The Difference Between Outbound and Inbound Recruiting

Given the current state of the market for talent, outbound recruiting is necessary. While inbound recruiting tends to rely on the talent coming to you, outbound recruiting takes a proactive approach to recruitment. That’s the high-level view. Here are how they differ in candidate selection and alignment as well as their impact on the employer brand.

Candidate selection. Inbound recruiting attracts the best active candidates on the market who feel that they’re a good fit for the vacancy. That’s a great start, but it’s still only a portion of the potential candidates for that position. Outbound recruiting, meanwhile, enables you to supplement that candidate pool with those you target directly — candidates who have specific skills and experience that other applicants don’t, and candidates who were never aware of the opening because they’re not actively on the market, but are open to having a conversation about a new opportunity. In both of those cases, those are candidates you’d never have access to with inbound recruiting alone.

Candidate alignment. Using inbound recruiting alone puts you at a disadvantage in terms of finding the right candidate for the role. This applies to both employer and employee; in both cases, each party is often choosing to move forward despite the fact that the alignment isn’t perfect. Outbound recruiting changes this. Recruiting teams can be more creative in seeking a tailored fit for positions, particularly those that have a critical role to play in the organization. Just as important, this helps the employer truly understand what a candidate is hoping for in their future career.

The consideration in this case concerns the techniques and approaches — and possibly the skillset — of your recruitment staff. Outbound recruitment requires sales skills.

PREMIUM CONTENT: North America Internal Staff Survey 2022: Recruiting internal staff: Most effective recruiting methods, industries and social media groups target, what to say to candidates

Employer brand. Outbound recruiting provides the opportunity to build awareness of your employer brand, particularly among candidates who possess experiences and skills that are uniquely relevant or necessary in your company. I liken it to the difference between advertising and sales. Advertising reaches a large number of people, a significant number of whom may not be targets for your business. The advertising message is “one size fits all,” meaning that there’s no opportunity to tailor it to the individual receiving it. In those respects, inbound recruitment is like advertising. Outbound recruiting is more like sales. You reach a smaller number of people, but they are specifically targeted for your message because they’re a qualified prospect — one for whom your company’s message may have particular appeal. The salesperson owns the narrative, too; in contrast with advertising, the salesperson can customize the message to each and every prospective customer. Outbound recruiting is the same. The people you reach with your employer brand are those you specifically target, and the messages you deliver can be tailored specifically to highlight the aspects that are of greatest appeal and interest to that person.

There are two considerations to take into account here. The first is your employer brand itself. When candidates apply for positions, they’ve essentially taken on the lion’s share of responsibility for understanding the company’s employer value proposition, leaving less onus on the shoulders of recruiters. That being the case, it’s essential to maintain a high level of understanding of your brand. What are the things that make your company unique as a place to work, what do you offer that other employers don’t, and how can those things be lined up against what high-potential candidates are looking for?

The second — and closely related — consideration here is your recruiters’ ability to be good representatives for your brand. When reaching out to potential candidates (versus responding to candidates who’ve applied to your company), it’s critical that the conversation is handled well. There’s a greater level of responsibility, a higher expectation, because the recruiter is the one initiating contact.

I am a vocal advocate for the benefits that companies can realize by incorporating outbound recruiting platforms as a means of augmenting their inbound recruitment efforts. I’m confident that the investment your company makes in identifying the right outbound recruiting platform will provide a significant return. Broader candidate selection, better alignment, and a greater awareness of your employer brand are worth it in a competitive market for top talent.

MORE: The future of talent acquisition

Shannon Pritchett

Shannon Pritchett
Shannon Pritchett is head of community at both hireEZ (formerly Hiretual) and Evry1, which she co-founded in 2021.

Shannon Pritchett

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