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Talent Acquisition Week review: impact, strategy, accountability

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Last week in San Francisco, Employer Branding Strategies Coference (EBrandCon), Social Recruiting Strategies Conference (SRSC), and Talent Sourcing Strategies Summit converged for three days and one epic conference experience: Talent Acquisition Week. Having attended four EBrandCons and three SRSCs, this wasn’t our first time around the block. But something felt different this time. An “emerging industry” no longer, employer brand proved itself an essential function. Here’s our Talent Acquisition Week review.

In terms of conference takeaways, we’d sum up #TAWeek’s expansion of our learning in three key concept areas: impact, strategy and accountability. 

Impact: Employer brand’s role in transformation

Beth Gottfried and Craig Fisher’s opening keynote set the tone: Beth, a Talent Acquisition leader at Toyota, had quite the employer branding challenge on her hands when leadership decided to centralize headquarters at a brand new location in Plano, Texas. Her team was tasked with maximizing employee relocation to the new headquarters. 

A 25 percent move rate was the market standard, but Beth knew Toyota could accomplish more. Her team doubled down on brand pillars, created hashtags and slogans, and put people-first initiatives in action. As a result, over 70 percent of Toyota’s corporate employees decided to uproot their lives and move with the company. 

This keynote proved to conference attendees what they already knew: employer branding can impact the success of a company in a huge way. Cue the rest of the sessions: Let’s do this!

Strategy: Build a case for employer brand 

Carrie Corbin opened her session with a parable: six blind men are asked to touch an elephant and identify what it is. They each touch different parts of the animal, and were sure of their findings: ‘It’s a snake,’ said one. Another, ‘It’s a fan!’ A third, ‘It’s a wall.’ 

Carrie’s purpose for sharing this parable: everyone seems to have a different understanding of employer branding. When building the case for employer brand, eliminating the ambiguity is key. Determine your function and develop your strategies before you create your team. Where does employer branding sit? What are your business goals and objectives? What KPIs are you responsible for? 

Ecolab’s Sara Erickson addressed many of these questions to kick off day two. Creating an employer brand that was cohesive with the consumer brand was key. While building their business case, Sara and her team fought to sit within the marketing team to optimize that partnership. 

They also made sure to tie their case to the company’s talent strategy, as well as make clear the negative impact of not investing in an employer brand.

For Sara and her team’s case, this ‘win’ meant building an employer brand, a new career site, and selective, optimized job descriptions. But as Carrie reassured attendees, every employer brand team’s story is different.

Kforce’s Allison Kruse took the stage to enthusiastically speak on building a content strategy and the importance of empathy. For Allison’s team, that started at the grassroots. With zero budget, the Kforce team launched an employee advocacy strategy, and built their case to leadership, using only email. Three months and a 496 perecent lift in LinkedIn engagement later, Allison’s team had proved their impact and won buy-in. 

Accountability: Be a force for change in your organization

So you’ve built the case for employer brand. Now, it’s time to effect positive change. The best place to start, TA Week presenters agreed, is with a business problem. What problem can you solve that will create the most organizational impact?

When Lane Sutton joined Walmart in 2019, the business problem centered around the product manager role. Eleven different business units and 28 recruiters across Walmart were hiring for this position. Despite the fact that they were targeting the same candidates, the processes were completely siloed within their business areas. The business challenge? Enabling recruiters to hire higher quality product managers, faster. Lane knew that a connected approach would be the key to his success. 

Enter persona research. Lane showed attendees exactly how he researched, developed, and activated one product manager persona across all eleven business units. One tip from Lane? Go in blind. Leave your preconceived notions at the door and really listen. 

For Tracey Parsons, the opportunity for impact lies in the candidate experience. She discussed the classic Virgin Atlantic Media case study that revealed 6 percent of their rejected candidates cancelled subscriptions. With 123,000 rejected candidates, that’s 7,500 lost customers due to candidate experience. (Yup, you did the math right: $5.4 million in lost revenue.)

Tracey shared a graph charting happiness levels throughout the candidate journey. Pain points for candidates, says Tracey, come too late and are felt by too many.

Polarizing, honest content during the education stage helps candidates opt in or out. Less candidates reach the application stage, and those that do are more invested in the process. Even those who ultimately are rejected still report higher happiness level with honest education content than the previous model.

Strategy: “Test, optimize, repeat (forever)”

“Test, optimize, repeat….forever” is a quote from Adriana Kevill’s TA Week presentation, “The Art and Science of Recruitment Marketing.” Her motto reveals that for recruitment marketers, the job never stops. How can we make this career site easier to navigate, our social metrics stronger, our cost-per-hire numbers lower?

Sodexo’s Chloé Rada gave attendees the deep breath they needed: it’s not about being perfect. A self-proclaimed ‘recovering perfectionist,’ Chloé shared her key to success — try to improve by 1 percent each day. Focus on getting it right. 

In a panel conducted by Rally Recruitment Marketing’s Lori Sylvia, Hanady Khourshid (CDW Corporation) and Sara Pieper (Covance) shared vital recruitment marketing tips and tricks. Sara shared her experience A/B testing job description landing pages. By only changing one variable at a time, her team was able to identify the best-performing photos, fonts, and copy. 

Hanady shared how her team uses heat maps to optimize their career site based on user interaction and experience. After analyzing the data, the CDW team decided to flatten their navigation tabs, decreasing from six to three. They are actively monitoring engagement with the new experience to gauge impact.

Another quick heat map trick? See where users are placing their mouse that isn’t hyperlinked. This is a cue that they are looking for more information, and could be a good opportunity to create more content. 

Recruitics’ Adriana Kevill and Mona Tawakali shared other data points that drive recruitment marketing decisions. For example, the more benefits that are listed, the more likely a candidate is to apply. 

They also showed that recruitment marketers can learn from things that don’t work, too. Increasing the length of a job title increased cost-per-apply rates by 2,100%. So in the case of job titles, shorter it is! 

We end our TA Week recap with a quote from Lori Sylvia that every talent-acquisition-turned-recruitment-marketer needs: 

“If something doesn’t work, talent acquisition folks call it a failure. In marketing, they call it testing.” 

Thanks for a great conference, TA Week!