Alexander Tonelli, Head of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding at iStone, was interviewed by Candarine CEO, Aki Kakko, prior to Inbound Marketing Training day, which will be hosted at iStone’s office in Stockholm on the 23rd of February 2017.
Aki: Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Alex: I’ve been in the IT recruitment field for more than five years now, and I’ve held a variety of recruiting related roles such as Candidate Manager and Project Manager within the Candidate Experience. In all of my roles, I have had close dialog and contact with the marketing team and together we’ve looked for and leveraged synergies throughout the marketing function. What attracted me to my current role was the possibility of actually sitting in the marketing team directly as a person responsible for hiring. During the past year I have been also working with inbound recruitment marketing, trying it out and developing my own recruitment process based on the inbound marketing process that our marketing team already uses to engage our customers.
Aki: What is your definition of inbound recruitment marketing?
Alex: For me, it means using different types of communication depending on where an individual is in the candidate journey. It means creating different kinds of materials that appeal to specific candidates at specific stages of their journey. Think about it this way: when you apply for a job, usually you’ve been through a long process before you’ve reached the application page. You’ve probably tried to get to know the company a bit -- by reading blog posts, for example. That’s how today’s generations look for jobs and information in general. We want to take it in at our own pace and not be bombarded with information like job ads. Inbound recruitment marketing allows our candidates to find information at their own pace. And it enables our company to conduct more targeted activities towards specific candidate personas, as we call them. These are different groups that we want to attract towards our company. For example, in Stockholm we have many IT companies, so it is pretty hard to attract the right talent. We have to be more niche in our communications -- offering candidates the information they want when they’re ready for it. That’s why I’m also working in the marketing department. They’re really good at communication.
Aki: What activities have you started based on this inbound methodology?
Alex: We’ve worked a lot with more content-based recruitment, especially after we had our candidate persona development workshops. We’ve had our internal colleagues create content and I’ve also helped with some blog posts to attract candidates that way. And what we have seen from the stats is that our blog post click-through rate is 12%, which is much higher than the rate for job ads.
Aki: What is the call to action from your blog posts?
Alex: We have tried different calls to action. In the beginning, we made sure that blog posts led directly to relevant jobs. We also sometimes linked from blog posts to our company Careers page, and we linked our general “Connect with Us” button on our Careers page. We’ve also used email subscriptions as a CTA. So we have tried different things. We haven’t yet tried for example white papers, so that will probably be the next step.
Aki: Although you haven’t tried white papers, have you used any other downloadable content or webinars to collect leads?
Alex: I haven’t tried that yet. My team has created white papers, so we have the tools and the knowledge. We just need to begin the process also for recruitment. I am still trying to find my way through Hubspot and we use Teamtailor for recruitment, so we’re still trying to figure out where we want the candidate data to be. When we have someone to sign up to our newsletter, for example, we can now collect a lot of data such as the web pages they visited. That information helps us when we contact the candidates. So we haven’t tried other kinds of content yet but it’s in my recruitment marketing plan.
Aki: Do you do lead scoring based on the behavioral data you collect from the process?
Alex: Not in that way yet, as they are connected only to email subscriptions. In our Hubspot, we’re focused on customer side, so we haven’t yet figured out the process to have both in the same system. Now here’s a question for you, Aki: do you have any tips related to this?
Aki: Yes! Where and how to manage the candidate data is actually a very common problem that arises when you start using Hubspot or any other marketing automation tool to do both recruiting and lead collection. For example, Hubspot doesn’t support an unlimited number of life-cycle stages so you could set up different stages for your recruitment and sales process. Still, our recommendation is to try to do that all in one tool. Based on experiences, we are currently writing an e-book about how best to do that. Hopefully, it will help to answer this question in greater detail.
Alex: But, as it’s not an ATS/recruitment system, how do you handle CVs?
Aki: There are few ways to do that. One, for example, is to use a parsing company that reads the incoming CVs and automatically adds that information to your candidate profiles (contact property) so it becomes readable and searchable. Actually, this is similar to the way an ATS typically works, as most of them have built-in parsing or have licensed it to give you a seamless user experience. Do you have any other tools you currently use?
Alex: We mainly use Hubspot and Teamtailor (ATS) along with Linkedin Recruiter and some Chrome add-ons for sourcing -- but not from the marketing perspective. We use Hubspot to do a lot.
Aki: Do you have also your Careers page via Hubspot?
Alex: No, we have all the other pages except the Careers page from Hubspot. Our Careers page is from the ATS. But we have Google Analytics there so we can measure traffic and see where the candidate comes from.
Aki Have you considered moving the Careers page to Hubspot?
