Be sure to download the recruitment marketing success kit that accompanies this article!
Management consulting firms are facing industries that are changing faster than diet crazes. Be it fantasy-like enthusiasm for the Internet of Things, frothy demands for Agile business models, or insistence on the predictive magic of Big Data, no client today is the same as any other client from just ten years ago. Add this unpredictability to management consultings' overwhelming history of high turnover, tight billable hours, and locked-in reliance on knowledge-as-a-service, and you've got yourself an industry itching for disruption.
What's worse is that management consultancies are struggling with ephemeral employees. In its annual review of user data, LinkedIn identified that the professional services industry had a turnover rate of 11.4% last year, over notoriously high turnover industries like government, finance, and healthcare (1). That's a big problem for an industry so reliant on its people. Top management consulting firms have an even higher turnover rate, reaching as high as 20% each year, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review (2).
Attracting talent is tough too. Most companies go the most expensive and least lucrative avenue available: outbidding their competition. As Merle Weghoeft explains at Zocket, no form of recruitment at management consulting firms are as powerful as "stealing from each other by using higher salaries, offering more career development or promising a better-fit culture." She adds, "Encouraging employees to leave their current job and join your company may help you get good talent in the short run, but it may also prove to be disadvantageous in the long term" (3). Indeed, that employee may leave their current job for your firm, but the desire to really contribute dissipates regardless of salary offered (4).
Inbound recruiting is an industry-jargon term that just means having an outstanding, visible company culture attracts quality candidates who want to stick around for the long term. It's deeply tied to employer branding, or the public perceives a company's personality.
Just how effective is inbound recruitment marketing for management consulting?
Consider these stats:
We'll walk you through how it's done and chat through how some of the biggest management consulting firms are doing it already.
Recruitment marketing is an emerging field within employer branding. The idea is that recruiters can "sell" prospects on a job by marketing the company itself — its values, its culture, and the day-to-day experiences of employees. Recruiters develop target personas, or an understanding of what interests ideal candidates, and markets the company to them directly.
The most common form of recruitment marketing is traditional marketing and advertising (otherwise known as "outbound"). Think of it as reaching out to candidates: LinkedIn messages, sponsored job board postings, and company career advertisements. Consider this example of traditional employer brand advertising at McKinsey (8):
Inbound marketing (otherwise known as content marketing) is a form of marketing dedicated to engaging, entertaining, and informing a brand's target audience. While the content may have branded elements, its first priority is building trust with potential applicants, not directly trying to firm up a hire with a specific candidate. Examples of inbound recruitment marketing include podcasts, infographics, videos, blog posts, and social engagement.
You probably noted that videos count for both traditional and inbound recruitment marketing, which can be confusing. The easiest way to tell the difference between traditional and inbound recruitment is with the content's intent.
Consider this video from Deloitte Consulting as a great example of inbound recruitment marketing (9):
Notice that even though the interviewee is the U.S. Human Capital Leader at Deloitte (and that the show itself is sponsored by Deloitte), she never explicitly asks viewers to apply to Deloitte careers. Instead, she talks about the future of work, and provides actionable, informative, and entertaining information to anyone who watches. It brands Deloitte as a knowledgeable employer who would appeal to smart people invested in keeping up with America's changing workforce.
While there is certainly a place for traditional recruitment marketing, inbound is the best option available to management consulting firms.
Consider the downsides to inbound recruitment marketing: it can take a while to prove effective (like any branding activity), it must compete with other content from other brands, it's time-consuming, and it requires a certain level of creativity. That said, most management consulting firms aren't using inbound recruitment marketing, so unlike other industries, there's a massive opportunity to make big gains fast. Plus, there are a series of great emerging tools (like us here at GoodSeeker!) designed to democratize this kind of content so that it's not too demanding for any one person.
Now consider the downsides to traditional recruitment strategies. They're also time-consuming, require a ton of human capital, often get disregarded as spam, and are seriously expensive (especially job board postings). What's particularly awful is that the management consulting industry has been using this form of recruitment for decades. While there is a place for traditional recruiting, it should be no firms' only form of recruitment.
Inbound recruitment marketing is the most effective way to attract competitive candidates.
When competing with paid advertising, "content marketing gets three times the leads per dollar spent" (14). What this means for recruiters is that candidates come to your careers page, not expensive job boards. Why do they do that?
Because candidates perceive your company as an excellent work environment and feel safety in the quality of the job to which they're applying.
Check out these five simple steps:
Deloitte isn't the same as BCG; Accenture isn't the same as your company. Market differentiation is functionally the same as cultural differentiation. How is your company's culture different from the firm next door?
What leadership has set out as the framework for company culture — maybe in the form of an EVP, posted values statement, or series of blog posts — may not be a true reflection of how employees engage with each other and their work. As Sandy Pundmann from Deloitte explains (15):
The tie that binds in many corporate funerals is an unhealthy organizational culture. While we may attribute organizational failures to things like fraud, poor leadership decisions, and other such symptoms, culture is really at the crux. Auditing culture can reveal if there’s a gap between perceived culture and what employees and others report as reality. When you’re relying on internal and external third parties to act in a consistent, ethical manner on your behalf, it’s worth examining.
