EP33: NAS Recruitment Innovation - Preparing For A New Wave of Recruitment Marketing (with Matthew Adam)

All-In Recruitment is a podcast by Manatal focusing on all things related to the recruitment industry’s missions and trends. Join us in our weekly conversations with leaders in the recruitment space and learn their best practices to transform the way you hire.

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The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Lydia: Welcome to the All-In Recruitment podcast by Manatal, where we explore best practices, learnings, and trends with leaders in the recruitment space. If you've liked our content so far, please subscribe to our channels on YouTube and Spotify, and stay tuned for our weekly episodes.

I am your host, Lydia, and with us today is Matthew Adam, the EVP and Chief Talent Strategist at NAS Recruitment Innovation based in Ohio.

Welcome to the show, Matthew.

Matthew: Hi, Lydia. Thank you so much for having me.

Matthew’s Growth and Evolution

Lydia: I understand you've got a great growth story within NAS Recruitment Innovation. Tell us about your role.

Matthew: I'm a unicorn where I've been with the same organization going on for 28 years now.

So, I started with them right out of college, and it's been a unique experience where I've been able to stay with one organization throughout my career. However, I do lots of different things under the same umbrella.

Lydia: Can you share your initial role when you started your career with them after college and the key factors that facilitated your growth and transition within the company?

Matthew: I've done probably six or seven jobs within the past 25 years. I started out in a frontline customer service role, helping and working directly with our clients and partners on a day-to-day basis. That really helped me to understand the business, what our clients needed, and their requirements as well as desires.

Shortly after that, I moved into sales and then into managing a team. I've also moved around the country a little bit for this organization. Right now, my role is Chief Talent Strategist, which is a fancy way to say that I'm involved with some of our larger, more strategic client partners.

I also do a lot of thought leadership and give back to the HR community with some thought leadership content.

Lydia: How big is the organization now?

Matthew: We've been around for a long time and currently have about 65 - 70 employees. Since we're a virtual company at this point, we have people throughout the North American United States.

Lydia: I understand that the company has been operating for more than 70 years now, and today you're focusing on recruitment marketing, correct?

So, walk us through briefly the evolution of this company.

Matthew: We started in 1947, so we're going on 75 years now. For the first 50 years of our existence, we did one thing: Sunday newspaper ads.

Typically, that's how people found jobs in North America, at least until the late 90s. All that we did was help clients get their ads structured and put together for a Sunday newspaper run.

Since then, we've gone through quite dramatic changes, where we have evolved to the job boards, the onset of monster.com, Online Career Centre, and careerbuilder.com.

Now we've evolved into this web 2.0, web 3.0, where we're helping clients with programmatic ad buying, social media recruiting, geofencing, retargeting all the fun new ways that we're using to find talent nowadays.

Evolution Of Recruitment Marketing Strategies And Technology Over The Past Decade

Lydia: What recruitment marketing trends have you noticed within the past five to ten years?

Matthew: In the past five to 10 years, we've worked to help organizations move beyond a post-and-pray methodology. Many companies were still, even a couple of years ago, relying on posting jobs on one or two job boards and waiting for candidates to come to them. The problem with that is that candidates have really changed the way they look for jobs.

"Candidates now look for jobs via their social networks. They're starting their searches on Google, Bing, or their favorite search engine."

With the advent of mobile devices, we can now target and attract candidates right where they are. So, we've worked closely with our clients and partners to evolve their strategies to be much more strategic and pinpointed so that they’re really finding the right talent at the right time, as opposed to posting on a general job board and waiting for candidates to come to them.

Lydia: With those learnings, I'm sure there's also some shift from doing things traditionally to doing all the multifaceted ways in which you can reach out to candidates, especially digitally, right?

So, what ways or change mechanisms were employed inside the company to do this?

Matthew: We changed our company from top to bottom - from the people we hire, the people we have working for our client partners, and even the technology we built internally proprietarily.

From a people standpoint, we needed individuals who understood this space and were more strategic thinkers instead of adding processors. Therefore, we went through an evolution of hiring Google-certified employees who knew the ins and outs of putting together a social media strategy and were well-versed in mobile and geofencing tactics.

Combined with that, we've also built our own technology, which is a recruitment marketing platform that supercharges the company's career site. ****It's a cloud-based software-as-a-service solution.

We think that it's really important that a company has a big employment branding asset, but many companies underutilize it. So, with our technology, we free up your job content and make sure you're mobile-enabled. We make sure that it's really an intuitive way for candidates to find the information they're looking for quickly and easily.

