Company Culture

Recruiting is a lot like sales — especially against bigger opponents

Half of tech jobs are now done remotely. Economic slowdown or not, every tech recruiter is competing against the big tech monsters of their nightmares.

If you're a tech recruiter, big tech companies could be the monster lurking in your recruiting circles.

(Image by Technical.ly via Mindjourney)

Written by Technically Media CEO Chris Wink, Technical.ly’s Culture Builder newsletter features tips on growing powerful teams and dynamic workplaces. Below is the latest edition we published. Sign up to get the next one.


When Kleer was hiring a marketing lead, Melissa Richardson wanted to talk about recruiting.

Richardson has spent 15 years in team building, so she’s only seen the process get harder. She started at a big staffing firm during the Great Recession and advanced through corporate, pharmaceutical and software-related recruiting jobs. Last fall, she became vice president of team success at Kleer, which builds and sells software for dentists to manage their own dental plans.

Over that time, Richardson learned a simple lesson: Recruiting is a lot like sales, and marketing your differentiation is thus a necessary component of effective recruiting.

“You spend thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of marketing dollars to attract leads to come and buy your product,” Richardson said. “It’s exactly the same on the hiring side. The same rules apply. You need to be everywhere and you need to be playing your game.”

She isn’t an outlier. Three-quarters of recruiters say a company’s employer brand has “a significant effect” on recruiting success, according to LinkedIn research. The logic is simple: a job description is just a conversion tool at the bottom of a candidate’s journey. One-click apply job sites boost applications at the expense of relevance. If you have too few candidates, or too few qualified ones, then you need an employer brand marketing strategy.

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This is old news for your sales team. Their buyer journey offers a similar strategy. If the sales team doesn’t have enough qualified leads, they evaluate both their tactics to close and their methods of broadening awareness; increasingly, that means their content marketing efforts. Recruiting requires a similar “top of funnel” investment, Richardson said.

That remains true in the face of noisy economic data. Tech layoffs and record numbers of open roles are both happening. Big tech may be restructuring amid an economic downturn, but if you ask tech recruiters at smaller firms, those big tech companies remain the monsters in the closet. The pandemic’s acceleration of remote work has brought upstart and regional tech employers in direct competition with big tech sooner in their trajectory. More than half of tech roles are now able to be done remotely, according to McKinsey. All told, remote hours have likely tripled during the pandemic.

“We’ve gone from recruiting in our backyard to competing for talent with companies all across the country,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to be in front of candidates all the time.”

In today’s heightened hiring climate, Richardson cited internal research she reviewed that suggested the average number of touchpoints a company will have before successfully hiring top talent has gone from six before the pandemic to above 11. Those numbers will be familiar to any sales team chasing down prospects.

That’s where employer brand marketing comes in: Tell the story of your most successful employees and test the market. Richardson shared her recent hiring of a sales development representative, or SDR, a staple of software sales teams today. She posted the role as hybrid and got limited responses. She then took the same description, relisted it as remote and boosted the number of applicants.

Interestingly “most of the people still were from our own backyard,” she said — where the company had a reputation. “It may not even be about being fully remote, but giving employees the opportunity and the flexibility to choose where they want to work.”

So how do smaller companies compete for technical talent against the big tech monsters?

For one example, incorporate more of what an employee’s own interests are, such as, say, experimenting with emerging technologies. The lead image of this story was inspired by that very suggestion, and so it was generated by AI bot Midjourney. There are bigger lessons. Identify your employee value proposition and operationalize your values; Take a lesson from your sales team.

“Figure out what is really your differentiation, and tell that story in as many ways as you can. Sell the heck out of it,” Richardson said. “Otherwise, you are irrelevant.”

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