Even if your firm has an EVP, a regular culture audit insures that your company is promising an authentic employee experience to potential candidates.
How to conduct culture audits at management consulting firms
There are a series of options for culture audits. The first is using a third party like AuditBoard, Choose People, or the MIS Training Institute. What each of these companies do is use interview employees and audit HR data to evaluate the health and strength of your company culture. The process is intensive; Great Place to Work states that their culture audit process takes around 160 hours per company. Paying for such a report returns root cause analysis, actionable suggestions, and a holistic view of one's company culture.
That said, many management consulting firms can't afford — or don't have the staff to justify — third-party specialists. Often, managers can DIY the process themselves.
If that's the route most appealing to you and your company, start by defining the audit's goals. Avoid auditing for any purpose beyond data collection; you're not trying to "get" your employees to align with stated company values, though you can ask if they feel aligned.
Consider asking some of these questions when designing a culture audit:
While leadership may want to act upon some of the insights found in the survey, recruitment marketing professionals can authentically share the truths about their brand's employee experience. From these insights, you can learn where your company stories are and start collecting them for authentic employer marketing. That's huge for step three, but first, you have to...
Recruiters, this part of the employer branding process should sound familiar; in many circles, this process is called creating a "candidate persona." Personas are real-ish representations of whom you're looking to hire. Think of them like character sketches, complete with personality traits, interests, aspirations, and personal motivations.
For these purposes, you're not building your candidate persona around a specific job. In other words, you're focusing on the kind of person you want to attract to your management consulting business, not a specific skill set.
(You can find this candidate persona worksheet in your success kit.)
As a recruiter marketer, you now how all the background information you need to succeed: an understanding of what you have to offer culturally, and a sense of the kind of person you'd like to recruit. Now it's time for you to play the matching game: creating content that will attract the right kinds of candidates organically.
To do this correctly, you need to develop a candidate funnel, or detail how an inbound candidate learns about your company and decides to enthusiastically apply for it. Of course, you need to start with the candidate persona, then move on to the funnel. We'll walk you through how.
For the purposes of this whitepaper, we'll use a sample candidate persona and demonstrate how an inbound recruiter at a management consulting firm could design a campaign around them. First, let's look at the candidate persona:
You can access the candidate persona sample here. Notice: This ideal candidate lives in NYC, is analytical, and excels in lean supply chain management.
Most recruitment funnels have the same steps that we've outlined in the graphic below and in your success kit.
Then, you'll want to figure out at least one way to engage her in the job seeker application process. Here's how we used this funnel to fully engage our sample candidate persona. (This is an abridged version; our complete kit contains six content outlet suggestions for each funnel stage).
Notice that each piece of content is geared toward a specific quality of the candidate persona. While this funnel would likely garner a candidate's attention, you'll want to regularly develop content for freshness and to build your company's overall brand.
We're not going to cover the obvious parts of candidate experience; you probably already know that you want to write a clear job description, offer a clean application process, and provide detailed next steps. Instead, we're going to focus on how you can solidify your brand through the application process.
First, examine your brand's stated and implied values, and make sure those values are present throughout the application process.
For example, InVision is a software company with the following stated value: "Integrity. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Work hard regardless of who is or isn't watching." When a candidate applies on their career site, they receive the following email:
Think they follow through? Absolutely.
Consider pairing your candidate experience with your company's values. To get you started, we audited several management consulting websites for their values to brainstorm relevant content and best practices to get you started:
Client value creation: During the interview process, allow the candidate three days to solve an unconventional case study. Offer a business problem and an average, obvious solution. Ask the candidate to either justify the solution offered to defend a better idea. Underscore that the candidate must justify why their solution creates the most value for the client possible.
Honesty and transparency: Like a college, consider publishing your application acceptance rates, average years of schooling, number of countries represented, and other relevant metrics. When a candidate applies, automate an email that details how many applications a recruiter has to review before getting to theirs. Email the candidate every day with an updated number and expected wait time.
High ethical standards: Offer an optional section on the job application where the candidate can detail volunteer work and provide a written example of when they had to make a decision to do the right thing instead of the easy thing in a business setting. Pledge a donation amount to a nonpartisan nonprofit for each interview offered and accepted.
Great hiring processes and employer brands offer incredible benefits; the more enthusiastic someone is to be at their workplace, the more they can provide the company, and the better a place the business becomes to work. Glassdoor stars increase. GoodSeeker stories skyrocket. It's time to apply for someone "Best Place to Work" awards.
Inbound marketing is about getting candidates to come to you, and great candidates, even if they're passive job seekers, tend to seek out places identified as an excellent location to spend 40+ hours of their week.
From auditing your culture, you know exactly what your firm has to offer potential candidates. You gathered stories about micromoments in your workplace that personify the culture you both have and want. You recruited employees that embody the culture you're seeking. Validate all your hard work with employer awards.
Use this list as a start:
Inbound recruitment marketing is a long, profitable venture. If you still need help getting started, reach out to us at GoodSeeker at firstname.lastname@example.org!