Targeted recruitment strategies: The ultimate guide for recruiters

The best advice in pre-employment testing, in your inbox.

No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.
Close
CTA

Hire the best. No bias. No stress.

Our screening tests identify the best candidates and make your hiring decisions faster, easier, and bias-free.

Try for free
Close

Targeted recruitment strategies: The ultimate guide for recruiters

targeted recruitment strategies featured image

US businesses lose a trillion dollars each year due to voluntary turnover and mis-hires, according to Gallup, which suggests these losses are self-inflicted.

Replacing employees can be costly and can affect team morale. But there is one way to hire qualified talent that fits your organization and reduces attrition rates: targeted recruitment.

This ultimate guide to targeted recruitment will provide you with examples of targeted recruitment strategies and their advantages. It will also discuss the legality and ethics of targeted recruitment and how you can create a targeted recruitment strategy effortlessly.

Targeted recruitment definition: What is targeted recruitment?

Targeted recruitment is also known as selective recruitment and involves using proactive recruitment strategies that help you find applicants who have certain skills or characteristics or who live in a particular location.

As stated by Business.express, targeted recruitment assists HR professionals and hiring managers in narrowing down their advertising efforts by identifying certain characteristics that can be linked with a job description.

You’ll normally prepare more before you set up interviews with candidates when using this strategy, and more steps are involved.

Non-targeted to targeted: How has recruitment changed?

One change you might have noticed as a recruiter over the years is the increase in the number of niche job boards.

Many years ago, you could only choose between a couple of big job boards, such as CareerBuilder and Monster, which are two of the oldest major job boards, according to Apollo Technical. However, there are now talent-specific job boards that are ideal for sending a focused message to targeted talent.

As a result, targeted recruitment has begun to increase, and companies now adopt targeted recruitment strategies for four reasons:

  • Increased team productivity 
  • Increased company revenue
  • Reduced turnover rates
  • Increased employee commitment

What are some targeted recruitment strategies?

Three types of targeted recruitment strategies you can use are pay-for-performance, recruiting through college campuses, and using trade journals and industry magazines. Each of these strategies has advantages and disadvantages.

targeted recruitment strategies

1. Pay-for-performance in targeted recruitment

Pay-for-performance involves offering a compensation package to directly incentivize employee performance, according to The Business Professor. For this reason, sales organizations use this targeted recruitment approach.

Since organizations use pay-for-performance to target specific candidates who are qualified for their vacancy to achieve particular targets, it’s classed as targeted recruitment.

By using the pay-for-performance strategy, you can:

  • Hire high-quality talent and increase retention
  • Increase the level of employee engagement
  • Emphasize your company’s targets

However, keep in mind some of the disadvantages of pay-for-performance:

  • It can cause contention and jealousy between employees
  • Employees may provide less feedback on policies out of fear of their salaries being reduced
  • It emphasizes how much work has been done and not always the quality of work

2. Recruiting via college campuses

Companies that recruit via college campuses are also using a targeted recruitment strategy. This strategy might involve entering into internship cooperative education agreements with colleges. 

Making internship and cooperative agreements with college campuses will help you to source students with entry-level experience whom you can consider for vacancies in your business.

Some of the advantages of recruiting via college campuses are:

  • It can save your company recruiting costs 
  • Candidates will have some valuable skills to bring to their role (such as social media knowledge and technology skills)
  • Candidates are keen to learn and build their skills  

That said, be sure to take note of some of the disadvantages of recruiting via college campuses:

  • Candidates will have fewer years of work experience
  • Candidates’ schedules may mean they are not available to work full-time

3. Using trade journals and industry magazines

Using trade journals also targets particular applicants. To recruit using trade journals and industry magazines, post a job ad in a journal that relates to your industry and tailor your messaging to candidates who read the journals you choose.

As Randstad mentions, trade journals are still valid methods of recruitment. The employment agency suggests three key advantages of using trade journals:

  • Trade journals that offer online versions, in addition to their printed editions, extend the reach of your job ad among target candidates who are searching for vacancies online
  • Trade journals will reflect and help to build awareness of your brand
  • Recruitment agencies can arrange fixed costs and special rates when advertising in trade journals 

But keep in mind that:

  • Some trade journals may not have online versions
  • It’s difficult to track the response rates of applicants
  • You can’t always control where your job ad is placed within the journal or magazine

Recommended reading: How to write great job descriptions [job description template included]

What are the benefits of using targeted recruitment?

