Recruitment 4.0 - The 'Hiring Journey' or when recruitment meets growth marketing.

Written By:

Ruben Gees

July 22, 2020

The way employees have been looking for a new opportunity or how companies have looked for the ideal candidate have changed dramatically over the years. It evolved in roughly three distinct stages in recruitment, and I believe the 4th stage is slowly appearing.

Let’s have a quick look at the three previous stages first, before we explore Recruitment 4.0, the 'Hiring Journey', or when recruitment meets growth marketing.

The analogue world

Until the Mid 90s, before everyone had access to the internet, companies would publish their job openings in local newspapers and on job boards in city centers. For high potential candidates companies would use headhunters with a large Rolodex packed with business cards of key leaders in the industry. Candidates on the other hand were searching for the best jobs in the newspaper or skimming job boards. As all of this still exist, when internet access became a commodity, the way to look for a new opportunity changed dramatically.

Online Job Boards

When I graduated, the most popular way to find a job was to create an account on an online job board. In Belgium one of the most popular job boards (which still exist today) was called Monster. More globally I believe companies like Glassdoor, Career Builder and Dice allow employees to find the right employer. These companies still exist, but are under pressure by a new contestant LinkedIn.


Over the past 10 years a large percentage of business and technical oriented employers maintained a business profile on the social network LinkedIn. LinkedIn then made it extremely easy for recruiters to find suitable job candidates. On the other hand, for job seekers it has never been as easy to look for a job using LinkedIn Jobs.

But LinkedIn is under pressure. Last year, they changed the way to pay for their job ads, and it became pretty expensive. Early 2019 they moved from to a pay-per-job model to a pay-per-click model, which will turn out for most of you to be far more expensive. As a pay-per-click model has only one goal, to burn your ad money as fast as possible, you also risk running out of budget by the time your job would have been shown to the ideal candidate.

There are also a significant number of what I would call ‘low quality candidates’. Fortune seekers and professional job hoppers are constantly applying for your vacancies and the percentage of candidates I would say are qualified to do the job is probably less than 5%. So it attracts people actively looking for a new job, but do you reach the right candidates with it?

And what with people not looking for a new job? There are so many very good profiles safely locked away in what they call a golden cage. Large pay check, small network, but great experience. How can you reach them?

I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of years and I believe some methodologies used in growth marketing can be useful for recruiters as well. After all, there are several similarities between recruiters, marketeers and sales profiles. Recruiters need to advertise an open vacancy, and afterwards ‘convince’ a candidate to go for a specific job. This is pretty similar to a marketer that has to create demand for its service and a sales person to close a specific deal.

The 'Buying Journey' approach & recruitment

A pretty popular framework often used in marketing is called the buying journey. It’s the process someone goes through when they make the decision to buy a product or not. It typically consists of 4 phases.

  • Awareness
  • Education
  • Selection
  • Implementation

For those who're not familiar yet with the framework, let's quickly explain it with a simple example. Take Andreea for instance, who's going to Massimo Dutti to buy a new shirt.

  • Awareness: I need to have a new shirt
  • Education: It looks like this shop has several types of shirts
  • Selection: Let’s try these shirts.
  • Implementation: This one fits well, let’s buy it and wear it tomorrow at work

Now there is a very important rule with the buying journey. There is a point where you can sell as a person and where you can’t sell.

  • Awareness: Don’t Sell
  • Education: Don’t Sell
  • Selection: Sell
  • Implementation: Sell

Very often this is not implemented correctly within a company. Take the example for instance. When is the shopkeeper typically asking if they can help? I believe you will agree with me that most people will ask if they can help upon entering the shop (awareness) and that no-one is there when you’re trying to fit a new shirt and you need a different size (selection). You probably also agree that you feel slightly annoyed when someone starts the conversation upon entering the shop and that you are as annoyed when you have to put on all your clothes again to go look for that very specific shirt in the shop again, to find the correct size, and cue again for the fitting room. How likely would you want to buy the shirt if someone helps you, when you NEED help, over when someone tries to help/sell you something when you’re just looking around?