Lydia: Does this platform enable clients to create their career portals easily?

Matthew: Yes. So we help them build it, and it's powered by technology that frees up the job content to work for your organization's career portal.

The Three Hurdles of Employer Branding

Lydia: On that note, what are the three hurdles you've seen for employer branding today?

Matthew: Employment branding has changed quite a bit over the past 10 or 15 years, and with the advent of social media and transparent review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, companies now don't control the brand like they once did.

It's not a one-way communication from employee to employer or from employer to employee. Now, it's a two-way dialogue. Plus, candidates have a better sense of the organization's culture without having to work there to understand what people like or don't like about their environment.

So that has forced organizations to be very authentic when crafting their brand. They have to make sure that it's really consistent with what the marketplace is telling them. The example I always give is that you can't say you're an organization that values work-life balance if you expect your people to work 10 hours a day, six days a week.

Again, maybe in the old world, you could do that and get away with it. But today, with sites like Glassdoor, people can easily determine if a company's brand is consistent with its message from the beginning by using sites like Glassdoor.

Lydia: So, that is ensuring that what you're putting out there, how you position yourself as a company, has to match what you practice within the company, right?

Matthew: Precisely. Honestly, there are many benefits to doing that. First of all, it's what candidates want.

"By providing candidates with a glimpse inside an organization, they can decide to opt-in or out for the right reasons. We've seen many studies that show that if you do this and do it properly and authentically, you will get better-fit candidates and employees that will stay longer over time.”

They won't feel like the employers sold them a bill of goods to get them through the door, only to be disappointed and cause many churns afterward.

So, doing strong employment brands that are honest about who you are, has many benefits, not only in attraction but also the retention element.

Lydia: In addition to inbound interest in recruitment marketing, do you also directly communicate with candidates?

Matthew: In a sense, we do. So, we work closely with the companies, and part of our discovery, part of our employment branding development, is to get that voice of the candidate and the employee's voice to make sure that we're creating messaging that connects with their end audience. It's not built just for higher-level executives or the boardroom. We want to make sure that it connects with the people who are actually doing the job.

So, a big part of what we do is making sure that that messaging is relatable and that it's motivating the right candidates to take action.

Lydia: With the right kind of input, right? From all the stakeholders that are going to be boarded into the whole process.

Matthew:  Precisely. Sometimes there is a disconnect between what the executive level believes are the reasons people join versus why people actually join. So, our goal is to extract the truth from those who perform the job every day.

Impact of AI on Recruitment Marketing

Lydia: We're seeing the widespread use of AI tools and ChatGPT. This is obviously one of the biggest trends that people are hopping on to and using it in different ways.

What are your thoughts on its impact on employer branding and overall recruitment marketing strategies?

Matthew: I can't wait for ChatGPT to change our industry. This is because every new technological development, at some point, affects our world of employment, branding, and recruitment marketing. Social media, mobile devices, and programmatic ad buying are all that come into our world at some point.

ChatGPT is hot off the press, and I wonder if anyone knows how it will affect our space. But I think if there's input, there is potential for implications around creative development.

“ChatGPT has the ability to potentially build brands in the future or at least germinate ideas and concepts that our creative teams can use. I think that an element in addition to the real change will be what types of talent companies need to hire in the future.”

So, if it can do some lifting of certain jobs or disintermediate certain jobs but create others, I think that's where we'll see some real wholesale changes just in the makeup of the workforce.

Lydia: That's a great point that just the evolution of technology affects the needs within the company and how you see talent as being of value to the projects that you're doing, intended without the use of technology.

But talent strategists, what should they do to prepare for this new wave?

Matthew: No matter what comes around, there are always new tools and techniques that are continuing to evolve. My mindset has always been to be open to change and not get stuck in the way of doing things.

I've seen it with senior-level people who've been doing this for 30 years, and I've seen it with new people as well. If you're open to experimenting with new ways, you'll always find ways to improve your processes.

So a good example of this is the media strategies component that we've done. We've started to do what's called programmatic ad buying, which is the algorithmic purchase of media in real-time. It sounds fancy, but it's just a way to buy media much more effectively than we ever could before than any human being could.

By employing this, it's helping organizations spend their money more effectively and get better results at the end of the day.

“So with every new technology that comes along, there's going to be good and bad to it. But try to look for the good and try to embrace the positives that it can bring.”

Lydia: So, what are some ways those in the talent space can align their strategies, recruitment, and talent development with business needs?

