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An expert’s insight into recruitment marketing during a crisis

One of the most commonly cited assumptions is that the balance of power has shifted from candidates to clients almost overnight, and therefore all marketing efforts should be geared towards clients.

There is most definitely a degree of reality here as there are fewer roles in the market and finding and securing them is going to be tougher. However, I believe, for most sectors, one of the biggest challenges is going to remain: convincing high-quality candidates to consider a new opportunity.

Speaking to several recruitment leaders who have managed through previous crises, they all agree that risk aversion takes a while to wear off for candidates, with many electing to stay put when they may have previously considered a move.

As a recruiter, it is essential to reach these people ahead of time so they are engaged with your brand and ready to move when your clients need them.

This issue is going to be compounded, as client expectations will have changed and they will now expect to be able to attract higher-quality candidates far more easily than they may have done before.

In other words, it is going to be far harder to convince them to take a “7 out of 10” when they think there are lots of “10 out of 10s” flooding the market.

Therefore, my advice (perhaps contrary to what others are saying) is that marketing efforts most definitely need to be weighted towards clients, but it is essential to continue marketing to good quality candidates as well.

To be clear, not all candidates, as this has the potential to distract and waste time, but the very best people in the market who you know will be high value to your clients.


It has been really interesting to watch how different businesses have responded. Businesses in different sectors are taking different approaches, but we are also seeing seemingly-identical businesses taking approaches that are the polar opposite of each other.

I believe this is due to sheer panic and uncertainty, with reactive decisions at the forefront for most of us.

We are going through an incredibly quick, multistage process that has been changing on a weekly basis, however, this speed of change is already beginning too slow.

Marketing Crisis Stages:

  • Calm – This won’t affect us, keep calm, carry on.

  • Mild panic – This could affect us, keep calm, make changes.

  • Panic – This is actually affecting us, panic, make more changes, do what everyone else is doing (send an email about how the team is now working from home).

  • Accepting – This is affecting us; however, this is the new reality, let’s get back to work (we’re here now).

  • Planning – This is the new normality, let’s take the time to plan (some businesses are already here and are looking at how they can come out of this not just in one piece, but ahead of their competition).

These stages are relevant to the tactics I discuss below. The key point is that the speed and reactive nature of your marketing will slow, and there is now time for a carefully thought-out approach.


At present, with most people confined to their homes, the number of channels available to all Marketing teams (whether recruitment or not) has significantly shrunk and is now restricted to digital/social/radio/TV.

This means there is increased competition for the available space, but the good news is that there are also currently significantly more eyeballs online, resulting in a bigger overall audience.

One example of a more engaged or available audience that we have seen is email open rates, which have significantly increased. In the same way, the numbers of people viewing and reading content online has also gone up.

So, right now, content marketing is very important – meaning more online and even an increase in frequencies around email. This content should include a balanced mix of indirect and direct messaging.

You want to help and assist so your brand is front-of-mind but also make it easy for the audience to take action, whether that is coming to you with a vacancy or applying to a job.

Remember, the content you produce doesn’t have to be ground-breaking, but it does need to be useful and relevant.

Even though your competitors may be producing similar material and advice, don’t let this be a barrier to your own efforts. If you do, your brand will fade into the background, making your recruiters’ jobs twice as hard.

This is not to say there is no room for innovation – there is, and it absolutely should be done. Some of the best ideas and initiatives we have been involved in have been partnerships with other businesses or individuals, and also charity initiatives.

Arm your recruitment team: Content marketing is great, but you are likely asking your teams to make a significantly increased number of business development calls, something which may be a relatively new concept to some of them.

It is absolutely essential to make this process as easy as possible, otherwise, it just won’t happen. So, when producing material for email or social media, think about how this can be tweaked for the recruiters to discuss or present to their clients.

At the same time, the more input you can get from your recruitment teams on what is going on and what their clients or candidates want to hear about, the more relevant you can make your marketing approach.

In the current stage, I would limit paid spend to absolute core priority groups; for example, a limited AdWords campaign geared towards client lead generation. However, as we enter the planning stage, I expect to see paid digital advertising budgets return to a level of normality relatively quickly.

One opportunity that will materialise is the potential to attract good recruiters to your brand as we move out of this period.

I don’t just mean the recruiters that have been made redundant, but those that have been unsettled or unimpressed by their company’s approach and therefore are more likely to want to move.

How you visualise your brand’s response and showcase your team during this period will really make you stand out later. Another option I have seen one agency begin to do is to organise Zoom chats with recruiters that they believe could be a good future fit.

Key marketing rules:

  • Fight to ensure your brand does not appear out of touch, or worse, out of action.

  • Support your recruiters to make their business development calls.

  • Focus on activities related to core business, but ensure you know what this is first.

  • Be personable, empathetic and reasonable with your approach.

  • Keep an eye on what others are doing, but do not let this lead your decisions.

Whatever you focus on, remember it is all about adding value, playing the long game and generating goodwill – people will remember this later.

About Chris South:

As Director of Prominence, Chris is the first person recruiters speak to when trying to get a handle on their marketing activity. He is also highly involved in the day-to-day delivery on all client accounts, but is slowly learning to let his fantastic team take care of business and to only interfere when needed!

Based in Auckland, Chris normally travels to Australia monthly, meaning he has a lot of air miles and has also seen every newly released film. However, he is the first to tell you that the life of a frequent traveller isn’t quite as glamorous as it seems! At present he is really enjoying spending more time at home!

Chris regularly contributes to the Prominence Blog.

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