What Is Inbound Recruiting? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

What Is Inbound Recruiting? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Mike Roberts

Inbound recruiting is a methodology that uses digital marketing strategies to engage targeted groups of passive and active job seekers at different phases of the recruiting funnel. It combines elements of both employer branding and recruitment marketing to attract, nurture and convert candidates as well as to retain current employees.

Inbound Recruiting Vs. Inbound Marketing – The Great Overlap

For some reading this, it might be hard to believe there was actually a time when getting a new job meant reading a newspaper and then physically walking into a business to fill out an application. But as it tends to do, the internet has made that process obsolete to the point few remember it.

As with eCommerce, enterprise software, or most other markets requiring a transaction, connectivity and access to information has greatly empowered decision-makers. The job market has been no exception. Much like consumer and B2B marketing have shifted from having an outbound focus to an inbound one, the function of talent acquisition is currently experiencing something similar.

inbound marketing vs inbound recruiting

Source: HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Vs. Inbound Recruiting Models

Recruiting teams are starting to consider things like their career site, social media, and Google to be some of their greatest assets. Naturally, this has been making them think more and more like digital marketers, to the point that a new discipline of recruitment marketing—or what some refer to as “inbound recruiting”—has been emerging in recent years.

Some talent acquisition teams are still in the early, experimental phases of developing a strong inbound recruiting strategy. Most don’t even have one, which makes the opportunity huge. The parallels between recruitment and inbound marketing, and what it takes to attract, nurture, and convert candidates cannot be ignored these amazingly digital and mobile times.

The Candidate Journey and the Buyer Journey

The “buyer journey,” the concept of a person going from a stranger to a customer (maybe even a promoter), and everything required to get them there, is virtually identical to the modern candidate journey. Talent acquisition’s job is to get strangers to become applicants and then hires.

But the fact that the internet is now the foundation of the candidate journey is what makes this connection between inbound recruiting and marketing worth inspecting.

According to The Talent Board, last year 76% of job seekers became aware of a career opportunity from their own job search, not a recruiter. CareerBuilder also showed that the average candidate uses at least 16 resources during his or her job search process. Sound familiar? Research companies like the CEB and Forrester have all reported similar shifts in the way buyers discover products and make decisions over where to buy without talking to a salesperson.

For the job search process, like the buying process, there’s this disintermediation, or cutting out of the middleman, that’s happening as a result of the evolving top of the funnel. This is not to say that salespeople or recruiters no longer have a role in the process, that role is just changing—and for the better, as many would argue.

The Top of the Inbound Recruiting Funnel

Recruiting teams have traditionally been heavily invested in transactional, outbound top of the funnel recruiting strategies like leveraging job boards or outsourced recruiting teams—paying to get in front of the eyes of candidates.

inbound recruiting funnel

Source: Jibe’s New Candidate Journey eBook

Now, more companies (whether they call it “inbound” or not) are starting to mix in inbound recruiting strategies to influence the top of the funnel with approaches like creating employer branding content, investing in social recruiting, strengthening the UX and UI of their career site, making sure everything is mobile-friendly, and trying to get more out of search engine optimization.

73% of candidates actually now start their job search on Google. Regardless of where their search initiates, the goal is to not only be there wherever, whenever prospective candidates may be ready to look into new career opportunities, but also to have a recruiting engine that’s pulling them into the career site organically.

There’s a battle for talent going on, and companies are competing based on their ability to get quality job seekers into and through this funnel.

Here are a few of our favorite top-of-the-funnel inbound recruiting resources:

  • Career Site: Career sites have become the go-to source of information for modern candidates and at the same time companies have a major opportunity to drive more traffic there by optimizing inbound recruiting channels (like the ones listed below)
  • Search Engine Optimized (SEO) Landing Pages: Employers are creating job category-specific, location-specific and experience-specific landing pages to better target inbound candidates coming from search engines
  • Employer Branding Content: We’re perhaps seeing a new era of copywriting that coincides with the rise of employer branding as a business discipline—this content aimed at creating an “insider view” of why your company is such a great place to work is a main driver of effective inbound recruiting strategies
  • Social Recruiting: The use of social media as a recruiting tool cannot be overlooked as we move toward 2017, rather a strategy designed to drive awareness and social engagement can go a long way for talent acquisition efforts (think of both your overarching employer-level social recruiting strategy as well as your strategy for individual recruiters)
  • Support from PPC: Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and other forms of advertising can support and amplify content and social media inbound recruiting channels
  • PR: Take the time to build out a proper public relations strategy, so when you’ve got something newsworthy regarding your recruiting or hiring efforts the word can be spread fast
  • Other Referral Channels: Don’t overlook the impact sites like Glassdoor and Vault can have on inbound recruiting—claim and optimize these channels immediately

Going Beyond the Top of the Funnel (from Nurturing through Conversion)

The parallels go deeper than the top of the funnel. Talent acquisition teams are also working to build nurture marketing relationships with prospects, enabling them to opt-in to things like job alerts and talent networks (drip marketing campaigns) via calls-to-action throughout the career site.

Having this option is vital for candidates who are not yet ready to apply but may be interested in connecting with your company for future opportunities.

Some of the savviest teams are becoming obsessed with growing these types of candidate databases—what some call “talent pipelines.” A properly nurtured talent pipeline can pay off big time, especially for high-volume location-based hiring in industries like retail where filling positions in the midst of seasonality is one of the biggest challenges.

