In the competition of talent acquisition, it is essential that recruiters should think like marketers in planning engagement strategy. Our video will point out the benefits of thinking like a marketer for recruiters from the perspectives of professionals in relevant fields.
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Welcome to In and outs of Recruiting Millennials, a monthly video podcast interviewing innovators in talent acquisition with the focus on hiring millennials and early-career talents. This podcast is the production of Rakuna. We help organizations to enhance, and optimize their campus & event recruiting process.
Today’s topic is _Why Should a Recruiter think like a Marketer?_
My name is Trong Dong, CEO & Co-founder at Rakuna, and I will be your host this week.
Peak6 is a Chicago-based investment firm of less than 200 employees. Constantly competing against the bulge bracket investment banks for top talent, Peak6 has found their unique way to win the right talent for them on campus. Without breaking the bank, Peak6 has brought recruiting and marketing together to create very successful campus recruiting campaigns. Their fascinating stories were shared at the largest industry conference - National Association of College & Employers Conference last June 2016, and today, we are lucky to have them join us to share their insights and tips to the wider audience.
TRONG: John & Maureen, thank you for taking time to speak with us today on Rakuna’s radio. First, please tell us about your background and how you got to know each other at Peak6?
John: I’m in the marketing team, and Maureen is in HR/recruiting, and typically, those teams have a partnership or they work together but is in a limited sort of partnership. At some points, our recruiting process hit a bit of stalemate and we knew needed to really rethink a lot, which I will cover a little bit. At that point we partnered up fully. So instead of just them handing in assignment down and us working on it and then kind of going away, we absolutely took on their challenges as our challenges and our team essentially blended. So almost the goal why we’re talking about this in our talk is the point where the marketing took on recruiting goals, so we had a little bit of skin in the game. That’s how we ended up partnering and now it’s been, I think we’re going for 4th year of this partnership where we worked essentially side by side.
Maureen: Yeah, as John mentioned to you, I’ve been with Peak6 for about 3 years and John has been with Peak6 for a little bit longer and the way he partnered with recruiting prior to that we would say, “Hey, we need the giveaways, or flyers” and we just help out with that, where obviously marketing didn’t really understand the context behind it, or the strategy or the approach. And so when I came on board about 3 years ago, I really got to find new partnership, a new relationship with those two teams, figure out a better way to approach our partner strategy.
TRONG: What was your first approach to campus recruiting, and how did that turn out for you?
Maureen: When I started with the company, I came to take a look at our campus recruiting program and what we have been doing. I took some time to analyze things and I realized things were not working as we had hoped and a lot of our strategies were much more about based off school reputation or approaching like big companies approach campus recruiting. It wasn’t really data-driven at all and so I think I started to look what was working, what wasn’t working and what my ideas were and I started to have conversations with the marketing team. I knew what we were doing wasn’t working, so we really started over and they started talking to the marketing team about my stuff and what I wanted to do. They had my ideas about approaches it with a marketing funnel and approaching it as a marketing problems so we turned to have more and more conversations till we realized that the partnership between the two teams: all the strategies together is what made it work
John: They have a good old fashioned marketing prompt all in their head so when we sat down, we were like, “Alright, we got this now” so by partnering, it was less of Maureen and her team, for example saying, “Alright, here is what we think we wanna saw” but it was, “Let’s work together to identify what isn’t working, go find the support to do what we think will work and then re-invent the campaign and the necessary materials and the necessary work for that.” So then we worked together all the way from the beginning to the end, which traditionally wasn’t how we were working. I should say that’s two teams, but that’s how we’ve been working since then.
TRONG: What was the critical point that led to the collaboration between recruiting and marketing at Peak6?
Maureen: I think why it was so important is we realized that both teams could benefit for each other. When I started, I was actually a team of one, so I was the only person who came as recruiting, and the marketing team gives us a few more reports but they had unique approaches and unique ways of thinking about things that I had never thought of before. We think we’re both beyond each other so we stress our thinking, think a little bit differently, we actually sat, I would stay in the room for hours just white-story things, talking about we’ve done in the past, try to find a data, look at the marketing funnel.
TRONG: Did you encounter any initial challenges along the way? Tell us more about what they are and how you overcame them.
Maureen: Of course there are challenges when you take two different teams, a team that works on in HR and a team that works on marketing, have just operated very differently, get things done in a very different way, timelines are very different. I think a lot those challenges are in terms of how to figure out how to work with different types of people. Marketing is very creative and I think some of challenges were just making sure the shift might thinking be very open-minded to everything they address and whether I thought it would work or not. The timeline of work is a little bit different. For campus recruiting, there are very specific timelines and deadlines and campus recruiting, the whole everything is about 6 weeks when you are on campus and everything gets back in a few days, and the marketing team will seem creative, procrastinate a little bit more, when we have hard deadlines. So I think they are the challenges.
