Getting your message across

by 25 Jul 2007

Gone are the days when recruiters only wrote ads for broadsheet newspapers and attended university careers fairs to find new talent. Teresa Russell talks to two companies that have deployed a wide range of innovative and effective strategies to attract top talent in a highly competitive employment market

Gone of the major things limiting organisational growth is the national skills shortage – a problem that spans all industries and ignores geographical boundaries. Indeed, in many industries such as IT, the phenomenon extends around the world.

This situation has placed pressure squarely on the shoulders of recruiters to find enough staff to drive organisational growth. No longer do they recruit for a specific vacancy. Nor do they advertise only to those actively seeking a new job. Smart recruiters now try to attract people happy in their current roles and have broadened their target to include passive and semi-passive candidates.

One of the greatest advantages any company can have when sourcing new talent is a strong employment brand. It needs to be known around its own industry and beyond as a great place to work. Without a strong brand, attracting new staff is difficult. With a negative employment brand image, it is almost impossible.

Fiona Hathaway, recruitment manager for Australia and New Zealand for Microsoft, says that her team of five recruiters filled 175 permanent roles and about 100 contract roles in the last financial year. Microsoft is a sales and marketing organisation in Australia, employing sales and marketing talent and technical consultants with client services skills. There are 650 employees and around 250 long-term contractors. Last year, 34 per cent of all new appointments were the result of internal promotion. External candidates were hired in the remainder of the appointments. Almost all positions are open to both internal and external applicants.

Miranda Kalinowski is Australia recruitment lead for Accenture, the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Kalinowski heads an in-house national team that currently numbers more than 20, including both permanent and contracted recruiters. She says that Accenture is made up of four workforces – consulting (business, industry and integration technology); technology solutions (IT specialists); outsourcing services (finance, HR, customer care and IT); and enterprise (internal support workforce). “Because the four areas are quite broad, we compete for talent with industry organisations as well as other consulting firms.”

Accenture uses four distinct channels for recruitment. Agencies provide 30 per cent of their new hires, internal employee referrals about 15–20 per cent, transfers 20 per cent and direct channels make up the remainder.

Special issues

Although both Microsoft and Accenture contend with skills shortages across the board, they both find IT roles particularly problematic. “It’s quite a tight market for suitably qualified technical people in Australia, so we often have to go offshore to attract those individuals,”says Hathaway. Because Microsoft is a global company, Hathaway has to be careful Australia doesn’t cannibalise Microsoft’s employment markets in traditional recruitment grounds such as India, the Philippines or China.

Hathaway says Microsoft used to only use SEEK, but now uses MyCareer as well when advertising for specific jobs. They also have unique access to a very specialised technical community. “We regularly get a pipeline of people through one of our employees. Frank Arrigo is a senior platform evangelist working at Microsoft Australia. He has a very popular blog in which he talks about innovations and products not yet launched. He also lets people know about specialist positions available, and refers them from his blog to either the recruitment team or our website,” explains Hathaway.

She says that Microsoft Australia toyed with the idea of having an employment blog like its US parent, however discounted it because of the large amount of time required to keep it interesting and current. “We’ve also considered reaching gen Y through MySpace and YouTube. Because they want regular new topics in that medium, we knew we couldn’t be half-hearted about it, as it would damage our brand reputation. What we hope to do instead is make a 4th generation website that is far more interactive,” says Hathaway.

Another issue that Hathaway pays attention to is improving the gender balance within Microsoft. The IT industry in Australia is about 25 per cent female. Including its female MD, Tracey Fellows, and half the leadership team, Microsoft Australia comprises 28 per cent women. “Our diversity council has not mandated a particular quota for female hires, because our policy is always hiring the best person for any job. Instead, it tries to come up with strategies that make the company attractive to women. Some of these include mentoring, networking groups, lobbying universities to widen the specialities they offer and attracting more women to the industry by communicating the variety of roles available in IT. Many of the women are targeted through industry bodies.

