Death Notice or Job Ad? If You Can’t Tell The Difference It’s Time To Change Your Thinking

This week ATC chatted to Paul Jacobs, employer branding expert, marathon runner and creative director of Jobgram.
With a background in industrial and organisational psychology, Paul quickly moved up the ranks in HR, harnessing his fascination into what made people tick, their motivations and emotional drivers to become a leader in recruitment marketing, social recruiting and employer branding.
In 2012 Paul founded Jobgram, and began a crusade to transform job ads by replacing traditional text and bullet point ads, which he likens to “death notices”, and replacing them with targeted and visually appealing infographics. Today Paul works with global clients to create world leading employer branding and social recruiting strategies that excite, engage and most importantly: tell a story.
We talked to Paul from his office in Wellington New Zealand about storytelling, recruitment and marketing.

What Recruitment Can Learn From Marketing

“You wouldn’t see a big brand like Nike or Coca-cola launching a new product with blocks of text and bullet points. They wouldn’t do something that was so impersonal and that wouldn’t connect with the reader. I’ve always thought that there was a huge opportunity for HR to learn from this, and make things more personal and engaging.”
“I’ve always been a visual thinker and learner, and so with Jobgram I’ve tried to make recruitment advertising and candidate attraction more visually engaging, use the ads to tell a little story and hook the right people into that story, so that they want to apply, and at the same time give enough information that those who would not be the right fit self select out.”

Leverage Images To Tell A Story


Jobgram developed for Johnson & Johnson Pacific who were looking for two graduates to join their sales and marketing team

“If we look at the fast moving world in which we live in, and the trends and emerging technology that’s being developed, one thing that’s clear is that the way we communicate is becoming more visual and more snack sized. The content we consume is visual. If we look at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn we’re seeing more and more photos and videos. Research shows that visual content tends to be remembered shared more. Blogs are becoming less and less text based, and more and more visual with a little bit of text.”
“At the same time recruiters are operating in a world with a lot of noise, and they’re competing for their candidates attention. If a picture is a thousands words, and a short video is a thousand pictures a few words on a job ad just aren’t enough.”
“Recruiters need to think about this changing landscape, and start thinking more like a marketer, like a psychologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and think about how they can find out what the job seeker audience is interested in and build community around that. Find out what is important to them, find out what they want.”

Why Content Is NOT King

“I often hear the phrase ‘content is king” and in my opinion that’s partly true. Good content is heading in that direction. Good content that is also contextual is heading in that direction even more. But, I don’t think good content that is contextual is necessarily ‘king’. When we go to the movies and sit down and watch something like Lord Of The Rings, we don’t say that we’re looking forward to seeing a whole lot of content. What we want is to get immersed in a story. We take our mind to a place where we think of your own life stories and how our story relates to the story we’re watching. We make an investment into the characters. This is the crux of my session at ATC2015, to get people to start thinking about how they can start thinking in terms of telling a story that engages their audience. To start thinking just a little less like recruiters or marketers, and more like writers and film directors.”
“My session will be about shifting your thinking and giving recruiters a different way to tackle the problems of engagement and attraction. I want to move people away from writing the point form death notices, to creating a something that tells a story. ”

Where Employer Branding And Culture Branding Misses The Mark

“I hear many ‘recruitment gurus’ calling for more culture branding and employee branding but I don’t necessarily agree. Yes we need to provide a window into organisations, and let job seekers see what it looks like inside. Getting your employees to talk about what the brand means to them in their own words, and getting people connected to that brand story is a viable strategy, but my fear is that we’re going to end up in a world where everyone is doing this, and they’ll be very little differentiation between organisations.”
“I want to see a new way of branding, where the focus from the recruitment community is asking what’s important to the job seeker audience. From my experience there’s a real knowledge gap here, because I don’t think we’re asking these questions. I don’t think we’re undertaking talent mapping down to a point of finding out the psychographics and behaviour graphics of our talent pools; we’re not drilling down deep enough.”

Is the Google/ Zappos Style Of Recruitment Really The Future?

“I fear we now live in a world where we over brand, where the messaging is ‘hey look at us!’, but often job seekers don’t feel like there’s a connection to that message. I think a better approach could be a more immersive branding approach. It’s showing the job seekers that they’re the hero in this story, and asking them what’s important to them. It’s finding out what they want from their career. We should be finding out how they’re different, what matters and what makes them tick.”

How Recruitment Can Learn From The Gaming Industry


“I believe recruiters can learn so much from the gaming industry. I myself have taken a real interest in this industry, despite never being a gamer. I saw a ted talk by Jane McGonigal, on how gaming could change the world and it changed the way I thought about recruitment. It really inspired me because games are designed so that the player is the hero, everything is about them and their experience. I think the job seeker needs to be seen as the player, the hero in this story, and the recruitment industry needs to start thinking in these terms.”

Is Recruitment, Marketing? Yes or No?

“Both recruitment and marketing are about attracting people. There’s real synergy there because the end of the day they’re both about making a sale, and influencing a purchasing decision. The difference is that recruitment is about getting the right purchaser, not just sales for the sake of sales. For many years now I’ve been an advocate for the bringing together of HR, Recruitment, Marketing, Social Media, and Comms into a ‘People Function’. Maybe that function is built around a central theme like community building, because at the base of it all these functions are all talking about similar things.”
“So is recruitment marketing? Yes, but we shouldn’t hold marketing up as some sort of god that we should all be replicating. Not all marketing is good. Not all marketers are keeping up with social media, they’re not all keeping up with the trends of content curation and storytelling. Some are still just doing old school broadcasting and haven’t necessarily got an understanding of what is important to their consumers.”

The World Beyond HR

“What we need is for recruiters to look beyond their own sphere of influence, and profession and be open to getting inspiration from different areas, and one of those other areas where they can gain tremendous value is marketing, when done well. Another area is the gaming industry, or what’s happening in the world of virtual reality. There are so many areas recruiters can learn from, if they just get the chance.”

Final Tip From Paul

“If you’re not on Pinterest, get on Pinterest. But fair warning, once you’re on there you might get a bit addicted”

You can hear more of  Paul’s take on the future of branding, engagement and storytelling in his session ‘Content is not king, long live the brand story‘ at #ATC2015 in Sydney this June.
This Year’s ATC will also feature expert marketing storyteller Jonathan Crossfield, who will be giving a keynote presentation on “Finding the Narrative in Your Content”. Come join your peers to get inspired on how you can harness the best recruitment marketing tactics to meet connect, attract and engage the right talent.

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