How to Make Recruiting Content That Really Works

Recently, I read an article by James Ellis called “Moneyball Recruiting: Winning a Rigged Game.”  It is a very good article that says the recruiting game could be won through content.

He also said the first five pieces of recruiting content published should be:

  •  Why I Love This Company, written (not ghostwritten) by the owner/CEO
  • We Take Our People Stuff Seriously, written by your head of HR/TA
  • Every Job Is A Chance To Grow, written by one of your department heads
  • My Career Path, written by the person with the longest and strangest career path within the company
  • I Started Here, written by the most senior person who started their career at your company

Furthermore, he said “you can’t please everyone, so stop trying.”  There is more he said as well, so check out his article.

But all this reminded me of a concept called “The Rule of Thirds.”  I read of this somewhere (can’t remember where), but it was a concept used in car design and other product design.

Basically, upon first sight of the product (for example, a car)…roughly 1/3 of people will love it, 1/3 will not be moved and not care either way, and 1/3 will hate it.  Aren’t there some cars that you think are the ugliest thing you have ever seen…and others that you think are beautiful and you love them…and the rest are OK or are part of the sea of the average we see today?

In Seth Godin’s book, “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,” he talks about being unique and different and the great advantages of being so.  There is no way to be remarkable if your message is for the masses.  Advertising made for everyone does not really speak to anyone and is therefore ignored.

A company’s culture or employment brand must also be consistent and the content published should be consistent (in harmony with each other…because dissonance destroys trust and credibility).

You bring all this together and I think the way to make recruiting content that really works becomes clear.

We need to figure out the 1/3 of the population that would be a good fit for your company culture and the 1/3 of the population that would not be a good fit and we would prefer that they did not apply.

Knowing the differences between these two groups, we design our content and the messages within to resonate with the 1/3 we are targeting…and be dissonant with the 1/3 we don’t want to attract.  Remember, if you try to attract everyone, you don’t appeal to anyone.  The best marketing is about targeted appeal…not broad range appeal.  Do not be afraid of creating recruiting content that just isn’t for everyone and will dissuade people from applying…if used correctly, this is a good thing.

I know some of you may be hesitant and wonder what the higher ups might think about actively pushing away 1/3 of applicants through the content your company would publish, but this is what must be done to truly attract the 1/3 that will love your content and love your company all the more when they see messages that push away the people they don’t want to work with because those people would not fit in.

We can not complain that most applicants are not really a fit for our companies and also be afraid to put in messages into our recruiting content that will make the people who are not a fit to decide not to apply.  You can either have un-targeted messages bringing in some of the masses (many not a fit) or you can have targeted messages driving many of the targeted group to apply…you really can’t have both.

Of course, you may need to make sure these messages are in harmony with the employment brand messages (again dissonance is bad)  and company brand.  If it is in line with the company brand, you don’t have to worry about pushing way potential customers because your target customers will like the messages and agree with them.

What would happen if you did this?

  1. The targeted 1/3 are now truly attracted to your company.  They may even spread the word with others like themselves and you may find more applicants coming from the 1/3 you are targeting.
  2. The 1/3 that doesn’t like what you have to say (because they are not a fit for the culture) will self-select out and not apply.
  3. The number of applicants may go down, but the quality will go way up.

Use the Rule of Thirds in your recruiting content so that it works to bring in who you really want to apply.


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Comment by Erin Engstrom on September 4, 2015 at 10:39am

Eric, I like your observation that by employing the rule of thirds and being really targeted with your messaging, your quantity of applicants may go down but the quality will go up. It reminds me of how in sales, an unqualified lead is worse than no lead at all. You don't want your workforce to devote time and energy to customers or applicants who aren't the right fit.

Comment by Daniel Fogel on September 4, 2015 at 2:12pm

Eric - Love the first 5 blogs idea - ideally leveraging some storytelling aspects to keep the experiences relatable, transparent and honest.   Also, love the Godin reference... Thanks for posting!


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