With low unemployment and a shrinking labor force available to restaurants, the power has shifted from the employer to candidates. For most organizations, this means first establishing a new mindset in recruiting. The shift is away from from “how do I effectively select the right candidate from many” to “how do I get good candidates to even apply so I can be selective?
Paired with an abundance of new technology and the prevalence of information on the internet, what it takes to successfully recruit in the restaurant industry has dramatically changed. It has evolved into a different process in which you cannot simply “post and pray” or rely on street traffic and signage to bring the candidates through the door. Just because you posted it does not mean they will come. Successful companies now must become actively engaged with those looking for as well as those not looking for a job.
Interestingly, we can learn from business-to-consumer marketing processes, which have been dealing with nearly the exact problem for years: How do you appeal to customers and encourage them to buy from you, especially given changes in technology and the huge variety of options available to them?
Here are three consumer marketing strategies we can apply to recruitment:
1. Pitch what you want them to buy – even when they didn’t ask
Surprisingly, many employers fail to communicate even the most basic information about why someone would want to work at the company, including what makes the environment and culture great. Communicating this message through social media, job postings, your career site and other media using compelling messaging, videos and images helps people see your restaurant as a great place to work, even when they are not necessarily looking for a job. Restaurants are uniquely suited to do this, as customer web traffic is essentially potential candidate traffic. Putting your work culture up front in messaging ensures all exposure to your brand results in an awareness about how great it can be to work there. Talking about it, even absent of a “we are hiring!” message, creates an awareness with even passive candidates that your company could be their next employer.
2. Target your demographic and automate communication
An applicant tracking system (ATS) will provide you the tools you need to easily capture information from candidates before they even apply. Expecting candidates to have a full resume or to complete a lengthy application to show interest is no longer an effective process. A good ATS will help you reach individuals who are looking, but are not ready to begin the hiring process. Additionally, your ATS should provide tools to mine and market to candidates who may have been passed over for a particular opening, but could fit another. This “talent pool” is a group of potential candidates you can engage with your brand, so when both you and the candidate are ready to fill a position, the conversation has already started. This also gives you the opportunity to express interest back to candidates, making them feel special, putting your company at the top of their list as potential employers.
3. Test new content and evaluate your success
There is no silver bullet for recruitment marketing and campaigns cost money. As a result, make sure you are tailoring content to match the variety of interests and values candidates might have. Some individuals are looking for a shared set of values with your company, others are focused on pay and benefits, while others might want a flexible schedule or opportunities for advancement. Using a variety of content, through a variety of media, will help ensure your message resonates with candidates. Then, constantly evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns and messaging, quantify the success and be ready to drop the things that don’t work, replace them with new messaging and double down on the ones that work.
In addition to these marketing lessons, one thing to remember is to not panic and lower your standards when you find it difficult to find applicants. Unfortunately, one way to stay staffed (at least temporarily) in a tough market is to lower your standards, allowing more candidates to be hired. But you will pay a price with low quality performance and turnover. While this is an obvious mistake to most, it is amazing how often it occurs. Rather than making this mistake, increase the number of candidates who can meet your standards through smart, targeted marketing to all candidates, not just those who are actively searching for a job.
James Ringler is director and senior consultant with Corvirtus’ Consulting Solutions.