We Are Fishing with The Wrong Bait

It is your turn to step up to the mic. Your audience is waiting for your message. The message of the others in this competition is swirling around their heads. You only have moments to capture their attention. And you need them to focus on your message long enough to understand how unique you are when compared to others.

But you are prepared. You have clearly articulated what you are looking for. You have established the expectations.

You have revised your script; updated the message and made it more appealing. You have even changed the title. This will surely resonate with this audience.

Don’t forget to mention how much fun it is to hang out with you. You highlight weekly interactions; occasional meals and annual lavish parties.

You have clearly illustrated your unique qualities; your values; your success; and the brightest of futures. Surely that will win them over to you.

Finally, you have articulated the benefits of throwing in with you. You will tailor the opportunity for the individual. And because they matter, they will be included in ownership.

You open your mouth and begin to speak. The words spill out naturally. The lights on the stage blind you to the audience faces, but you know in your heart they are getting it. You are passionate about your cause. Your words crescendo at the end. You hit hard on the benefits and owning a piece of the pie. You nailed it.

You wait for the applause. There is just silence. You think to yourself; I was so good that I left them speechless. And the silence continues. And continues.

As you have no doubt guessed, we have just posted a job. This is a popular method of talent sourcing. You and others repeat this action hundreds of thousands times a day. The more sophisticated use recruitment marketing platforms that automate the process through dozens of channels. You take into account modern techniques like SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) to ensure that your job post is closer to the top of the search engine results on Google. The most adventurous invest in CRM (candidate relationship management) software that enables us to email links to our job postings to specific audiences.

Welcome to talent sourcing in the digital age. 

Data from CEB tells us that 82% of the target audiences are open to a new position. We hear that and double down on advertising. We think all we need to do is push our jobs into more channels and automate the process. Wrong approach. False thesis.

All you have done is automate your post and pray methods. The same people are ignoring your messages. The resulting automation is energized incompetence. All you get is silence.

It’s a real headscratcher. Why do we keep investing money in talent sourcing methods that do not work? And the sad part is we know they don’t work because our jobs are not being filled with the quality of talent that we originally started out seeking.

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Fishing with the wrong bait.

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As my Dad used to say, you are fishing with the wrong bait.

If we ask our colleagues in marketing, they would tell us that on the consumer side of things people respond to different messages at different stages of the buying process. In other words, marketing a job description is not the right approach (aka bait) to attract for a person that is not actively looking for a new opportunity. You are fishing with the wrong bait.

Job marketing is meant for active job seekers. Those folks comprise about 26% of a target audience. The other 56% of the people that are open to a new opportunity will require a different type of message.

So, what type of message will resonate with your target audience? I don’t know what will work in each case, but I do know that the message needs to start with them, the target talent. The offer must be relevant and valuable to target talent. The CEB (Corporate Executive Board) provides some insight into topics that are relevant to the target talent at four stages.

What if you tried something different?

Instead of doing the same old thing hoping it will work, what if you tried something new? What if you used research that indicates what will resonate with your target audience? It might just work differently.

It’s your turn. Your audience is waiting.


Marvin Smith is a veteran talent acquisition practitioner who focuses on strategic talent sourcing, talent community building, social recruiting, employment branding, and the use of technology to drive talent identification and engagement strategies. He has been on teams that were at the forefront of resurgence of talent sourcing as a strategic weapon in talent acquisition. These teams piloted groundbreaking programs (ERE-Media-award-winning) work that used business intelligence, data, and technology to segment the target talent audiences and build talent pipelines and communities. His current role is a strategic talent sourcing consultant with Lockheed Martin, where he is responsible for talent pipeline building for critical skills talent; project management of a RMP (recruitment marketing platform); and driving corporate-wide, talent community initiatives. Previously, he served as senior research recruiter on an internal executive recruiting team with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; a strategic sourcing program manager with Blackberry (Research In Motion); and a talent sourcer/program manager for Microsoft. He is a writer and speaker on the topics of talent communities, strategic talent sourcing, Moneyball sourcing, and talent acquisition strategies. You can follow his blog or join a community that he created on talent community development or follow him on Twitter.