Targeted recruitment boosts applicant quality, enhances workplace diversity, and reduces cost-per-hire. It also reduces time-to-hire and turnover and helps you to attract passive candidates.

benefits of targeted recruitment

How does targeted recruitment boost applicant quality?

When you use targeted recruitment strategies, you won’t have to wade through unqualified applicants. Instead, you’ll be focusing on the quality of applicants and not the size of your applicant pool.

You will only publish your vacancies to individuals who satisfy your criteria, and most, if not all, applicants for your open job position will potentially be a good fit, as stated by Laura Teigeler of The Christopher Group.

How can targeted recruitment enhance workplace diversity?

Targeted recruitment can enhance workplace diversity even though it may produce less diverse candidate pools. Use targeted recruitment to specifically target well-qualified, underrepresented talent to ensure underrepresented groups are represented and increase diversity in your organization.

Keep in mind that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and similar legislation in countries outside the U.S.) makes discriminatory hiring decisions illegal, so never hire based on criteria such as gender, race, or age. Your organization might not be answerable to this law under the following conditions:

  • If your company has fewer than 15 employees
  • If you hire a candidate who belongs to an underrepresented group and who qualifies for the vacancy (this is legal, as the qualification is a requirement for the vacancy)

Say you notice that a certain ethnicity is underrepresented in your tech organization. You might seek to include more underrepresented talent in your hiring process and choose a targeted recruitment strategy to achieve this. 

Tech Nation, for example, suggests that tech organizations should use targeted networks to find groups of people you wouldn’t reach through traditional recruitment channels. But remember to base your hiring decisions on the skills, experience, and traits of your candidates.

How can targeted recruitment reduce cost-per-hire?

By targeting particular applicants and being selective with your recruitment budget, your candidate pool will be more targeted compared with open recruitment. This saves you time and money. And as your cost-per-hire is reduced, you won’t overspend your recruitment budget.

How can targeted recruitment reduce time-to-hire?

Targeting a smaller, more select range of applicants means you’ll spend less time pursuing unqualified candidates. Although your candidate pool will be small, each candidate will be more likely to be qualified, and you’ll be able to hire more quickly a candidate based on their skills.

How can targeted recruitment reduce turnover?

According to Certified Source Performance Group, targeted recruitment reduces turnover and can help to ensure that retention plans are as effective as possible. If you invest in targeted recruitment and retention programs, your company will inevitably have less turnover than your competitors.

However, recruitment strategies that exclusively target certain applicants can paradoxically be both good and bad for turnover, and analysts of pay-for-performance strategies are skeptical that it is an effective way of motivating or retaining employees.

Reduce turnover by carefully choosing the right targeted recruitment strategy.

How does targeted recruitment attract passive candidates?

One group that targeted recruitment can attract is passive candidates. Since passive and savvy job seekers understand the benefits of using targeted and industry-specific websites when searching for vacancies, combine targeted recruitment strategies with niche job boards to source these candidates.

RICS Recruit also emphasizes the value of using niche job boards for targeted recruitment. The recruitment website states that the best tools at your disposal in your search are niche job boards—this type of job board will help you to target your search, because they are aimed at a specific audience.

Recommended reading: Passive recruitment guide: Sourcing and recruiting passive candidates

What are the disadvantages of using targeted recruitment?

Two disadvantages of using targeted recruitment are that you’ll have less diverse candidate pools and different gender responses to your targeted recruitment strategy, depending on how you implement it. 

1. Less diverse candidate pools

Smaller candidate pools can have both positive and negative results. Although more selective candidate pools reduce the number of unqualified applicants and increase your retention rates, they can also cause problems for diversity in your organization.

One potential downside of a less diverse applicant pool is that you could miss out on opportunities for long-term retention, which is strongly correlated with diversity

You might resolve the paradox that targeted recruitment can be both good and bad for diversity by using a wide range of niche job boards that match your industry and help you to search for underrepresented talent. 

2. Different gender responses to targeted recruitment

According to a 2020 study of targeted recruitment and gender, the findings of research reports on how candidates respond to targeted recruitment varied, but men responded negatively to it.

