What tone and personas for your HR communication ?

Words have power - handwriting on a napkin with cup of coffee

In line with the logic according to which there must be a mirror effect between the way a business addresses its clients and its employees, I’d like to focus on the similarities between recruitment and sales. As I wrote in a previous post, they are two sides a of single job :one sells a vision and a plan, the other what the plan produces.

Regarding sales, any sales director would tell you that what matters is not how many people you have in your base but how well your base is qualified : it’s better to have few but very qualified prospects that a large unqualified base. The time sales people will lose with the ones will never be covered by the money made by signing others in the same timeframe.

Sales people and recruiters : same fate

This has been a matter of tension between sales and marketing in some organizations and still is in many ones. The first want a qualified flow while the second have always been trying to talk to everybody. Of course, when two departments don’t have the same KPIs, it’s hard to create value together. When one achieves its objectives by bringing 100 contacts, the other is going crazy to know how to sifting the wheat from the chaff.

The same happens in recruitment. Resources dedicated to recruitment are scarce so their time is scarce too. The same causes leading to the same effects, when the employer brand and HR marketing want to broadly attract candidates, recruiters are overwhelmed with irrelevant applications.

HR communication : a matter of “fit”

There are mainly two things to assess in a job application : competence and cultural fit. One will never be able to prevent people not having the right competence to apply but it’s possible to be dissuasive enough regarding eduction and expected work experience.

However the tone of voice can be definitely attractive or dissuasive in term of fit. The way a company communicates, the way it is “sold”, the way job offers are being written clearly deliver a message. For the same kind of job, their are announce I recognize me in and and others I don’t. It means one things : one can be made for a job but not for a given company. Who did not see someone thriving in a company and, later, failing in another while the job with strictly the same ?

So, of course, it would means that offers would be creating a divide. So what ? Attracting as many people as possible to make recruiters waste their times eliminating irrelevant applications from a cultural fit standpoint is counterproductive.

When clones talk to clones

Unfortunately, too many businesses try to look nice to every candidate while we all know that some industries are tougher than others and that two businesses in the same industry can be radically different from a cultural standpoint. A single candidate can be made for one and not the other. In the end we’re reaching a point where one business can’t differentiate from another through their HR communication, all say the same things to the same candidates. When clones talk to clones the result is a lose/lose recruitment, where poorly engaged candidates join poorly engaging companies.

“Working here is hell….but you’ll make lots of money”.

A couple of years ago I saw an offer from a US company saying something like “Working here is hell but you’ll make a lot of money”. I loved it. No matter it was an offer that could have attracted me or made me run away because it did not match my values. The promise was clear and, at least they won’t waste their time with people like me or me with people like them. But there are people looking for this and for them it’s clear and appealing.

One thing is sure : they may not have received as many application than with a more consensual one but that was exactly what they expected. They did not lose their time with culturally irrelevant candidates.

In the social networks and Glassdoor era we must stop lying to ourselves : candidates know of work life is at such or such company and soothing HR discourses make them laugh more than they convince them.

What leads me to another point I’d like to address : personas. Highly used for marketing, much less in HR marketing. Who are our targets, what are their personality traits, their expectations, to what do they react, what will they value in an offer, what tone of voice will catch their attention. These are the ones a company talks to and it does not matter if others dislike the tone because these others would be bad hires. Not having them applying is saving time for recruiters and even for the business that will not suffer from wrong casting with poorly engaged people that will never fit in the company.

A good recruitment is a good rapprochement

A long time ago, during a conversation with people from Danone, the CHRO of that time (Muriel PĂ©nicaud) told me that “a good recruitment est rather a rapprochement than a selection”. QED.

Maybe HR marketing is still too mucj about communication and not enough about marketing. It overlooks persona-based approaches, segmentation and qualification. It’s high time HR marketing gets lessons from product marketing which had to make its revolution a couple of years ago.