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Recruitment Marketing


Recruitment Marketing

11 January, 2024

In my fifth year at school (year 11, for all you youngsters), I discovered bunking. With some practice, I also found the ability to forge my dad’s signature. Needless to say, my parents were quite disappointed when I left school with three O levels instead of eight, and I accepted that I’d have to do resits at college for another year.

The problem was I hated college with a passion. So I got the biro out, honed my forgery skills, and sat at home watching neighbours. That didn’t last long, and I was soon pulled to one side and told to leave. I remember the date well – 16th of October, 1987 – the day after Michael Fish said there wouldn’t be a storm.

My dad, being, well, my dad, threw the Basingstoke Gazette at me and told me I had to hurry up and get a job. I then spent the next few days sifting through the 17 pages of job adverts, trying to understand what an Office Junior actually did before circling three or four possibilities. The following month consisted of letters, interviews and, inevitably, rejections based on my current shirking attitude.

36 years later, it would be a very different story. I could sign up to Indeed and apply for 50 jobs at the touch of a button, pick and choose and run the recruiters a merry dance.

The friction has gone; no barriers, no effort.

And that is a problem. Especially if you are the one doing the recruiting. Despite some employed people constantly depicting business owners as the enemy – passive-aggressively sharing posts about the difference between managers and leaders – the fact of the matter is, it’s bloody hard to employ people. It’s also bloody hard to keep them happy.

Because the grass is greener, right? These recruitment platforms tell us so.

But these platforms aren’t about people; they are technology businesses designed to generate profit. So they sell the next dream, then the next, then the next. They make it easy for people to apply because the lack of friction creates volume, which creates demand for advertising.

“If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”

But beware, this removal of friction for the applicant is a flaw. In the same way that social media has made most of us beige and invisible, recruitment has become the same. No-one wins. Especially the workforce being lulled into thinking they will always have this power. Hello AI.

In my early days of running a design agency, circa 1997, designers’ CVs were a thing of beauty, hard work and creativity. Now, they’re just PDFs.

I’ve had two chats about ‘marketing’ within recruitment this week – one with a recruiting client and one with a recruiter. Both have left me pondering jobs, recruitment, competition, and brand (both in terms of business and personal brand for recruiters and job seekers). Here they are off the bat:

  • Good staff engagement is no different from good client engagement. Why keep spending big on acquisition when you can invest in retention? It needs to fit the narrative of your business, but we can all do more above and beyond pizza and platitudes.
  • Lean into the shit storm. If Indeed is where the masses are playing, decide what quality looks like and don’t fight it. Honest, authentic job adverts that filter people there and then, that work to your agenda. It’s not a numbers game; it’s a quality game. Make them put in some effort, and make sure you stand out for the relevant reasons.
  • As a marketer, I (mainly) keep my mouth shut when I see yet another commercial enterprise that has ‘designed’ its own website in Wix and expects it to deliver some tangible KPI – despite the myriad of missed opportunities through design, content and SEO. In the same respect, could your business benefit from someone in recruitment who actually knows what they are doing? Maybe even a marketer to work on your pitch?
  • What’s so special about you? No, really. Why should anyone listen to what you have to say, let alone give a damn? If you aren’t demonstrating passion, why should you expect them to? If you want someone to spend the best part of 40 hours of their time a week for you, they will need to buy into your ‘why’.

In general, we have become lazy robots. We can complain about AI, but we are its human form, being guided and shimmied down the same route by a shrinking pool of competitive options. Marketing, recruitment, and many other business operations have become homogenised. It doesn’t need to be that way. Marketing and brand should be fun!

Back in the late nineties, we needed a creative artworker for our burgeoning agency, so we put an ad in the local paper – for an “Arty Farty Tech Head”. I still talk about Mark Alesbury’s CV (and the enclosed Polaroid) 25 years later.

Attitude matters.


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