Why Creativity is the New Must-Have Tech Recruiting Skill

Forget the startup perks arms race. Tech companies now need to rely on a new set of creative recruiting skills to attract and hire top talent.

When LinkedIn released its report “3 Must-Know Talent Acquisition Trends for 2015,” there was one stat in particular that stood out:

  • “Competition is now the number one obstacle US companies face in attracting top talent, outstripping compensation.”

It confirms what many of us in the tech world have been experiencing for quite some time — top talent is hard to come by these days, and to say it’s hotly contested would be a massive understatement.

The new problem for companies facing a talent crunch is that many of the old solutions are no longer working. Thanks to the infamous “startup perks arms race,” what were once considered unique and lavish perks — free yoga, massages, laundry service, etc. — have now become increasingly commonplace (tell me, when was the last time you walked into a startup that didn’t have beer on tap?).

So if perks aren’t the answer, what is? Startup hiring managers and talent teams are feeling the pressure come up with new ways to quickly differentiate themselves, and for many, that means developing new skill sets. Traditional sourcing skills are certainly still important, but as companies begin placing more emphasis on developing unique and relevant employer branding, creativity is becoming more and more valued.

If you can’t quickly differentiate yourself from the competition there’s a very good chance the candidate you’re chasing is going to wind up at an employer who can. 

You need people who can create employer brand assets of all shapes and sizes that get noticed and click with candidates. That takes a lot of creativity, a skill that hasn’t always been at the top of the recruiting must-have list.

To get more insights into the power and importance of creativity when it comes to today’s recruiting and employer branding efforts, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Lars Schmidt, founder of Amplify Talent. He shared his thoughts on three crucial abilities the best talent professionals leverage to set themselves apart.

“If you have a robust collection of employer branding assets and they tell different stories in targeted areas, you can have a real advantage to rise above the noise.”

— Lars Schmidt, Founder of Amplify Talent

3 New Must-Have Creative Recruiting Skills

1) Storytelling

Today’s top recruiters realize that every piece of content, messaging, or interaction candidates have with you and your brand is a puzzle piece that, over time, comes together to form their perception of you. The best recruiters go to great lengths to lay out those puzzle pieces in a thoughtful, compelling way that fully engages candidates and answers their questions while also leaving them wanting to know more.

In that sense, great recruiting is a lot like good storytelling.

“Employer branding really is storytelling,” Schmidt explains. “It’s finding ways to convey employee stories, so the prospect can really see themselves in that organization and really relate to that environment. That’s what effective employer branding is.”

2) Versatility

As your company grows, you’re going to be hiring for a greater and greater variety of roles. Just as a marketer needs to create different assets that appeal to different buyers at different stages of their buying journey, so do today’s recruiters need to develop an arsenal of employer branding assets that appeal to different types of candidates at various stages in their candidate journey.

That means figuring out a variety of ways you can package and repackage the stories and messaging you develop, and determining which work best in each situation.

“If you have a robust collection of employer branding assets and they tell different stories in targeted areas, you can have a real advantage to rise above the noise. Now when you are the tenth recruiting email that a software engineer has received in a week you can weave in targeted and tailored bits of that employer brand that are specific to that person,” Schmidt says. “That makes you much more likely to convert and actually get them respond.”

3) Curiosity

“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to check out somebody’s Twitter or whatever their social channels are and figure out what some of their interests might be,” says Schmidt. “Maybe they’re really into soccer. They’re tweeting about the World Cup and other things like that. Maybe your organization has a company soccer team. Why not weave some of that info into your outreach? First of all, it will be much more relevant. It also shows that you’re not just a recruiter who’s just sending out blanket mass form emails. You took the time to do a bit of homework.”

The key motivator behind this type of research is curiosity — what makes your target candidates tick? What are their top interests, hopes, and concerns?

“Remember, “ Schmidt says, “the initial outreach is about finding connective tissue with a prospect. You have the ability with a bit research to learn some of the things that might compel or motivate them. When you have employer brand assets that align with those things, of course you’re going to increase your conversion percentage if you can include that in your outreach.”

Remember: Today’s Recruiting Challenges are Also Opportunities

Increasing competition may be raising the bar, but it is also creating an environment where there are more opportunities to work outside the box.

“The way that employer branding is maturing and evolving, to me is really interesting, because recruiting hasn’t necessarily been considered a creative space,” Schmidt says. “It was more about selling and relationships, all those kind of soft skills. But now you really need creativity, as well. You need to find new ways to reach candidates and figure out how to use new channels. There is this kind of experimental nature to it right now that really fascinates me.”

Photo by: Wilfred Iven

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Carlie Smith
Carlie Smith
Director of Talent

Carlie Smith was the Senior Talent Manager, Sales & Marketing at OpenView. She worked directly with hiring managers and key stakeholders within OpenView and its portfolio to lead vital searches and provided process guidance on recruitment strategy, including talent identification, strategic sourcing, relationship building, and competitive intelligence. Currently, Carlie is the Director of Circle.
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