What’s more, the findings show a gender asymmetry between men and women when recruiters use targeted recruitment for nursing positions. 

The findings suggest that when recruiters use targeted recruitment, the candidate experience is different between men and women in certain fields. The fact that men and women don’t have an equal candidate experience can affect employers’ brands if candidates discuss this inequality with family and friends.

How to create a targeted recruitment strategy in seven steps

From conducting the right research to using niche job boards, these are the seven steps you can take to create a targeted recruitment strategy.

how to create a targeted recruitment strategy in seven steps

1. Conduct the right research

Begin by preparing to build candidate personas with the right research. You should begin your research by thinking about the types of candidates you would like on your team and collecting data on the traits you are searching for.

Collect the data by interviewing stakeholders, including your hiring manager and team members. Ask your recruitment team and hiring manager the following questions:

  • What is our target demographic?
  • How much experience should our candidates have?
  • Which qualifications should our candidates have?

Next, ask your team members these questions, as suggested by Recruiterflow, to begin building your candidate persona: 

  • Where do you want to be after X years and what are your career goals?
  • Why did you apply to our company and what motivates you?
  • Which skills help you to succeed in your job? 
  • What do you like about our company culture?

2. Build candidate personas

Build a candidate persona to help you tailor your job descriptions to your target applicants and engage candidates more effectively.

A candidate or talent persona is a candidate profile that is the recruitment industry’s equivalent of a marketing persona. According to Recruiterflow, a candidate persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your candidate pool.

To build a candidate persona, think of it as a combination of the real characteristics of your candidates and the ideal characteristics of the perfect employee. Create a candidate persona in two steps:

  1. To test the early version of the candidate persona you prepared in step 1, ask your candidates questions relating to their career goals, their motivations for applying to your company, and what differences they observe between your organization and their previous role.

As stated by Recruiterflow, the better you understand your candidate pool, the better you can map your company’s internal persona in the real world.

  1. Monitor your channels and sources. Do certain sources provide your organization with better-quality candidates? Look for trends in high-quality candidates that verify the quality of the source, and use metrics and data (covered below) to help you.

Candidate profiles will help you later, when you create messages to target your candidates.

3. Set the goals you want to achieve

According to eNotes.com, companies use targeted recruitment to diversify their workforce or to target people from minority groups, people with disabilities, or candidates with specific skills.

To launch a successful targeted recruitment strategy, establish the goals you want to achieve. For instance, do you want to improve the quality of your applicants? Do you need to hire for positions that are difficult to fill? Do you want to find applicants with particular qualifications?

You should also consider the number of applications you’re hoping to receive. Ask stakeholders if they want a large number of applications for a specific role or if they’re hoping to attract fewer applicants.

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, you can combine your candidate persona with your goals to create your messages and attract candidates.

4. Make a targeted recruitment plan

Creating an effective plan for targeted recruitment makes it simpler to source and hire hard-to-fill requisitions. To create an efficient plan, think about these factors:

  • Consider your recruitment budget: how much can you afford to spend on job ads?
  • Think about which channels you want to use to advertise your job description; will you use a niche job board or a trade journal?
  • Think about how you will promote your brand in your job description. Which perks or benefits will you mention, and how will your job description reflect your brand?
  • Consider how skills testing will help your targeted recruitment plan. Skills testing can help you to evaluate your candidates’ skills, so how will it feature in your targeted recruitment process?
  • Which interview techniques will you use to assess your candidates? Will you use structured, unstructured, or behavioral interview questions?

5. Build messages to target your candidates

You should spend time building messages to target your candidates, because reaching passive candidates can be difficult, even with targeted recruitment strategies.

The messages you build include job descriptions, videos that you feature on your company’s careers page, and blog posts that drive traffic to your careers page. Tailor all messages to your candidate persona.

And since employer branding can help you to hire and retain high-quality employees, ensure you describe your values and culture in your messaging, as companies such as Patagonia, Zappos, and Salesforce do.

6. Use specific information in your job description

According to Reviewia, to get the best results from targeted recruitment, you must be specific with your expectations and requirements. You should specify the precise number of years of experience you’re looking for, the exact skills, or the particular traits you want for the role.

If you’re using an open recruitment strategy to hire a software developer, for example, you can afford to be broader with your requirements in the job description. 

