3 Tips to Create Recruiting Messages that Attract Top Performers

Can you think of a commercial that some of your friends thought was just fantastic, but that left you flat? Or maybe the inverse, you were knocked over by how funny and compelling an ad was, but your friend was unmoved? You’ve just experienced targeted marketing. That ad was designed to appeal to a specific type of person, based on their needs, wants or preferences. It was designed to speak to you, and people like you, not your friends. The marketers behind the ad did this very intentionally.

If you want to attract top performers, you have to take a very similar approach in developing your recruiting messaging.  Here are three tips to help you do just that.

To attract a top performer, or a technical expert or innovator, what you say in your recruiting messages has to speak to them, not the general population. The problem is, so much corporate recruiting is so generic, it’s got no chance of getting the attention of a top performer. So, how do you get their attention?

In a previous post, we advocated for HR to take a page from marketing’s handbook in using social media to attract passive candidates. Once again, the answer here lies in borrowing techniques from marketing. Because, make no mistake, when you’re recruiting you are marketing your company and a role. And in the case of a top performer, you’re likely marketing to someone who’s not even in the market for what you’re selling, so your message better be compelling.

Know your audience

The first step is to know your audience, just like the makers of that ad that caught your attention did. What makes them tick? What motivates them? What are they looking for in a job?

Recognize that top performers are different. What they value is not the same as what the average employee values in a role. Dr. John Sullivan created an excellent list of what he calls “excitement factors” for top performers. These are the things that they look for in employment, what gets them out of bed in the morning. Here’s his list:

  1. Doing the best work of my life
  2. Doing work that has an impact on the customers and the world
  3. Having a great manager
  4. An opportunity to innovate and take risks
  5. An opportunity to learn rapidly and be challenged
  6. The opportunity to implement their ideas
  7. A choice of projects and assignments
  8. A chance to work with the latest technologies and tools
  9. Input into their schedule/ location
  10. An opportunity to work with top co-workers
  11. The opportunity to make decisions and for fast approvals
  12. Working in a performance-driven meritocracy where rewards are based on performance
  13. A transparent environment where the needed information and access is readily availableS
  14. Sufficient budget and resources to reach their goals

You can use his list, but it may be wise to interview the top performers in your company and find out what their list is and how your company delivers on it.

Customize your messages

Once you have a handle on who you are trying to talk to and what will get their attention, you have to look at your recruiting materials and infuse in them evidence that your company delivers on what’s important to this audience.

Take note that good benefits and work/life balance appear nowhere on the list.

Your proof points, as they’re called in marketing, should be present in your job descriptions, website, what you say in social media, employee testimonials, everywhere. Have employees talk about doing the best work of their lives. Show how the work you do impacts customers and the world. Profile your outstanding leaders.

And focus your messages. Don’t have them interspersed in a forest of irrelevant items in an attempt to appeal to everyone. That approach appeals to no one because no one can picture themselves in that mess. Know who you’re talking to and talk directly to them.

Finding your audience

Before that advertisement we started with could grab your attention and make you consider purchasing the product, you had to see it. Someone had to figure out where you were likely to be and place the message into that space. This took market research and the expertise of a media buyer who specializes in finding an audience companies are looking to reach.

You have to do the same thing. You need to research where your top performers are spending their time and figure out a way to get your message (which is now customized to speak to them) in front of them.

We explore in more detail how to do this using social media here. But, again, talk to your own top performers and learn from them where you’re likely to find their peers.

If you understand your audience, customize your messages and know how to get those messages in front of them, your chances of getting the attention of the top performers you’re looking for goes up exponentially.