HubSpot's Inbound Recruiting 101: Why Storytelling Is Critical in Hiring Today’s Top Talent

January 6, 2017

Becky McCullough is Director of Recruiting at HubSpot, where she leads the team responsible for attracting and hiring top talent for the company's North American offices. Prior to taking the leap to HubSpot in 2015, Becky led experienced hire recruiting for McKinsey & Company's North American offices. Becky holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA from Tufts University, and lives in the Boston suburbs with her husband, two-year-old son, and dog. Connect with Becky on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Every company has a story. But, is it being told?

As recruiters, it’s our job to make our company’s story as compelling as possible to capture highly in-demand candidates who we want to help us write the next chapter.

So, how do we best tell this story? Two words: inbound recruiting. 

Like inbound marketing—a term coined by HubSpot’s founders that has grown into a global movement—inbound recruiting is transforming the way companies attract, engage, and delight their candidates. In taking a longer term approach, focused on targeting the right candidates, engaging them with relevant content, and ensuring a personalized, human-first approach throughout the interview process, inbound recruiting aims to optimize the candidate experience and keep candidates educated and committed.

This strategy has a profound effect on the day-to-day of a recruiting team. Yesterday’s recruiter was focused on cold-calling and resume reviews; today’s recruiter has been rebranded as a talent marketer, who is now being asked to wear a marketing, public relations, and social media wizard hat. Recent stats show that 75% of job seekers research a company’s employer brand before even applying for a job. Through content, social media, engagement tools, and communication, the power is now in the hands of the modern candidate to learn about and interact with a prospective employer in multiple capacities, both online and offline. Thus, it’s up to employers to build out their capabilities to better market to and actively engage candidates seeking out this information.

Sound exhausting? I’m with you.

You know all too well that time and bandwidth are your most limiting factors. So how do you create an inbound, talent marketing campaign that is human-centric, yet is scalable within your own organization and makes it easy for candidates to engage?

Here are a few of the core principles and tactics we’ve adopted here at HubSpot:

1. Know your audience

As we sought to build our inbound recruiting strategy, we had endless brainstorming exercises and debates to develop our personas of our target candidates. We wanted elements of our content and engagement strategy to be relevant to a range of candidates, from the recent college grad to the fifteen-year industry veteran who isn’t actively looking for a job. If you are in the planning stages of an inbound recruiting campaign, spend time with your new hires, survey your candidates, and pour over the feedback on your company’s Glassdoor page to understand what resonates with your candidates. 

The key part of conceptualizing the story you want to tell about your company is thinking ahead to the stories your candidates are going to want to tell about themselves once they’re employees. What are they going to tell their friends and family? What will they be tweeting about when they arrive for their first day? The more you can get inside your candidates’ heads and determine what drives them, the better able you’ll be to develop content and resources that speak to candidates and give them a feeling of shared purpose and the motivation to join your organization.

2. Be helpful

Candidates want a career that will help them learn and grow, and they want to learn something from their interactions with potential employers—something more substantial than company stats and stale website content. That’s why, at HubSpot, we’re doubling down on this in our campus recruiting efforts, where we’re taking our eggs out of the career fair basket and instead piloting workshops, tech talks, and certifications that give candidates tangible career takeaways. 

Through this sort of programming, our candidates are better equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the interview process, but they also develop an appreciation for HubSpot as the company that helped them improve, regardless of where they end up. Once a candidate is in the interview process, we supply them with links, resources, and tips in all of our communications. By arming them with the tools they need to be successful, we’re amping their confidence and doing everything we can to set them up for success. 

3. Make the conversation two-sided

New technology has made it possible for us to engage with our candidates at scale. At HubSpot, we’re making it easier than ever to have micro-conversations with our candidates: we’ve launched a Slack channel that’s open to anyone interested in learning about our careers and gets real-time interaction with HubSpotters; we’ve done Q&As with our recruiting team on Facebook Live; and are partnering with the platform Honest Interview which allows candidates in the interview process to interact anonymously with current employees to get their questions answered. These two-sided interactions also allow us to get real-time feedback from our candidates about what we are doing right and how we can further improve the process. From my perspective, these engagement tools are no-brainers. They’re low-investment, easily scalable, and incredibly human, in spite of being technology-based. 

4. Be inclusive

When we first revamped our communications to candidates, we recognized that the tone and resources themselves were geared toward a less experienced audience and didn’t contain content that candidates who were further along in their careers would find helpful. We now rely on multiple versions of our communications and Greenhouse email templates depending on the type of role someone is interviewing for and the stage they’re in in their career. Any time you are preparing to launch a new inbound recruiting campaign, go back to the candidate personas you created and ask yourself whether that tactic appeals to each of them. If it doesn’t, consider the tweaks you could make to optimize it for inclusivity and to appeal to a diverse audience. 

5. Make inbound recruiting a team sport

There is no way we would be able to accomplish everything we’re doing in the inbound recruiting arena if we didn’t rely on our allies across the company. We partner on a daily basis with our Culture Team, comprised of masters in content development, social media, and events, to help us develop content and engagement tactics that are human and relevant. We also partner with HubSpot Academy to help with curriculum development and delivery of the workshops and certifications I mentioned above. Does your company have an Instagram or Snapchat account? Ask your social media team if you can do a takeover and feature one of your highest priority jobs. As an inbound recruiter, consider the departments across your company and brainstorm how to tap into their strengths. No need to go at it alone or reinvent the wheel.

Lastly, we use our own employees as brand ambassadors. We call on and prepare them to speak on campuses, meet for coffee with candidates, or answer questions on Slack or Honest Interview. Does one of your sales execs have a great perspective on building a career in sales, or did one of your employees make a successful transition from a customer support to a marketing role? See if you can harness that into a presentation to college students. Our employees are our greatest assets, and, with a little motivation and preparation, there’s no one better to tell your company’s story in a way that will resonate with your candidates.

6. Constantly iterate

Despite having pioneered the concept of inbound marketing, we at HubSpot are still learning the best ways to do inbound recruiting. We’re constantly doing post-mortems on our campaigns, events, and communications to evaluate what went well and what we could improve next time. We recommend surveying your candidates regularly, paying attention to the feedback, and iterating often.

Final thoughts

HubSpot is incredibly excited to be extending our mission to make the world more inbound to our recruiting efforts. But, let’s be honest: We didn’t build this all in one day. If inbound recruiting sounds like something you can worry about later, remember that every interaction someone has with your company, big or small, influences whether or not they’re going to become a promoter. So be realistic, start small, measure the impact, and build on it. You’ll be amazed at the huge results quick hits will have on your talent brand and candidate experience, and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to a fully-fledged inbound recruiting program.

Have you been dabbling in the world of inbound recruiting at your company? Tell us what worked and what didn’t in the comment section below, or join the conversation on inbound recruiting in the Greenhouse Community. We’d love to learn from you.

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