Matthew:  I always think the best way for recruiters to be effective is to have clear lines of communication with both the candidates they're recruiting for and the hiring managers they're working for.

By keeping an open line of communication between those two entities, you can be the bridge to help both sides understand where the right positioning is.

So sometimes, hiring managers have unrealistic expectations of what the market can bear, what salaries would work for people, and what skill sets the market has. In contrast, the recruiter is in a unique position where they can help bridge that gap to make sure that both candidates and hiring managers understand what's at stake and what available talent is out there.

EVP Review Frequency and Contingency Planning

Lydia: When it comes to the EVP, how frequently should it be reviewed or evaluated to ensure its relevance to the current candidate-driven market?

Matthew: Our general rule of thumb used to be about five years, but I think that's shrinking to every two to three years. And really, what we look for, too, are big changes within an organization, either internally or externally.

So changes in leadership, in the company, the outside environment like COVID, and things like work-from-home environments might shift. Anytime you have some type of wholesale change, that's a good chance for you just to take a step back and assess to make sure that the employment brand is still resonating with the culture with the authentic nature of your organization.

So I'd say every two years is safe. But again, that depends on what's happening in your micro and macro environment.

Lydia: What would be your contingency plan if you cannot find the ideal candidates through programmatic ads, social recruitment, or other outreach methods?

Matthew:  We've been dealing with that a lot lately. At least last year, the market was super tight, and in 2023, it’s still uncertain.

But right now, for a lot of roles, there's still a big war for talent and more jobs than there are candidates to fill them. So we've had to get very creative in outreach. We've had to get creative and pretty aggressive to position these opportunities.

Sometimes we could rely on just passive tactics, such as posting an ad and waiting for people to come in. Now we're doing things that are more building talent, communities, building talent pools, and doing direct email outreach, doing direct text outreach, making sure we're staying in front of these candidates regularly.

There are a lot more tactics that are more aggressive to make sure that we're getting a fair share of the talent that's out there.

Lydia: In simpler terms, are you suggesting that the candidates always keep the clients you represent in their thoughts?

Matthew: Exactly. We want to make sure that even if someone's fully employed - which most good candidates are nowadays - if they ever get to a point where they're thinking about making a move or thinking about a change, our organization is on top of their mind.

Managing Employer Brand Perception & Influence on Job Offers

Lydia:  Going back a little bit to your point earlier about the employer brand not being entirely in the hands of the employer anymore, right? They're changing demands from candidates today.

What is your opinion on managing the perception of the employer brand when facing negative feedback or reviews, and how do you manage that?

Matthew: First of all, you can't ignore it. We have a lot of companies who pretend that it doesn't exist, and that's not a strategy you have to purview into what candidates are saying - good, bad, or indifferent.

I would say that most candidates are pretty realistic. They know that if they see a bad review, it's not necessarily mean that it’s a bad organization. It could just be one person's opinion. But at the same point, if you're seeing consistent negative reviews in a specific area, those are areas that organizations need to address head-on.

So we've done a number of things to help companies to, first of all, understand what's being said out there and make sure that you’re monitoring that regularly. That's part of your cadence.

But more importantly, having a strategy to address that. So, having your own brand ambassadors who are counterbalancing some of that negative commentary, making sure that the good parts of your story are being told and communicated in a way that candidates can find that as well.

Lydia: One approach is programmatic ads, but there is also the option of building the employer brand and projecting it on various channels.

Do you think the acceptance of job offers for a particular company is influenced by the employer brand? Is there any insight into that?

Matthew: Absolutely. Our philosophy is that your career site is your number one employment branding asset outside of your own employees. Everything that we do from a media strategy is designed to drive traffic back to an organization's career site, where you have a candidate's undivided attention and can tell your story exactly how you want it.

So whether it's an ad on LinkedIn or Glassdoor, the goal is to get them off of those sites and onto your career site as quickly as possible. But the messaging should be consistent at every touchpoint with the candidate.

It's like the Nike swoosh. No matter where you see it, it's the same. You know it without even seeing the word Nike. That's what an employment brand should be.****

"It should be consistent, no matter where a candidate is starting their search, whether it's on Google, social media, or right on the career site, that they have that same consistent messaging coming through at every touch point."

Approaching Employer Branding During Times of Transition

Lydia: We are in a unique environment where we're seeing large tech companies and mass layoffs. Overnight, people are left without a job. They've probably served a long time in this specific company and perhaps invested in the employer brand.