But in targeted recruitment strategies, if you’re searching for certain qualifications, be specific about the number of years of relevant experience that candidates should have.

7. Use niche job boards

Post your job description on niche job boards that match your industry to attract higher-quality applicants. If you’re hiring for a journalism position, post your job description on JournalismJobs.com; if you’re hiring for an accounting position, use eFinancialCareers.

According to Nurse.com, niche job boards help you reach a hyper-targeted audience, and some niche boards help you target an audience by skill set, location, licensure (such as for nursing positions), and more

Four advantages of using niche job boards are:

  1. You’ll attract higher-quality applicants who are relevant to your field and have the required qualifications.

  1. You’ll encounter less competition with your job description compared with non-specific job boards.

  1. You’ll save on candidate sourcing costs, because niche job boards are more affordable than general job boards.

  1. Niche job boards are ideal for targeted recruitment, since this type of job board attracts a specific candidate audience.

But keep in mind that niche job boards have significantly less traffic compared with general job boards.

Open recruitment vs targeted recruitment: How do the recruitment types compare?

The two main differences between open recruitment and targeted recruitment are the candidates you target and the fact that each of these strategies focuses on specific positions that are challenging to fill.

Wide applicant pools vs specific applicants 

In open recruitment, you advertise open positions, sell your company brand in the job description, and aim to appeal to a wide range of candidates. Open recruitment will give you deeper talent pools, and you’ll notice more diversity in your talent pool because the job boards you use are often big platforms, such as Monster or Indeed.

In open recruitment, you’ll worry less about targeting candidates who have a specific skill set or experience level, and, generally, any candidate is welcome to submit a resume for a vacancy, regardless of their qualifications or skill level.

Although open recruitment can deliver a diverse pool of applicants, it can also involve a time-consuming resume-reviewing process. And even then, you might overlook some candidates.

But with targeted recruitment, you will typically identify areas in the workforce market where you’ll likely find qualified candidates. Your recruiting process is more focused, as is the job ad you post, and you’ll also use targeted messages and your company brand to attract desired candidates who match your requirements.

Fill challenging positions more easily

Compared with open recruiting, which helps you to fill easy positions that attract hundreds of applicants per vacancy, targeted recruitment helps you to fill challenging positions. 

Hiring for IT roles such as cloud positions, data scientist roles, IT architect positions, testers, or agile developers can feel a bit like trying to capture a unicorn, according to Paul Heltzel in CIO. Roles such as these require specific skill sets, and recruiters must search for candidates who have these skills.

But if you’ve got a position that is challenging or hard to fill, you can make this challenge easier by using targeted recruitment to attract individuals with certain characteristics or skills.

When should you use targeted recruitment and when should you use open recruitment?

Although it might be difficult to know which to choose, targeted recruitment lends itself well to certain circumstances, as does open recruitment. The key is knowing which situations to use them in.

For example, open recruiting is ideal when:

  • You’re hiring for multiple vacancies
  • Qualifications are not your main focus

You’ll have a deeper candidate pool to dip into, which will help you to fill multiple vacancies more easily. And although your applicants might not have the exact qualifications you desire, focusing on credentials might not be your main goal with open recruitment.

Targeted recruiting is ideal when:

  • You’re searching for candidates who have specific skills
  • You’re hiring for positions that have specific responsibilities or involve high-leverage tasks

With targeted recruitment, you’ll be able to specifically source desired candidates and fill niche positions. When combined with skills-testing platforms like TestGorilla, targeted recruiting can help you determine if your candidates have the skills required to perform high-leverage tasks.

Which positions does targeted recruitment work well for?

According to Chron, targeted recruitment strategies work well for technical positions and those that require a specific type of education or skill.

Three metrics to analyze to enhance targeted recruitment

It’s not enough to focus only on time-to-hire and cost-per-hire when assessing the effectiveness of targeted recruitment. If you use data such as the quality of your channels, source-to-close metrics, and candidate experience, you can assess how well your targeted recruitment advertising efforts are going.

1. Measure the quality of the channel or candidate source

The quality of the channel or candidate source refers to how far along in the hiring process high-quality candidates get for each source; the farther the candidates get in the hiring process, the better the quality of the source that discovered them.