And I think just with just with language and phrases; now I definitely understand the marketing language but when they use terms like marketing funnel or inversion, marketing terms that I didn’t understand, I have to be like, “Ok, we have to back up and talk to each other. I don’t understand what you’re saying. This is a marketing term and I have been talking in HR term” and we have to make sure we understand what we are talking about. It’s about shifting your mind more than anything. And I think, I wouldn’t say we are not perfect right away working together; it took us some time, and I had to educate the marketing team on the whole campus recruiting process and what it was, and the marketing team had to educate me on their process and really what marketing was. I think a lot of it was much more on education, I mean I don’t think, if we didn’t really understand each other’s functions as well as we do now, I don’t think we’d be able to partner. So that’s what we’ve been dealing with each other and it also took time. We spent a lot of time together when we first served together to adapt to things.
John: We have to build that trust, now in a sort of cheesy sense, they brought an expertise to the table, we were bringing an expertise on the table, so obviously, their world, or you made a good point, you can’t push back the recruiting season, it is what it is, you can only miss the recruiting season so us wrapping our head on that type of thing and then sort of seeing,we are meeting halfway, really ok, we get to understand particular conversion rate of this part of the thing you call a funnel so it’s an ability to say “ok just try this, have an open-mindedness that ended up building a trust,” that was key. And we did, we had goals tied to.
We also spent a ton of time together and that’s key because I think in the past it would have been their problem solved and they come down and brief us and at that point two things happen: we have questions that was too late to answer, or they’re frustrated because they wished they could have got it going sooner and we just kind of bounced deliver something hopefully it works and we bounced out, sort of fix all that for lack of a better term, we had to take on each other’s roles by spending much time with each other, learning each other’s roles, trusting each other, building that relationship, we ended up with a better product in the end.
There were some bumpiness, the thing is you have to put guardrail around who’s gonna own what decisions, for example, you’re gonna have to put guardrail around and make things other not subjective but rather objective, somebody has to be in the decision-maker with this or with that and it took us a minute to realize we needed that. In the beginning we could have all figured it out but we came to a stalemate, we’re trading firm, so somebody in the trading floor would have to take in these new students and training them. It’s incredibly important what he does he has a say in this whole process as well, and we have a third partner and you don’t want a situation where the two of us gonna vote you, that’s not gonna bring anything good, so it has to come from mutual respect and trust which we didn’t have at the time only because he had worked together. That was what we were building at that time, we spent a ton of time in the room together but by doing that work, that much stronger in result
TRONG: Tell us more about what have you done to re-invent campus recruiting at Peak6 and the results.
John: The biggest thing was see it as a marketing challenge, and when we say that what we mean is we took the program, we essentially white-boarded every single of the program. Maureen and her team throwed in a realm of data that we could comb in together. We didn’t have perfect data in some cases because that’s something we ran into that we talked to people about it and said, I don’t have the data that you were talking about and we just went and found any date that we could. We applied again this marketing process, this recruiting process, that essentially helped us quantify the qualify, so it helped us to see where were things working, where were we be better. We weren’t really great around campus interview time, we weren’t converting many students, it sounds like a harsh term since the product is the student, but that’s my world I see it as a conversion, I see it as a change in behaviors or convincing of behaviors. We weren’t getting many kids to sign on with us as we thought we should have so we said ok, now we would benchmark to see where we can be, that data also drove us into where we were inefficient, to use by applying some data, wait a minute, certain tactics we were just not making a tons of sense now we have objective data, we can go back to people who say, “oh I think you should go back to this school” “oh, there are great things that this club does,” we can prove if that works or doesn’t work, we put data around everything. That was key. That ended up helping us re-building the program in the way that we knew what we are going to do.
Another thing we had to do to re-invent the program was get our employer brand together. We had to stand out, now we were able to throw money at the problem we were not able to behave like a big company who can come in and just sort of own an entire thing. We had to be really really smart with every single word, everything had to add up and it gets to the point where we think everything through: to the headlines that’s gonna go on the gift that we give you to, to what you get when you came in for round 2, to how we email that goes out to student groups, to what we say when you arrive, all of that had stopped to be on message and on brand, which we have been doing some of that before but was, you figure, inefficient, running things we weren’t sure were working, and we maybe weren’t saying things as strong as we could have, like the joke we had said at the conference, if you put somebody else’s logo at the top of your material and it still feels like it could be their materials. Maybe you haven’t crystallized your brand in a way that is truly unique and truly you. So by putting data around everything, know what we gonna do, that was smarter and more efficient and better bang for the buck tactic. That is really re-invention of the process.
Maureen: I think what really made us unique and different is using data and really use it to drive our decision. I don’t think we did anything ground-breaking, but I think we really make sure that the data make sense.We were able to defend and backup strategy and our approach to leadership and why are we over to one school over another, why this school, it makes a whole lot of sense. You have that data behind and get the buy-in and sell it to leadership is really important to us even though our data isn’t great, we use the data we had and make sure it’s moving forward was really good and that we kept track of everything so that we could use data-driven decision later one.
TRONG: Is there any data point that you guys collect that you think would be interesting or good indicator for other clients to take a look at?
