Academic Recruitment Marketing 101

6 min read · By Academic Positions · Published 3 months ago

Many universities have relied on the traditional hiring strategy of writing a job advert and posting it on a job board. However, with universities facing increasing competition for talent and changes in candidates behaviour, this strategy is no longer effective. 

Universities need to pivot to a more holistic recruitment approach and implement a recruitment marketing strategy to continue to stay competitive. In today’s hiring landscape, investing in a recruitment marketing based talent attraction strategy is essential for any forward-thinking university.

What is recruitment marketing?

Recruitment marketing is the practice of using marketing strategies to promote the value of working for a particular employer as a way to attract, engage, and recruit employees. It is a process of actively promoting your institution to build awareness, interest, consideration, and ultimately get the best people to apply to become part of your university community. 

Recruitment marketing means taking a thoughtful and patient perspective to attract and retain the best people. First, candidates must know your institution exists. Then they must be inclined to consider you as a potential employer. Lastly, they must be intrigued so they become invested in applying. 

Using a recruitment marketing strategy will help you move candidates through each step of this process. As a result, your organization will get its share of amazing candidates who are invested in your organization and excited to make a match. 

Magnet attracting paper people on light blue background, like recruitment marketing attracts candidates to an institution. height=

What are the stages of recruitment marketing? 

Recruitment marketing applies a funnel approach to hiring. At the top of the funnel is awareness. 

  1. Awareness-In order to apply, candidates need to know that your university and job exist. During the awareness stage, you reach out to potential candidates and introduce your university or vacancy to a new audience.
  2. Interest-Once candidates have a basic high-level understanding of your university, they move to the interest stage. During this stage, you deepend a potential candidate’s knowledge of what your university has to offer them. 
  3. Convince-The third recruitment marketing stage is the convince stage. It is a fallacy to believe that candidates will apply to your open position just because you’re hiring. They often need to be convinced to go through the effort of applying. 

Each step of recruitment marketing builds on the previous one to ultimately lead candidates through the application process. If a candidate is aware of your institution, interested in what you have to offer, and convinced your university is the right place for them to thrive, they are more invested in writing a quality application and more likely to accept your job offer.   

How is recruitment marketing different from employer branding? 

Recruitment marketing is the tactic that a university uses to promote its employer brand. Before thinking about how to recruit candidates, a university needs to spend some time looking inward. What makes your organization unique and attractive to academic candidates? What sets you apart from the competition? How do you want candidates to see you? 

Your employer brand is also partly determined by university employees, students, and potential candidates and how they discuss your organization across their networks. In this way, universities have less direct control of their image. 

Recruitment marketing, on the other hand, has more of an external focus as it is more about how you communicate your brand and your story. Recruitment marketing allows you to have more control over your narrative which can be particularly powerful in attracting the best candidates. Although you can’t always control how people talk about your brand, you can shape the conversation with a targeted approach to recruitment.

Why should universities use recruitment marketing?

Recruitment marketing has emerged at a time when the academic hiring landscape is changing. There are more qualified candidates than ever before competing for jobs, yet candidates are also becoming a bit more selective. Thanks to easy access to the internet and digital tools, as well as the proliferation of social media, the information about universities available to candidates is now much more robust. Candidates can now search for in-depth information about the work environment, the research they are concusting, potential colleagues and even more intangible aspects like the social and cultural benefits of different institutions. 

As a result, candidates now behave more like consumers and universities need to market to them as such. The hiring process has shifted from universities choosing candidates, to candidates choosing the university. 

At the same time, internationalization has dramatically increased the competition for top talent. 

Universities are no longer competing with just the other universities in their region, they’re competing with the whole world. An institution that tops the national rankings will not necessarily have the same kind of name recognition outside of its home country. To stay competitive, universities must project a clear image to catch candidates’ attention.

Importantly, recruitment marketing helps you create a candidate pipeline. This means not only striving to reach active job seekers but also passive ones. Strong recruitment marketing allows your university to get on the radar of candidates who might not yet be ready to apply or might not be a match for any of your current open positions. It keeps academics interested in your brand, not just your available jobs. 

These pipeline candidates will be some of your strongest applicants because they will already be excited by your university. By showcasing your groundbreaking research, facilities, or staff, you can catch their attention and prime them, so that when you do post a relevant vacancy they’re already convinced you’re the institution for them and are eager to apply. 

File folders with one labelled

How do you do recruitment marketing?

In order to do effective recruitment marketing, you must embrace content marketing. Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience to ultimately drive successful hires. 

Because candidates are behaving more like customers, content marketing allows you to “sell yourself.” It is particularly useful in the early stages of the talent acquisition funnel when you are trying to increase awareness, consideration, and interest in applying to your institution. 

Content marketing allows you to proactively disseminate information about who you are, what you do, and why potential candidates should choose you as an employer. This is usually achieved by:

  • Creating custom landing pages you can direct your campaigns towards (that must be optimized for mobile traffic).
  • An active and comprehensive social media strategy aimed at increasing organic traffic and with targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Email marketing
  • A regularly updated and easy to find career site
  • Regularly adding authentic, employee testimonials. Since candidates are acting more like customers, think of these as coveted product reviews and recommendations.

In addition to content marketing, your recruitment marketing strategy also needs to include:

  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the amount of quality traffic a website gets from search engines. Websites with better SEO rank higher in the list of search engine results. As most candidates start their job search using a search engine, a focus on SEO will result in greater awareness of your university, and will serve as a jumping off point to generate more interest in your research. 
  • Career sites: Having a dedicated career site within your university’s doman will help your recruitment marketing efforts. A comprehensive career site will not only create awareness by listing all your open positions, but it will also deepen interest and consideration by including relevant information that sets you apart from other universities. This could include international staff services, information about local hidden gems in your town, the academic career path at your university, and major research initiatives.
  • Employee content: Showcasing your employees is one of the best ways to promote your university. After all, these folks have first-hand knowledge of all the unique and positive experiences your university brings. Whether it’s intimate profiles, interesting interviews or just a few authentic, telling quotes, potential candidates will respond to stories told directly by fellow colleagues.  
Search bar against a light blue background.

Why go through the effort to do recruitment marketing?

Recruitment marketing takes time and requires much more than many universities have previously invested in talent acquisition. But times have changed and if you want to attract and retain qualified candidates, recruitment marketing is invaluable.

Investing in recruitment marketing is investing in the future of your community. The more informed potential candidates are about your university, the more interested they will be in applying. A job advert simply cannot convey all the pertinent information about a particular job as well as all the ancillary benefits of your university. Recruitment marketing gives candidates a holistic view of who you are and how well they would fit in your community, generating a candidate pipeline. 

The result? More informed, interested candidates who are more likely to complete their application, accept your job offer, and stay at your institution.

Further reading on academic recruitment marketing

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