Evidenced Based Recruitment

Written by Theo Smith

Theo is a Welsh Wizard. After leaving his Celtic land he set out on a journey to help organisations attract more talent. This has included global executive search, RPO, in-house and recruitment marketing. He now talks on a wide variety of recruitment related subjects. He is also the podcast host for Neurodiversity – Eliminating Kryptonite & Enabling Superheroes

So as the world goes TRUMP, I mean crazy! In our recruitment efforts, it’s vitally important that we get the research right so that we are connecting with our audience at the right time, in the right place, with the most relevant and engaging content.

So when I joined NICE in a new role to first create and then implement a new recruitment strategy. I looked at what was happening in the organisation and what we needed to consider moving forwards.

We had for years seen a growth in demand for our services. But the biggest challenge was that the skills required were evolving and changing! So more requests for our services but in new specialist areas.

For the first 10 years since we were established, we only had four specialist areas to work on. But roll on five years and that had increased to fourteen!

This level of growth in new skills areas is what had put pressure on our ability to identify and attract the talent we need, in what is a highly specialised and niche area.

Where to start

I identified two key areas from a talent acquisition perspective that we needed to give urgent focus to:

Technical Analysts – Who deliver our evidence based research


Our Digital Vacancies – We are an organisation going through a digital transformation so our senior digital roles are critical to support that journey but also to presenting our evidenced based health research.

To be more strategic and targeted in our approach, my energy and focus would therefore be in these two areas.

The Data

Today we have access to huge volumes of data and information. The web is filled with all kinds of useful and useless information. The key is in finding the golden nuggets of information and analysis that will help you identify the candidates you need.

We could just carry on regardless, placing adverts, searching Linkedin, sending CV’s to hiring managers. But our challenge was that we had limited resource to allow us to spend time on linkedin sourcing for candidates.

We needed to get the best return on our investment, and we needed some level of automation. I’m not talking bots or robotics. But building foundations that will support our recruitment efforts ensuring we don’t have to recreate the wheel every time.

So clearly we’d identified that we needed some research and evidence to help our decision making, but once we had the evidence, the content and the right channels would be key to driving successful campaigns.

I good place to start is Linkedin, Google, Google Trends, Indeed trends, your internal HR data, Finance data, annual employee feedback data… I could go on!

If you can find the budget you can also procure tools like Jobs the Words Horsefly which can help provide good data and insight. However I would still connect the dots and match up your internal data with external data points.

But don’t think you need to throw money at this, there’s a huge amount of information just waiting to be found and the smaller pieces of the jigsaw puzzle can sometimes be the most interesting!

The Recruitment Journey

Here’s a great example of the journey of passive and active candidates through the recruitment process from James Ellis shared via Recruiting Brainfood. One thing to notice is the prominence of ‘content’!

We shouldn’t underestimate what we say and how we say it, and finally when and where we share it.

For me there is one key differentiator to how we achieve success and that’s through plugging in research and evidence at the beginning of this process which drives everything.

This isn’t ‘Big Data’ but actually small fragments of data that when you put them together start to create a picture and to help complete the puzzle.

The reality is we can’t always get the high-quality evidence, data and analysis we would like. However, what I would say is that it’s better to start with what we can get and learn from what comes back at us, than never start at all.

Finding patterns

First of all after we identified the key strategic areas we needed to focus our recruitment efforts on, we utilised Linkedin search option to understand where our Technical Analysts had come from and where they go to. We also analysed what job roles they had, before and after joining us.

This was the beginning of understanding more around our workforce. The building blocks to support our talent acquisition strategy, based on evidenced based research.

There was a belief that our Technical Analysts were being taken by pharmaceutical companies offering them more money. Although this happened once or twice, we’d acquired as many analysts from pharma companies than we’d lost the other direction!

Which further enhanced our belief and research around our employer brand and why people join us. Which we explored further as part of our journey through engaging with our workforce and analysing external communication channels like Glassdoor and social media.

Listen to your people

Through spending considerable time with our employees we were able to get underneath what it is to be a NICE employee and where our employees were hanging out online.

The types of things we did:

  1. 121’s with managers and team members
  2. Working Groups
  3. Check out Glassdoor and Indeed
  4. Survey the departments (survey monkey)
    • Background
    • Why NICE
    • What you love about your job
    • Culture
    • Skills
    • Challenges
    • Goals
    • Online activity

This provided us with lots of information around keywords, reasons ‘why’ our people work for us, where they hang out etc… But remember if your going to use Survey Monkey for this exercise don’t ask too many open ended questions or like me you’ll be sifting through the answers for months!

That said some of the answers although long, gave great insight and helped inform and guide our understanding of our ‘Employer Brand’ and ‘EVP’.


When I first joined NICE we lacked clarity around what it is to be a Technical Analyst at NICE. Because the roles and responsibilities had evolved over the years, as we grew into new areas, our roles had been grouped up as one.

We created the personas via feedback surveys, working groups and 121’s. We collated all of that information and put it into these visual internal guides.