John: I don’t know if there’s any data point because everybody is different but I think one thing that you think about building is ok what do i do next is eventually, you apply the math to the funnel and you know, you know if your conversion rates are good, you know if the number of resumes you’re getting into how many you actually interview, into how many you actually give off to students those are the key benchmarks you look for. What happen is that you can flip the funnel and in subsequent year saying, now let’s say that we want to hire 5 kids, we know exactly I can tell you right now, I can do the math all the way backup the funnel, saying, “alright, now we need x hundred or x thousand of resumes to get us to our funnel.” And we have a funnel which is complicated because we do our personality test to look for culture fits, we’re very very protective of our culture. We also help the kids take the math test on the trading site or the coding test on the software site. So those further reduce the number of kids making it through.
But it’s really how we use the data, a really good our anecdote would be: we’ve gone to a campus for a round 1 an interview, and we were getting too high a percentage of kids coming through the round 2. That’s why we bring them to our offices. What happened is that we had actual data suggest we’d be bringing atonic kids in, knowing how many we’re bringing back. Feedback form the team say I like them, I don’t want them I love them. Those 3 points came together to say we need to be more selective, so we start to look at our selectivity rate at round 1 and say, alright we need to be smarter at how we get to know kids at round 1, we have to be smarter at what we’re learning about them so we are more convinced, and frankly, they’re more convinced because they come in to round 2, and that is a really big shift in thinking which were driven by the data and getting feedback from the team. Result is we completely re-think how we do on campus round 1 for interview all the way through the whole process. So we tell them more about Peak6 and they know a little bit more about us and vice versa.
Maureen: I think the other thing I add to is that, is really make sure that the school you’re going to, the approach is data-driven. I mean, again, I can’t stress enough that if we were going to school that based of school reputation, or because we have 16 alums from that school so we need to go back there, it would really have a thought process of why we are going to school and what your approach is. We put together the whole algorithm basically to decide what school we are going to that has a lot of different data points that we were looking at. We take everyone’s feedback into account when we look at our numbers from past year, we take a really deep dive into the school, what school organizations do they have, what kind of classes do they have, what kind of professors do they have. All of these really help us to focus and shift our strategy to go to right school, targeting the right programs as well. That’s another important key to work at, because you can go to 10 schools but they’re all the wrong schools they don’t have the right target market, the right school organization. If you are not going to look for the right people, they are never gonna be helpful for you in the long run.
TRONG: What is your advice for other companies who want to start reinventing their recruiting strategy by bringing marketers & recruiters together?
Maureen: I would just say just start having conversation, make sure as you’re a recruiter, go there talk to your marketing team, take their brains and see how they think about things. The bad thing about partnering with someone in a different group is they think very different, they work very different from you, they work very different and they’re gonna challenge, they would ask you questions you may have never thought of. So I’d say the first thing is start having conversation, start talking to them about your approaches and what you want to do and bring data with it, but I think a lot is starting that conversation with your marketing team and getting to understand their approaches and their world. The more you understand their world, the better you understand how to approach this as a marketing problem, and when to bring them in. We made sure that they had goals around the program too so they actually felt like a part of the program. They care that we did well as much as we care, and so make sure that if you were to collaborate with them team, partner with someone that feel invested too. That’s really important, if the other group doesn’t feel that you’re not invested then they’re not gonna help you as much as possible. But I think partnering with other groups they’re gonna ask you questions that you never think of which is a quick start.
John: One question that we got a lot during the talk is what if I don’t have a marketing team, what if I know nobody who does marketing. And I think our answer back would be: Still think like a marketer, still see it as, still put data over everything, look at the customers again, look at the candidates’ experience all the way through, our unique is to serve all the way through is it efficient, is it the right tactic we sort of don’t hold people’s secret, now that’s what we brought to it. So now HR says no we think different from you. that’s one of the benefits because we come in and go “wait, why do we have to do that?” The data points that we don’t have to. The marketing team still thinks that way because they hold nothing secret. We stop doing career fairs because they’re just for us, for our brand, for our resources, we’re inefficient. Not that all companies are in the same place and we wouldn’t recommend full sale just cutting it, but we took a really critical look and that was really what helped.
The other thing which is frustrating if you’re not in the marketing team, what you should do is get super good about your employer brand–what is it you stand for, what is the promise you make, which is different than a corporate brand. Corporate brand is to external facing customers. What is it you and your company uniquely offer somebody who’s working, who wants to build a career at your company? Get really good on that statement, it takes a little bit of soul searching and maybe some booze but you have to get really on that statement. And then you have to communicate that at every level and you have do it in a way that sounds authentic. It’s hard and it’s harder when you don’t have a marketing team but at least to be moving down that path, you almost can’t go wrong, at least you move down that path because otherwise you just gonna sound like other competitors and frankly, I was guilty of doing the same thing back when I first started because I worked on this generation before Maureen.
TRONG: Now that is a wrap for today podcast. What an incredible story we learned from John & Maureen. This is where I leave you for today, but Folks - you can follow up us on YouTube & Soundcloud and click that subscribe button to stay updated on all the latest podcast.