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I was brainstorming the other day and thought of an add on service for recruiters. My explication of this service is focused on tech companies hiring engineers, but could easily be modified for any organization that is trying to find high value employees that are difficult to hire (high performing real estate agents, sales people, financial advisers, etc).

If your company is doing interesting things–solving tough problems or using interesting technologies–potential employees are very likely interested in your activities. How, though, will they find out about the cool problems your company is solving? Well, there’s your company website, back channel communications through professional networks, or presentations at conferences or meetups. But the traditional website serves many masters (including converting ‘customers who will pay you’), and content may be hard to generate or place. Professional networks often scale poorly, depending on where you are and what sector you are in. And presentations or meetups are rather scattershot and time consuming.

Enter the company tech blog. Write about solving interesting problems. Because the blog is tech focused, you avoid the issues with the traditional company website. (Of course, don’t write about any trade secrets or unprotected intellectual property, but in my experience a large chunk of the engineering problems solved at any company are scaffolding, not core knowledge.) It also scales, because the content is write once, recruit for years (not forever, because eventually the problems you discuss won’t be interesting). Basically, any argument in favor of content generation for customer acquisition can be applied to content generation for employee acquisition. So, set up that company blog and have your engineers start writing blog posts about interesting work they are doing. Soon, you’ll rank in Google and/or have Hacker News fame (see 42 floors).

Wait, what? You say that most engineers who are competent to write these articles either have no time, no interest, no ability or some combination of all three? I’ve seen many many company tech blogs that start off strong and interesting and then slowly fade away. This is more prevalent since other information dissemination platforms (your twitters, your facebooks, what have you) have proliferated, but for whatever reason, the key to a content generation strategy is to keep at it.

And that is where my idea shines. As a value add service for a recruiter, hire reporters to interview engineers. Have the reporters write the article, with engineer review to make sure it is correct, and have both on the byline (or use ‘as told to’). An interview about an interesting tech problem will probably take about an hour, and you can expect an hour for review, so you still have to carve out two hours from your engineer. If you have a team of ten engineers, and half are willing to be interviewed, that is less than two hours a month for a weekly blog post. Of course, you have to pay the reporter for more than two hours, but reporters are less expensive than engineers. Sure, this is an extra cost, but the article will be published. And the next one will get done. And eventually, the company will have a recruiting site working for you. Hard problems aren’t everything for engineers, but they count for a lot.

I mentioned this business plan to a friend and his feedback was–“seems like a great idea, but couldn’t an intern and a junior marketing person do this”? I think so, so I’d love to see more companies doing this! Hire that intern and that marketing person and start blogging about the hard problems you have faced and solved! However, maybe you outsource your recruiting efforts. If so, ask your recruiter about their content generation strategy.

If you are a recruiter, consider offering this as a value add service. (Eventually you may work yourself out of a job if your only value add is finding people, but good recruiters I’ve talked to offer more than just finding people–they screen them, make sure they are a culture fit, help the candidate through the process, and more.)

Do you know any companies or recruiters that are doing this? Do I have a fatal flaw in my idea? Let me know.

3 thoughts on “Content generation for employee acquisition

  1. James Higginbotham says:

    Dan,

    Good post and thought provoking. As with marketing, recruiting requires a variety of beacons that all make people aware of your brand and interested in learning more. I am more and more seeing marketing extend beyond the traditional reach of inbound/outbound funneling of leads into the sales process. I am now seeing it overlap with IT departments in larger organizations, as well as API product strategies and even recruiting.

    Most likely, you will want to pursue this as a cooperative effort between marketing and recruiting, as there is significant overlap. Plus, marketing likely has more of a budget to handle this than does the traditional HR/recruiting market.

    FYI, I saw this in the realm of training, where the training department had little funding so we combined the training development program with sales. We built training apps that helped with internal training initiatives that often cost too much to deploy (due to heavy/expensive equipment). Sales also benefited by allowing their sales engineers to use the training apps to drive into the details easier during the sales cycle. Since sales had deeper pockets, they often drove many of the requirements in “sales mode” but helped to fund the training needs at the same time. You may be able to find a way to apply this pattern on the recruiting side through the development of technical articles, interviews, and more formal meetup presentation initiatives. Definitely worth exploring.

    James

  2. moore says:

    James,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment and the ‘real world’ experience. I think you would need a pretty progressive marketing department to see recruiting new hires as in their domain, but a partnership between marketing providing the technical skills/personnel/writing ability, HR/recruiting helping to guide goals (we need someone with XYZ skill) and engineering dropping in and providing the meaty content will actually inspire employees might be the best of all worlds.

    Finally, how do you see marketing overlapping with IT?

  3. James Higginbotham says:

    The marketing/IT overlap is primarily as a result of mobile and API initiatives. There are more marketing departments embarking on their own development initiatives to bring new mobile apps and social media automation and integration via APIs. Often, they start the initiative and if it takes root, then they work with IT to build more infrastructure around it. The new Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role is being created in some organizations to coordinate these efforts.

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