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Market research important to recruiting efforts, too

OCTOBER 17, 2011 – Businesses can apply the same marketing tactics they use for investigating the needs of their customers when they are trying to bring on new employees. Those that fail to conduct market research and use insight to craft better strategies for drawing top talent may end up with fewer options when it’s time to hire.

As John Sullivan writes for, “recruiting is just sales with a crummy budget,” and the only difference is that sales people try to understand their target audience, while recruiters often don’t. In addition to finding out what the expectations and needs of the workforce may be – with surveys and interviews that determine the optimal place for posting job listings – employers should also try a “databased approach” and market segmentation, Sullivan says.

He explains that companies can break up the group of potential hires into the “top performers and innovators” and all the rest, and determine how the two types of prospective employees’ expectations differ. With the databased approach, they may also be able to decipher what drives a person to make the decision to apply for or take a job by conducting online panels or focus groups of people who aren’t seeking employment.

“Assuming that everyone within a 20-year generation that lives in any country of the world can be attracted using the same recruiting approach is simply silly,” Sullivan says, adding that conducting the research can also inform how the job should be structured to really engage the worker. “Without market research, you can only rely on trial and error to fully understand these changing expectations.”

Social media is another strategy that can cross over from the sales and promotional side of doing business to human resources and recruiting. It can be used to discover what kinds of jobs people are looking for and how they are responding to companies’ networking efforts. As Sullivan points out, there are regular additions to the suite of tools that can be used for communicating – including foursquare, Quora, Glassdoor and LinkedIn – and these websites can show a prospective employee the good as well as the bad aspects of a company. Make sure you are reaching out to recruits through their preferred channels and managing your business’ online reputation.

While the private sector added approximately 137,000 nonfarm jobs in September, unemployment has maintained a steady rate of 9.1 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. With a large portion of the population out of work, many people in every industry are seeking positions, and companies may be able to refine their hiring processes by doing prior research to find the perfect employees.