TruthOnce upon a time, the folks at Proctor & Gamble coined the term “first moment of truth” to refer to the 3-7 seconds it takes consumers to decide whether or not they’ll buy a certain product. P&G posited that this “first moment of truth” occurs when consumers come across a product on the shelf. They consider it quickly and, if their attention is adequately captured, they’ll buy.

Then Google came along with the “zero moment of truth”: that moment when consumers research a product online in order to decide whether or not they want to buy it. If the first moment of truth revolutionized product marketing, the zero moment fundamentally changed the relationship between consumers and companies: armed with the knowledge base of the Internet, consumers could scrutinize companies and products in new ways and make more informed decisions about their purchases.

“People get educated first online, and there’s this whole phase to the buying process that just didn’t exist for the older generations,” says Miranda Nash, president of Jobscience. “The same is absolutely true in recruiting.”

Much has been made of the shifting workforce demographics, as boomers age out and millennials flock in to replace them: by next year, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce; by 2030, they’ll account for 75 percent of it. Nash says that, as millennials enter the workforce, they’re bringing their online consumer behaviors with them  – that is, they’ve brought the zero moment of truth to recruiting.

“The mindset of millennials is changing recruiting,” Nash says. “They’re changing jobs so much more frequently, and they’re using of online sources, social media, etc., [to research companies before accepting job offers].”

Millennials are forcing recruiters to start treating candidates as consumers — consumers who have the Internet at their disposal.

‘Weeding’ and ‘Seeding’

In the days of P&G’s first moment of truth, companies waited for consumers to stumble across their products in stores. Then, marketers would try to lure them in with attention-grabbing displays and visual branding.

This is somewhat similar to how employers used to recruit talent. “Historically, many companies have sort of waited around and seen who applies on their website and taken a filtering approach,” says Nash.

She calls this strategy “weeding”: companies would let their “garden” of candidates grow, and every once in a while, they’d check in to weed out the bad candidates and pick the good candidates from the lot.

This approach worked with previous generations because they by and large acted according to the theory of the first moment of truth: they came across job postings and decided whether or not they wanted to apply. Millennials, however, are different: the experience that zero moment. They come across job postings and then take the added step of researching the company before they decide on applying.

To court millennial candidates, Nash says companies have to “seed” rather than weed: “The way you present yourself as an employer and help candidates research you is critically important to the recruiting process, and it just didn’t happen before. We used to live in this world that lacked transparency, and that lead a lot of companies to become lazy.”

Seeding requires that companies be more proactive. They have to actively cultivate relationships with candidates through what basically amounts to targeted marketing strategies. To attract millennial talent, employers have to use strategies like talent communities, relevant content, education initiatives, meetups, and other tactics that get candidates to engage with them.

Learning to Seed

“What we’re seeing now is the millennials are helping to drive a shift … that brings focus on companies adding value to employees and think about their employee value propositions,” Nash says. 

Some companies have adjusted well to this new recruiting mindset, but others lag behind. “What’s happening now with the economy heating up, and the increased competition, in terms of hiring, is that it’s becoming very clear to those that aren’t keeping up that they need to change,” Nash says.

But how do they change?

“First, they have to have the right mindset,” Nash says. Employers have to be proactive and engage candidates the same way they would engage customers.

But mindsets aren’t magical: employers also need the right tools to execute the right strategies. “Instead of processing candidates — taking the weeding instead of seeding approach — they need to have the right tools to engage in a sales and marketing effort to candidates,” Nash says. “That’s why a unified CRM and ATS system is really important.”

Ultimately, Nash believes that this millennial mindset will improve recruiting practices as a whole. “It’s good for the world of work, and its great for recruiting, frankly,” she says — provided employers know how to adapt.

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