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Marketing for Talent Pt. 1: Know Your Audience

2022-05-0413 min readMarketing

There are millions of open industrial jobs in North America, and millions of unemployed people who aren’t taking them. Higher wages, hiring bonuses and even special giveaways (free car raffle, anyone?) aren’t attracting enough workers in hard-hit industries.

If your business is struggling to fill its labor needs, you have options beyond throwing money at the problem. Targeted marketing and communication strategies can help you attract and retain enthusiastic employees, even in a challenging job market. With the right messaging, you'll draw workers who are genuinely interested in your company—the kind of employees that fit your culture and goals no matter what the job market looks like.

First, you need to understand who your audience is and what they’re looking for from their next employer.

Where did everybody go?

The labor force participation rate in both the US and Canada is the lowest it’s been in two decades. Politicians think we’re plagued with slackers living off the dole, and economists point to a sea of early retirees. But there’s an important phenomenon that few are talking about:

It’s mainly job losers, not job leavers, that aren't returning to the workforce.

Why does that matter? Because there’s a huge difference in the needs and attitudes of workers who have been let go versus those who chose to leave. Understanding that difference is crucial to crafting the right hiring messaging in today's job market.

You're not trying to convince people who don't want to work to take on a job. You're trying to reassure people who have been let go that it's safe to come back. It’s like dating someone who just got rejected; you’re dealing with a person who’s been hurt.

People don't want to go back to a 9-to-5 job where they're treated poorly and can be fired at the drop of a hat. To convince them to take a chance on your company, you need to understand what their fears and concerns are and address them in your marketing. Add in the fact that many people have more savings and less debt than they did before the pandemic, and most workers don’t feel like they have to jump at the first job that comes along.

That's why your hiring message must also offer a sense of purpose and growth—something that proves things really will be different this time. Do you need to portray your business as ultra innovative or progressive? No. Just speak authentically about what makes your company the right place for a prospect to work.

What that job posting might look like

Check out this excerpt from a recent posting by a refrigeration manufacturer, with language that shows their employees are valued, respected and supported. It gives people on the sidelines a reason to return to work by not only making them feel safe but also highlighting a career path within the company.

YOUR OPPORTUNITY

  • […] You will drive a culture of change and have a heavy focus on lean manufacturing. […]

WHAT YOU WILL DO

  • Build strong teams, coach, and work on their development.
  • Support,* build trust and demonstrate respect* to all levels within the organization.

WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER

  • Excellent interpersonal communications with the ability to influence at all levels of the organization.
  • A desire for future growth and responsibilities.

WHAT WE HAVE TO OFFER

  • Competitive total compensation package.
  • Opportunity to be part of a dynamic and highly motivating work environment where you can develop your potential and launch an exciting career.
  • Add to your skillset by attending classes at colleges and universities through our tuition reimbursement program, or by attending our in-house state-of-the-art business or manufacturing skills training classes.
  • We favor internal promotions as we recognize our staff’s potential.
  • Employees at X feel they’re a valued member of a large, extended family, with an open-door policy that allows employees to have a say and suggest improvements at any time.

By highlighting the way they treat and empower employees, this company makes it clear they invest in people for the long term. Those sentiments go a lot farther than a free car sweepstakes in making those who’ve lost jobs feel more secure.

The ABC's of GEN X, Y, and Z

In addition to recognizing how job losing vs. leaving affects workers’ attitudes, it's crucial to understand the characteristics of different generations, so you can deliver hiring marketing that speaks directly to their unique needs and values.

Let’s look at how those needs differ among generations, along with some guidelines for marketing to each group.

Baby Boomers

The most professionally mature of this group, Boomers bring decades' more life and business experience to the table. They also tend to be more assertive, direct communicators than younger generations. Other key characteristics:

  • Show more loyalty to employers
  • Values include commitment, stability and reliability
  • Biggest consumers of traditional media and communication

If you're looking to hire this age group, (likely for upskilled or management-level roles), here are a few ways to recruit them effectively:

  1. Boomers actively share skills and experiences with their colleagues, sometimes as ad-hoc mentors. Show that you value the knowledge they've acquired over the years—and that you'd like to share it with others.
  2. Whether they're reinventing themselves or honing their expertise, many Boomers want to stay sharp. Highlight opportunities to learn new skills or tools, or show that you value people who take the initiative to learn on their own.
  3. As healthcare costs in the US have soared, many Boomers are staying in the workforce to keep their employer-provided health benefits. If you provide competitive benefits, make them prominent in your job postings.
  4. Skip trendy acronyms or catchphrases. Boomers want to see things spelled out. Focus on clear, straightforward language, not catchy copy.

Gen X (41-56)

While it's true that Xers used to be called the Slacker Generation, they've grown up. A lot. These days, they have tons of experience and could be more comfortable in a leadership role. Other notable characteristics:

  • May still consume traditional media, but they’re digitally savvy; huge Facebook users
  • Carry the highest debt load while raising children and saving to retire
  • Looking for more stability and a higher income
  • Comfortable in-person and over the phone

If you're aiming to hire this highly skilled portion of the talent pool, try these tactics for getting their attention:

  1. A recent recruiting study shows that, when searching for jobs, Gen Xers turn to referrals first. Your current employees could be your most effective (and cost-efficient) resource in recruiting Gen X talent, so make sure you have a good employee referral program in place.
  2. Given their finances, many Gen Xers plan to stay with an employer for the long haul. To make your company enticing, paint a clear picture of a growth path for employees, either in job postings or on your career page.
  3. Pick up the phone. Gen Xers like the personal touch of a phone call, and it can go a long way toward making them feel desired and respected.