You might receive hundreds of applicants from particular channels, but receiving many applicants doesn’t always indicate high quality. Other sources may attract fewer applicants, but if all the applicants make it through to later stages of the hiring process, this metric suggests it’s a high-quality source.

Why is the quality of the candidate source important? This metric can help you determine where to focus your sourcing efforts, your time, and, more importantly, your recruitment budget.

2. Measure source-to-close metrics

Source-to-close metrics refer to the speed with which candidates accept your offer of employment (though this metric excludes the time taken to source them).

Think of source-to-close metrics in a similar way to conversion rates in marketing, only instead of a marketing funnel, you’ll have a recruitment funnel. The rate of conversion instead refers to the percentage of candidates who pass through the funnel.

If you can learn which areas of the recruitment funnel are causing delays with these metrics, you can adjust them appropriately. For instance, if applicant screening is causing delays, you might choose to speed things along with a skills-testing platform.

3. Measure the candidate experience

The candidate experience is a particularly important metric. As mentioned, some studies indicate gender asymmetry in terms of how men and women respond to targeted recruitment. Using candidate experience metrics can help you detect if candidates are dissatisfied with your recruitment process.

Assess your candidates’ satisfaction and experience by putting together surveys and distributing them during the recruitment process.

With the rise of online advertising, it is possible to target certain candidates or specific audiences with particular messages; however, there is a difference between selling retail products with targeted advertising and targeting particular job openings to a subset of individuals, as explained by Telios Teaches. So, what’s the difference?

Using targeted job ads can potentially be discriminatory or prejudiced against candidates who are of a certain age or gender.   

According to Emily C. Kaminski of the law firm RSP, targeting employment ads may violate federal law. For example, it is illegal for employers to engage in employment advertising that discriminates against anyone aged over 40. It’s also illegal to post employment ads that indicate a preference based on age, gender, race, etc.

Targeted recruitment examples: Three cases of discrimination

Three cases in which candidates felt that targeted recruitment strategies were discriminatory are the cases against T-Mobile, CareFusion, and Facebook. 

1. T-Mobile

After T-Mobile US, Inc. was accused of discriminatory targeted advertising, the company agreed to settle a proposed class action, according to Reuters. The business used targeted Facebook ads to attract younger candidates, leading to a complex legal dispute.

NPR stated that Facebook’s vice-president of ads defended the targeted ads and argued that using targeted ads is not an illegal act if the rest of the recruitment campaign focuses on every demographic group.

Countering this statement, one of the Communications Workers of America who filed the lawsuit against T-Mobile stated on NPR that targeted advertising is a new frontier for discrimination and that microtargeting can lead to discrimination

What’s more, senior attorney Laurie McCann suggests that in cases like these, the recruiting process itself has a discriminatory effect.

2. CareFusion

In the CareFusion case, the medical business launched targeted ads to search for applicants with between three and seven years of experience in the field. But when Dale Kleber applied and was rejected for the position, because he had more than seven years’ experience, he sued CareFusion for discrimination.

Although CareFusion is appealing, the Circuit Court of Appeals initially ruled in Kleber’s favor. The former Fortune 500 executive argued on NPR that CareFusion’s defense (that Kleber was overqualified) was really a code word for discrimination.

3. Facebook

In 2018, discrimination complaints were filed against Facebook and other companies that posted targeted job ads on this social media platform. This case led older Facebook users who were looking for jobs to file lawsuits against Facebook.

Although the company defended certain targeted job ads, the long-term litigation against Facebook partially ended in March 2019 when it agreed not to allow ads to be targeted at particular users by age, gender, or ZIP code, according to Bloomberg Law. 

Is targeted recruitment an ethical hiring strategy?

Targeted recruitment hiring strategies are not illegal; there are legal ways for organizations to advertise job openings using targeted recruitment. But the fairness of targeted recruitment is a contested issue. 

Exclusively targeting certain groups of applicants might be considered unethical because whole groups of people may not be aware that your job opportunity exists. 

Five targeted recruiting steps to follow after candidate sourcing

The five steps you should follow after candidate sourcing are developing the selection criteria, reviewing applications, skills testing, interviewing, and onboarding new employees.

targeted recruiting steps to follow after candidate sourcing

1. Develop the selection criteria

As stated on the Lumen Learning website, to evaluate candidates’ fit, managers must create a list of relevant criteria for each position. Some selection criteria you might use are:

  • Essential skills required for the role
  • Behaviors or traits that can help candidates perform well in the role
  • Whether the candidates’ values align with your organization
  • Technical competencies
  • Soft skills

Lumen Learning also states that some companies might hire primarily based on attitude—that is, the attitude of their candidates. If the organization believes that training can help candidates improve, its priority is hiring for attitude, not skills.