The Hiring Journey, a Buying Journey approach towards Recruitment

We believe the process of deciding to accept a new opportunity is very, very similar to buying a new product or service. Let’s share it as an example.

  • Awareness: I’m at a death-end in my career. I don’t really feel appreciated anymore, actually I’m just doing my hours.
  • Education: I’m very scared to leave because they constructed this golden cage around me. What type of companies would I want to work for anyway? Let’s have a look around
  • Selection: These 3 companies look very interesting. Good testimonials, good glass door rating, interesting blog.
  • Implementation: I had a great conversation today with the CEO. She just called me I can start Monday, exciting.
The Hiring Journey
The Hiring Journey

Why do I believe this is so similar? Try to count the number of times a recruitment agency called while you were actually perfectly happy at your job? How similar is this to sales executives who are cold calling every day to try to sell services to a company who doesn’t recognize yet there is an issue? Does that work? As long as you try enough you'll be a lucky to bump into someone who's at the right stage in the buying journey, but is it efficient? I don’t think so. “If there would only be a way to identify where an employee is in his Buying Journey or let’s call it the 'Hiring Journey'”.

Well, there is a way to get a better understanding where people are in their buying journey and it’s called value ladders. And (not?) surprisingly I believe value ladders could be as efficient in finding the right employees as they are for marketing to generate new qualified leads.

Value Ladders for the Hiring Journey

Value ladders are developed to identify where someone is in her or his buying journey. It’s a framework that allows marketers to get people on the value ladder (through SEO, ads,...) and move them up the ladder (marketing automation, remarketing,...) (in the future I'm planning to write a blog post just dedicated to value ladders, pinky promise).

A value ladder typically consists of several pieces of content. That content can be for instance a blog post, a case study, a webinar, a whitepaper or something more adapted to the recruitment industry like a testimonial or a training program.

Value Ladders & Recruitment

What I’m trying to say is that in recruitment 4.0, recruiters will have to develop top content addressing the needs of a potential candidates position in the hiring journey and only reach out when the candidate is at the right stage in the hiring journey.

Furthermore, by doing this, you’ll start to engage with a potential candidate at a time they’re not yet looking for a job. But gradually, they’ll get more involved with your brand and your organisation making them more likely to take you into consideration when they are at a point in their career when they do want to change. Even so, when you notice a potential candidate is interacting more than usual with your content, you might conclude that this is a signal that they're ready to take a different step in their career and that you should reach out to them.

Early signs it's happening

Some companies already figured it out...
Some companies already figured it out...

I believe there are early signs recruitment is starting to adapt these techniques. Well, in the next example you will see that they're starting to take some actions towards it, but it's probably not yet very organised. Nevertheless, beginning of September I received a sponsored ad on my Facebook wall. It’s a Dutch ad but it basically says, HIRING, We made it easy for you, your letter of resignation for your previous employer is ready. Want to know more? Apply now.

Now when you were going through that ad, you would find a page where you can download a personalized resignation letter. This really got my attention, why? A few days earlier the same company shared with me a LinkedIn InMail. So I probably clicked it back then, to see what it was about. I got remarketed and the message stuck with me. I have the screenshots because I remember forwarding them immediately to our HR department saying this was so fantastic and original that we should do something similar. I would say the resignation letter is maybe a little too blunt to start with, a better remarketing message would have been to share me some growth marketing tricks and include me in their recruitment pipeline. But the overall idea is pretty original and pretty smart.

LinkedIn InMails that triggered the remarketing

Earlier this year I have seen a recruitment startup doing exactly this. I can’t find them back, but I’m sure traditional agencies focusing heavily on outbound activities might soon have some very hard competition by inbound specialized recruitment agencies. Or, I believe that the recruiters that will win tomorrow, are the ones with a growth marketing profile or supported by a growth marketeer. Just like every other industry, the recruitment industry is changing at fast pace, so you're better prepared for what is to come then to stay behind and stick to what you've known forever.

As a growth marketing specialist, I'm pretty curious what recruiters think about this approach. Feel free to leave your comments below.