Xennials (29-39) and Millennials (25-29)

Currently powering the workforce, Xennials had a Gen X (read: analog) childhood and Millennial (read: digital) youth, which makes them comfortable navigating either world. They also tend to be:

  • Highly adaptive to digital technology
  • Open to coaching, even if they have strong opinions
  • Team players, because they grew up in the company of friends and peers
  • Raising children, which means flexibility and work-life balance are paramount

Millennials, meanwhile, are climbing the ranks. Mental wellbeing and work-life balance are a priority for them. In addition, they tend to be:

  • Digital natives, with at least a few social media accounts
  • Steeped in a massive amount of debt with little financial stability
  • In search of purpose and alignment as they enter the workforce
  • Less loyal to brands, having little patience for inefficiency and poor service

Looking to recruit this powerful next generation of leaders? Here are some ways to speak their language in your hiring marketing:

  1. While traditional benefits matter to Xennials and Millennials, they can be more of an afterthought. Focus on benefits that speak to their other priorities: health and wellness, work-life balance and giving back to their community.
  2. Millennials are on a different time horizon than older generations; they're probably not looking to spend their entire career at your company. Instead of long-term potential, talk about what they can learn and do with you in the next year or two.
  3. Millennials in particular are using social media and mobile devices to search and apply for jobs. Build a solid social media recruitment strategy, and make sure your website is optimized for mobile.
  4. 'Ennials of all kinds often value equality and diversity in the workplace. If those are a priority for your company, communicate it in all your hiring marketing materials.

Gen Z (9-24)

Despite what you hear in the media, Gen Z’s have a lot more to offer than eye-rolling and entitlement. They’re eager to prove themselves, if and when they’re empowered to do so. And if you put them in the right position, they can work faster than anyone else. They’re also:

  • Hyper-connected and efficient, thanks to growing up with technology
  • Skilled at creating solutions through automation and shortcuts
  • Fiscally conservative, as they look at struggling Millennials
  • Most comfortable with digital and online interactions

Recruiting for Gen Z is heavily shaped by their digital-first approach to communication. Plus, you have to be sensitive to the fact that many of them are just entering the workforce in a post-pandemic environment. Here are some ways to reach this generation:

  1. Gen Z's love consuming video content, often for hours every day. Get their attention on your digital hiring channels with short videos that show behind-the-scenes life at your company or testimonials from current entry-level employees.
  2. The average Gen Z attention span is a whopping 8 seconds. Keep your communications short and sweet, and use texting, social media messaging and push notifications (if you have a hiring app) over emails.
  3. Professional development and company culture are key factors for this generation, who want to feel like they'll be welcomed and empowered to succeed. Talk about your mission and values in your hiring materials, and highlight any opportunities for learning and mentoring.
  4. You may want to provide information about how your business responded to the pandemic, including safety measures, remote work and any virtual tools you used. This gives potentially skittish Gen Z prospects a sense of what to expect if the unexpected happens again.

Generation-targeted job posting ideas

These excerpts from a car manufacturer's (ok, fine, it's Volvo) posting are great examples of how to attract a specific audience; in this case, Xennials and Millennials. It positions the company as a purpose-driven organization looking for people who want to change the world, prioritize wellbeing and expect flexibility in the workplace.


About the job

We are looking for curious, creative people who want to change the world through innovative thinking.

What We Can Offer

Our human-centric focus is what makes us different from all other car companies, and it’s at the heart of everything we create.

We’re building an* organization full of creative, diverse and talented people* working to build new, exciting digital products and services supporting those goals.

We’re looking for team members to join our organization who think about technology problems and opportunities in exciting and different ways – creative and enthusiastic thinkers who want to change the world with us here at X.

Job Purpose:

This role will be based out of our R&D Tech Center in [LOCATION] with the flexibility of a hybrid model.

Who are we?

Everything we do starts with people. Our purpose is to provide freedom to move, in a personal, sustainable and safe way.

In the spirit of a human-centric environment, we strongly believe in the well-being of our employees as well as their families. There are generous health and wellness programs that begin day-one with the company as well as a wide variety of other benefit programs...

Furthermore, in an effort to build the workday around our employees, we also offer remote flexibility working options.

Lastly, to build on our commitment to equal parenting roles for all genders, we recently launched a new parental leave policy that offers up to 24 weeks of leave at 80% of base pay.


One of the best parts of this job posting is that it starts with what the company can offer the job seeker, not the other way around. This immediately sets the tone for a collaborative, employee-centric workplace that would appeal to younger generations.

Okay, we've got the audience down. Now what?

Marketing for talent doesn’t mean you have to invent ways to attract workers with specific needs and priorities. And if like a lot of industrial companies, you’re looking to hire mid-career Xennials and Millennials, you don’t have to offer yoga retreats or be on a mission to save the world (but if you're targeting older Gen Z, those might be a good idea).

What matters is that you find areas of alignment between your organization and your target audience, so you can speak to their needs in an authentic way. This means taking a good, hard look at your company culture to determine a) if your workplace is somewhere people would actually want to work, and b) what are all the things that make you a worthwhile employer.

Once you can articulate your work culture and clearly identify the benefits of working for you, you’ll turn those elements into marketing language and tactics that draw prospective employees to you.

In Part 2 of Marketing for Talent, we’ll walk you through:

  • Understanding and expressing your company culture
  • Crafting relevant and compelling hiring language
  • Choosing the right marketing mix for your needs and budget

Like we said earlier, you don't have to throw a ton of money at your hiring efforts to see better results. What matters is that you know your audience, get your messaging right and execute the kind of marketing that attracts the talent you’re looking for. Check out part 2 of our Marketing for Talent article here!

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