So, what are some ways to approach employer branding? Or even recruitment marketing strategies in the midst of layoffs, hiring freeze, etc.?

Matthew: It's tough, I would say. Right now, in our current environment, Twitter has had rounds of layoffs. I just read that they're laying off another 10% of their staff. It's been on the front page news.

How can we mitigate pandemonium inside the organization in our recruitment marketing message and employment brand?

So, part of it is being honest about the transition, the situation that an organization is in if they're laying off people if they're not hiring, and just being transparent about the fact that the business is going through a metamorphosis. There's lots of transition going on, but that is also creating opportunities for the right types of folks. And that's why we're still recruiting for these types of roles.

Being authentic and just honest about the transition that's happening, I think, is the best approach.

Lydia: What are some indicators of a successful employer branding campaign?

Matthew: The beauty of everything we do nowadays is the metrics are out there. We can tell you where a candidate starts their job search, how they pass through, where they drop off, how long they stay on a site, and what videos they're watching. Everything we can track and understand.

So, it's a beautiful thing from analytics and an ROI standpoint for branding and investing in some of these recruitment marketing strategies. Typically, what we're looking for is a couple of different things, such as top-of-funnel traffic. How many people are finding and responding to your jobs? And what are the conversion rates?

Once people see it, once they digest the job, are they wanting to learn more? Do they want to apply further? So those are a couple of things that we look for. And then, ultimately, what we're really trying to get to is, where do your best hires come from?

So, when you hire someone in a year, two years down the road, and they're your superstars, we wouldn't be able to track all the way back to that original source of where they found out about you, whether it was a referral, whether it was from a specific site like LinkedIn, or Glassdoor, or whether it was from the career site experience.

Lydia: Have you noticed a pattern of success by conducting this exercise? Specifically, have you been able to track how successful candidates first learned about the company and how well they performed once hired?

Matthew: We see all kinds of different patterns. It's different from company to company and sometimes position to position within the organization. Again, I think that speaks to the fact that in the old world when we started talking about everyone looking at the Sunday newspaper with everyone looking at monster.com to find a job.

Now, the way people are looking for jobs is totally different, depending on lots of different factors, your background, whether you're actively or passively looking, your age, and lots of those things come into play. So, every company is a little different. Hence, you have to create a strategy that's right for your organization.

Lydia: Now, speaking of tracking and metrics, there are plenty of tools out there to automate hiring, and one of them is our tool in Manatal.

So, how might technology help in ensuring successful hiring practices?

Matthew: I see tools every day that are helping to automate different portions of the hiring process. Some are around job distribution, getting your jobs out free and easy so that candidates can find them. Some are about scheduling using AI interfaces so that candidates can schedule without human interaction. Some are video recording interviews. My kids are doing many of those nowadays where they're doing their first interview via recorded session.

So, I think there are lots of new tools and techniques that are allowing companies to let recruiters focus on what they are the strategic work that they really need to work on. And not some of that back and forth, scheduling, and tasking.

Lydia: You've given so many great insights today, especially very specific to employer branding, recruitment marketing, and the changing aspects of it across 10 - 20 years, and even going back as far as 70 years for NAS.

So, what advice would you give someone starting out in recruitment marketing today?

Matthew: The principles that I started working under are still the same. And that's connecting with candidates in a way that is honest about what you have to offer. So, to me, the best recruitment marketing campaigns and the best employment brands are just about being honest about your organization and what you offer and allowing candidates to self-select in or out, depending on whether they think that's a good fit. I also think that's healthy. I think that's good for the candidate and for the employer when that happens.

I think the tools are getting more sophisticated to allow candidates to make better and more educated decisions. So, my life's work over the past 30 years is helping companies to find the right talent that's going to help them grow and help them be successful. I also think we've gotten a lot better at it over the years, just with the leveraging of technology and some of the tools that are out there.

Lydia: Thank you very much, Matthew, for your time, your insights, and being so generous with the knowledge and experience you've had.

The audience listening in will probably want to connect with you as well. So, where can they find you?

Matthew: It's been really fun. Thank you for including me in this, Lydia. So again, Matt Adam with NAS Recruitment Innovation, you can find me on LinkedIn. You can also email me at madam@nasrecruitment.com.

Lydia: Perfect. And we have been in conversation with Matthew Adam, EVP and Chief Talent Strategist at NAS Recruitment Innovation based in Ohio, the United States.

If you've liked our content so far, please subscribe to our channels to stay tuned for more weekly episodes from All-In Recruitment.

Thank you very much.

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