Middle-of-the-funnel inbound recruiting resources include:

  • Social Recruiting: Further down the recruiting funnel, social recruiting can help form both brand-specific and recruiter relationships with candidates over time, which is especially important for passive candidates
  • Employer Branding Content: Content is not just for the top of the funnel, in fact it can be used as a tool for nurturing existing contacts in order to move them closer to conversion
  • Talent Networks: Adding calls-to-action for a talent network gives passive as well as active candidates an alternative to applying, while letting them display some interest that can be engaged with and influenced over time
  • Job Alerts: Like talent networks, job alerts offer candidates an intermediate option to connect with employers and stay tuned with new opportunities as they’re posted
  • Email Marketing: Lots of today’s large employers are launching careers newsletters, using their talent network as the basis for recipients as well as employer branding content and new job postings as the email content

The bottom of the funnel is essentially the online job application. Think of this like the shopping cart in eCommerce. Companies do all of this work to get candidates to this point, and then comes the time to convert them. As you can imagine, there’s lots of room for experimentation in the realm of conversion optimization. To continue with our marketing analogy, think of points beyond the job application as essentially phases in the sales funnel.

There’s no bigger killer of candidate conversions than applicant tracking systems (ATS). The moment job seekers come in contact with your ATS (and its outdated look and feel) is often the moment they exit from your career site or apply flow. Today’s tech-savvy job seekers have little patience for legacy software.

Bottom of the funnel must-haves:

  • Modern on-site job search: Candidates expect a search experience on-par with Google Search, and when that expectation is not met they’re more likely to abandon the process
  • Consumerized apply flows: It’s time move beyond the experience of out-of-the-box ATS apply flows—employers should be striving for a UX and UI candidates are used to on the web
  • Mobile recruiting: Uber, Seamless and other consumer-facing companies that simplify everyday life have put the spotlight on employers that have not moved beyond the career site search and apply status quo, making mobile recruiting solutions an imperative for 2017 and beyond

It’s important to note that enabling inbound recruiting strategies on your career site may require either a complete “rip-and-replace” of your legacy ATS or something less intrusive such as ATS integration. More on that here.

Retention, and the Role of Inbound Recruiting Strategies

There’s no better indicator of a poor employer brand or an inbound recruiting strategy that’s not working right than silence from internal employees. From a retention standpoint, that is not a good sign. The lack of unity and pride can speak volumes.

Because inbound recruiting strategies are so closely tied to the creation of quality, meaningful, sharable content and the enablement of engagement, when it’s done well it plays nicely into retention strategies. If your employees are proud of their employer brand, the tools of inbound recruiting give them something to rally around.

In our recent study, we found that more than 70% of companies felt their employees were advocates for their employer brand. Inbound recruiting is a way to amplify that advocacy, keeping quality employees around in the process.

Inbound Recruiting and the Role Marketing Can Play

The shift toward inbound recruiting and really getting the most out of the internet is exciting, but, as mentioned above, most talent acquisition teams are only just starting this journey.

That said, similarities between inbound marketing and recruiting don’t just highlight an interesting connection, there’s a major opportunity. If recruiting can get this right, inbound can become the greatest source of hire, just like it’s become the greatest source of customers for some many companies. That, in turn, can drive better hires at a lower cost over time.

Like the sales and marketing relationship has been forever changed because of the internet, it’s not difficult to imagine something similar happening between talent acquisition and marketing. That’s not to say marketing will feed recruiting inbound candidates, but it may create a relationship that previously was non-existent.

Our research shows that  72.2% of recruiting teams partner with marketing to build their employer brand. The employer brand is essentially the public-facing image of how a company is perceived as an employer. There are, however, many more opportunities for partnership that could have significant impacts in the long run.

marketing recruiting relationship

Marketers understand how to connect with and engage people on the internet via content, email, social, and other marketing assets. In the interest of driving business forward, it makes sense for some knowledge transfer between the two departments, and even collaboration.

For instance, recruiters could greatly benefit from learning how marketers use data, like from Google Analytics, to understand performance and drive decisions. Or, many recruiting teams are still using outdated career site technology—just try to apply for a job at your company on your phone.

The point is that recruiting is following along the path marketing took in its digital transformation in the past decade, and there’s lots of opportunities as well as lessons already learned. The way things are converging, it’s not hard to believe at some point in the near future we’ll be seeing many, many more hybrid roles that require both digital marketing and recruiting skills.

Think Transformation Not Transaction

Call it inbound recruiting, recruitment marketing or some other term, it doesn’t matter. The point of this post is that candidates’ behaviors and expectations have changed dramatically in recent years. The candidate journey now takes place primarily online. Your recruiting strategy has to adapt to that.

Continuing with the coin-operated advertising, job board, and outsourced recruiting model has no long-term benefits. In fact, it’s almost exclusively a transactional way to approach recruiting. Inbound recruiting strategies enable transformation. The long-term benefits are candidates who recognize your employer brand, less pressure on recruiters, and lower cost-per-applicant and lower cost-per-hire.

But it’s hard! We’re not saying this will be easy. Start the conversation with your team today over how you can leverage the web and mobile for the future. Identify an area you think your team can impact and start there.

Check out our new eBook, “The Talent Acquisition Leader’s Guide to the New Candidate Journey.” From employer branding to recruitment marketing and conversion optimization, this eBook dives into what modern leaders should be thinking about.

new candidate journey ebookcareer site assessment