2. Review applications

Chron states that there are a few key ways to review applications when selecting candidates. First, use your common sense when looking at applications. For instance, if you’re hiring a salesperson and candidates haven't mentioned negotiation in their applications, you might decide to pass on them.

Verify whether your candidates are of legal age (18) to work for your organization. Then look at your candidates’ career history to check whether they have the hard and soft skills you’re looking for. A good practice to follow when evaluating resumes is to use skills testing for verification purposes.

3. Skills testing: How to use skills-testing platforms with targeted recruitment strategies

Even if candidates are well qualified for your vacancy, you should use pre-employment assessments provided by skills-testing platforms to assess your candidates’ skills. Skills testing makes it simpler to compare several well-qualified applicants whom you’ve sourced using targeted recruitment strategies.

To use skills-testing platforms, think about the specific skills you are looking for. Then choose a set of skills tests that are relevant to the skills you want to assess, and create your skills assessment.

For example, if you are hiring a sales representative, some of the skills you would expect your candidates to have are outside B2B sales skills, the ability to close sales, and skills in managing opportunities. 

To use the Outside Sales (B2B) skills test to evaluate your candidates, send requests to your candidates asking them to complete your skills assessment. Once you have the results, use them to decide which candidates to interview.

4. Interviewing and skills testing: When to evaluate skills and how to interview

Interview your candidates with a structured interview, and combine this interview technique with skills testing to confirm your candidates have the skill level you’re looking for. 

Say you’re hiring a software developer and need to assess their coding proficiency, which is required for the position. First, ask the candidate to complete a skills test, then take note of their weaker areas (as indicated by the test) and ask questions in the interview to find out more.  

Complete skills assessments before conducting interviews when you are evaluating candidates, because the tests can give you a list of recommended interview questions that will help you prepare.

But ask all candidates the same, specific interview questions as part of a structured interview, including questions about your company culture: Kajal Yadav suggests on LinkedIn that these questions are the key to retention.

5. Onboarding and targeted recruitment: How to onboard candidates 

Focus on onboarding and training new employees after you’ve hired them by using these best practices:

  • Clarify the responsibilities of the position when you send an offer letter
  • Be transparent about company policies, including remote work and vacation policies
  • Make introductions to colleagues and encourage new employees to ask questions 
  • Provide new employees with a first-week itinerary and goal checklist
  • Provide login details for communication tools
  • Share information about the new employee’s first projects or assignments
  • Share key performance indicators and targets for the first year

To set up training sessions for your new employee:

  • Use the results of their skills test as an indication of their initial skill level
  • Discuss training sessions with existing employees to get their thoughts on what you should include
  • Ensure that training is regular and ongoing
  • Set up adaptable and flexible training sessions that acknowledge your new employee’s learning style; according to Business News Daily, the main learning methods that most new employees prefer include visual learning, repetition, and reading
  • Request the input of senior staff and leaders who can help you to develop training sessions
  • Ask for feedback from new employees to improve the training sessions

Use targeted recruitment to hire the right candidates for your vacancy

You may encounter retention difficulties in certain fields, such as sales, and hiring high-quality applicants can be a challenge, but a targeted recruitment strategy is a top solution.

To launch a targeted recruitment strategy, remember to:

  • Conduct the right research
  • Create candidate personas
  • Write down your goals
  • Create the right messaging to target candidates
  • Be specific when describing the expectations of the role
  • Use niche job boards
  • Use skills-testing platforms to evaluate your candidates
  • Carry out a comprehensive onboarding and training process using best practices

By following these steps, you can hire the right candidates for your vacancy, increase diversity in your team, and reduce your time- and cost-per-hire. Finally, try TestGorilla for free today and start making better hiring decisions, faster and bias-free.

Leave a comment

Hire the best candidates
with TestGorilla.

Create pre-employment assessments in minutes to screen candidates, save time, and hire the best talent.

Try for free

Free resources