The personas helped us understand some keywords, areas of interest and online activity

This is just a snapshot and we are now building on this information to support future campaigns. We have pages and pages of key words and influencers that we’ve grouped by department and/or specialism

Key Words

Recruitment marketing on social channels is powered by influencers and keywords, so it’s imperative that you identify the most appropriate key words and influencers.

When you’re assessing influencers you’re looking for who your target audience is likely to follow.

We communicate with hiring managers at the beginning of every campaign and request their key words and suggested influencers. We now have an extensive list so we can make recommendations.

It’s also a really powerful tool to get the hiring community involved and engaged with you at the earliest possible stage and make them feel like they can have a simple and direct impact on improving the recruitment campaign.

Job Adverts

Our job adverts have been improved through implementing a blueprint that can be used across all vacancies

We’ve utilised Indeed and Google trends to help inform us on market trends and keywords searched for and associated with our roles.

We’ve also utilised Linkedin and other social media channels like Twitter and Facebook to check the language and terms associated with our roles and industry.

We’ve included more relevant key words and ensured it’s searchable on google.

Where a job title doesn’t match with what our target audience is searching for, we’ve changed the first line so that it directly says what it is, to help with searchability and to ensure when candidates are scrolling vacancies they are quickly able to opt in or out.

This was not however a paint by numbers. Each job group and level of seniority required a different focus, the blueprint helped bring some structure however we still needed to solve the challenge that each individual job faced. Sometimes it was the wording and other times it was the structure of the information.

Here is an example of how through the research, we created more relevant job adverts with key words.

Through targeted social media advertising we were able to increase the volume of high quality applicants.

For our senior vacancies we changed some of the key words to better reflect the direction of our organisation and for our technical roles we were more concerned with gaining visibility and then converting the most relevant applicants.

We also put our adverts through Textio and other supporting augmented writing tools like Job Grader to make sure we weren’t unintentionally having a negative impact on the performance of the advert and who was likely to engage with it.

The results

One of the first campaigns we ran with the new headline, targeted key words, and through highlighting a segment of our EVP. Not only did we invite 22 candidates to interview. Only very few scored ‘0’ due to the applications not being relevant to the role. This is in contrast to previous rounds of recruitment where c.20 applications scored ‘0’ because of relevance.

Why is this so important? Because as an arms length body of the department of health, we score every single application and saving two to three panel members the time of having to assess and score c.20 applications is a big time saver.

It’s also good for getting positive hiring manager feedback 😉

So not only did they get better applicants overall due to the targeting, but we actually eliminated c.20 applications that last time were completely irrelevant.

This has since had a positive impact on all campaigns and we are now looking at ways to adjust and optimise future campaigns.


If you’re now thinking well this is all good and well, but your roles are niche and I can’t relate to your story and don’t think this approach is relevant me.

We took the same approach for our Digital recruitment campaign!

All the same research, Personas, etc…

I worked with our comms department to create images, information, video content to bring our employer brand to life. All done in-house with no external support, so cost effective. But more than that highly collaborative.

I believe that NICE has an incredible story to tell and that its people play a big role in that story. I want to open the curtains and lift the blinds to those people at NICE.

We used Vonq to target active candidates and to get our adverts across niche and specialist job boards. We also used social media and our own pages to also connect and engage with a wider audience.

They have also been able to significantly reduce the cost we’ve paid for the same advertising channels in the past. The digitalisation of the selection process has clearly made a significant impact here.

In 2018 we went out to vacancy two to three times for our digital vacancies and failed to fill any of the senior specialist roles, which included developers.

Through doing the research, creating the right content and selecting the most appropriate channels, we were able to increase views of our adverts on our digital campaign by over double and double the amount of applicants. But more importantly the quality of the applicants had significantly increased.

And finally we had offers for all roles and are now planning for our next campaign!


Three key elements to consider

  • Evidenced Based Recruitment
  • Content
  • Channels

Evidenced Based Recruitment

Data, information, evidence can be found down the back of the sofa, stuck in peoples heads, in spreadsheets, on social channels, sticky notes and a wide variety of other places.

Identify the key strategic areas you need to focus on and then go at it with all your might! All the disparate bits of information surprisingly can provide you with enough of the jigsaw puzzle to start to make some positive and impactful changes.


Don’t start creating content for contents sake!

Use the research to define what you say, how you say it and when you say it.

Bring your environment to life 😉


Select your channels carefully!

We used social media based on what the evidence told us. We targeted Technical Analysts with a mix of content on jobs, information and our people/environment.

For Our digital roles we just used social media for sharing content on our people.

Click IQ allowed us to use programmatic advertising broadly across multiple job boards to increase the general visibility of our jobs in a targeted way. We’ve implemented this across all NICE vacancies.

Vonq have digitalised our media buying for specialist, niche and highly targeted marketing channels.

Our website has also been a key platform to presenting and measuring the success of our content and campaigns.

Final thought

The reason why this process has worked is due to the time, consideration and focus to each stage. None of this would be possible without the jigsaw pieces of data and information that’s been translated to our evidence.

All the content and channels have been created and targeted on this basis.

If you think you haven’t got the time or inclination to do the research, because you’re too busy doing what you do!

Then my final thought is this:

The old ones are the best!

You May Also Like…

Share This