpleweb story brilliantly, and thanks to their network, presence, and reputation, the word gets widely spread.

The Simpleweb team really get content – it’s their brand in action. From their messaging, website content, blogs, email newsletters, and regular events it’s evident that they do great work and are here to make a difference. This is a company that genuinely cares about the people and companies they work with and the impact of their work on the wider world. And it shows. They share the successes, challenges, and inspiration of their clients, portfolio, and team. It’s a compelling content-focused approach to the challenge of recruiting staff, and clients too.

Typically understated, Mark Panay, Simpleweb’s CEO says:

“Our values are demonstrated through the people we hire and choose to work with – hopefully this comes out through our content.”

Well, they really do come across and it’s compelling. These guys are crystal clear on their purpose and demonstrate their values consistently through all the content they share. This builds trust and helps them make a connection with the right people. What’s not to love?

Simpleweb people page

Valuable hiring content ideas to steal from Simpleweb

  • Be clear on what you do and why you do it, like this: simpleweb.co.uk
  • Showcase the great companies you work with: simpleweb.co.uk/portfolio
  • Share stories and knowledge – from your clients, from the team: simpleweb.co.uk/stories
  • Showcase your team and your alumni too: simpleweb.co.uk/people
  • Show what you get up to for fun: simpleweb.co.uk/play
  • Don’t just say good stuff. Do good stuff. Simpleweb events and hack nights are legendary.
  • Invest in your content. Simpleweb is the only smaller business I know with three dedicated content personnel, and it pays off.

How to get content marketing right for recruitment

I hope these two recruitment content marketing examples give you some ideas for the type of content you can create to improve your recruitment process and results. They create valuable content consistently, with purpose, focus and heart.

But where do you start if you want to make content marketing work to attract the right talent for your business?

Here’s the Valuable Content way:

  1. Think like a potential employee. What story are you telling now – on your website, via social media? How valuable is your content to your intended audience?
  2. Know why. Define your current recruitment problem and the potential value for your business of getting your content right. Build a business case for investment and make a commitment to valuable content to engage the right people.
  3. Know who you are. What is it you want to say? This is an opportunity to readdress and clearly communicate what you do, why you do it, and the underlying values and beliefs behind all you do.
  4. Know who you want to attract. Who are your ideal candidates? What attributes do they share?
  5. Know what they need. And what do they want or need from their next step in the career? Some direct research really helps here, to get under the skin of their hopes and aspirations. Talk to recent joiners about their experience and why they joined you. It’ll help you create messages and content ideas that will connect with others too.
  6. Put yourself in their shoes. Understand the life change they will need to make to work with you. If you’re recruiting from outside your local area, share content that will help them decide to make the move. (You don’t have to create all this content yourself, you can curate it instead. Links to info on places to live, schools, best restaurants, good clubs, great weekend activities will be helpful for a potential candidate considering a big life change.)
  7. Revisit your website. Use all this thinking and research to get the story straight here: from the messages on your Home and About pages to your Join Us section. Make your website feel like a welcoming home for potential candidates.
  8. Create a content strategy and plan so you tell a consistent, compelling story over time. What results do you want from your recruitment content? Who are you writing it for? What overarching message and themes do you want to get across? What content when and where? What team, resources and investment do you need to get the word out? Decide and document.
  9. Get busy with creating your content and take the word out.
  10. Measure, learn and improve. Watch what works, and refine as you go. Prove the benefits and go deeper. Consider a similar content marketing approach for other areas of the business – client attraction and retention comes next.

“Obsess over your end users or personas. Self-indulgent content is rife on corporate websites and can actually have a detrimental effect.” James Ainsworth, Head of Content, Prophecy

Raise your recruitment game

Recruitment is an expensive ongoing headache for many growing firms, and it can feel as though finding the talent you need is out of your control. But there is a lot that you can do to raise your profile and help the right people find you. Apply strategic content marketing thinking to your recruitment process, and you’ll really raise your game.

Telling a better recruitment story. What can you do now?

  • We’re resurrecting the Bristol Content Group and this hot recruitment topic is on the list. If you’re in the area and interested in participating in this conversation in November do let us know.
  • If you want an expert outside-in view of how your current recruitment messages measure up, and an outline of your opportunities for fast improvement, check out our content critique service.

Valuable Content Award badges are on the way to you, ISL and Simpleweb. Congratulations, and keep the valuable content coming.

Valuable Content Award badge

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