Alex: Yes, I am considering to move it and I’m currently testing that with some landing pages. My aim is to personalize the recruitment processes as much as possible with the help of Hubspot. If you look at our website, it is totally based on our buyer personas, what their challenges are and how to help them with those challenges. I want to have this same approach for our candidates. Say, for example, a developer comes to our Careers page. I want to make sure he gets information and content based on his professional interests first. In other words, he arrives at a page focused specifically on his interests and sees only relevant roles. So I want to create more niche sites for different personas -- not just a general Careers page filled with job ads.
Aki: Any other companies in Sweden you have seen that have already made good progress with personalized career pages?
Alex: Many people ask about this, and I think there are some. But most of them really just have different sections for different kind of roles, so they’re not really personalised to the extent that is possible by using behavioural data and adapting the webpage based on the candidate’s information. One of the advantages I have sitting in our marketing department is that I can get help with a lot of stuff -- visuals, content, etc. But our organization is not that big. We have 600 people in 12 countries. Even so, we move quickly and are able to try new things. Believe me, we plan to try some very cool things this year!
Aki: How do think the role of a recruiter is changing in this kind of process?
Alex: Some of the things recruiters have being doing in the past -- like the candidate communication -- is still pretty stable but the modern recruiter has to be more diversified and have everything from marketing and sales capabilities to tech skills. And what we see, at least in Sweden, is that there is a lot of HR tech buzz going on and it seems to be growing every year. If the process becomes more tech-supported in some areas, you’ll need other kinds of skills to be able to adapt to new systems and analytics -- and to the marketing aspects of recruitment. So, yes, the role is changing but still some parts are remaining the same, at least the social aspects of it. The difference now is that you can amplify your network by using Linkedin and other tools to help you to become a modern recruiter. Of course, you still have to have the skills of networking and the ability to connect with people and make them remember you and your company.
Aki: Now in many organizations there are two different recruitment processes: one is under the ATS and one is related to sourcing. What we have seen is that inbound marketing is actually an effective way to get these two processes integrated, as it takes the best from both approaches. Is this the case from your point of view?
Alex: I agree and it is actually the same with our marketing and sales team. We’ve had a lot of discussions about this and we conducted a seminar about social selling where this was discussed. Social selling is a complement from marketing to their existing process -- one that helps them make their leads warmer and improve customer outreach. It’s the same thing in recruiting.
Aki: What is the ideal team combination when moving to inbound recruitment marketing?
Alex: I don’t have an ideal solution. You can be successful by having your recruitment team partner closely with your marketing team … or by having your recruitment team learn marketing skills themselves. The main thing is to break down the silos and get the teams closer. I have seen teams that have dedicated marketing people sitting in the recruitment team, and that works well. I sit in the marketing team as a recruiter, and that can work well too. The main focus should just be to find the synergies between the marketing and recruiting teams, and to get recruiters engaging candidates the same way marketers engage customers. So it is a win-win that way. When I sit in our marketing team, I find that it’s a very creative environment. But in some companies, marketing can be the roadblock when you try to implement something new. But I find that it’s much easier for me because I sit with them every day. For example, when I create a blog post, it’s reviewed by my colleagues in marketing to ensure its relevance to the audience I’m trying to reach.
Aki: Do you involve employees in your content creation?
Alex: Our employees are our content. When we lift their personal brands, we lift our employer brand. All of our blog posts, for example, are written entirely by our colleagues. We don’t use any external help and that’s something we are really proud of. We want our colleagues to get the attention and to strengthen their own brands because that helps everyone.
Aki: Have you found that approach easy or was there some selling needed for people to see the value in it?
Alex: Before I joined the team, my colleagues used the inbound process, so they have done great work in encouraging people to write blog posts and to get them to share. It’s a process we’ve been building for 2 to 3 years. It takes time but when they see the results and the effect their efforts have, it really helps. Today, we’re in the phase where we have content and we want more people internally to share it.
Aki: Last question: for people working with the very traditional recruitment process, how can they get started with inbound?
Alex: If you have a marketing team, try to set a meeting with them and try to understand each other's needs and challenges. Try to see where you can help each other. In the recruitment process, in particular, try to breakdown the walls. Get the marketing team to understand how the modern candidate process works today and how candidates use Google and other tools to find employer information. You also need to improve communication and change mindsets. For example, the marketing team needs to share its communications plans and its social media expertise with recruiters. So it would be good to begin by just trying to get them to understand how the candidate applies today and how marketing can offer crucial support to the candidate process at various stages.
Aki: Thanks for your insights and let's talk again later this year to get an update.