First, they are almost always employed. In order to recruit them, therefore, we have to convince them to do the one thing we humans most hate to do: change. We have to convince them to go from the devil they know (their current employer, boss and commute) to the devil they don’t know (a new employer, a different boss and a strange commute).
Second, top performers are good consumers. They can be intrigued by a well written job posting, but they consider such content nothing more than an unproven claim. They know an employer is putting its best foot forward, so they need proof that the claim is accurate in order to commit.
Many recruiters assume they are providing such proof by describing their employer’s culture, benefits and values. They aren’t. Why? Because people aren’t moved by organizational evidence; they’re persuaded by social proof. As Cialdini defined it, that response occurs because “people will do things they see other people doing – especially if those people seem similar to them.”
Social Proof for Top Marketing Talent
While social proof affects everyone, its impact on top talent is governed by the second half of its definition. They are most likely to be influenced by others just like them. In other words, the best talent have a third characteristic: they listened to their mother. And, the first lesson they learned from her was “Don’t speak to strangers.” They will follow the lead of others, but only if that lead comes from a source they know and trust.
What or who can be that source?
Whether it’s fair or not, the reality is that in today’s cynical environment, top talent is unlikely to feel as if they know or can trust an employer. The media has reported on too many organizations that have mistreated their employees, committed financial crimes or degraded the environment.
Therefore, the only source that matters to top talent is their peers. They may not know these people as individuals, but they do share a common professional interest, vocabulary, value set and outlook. Peers can be trusted because, from a top performer’s perspective, they are putting their faith in themselves.
How should that play out in a recruiting process? There are numerous ways for it to happen, but first, create a job posting with embedded social proof. Such an ad:
- avoids vocabulary only an organization could love – requirements and responsibilities – and talks instead about “what’s in it for them.” To do that, the ad should answer five questions: what will they get to do, what will they get to learn, what will they get to accomplish, with whom will they get to work and how will they be recognized and rewarded.
- features peer testimonials to illustrate and prove each of the organization’s claims in its answers to those five questions. Yes, some cynical candidates will assume such statements are manufactured or disingenuous, but many others will be intrigued that the views of someone just like them were included in the ad.
In today’s War for the Best Talent, the key to victory is persuasion. Top performers must be persuaded to move from their current employer to yours. And, only a job posting with social proof has the power to create such a response.