Podcast: Solving the Seasonal Employee Recruitment Problem

Let go of the myths, get social with recruits and market “values first” to bring in qualified employees every year.

Austin Meyermann of TalentCMO is a serial entrepreneur, problem solver and all-around smart guy graduate of Cornell University. His latest baby is Talent CMO, a recruitment marketing partner that works with companies to deliver a continuous pipeline of top talent through the application of marketing strategies.

In our Zesty Marketing Podcast (episode 3), managing partner Whitney Hahn talks with Austin about ways that recruiters in leisure and recreation can improve results for the seemingly endless task of recruiting for seasonal jobs. We find that when you think about more like other marketing initiatives you are probably working on, you’ll have more success.

You can listen on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcasting tool. A few of our favorite highlights are extracted for you below.

Whitney: Let’s begin by deconstructing a few misconceptions listeners may have about seasonal employees. I suspect that people with seasonal employees do have a lot of millennials as employees but I also know from my experience in leisure and recreation industries that we also have a lot of people that don’t fit that mold. So what is it we think we know that’s just wrong?

Austin: We do have a stereotype about who they are and that they fit into one group and I think that’s the first wrong assumption. People are motivated to be there for multiple reasons. Some people want to have an experience – they want to be working on the ski slopes. They want to be working in a marina on the water for a summer. They want to be having that one time in their life they’re gonna look back on and say, “this was an incredible experience.” There are other folks that depend on that income for the rest of the year, so they need to make it happen when they can make it happen.

Instead of us thinking about what the seasonal employee is and who they are (and how to market to them), the first thing we need to think about is “Who we are as an organization?” and “How do we want to market to them?”

We need to understand ourselves first, put our values forth and project who we are so when employment candidates find that message, they can connect.

Whitney: An issue I often see in seasonal businesses is the onboarding process. It seems like about the time you get them where you want them, they’re two weeks away from going back to college (for example). Any tips on improving the onboarding process?

Austin: It’s sometimes strange to think about the fact that, after you make an offer to somebody you don’t do anything with them until they start. We don’t have to make that mistake here.

In Frederick (for example) we have a really great Oktoberfest and it’s run by volunteers from Rotary, but it’s really like a little mini seasonal job. We have a bunch of people come together for one day. What day do they start recruiting for next year’s volunteers? The day after Oktoberfest. So if you start early in the process recruiting folks to come and engage with you, to have this experience, or to make a certain amount of money, there’s no reason that you can’t be helping to train, onboard, engage them earlier in the process before they even show up.

So, let’s say it’s a rafting company, right? Well, it’s wintertime. You want to get on somebody’s calendar about having a great weekend with friends that’s gonna be something they remember for the rest of their lives. So you start marketing to them right away. So why is it any different for talent?

Start piping that message out sooner. You might be thinking, “Well, I’ve got to put together training materials or on-boarding materials…”. The reality is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

If you spend a little bit more time in the beginning developing training materials and onboarding materials, and giving them to people before they show up, it’s going save you an enormous amount of time and money.

Whitney: Is there a place here for incentives, or does that create some mixed messages and some unqualified referrals?

Austin: People are gonna show up for seasonal work for one or two reasons – cash and perks are king. So maybe you get a free lift ticket for this whole season to ski, or, in my case (I was a waiter) I just made a ton of cash, and that was great because I was a student at the time.

The prince in this situation would be intro to an industry. So maybe you want to be in the leisure industry – maybe you want to open a rafting company. Think about that motivation. I do know that when it’s just pure money it is a disincentive-iser. You are going to reduce the integrity of people. You’re going to remove the values from the equation. Now, paying a bonus at the end, you know, for completion that’s a really good strategy, but in some ways, it’s almost just the frosting on the cake and you really want the cake.

Whitney: Social media seems to be a huge marketing tool that we can use in recruiting seasonal employees. What are some tips you have for doing that successfully?

Austin: I think that with social, it’s pretty new, it’s changing fast, and it would be a mistake to wait until you understand it perfectly before you engage it.

In the last five years, there’s been a 54% growth in social media recruitment.  79% of job seekers use social in their job search. This is only going to grow and expand.

Our company does recruitment marketing and we look at social as a great way for employers to build a brand. An employer brand is different than a corporate brand, so you’re selling something different. You’re selling the why behind your work, you’re selling the sizzle of opportunity. So think about social as a way to fill the top of the funnel with people that are interested.

They’re very similar to sales leads, so be out there on those platforms and know where your target audience lives. Are they on Facebook? Are they on Periscope? Are they sending snaps? Are they on Twitter? Find those platforms to engage them, build your employer brand, help them come to you with interest in what you’re doing, and then use traditional screening after that to kind of work through who you want on the team

Another thing about social that’s important is to make it campaign-focused. Social has a very, very short half-life. A post burns out in seconds, minutes, maybe hours? So, if you’re not there regularly, campaign-focused on piping a message that builds that brand, you’re not going get a lot out of that.

A lot of organizations are used to marketing to get people to come to their leisure or recreation center. It’s not so different in recruiting. We’re thinking about things in terms of tracking candidates.

Really turn up the knob on social, get out there, build that employer brand. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself to potential talent through authentic and transparent ways. You don’t have to always project who you want them to believe you are – just project who you really are and you’re going to get a lot more engagement. Tell a story, make it fun, make it engaging get them interested. From there you can go through the screening process.

Whitney: Okay. In addition to social media, what other marketing tools do you find are really effective in recruiting seasonal employees?

Austin: For referrals, you can put together promo videos, digital ads, etc. – but I think that instead of looking for the Silver Bullet, you really do need a comprehensive strategy.

You need to be thinking about how can I touch the candidate as a consumer of my opportunities, in many different ways, in keeping with what works and what doesn’t. If you run a social campaign on Facebook,  see what messages resonate – do a quick promo video. Get some folks together on the team, shoot footage of yourself. If you’re trying to build something more durable, engage someone like Digital Bard to make something that’s professional and durable, rather than just something that’s disposable. But I do go back to this thing where you kind of need a mix. So, you know, referrals, job fairs at schools, the digital ads – it really has to be a basket of things that you use to attract this talent.

Whitney: And is there still place for a brand ambassador, an influencer?

Austin: Yeah, I mean, I think that it gets a little bit trickier around picking a brand ambassador or influencer, because, like Seth Godin says, “if you try to appeal to everyone you’ll appeal to no one.” So  in today’s world picking one person of a particular sex, or of a particular race or belief system or whatever else – people may not see themselves in that. I think that you can have a message that is represented with composite images of a lot of different people on the team from all walks of life,  rather than a single entity there.

Check out TalentCMO.com to learn more about recruitment marketing.

Want more destination and attraction marketing insights? Find our most recent chats on the Zesty Marketing Podcast.

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