“Our MD is a great role model for how women can do well in IT. She’s a talent magnet for us, because women are attracted to her achievements in the company and the culture that breeds,” says Hathaway.

Kalinowski says that competition in the IT employment market nationally has been incredible in the last two years. As a result, Accenture has increased and diversified the numbers of channels it has used to attract staff. In fact, in order to staff one project with 100 IT and client services people, it actually took the dramatic step of setting it up in Wollongong, because the employment markets in Sydney and Canberra were too competitive.

“We needed to attract people who were living in the Illawarra, but commuting to Sydney for work, as well as asking people to consider a sea change to live in coastal Wollongong. The message included a realistic expectation that they would get good training and development and would stay in Wollongong for the foreseeable future, but that there could be future career mobility within Accenture,” explains Kalinowski. Accenture’s global employment brand has been very successful using images of Tiger Woods. This campaign was no exception.

The Wollongong recruitment campaign used traditional channels such as radio, print media and bus back advertising. The internet was a critical part of the campaign, using SEEK, MyCareer, JobServe and ZDnet job boards to drive applicants to Accenture’s specially created landing page. It also included an extra employee incentive of a $50 Wishlist voucher on top of its regular generous employee referral program.

The ad and ROI

“The look, feel, creativity and copy in ads are all very important. Our ads have evolved to become sales and marketing messages about the role, including the value proposition about you doing this job at Microsoft,” says Hathaway. Two years ago, Microsoft also introduced and employer brand survey of all successful applicants. This has given great insights and driven change throughout the whole recruitment process in order to remain competitive.

Both Hathaway and Kalinowski carefully track how well each channel performs compared to the cost. Accenture measures costs per résumé submission, costs per joiner, number of joiners per recruiter and time to fill. “It costs more to hire an experienced candidate than a graduate, because they are in more diverse locations on the internet and are often passive or semi-passive candidates who are attracted through discrete advertising and employment branding,” says Kalinowski.

Although Microsoft does not specifically measure ROI in the recruitment space, it has a sophisticated tracking and reporting system that measures recruiter effectiveness, spend and affect on the business.

The future

Kalinowski believes the future will see greater emphasis on employee referral programs and multi-platform recruitment strategies. “The internet will be the centre of any campaign, although there will still be a place for more traditional channels like unbranded ads through agencies, radio, print and bus backs, as well as banner posters on major roads. There will also be focused niche marketing and using space on social networking sites. We will have to open minds and grab attention,” she says.

Hathaway sees a continued trend to online and the disappearance of print media in the medium- to long-term. She wishes Australia would develop aggregated job boards like the US, but says that a lot can be learned from Europe and the US in the online market. “China is doing some innovative marketing in a very competitive job market. The key for us will be to remain proactive and advertise to attract a pipeline, then communicate effectively with them,”she says.

Checklist for effective online job advertising

Keep the job title concise and avoid abbreviations such as 'admin', 'sec', 'snr'

Think like a candidate - highlight the features that will appeal to them

Forty-seven per cent of MyCareer jobseekers search by keyword. So use keywords in your job title, search results teaser and in the body of your ad. Most keywords used are either job titles, skills-related or industry related

Include salary details to attract qualified candidates with the right level of experience

Use bullet points to highlight key job requirements and features

Make sure the ad has a logical flow

Describe the benefits, such as gym, flexible hours, childcare, car allowance etc

Place your ad in more than one sector; as this gives your ad more chances of being found. For example, an executive assistant position for a retailer can be placed in both the administration and retail search sectors

Edit your ad during its 30-day life to optimise results. If your ad isn't performing change the keywords used, include more of the job benefits, categorise your ad in a different sector

Source: MyCareer

Market trends in employment advertising

Shift in preference from print to online continues

Trend towards regionalisation and globalisation of premium white-collar labour markets such as banking, law, IT, new media and engineering

Many more service providers

More niche job boards

ROI much easier to calculate using online advertising

Source: Matt Sallmann,