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Riding the Recruiting Pony Express

Here we go on the next step of our journey though the evaluation of the dynamics of different mediums used in recruitment.  If you are mentally outlining where we have been:  The maximization of your human system is a competitive advantage that you are the architect for.  Within that human system, strategic recruitment is the foundation.  We have explored the model of Recruiting is Marketing and have been through the defining of your target market, the framing of the message to send to that market, and are now deep into the different medium options you have to get your message to your market.  (Hard to believe this is issue #14 in that series)

First, a general note about mediums:  You have to be in a state of continual evaluation.  One paradox that exist with mediums:  when a medium is “hot” or proves to be successful and enough other people duplicate that effort, the medium becomes diluted and less effective.  This is true of the medium we are going to explore today, direct mail.

Direct mail is a medium that I feel is very underutilized.  By its very description one should gravitate to this more.  This is not a medium that can be used for every role and level of the organization effectively.  So instead of waiting to make the distinction later, I am going to segment out the groups that direct mail will work for and those it won’t, making the rest of this analysis more meaningful.  Nurses, therapists, pharmacists, other credentialed professionals and to a degree, management and executives.  Entry-level and “unskilled” workers such as maintenance, food services, central supply, clerical, billing office, etc. are examples of job families that are not well suited for direct mail recruitment.  (Now don’t anyone get offended by the use of the word “unskilled”.  It is only meant for descriptive, not value, purposes.)

As a general rule, if you can get a list of individuals, you can participate in a direct recruitment program.

There has been no better example of the successful use of direct mail than in the physician recruitment industry.  This has been the singular most effective candidate generation method for physician recruitment firms.  Thus, physicians do get a tremendous amount of recruitment mail.  Needless to say, there are a lot of trees that are giving their lives to be quickly recycled into the “round file.”  However, they still crank out the direct mail pieces.   There are many physician search firms that crank out over 50,000 direct mail pieces per month.



  • Postcards:  The smallest and most simplistic form as well as the cheapest.  This is just a postcard with a small message to inform people that you have an opportunity and some of the choicest “sizzle” points.  This is a limited message and does not allow you to hit a “broad psychology”.


Aside:  “Broad psychology.”  What I mean by this is the awareness that people make career choices/changes for a number of different reasons.  When you have a longer, more multi-facetted message, you have an opportunity to address more of those choice factors, increasing the chances you can hit a candidate’s hot button.

  •   Letters:  There are several ways to do a letter.  It can be totally preprinted, it can be personalized using mail merge programs.  You can do one or multiple pages.  You can put a response tear-off at the bottom of a letter and include a self addressed reply envelope.



There are several sources for lists and different formats you can get lists in.  You can get self-adhesive mailing labels or you can get the information electronically.   Given you have the IQ to read this, you understand the dynamics of labels.  In electronic form, you have the ability to use the database and make your direct mail pieces personalized.  You can either print labels or use a window envelope in which their address printed on the letter shows through.  If you print labels, be sure you get the right label matched with the right envelope.  (Don’t think I think you are stupid to mention this, but when you send a 5,000 piece mail-out, it is easy to have some mix ups.)



The following are the main three sources of direct mail lists.  They are going to differ in quality as well as cost and format.  You should expect to pay anywhere from $.10 to $.25 per name.  (Most will have a minimum and will make additional charges for more detailed and sorted lists.)  Sometimes quality is a pricing factor, but don’t assume that the price of the list has any correlation to the quality or integrity of the information.

  • Professional list companies

    • In order to compile and sell lists as a main business offering, one would make the assumption that these sources are the most qualitative.  These groups are most active in keeping databases with multiple sets of information.  These groups are typically better at sorting out more specific subgroups within a broader list.

    • Always compare lists between multiple vendors prior to purchase.  You want to know;

      • How they compile lists?

      • How often is the list updated?

      • In what ways are they capable of sorting the information?

      • What are the minimums?

      • What are the incremental costs for more specific sourcing?

  • State licensing organizations

    • For individuals such as therapists, nurses, pharmacists, etc., when you have to carry current licensure to practice a profession, there are governing bodies that have the best records of these people.  However, not all are set up or feel it right to market these lists.

    • These are key sources of information for those that actually sell and broker these lists. (see above comments.)

  • Professional organizations

    • Understand that membership is optional and because of this, you will get more “active” people, but not a comprehensive listing.   Look at ASHHRA. If you were to buy a mailing list from ASHHRA, you would not get all 5000+ hospital HR leaders, they don’t all belong.  However, there may be many SHRM members, in a hospital sub-category, that are not ASHHRA members.  (I don’t know about the specifics of this, it is a hypothetical example). Thus, you could buy both the ASHHRA list and the SHRM sub-list, merge the two, take out the duplicates and send a more comprehensive mailing list.  This could be done with any mix of list sources that you use in electronic format.

  • Your own databases.  Depending on the role dynamics (specifically, staff that you have multiple groups of and needs for) you should be keeping a very active database of potential candidates.  All those that send you resumes when you don’t have openings, ex-employees, all those you see at a training program, those that visit your booth at a job fair, etc.  You had a cost to get that information, use it.


Who does it?

Just as with any medium, you can choose to do this internally, or outsource part or all of this. 

Forgive me for not continuing with all of the tangible specifics of direct mail.  This wasn’t meant to evolve into a “how to” of direct mail.  I will dedicate a future issue of The Human System to more of the do’s and don’ts of direct mail.  At this point, the purpose is to explore and evaluate the dynamics of the medium.

  Ok, into our standard “dynamics evaluation” that we have used for each medium:

·          Direct vs. Indirect:  This is a very direct method of recruitment.  It gets in the hands of all potential candidates (active, passive, non-active).  It doesn’t require they take any action to find out about the opportunity; you take it to them.  This is broader than the personal referral networking; it reaches more people faster and doesn’t depend or is not limited to the people your people know.

·         How long does it last?  Get out your stopwatch, this could last all of about 2 seconds for those that get it, see it, and send it on the “double back flip with a half twist” into the trash.  Most will do this with it.  But remember, you are looking for about a 1% response or less.  Thus, for some, they may put it aside to explore your website later, they may pick up the phone and call you immediately.  Another dynamic of this, as is true with other mediums, is the fact that you are branding, building a marketing presence and impression with people.  It may be that this one gets the jump shot to the round file, but the next time they have seen you, had a good impression, and their circumstances may have changed.  How long it lasts is variable.

·         What is the cost of this medium?   Depending on the postcard vs. letter options, your cost will vary.  All are going to have the cost of name acquisition, printing, and postage.  How elaborate is your mail piece?  Did you have a marketing firm create it?  Are you outsourcing it or using your people’s time? Figure you will spend a range of $.50 to $2.00 per piece.  REMEMBER:  COST vs. INVESTMENT.  I know I keep hammering this, but there is such a waste of resources that end up being costs when they could be an investment if done right.  Thus, I won’t give you the oration today, just remember:  “less may end up being more”.  You may spend less, but if it yields you nothing, you have wasted it all and will end up spending more some other way.

·         Accountability: This is another form of advertising in this regard.  You have no accountability.  Understand that, but take comfort that you are being strategic, targeted, and direct with this effort. 

·         What should your expectation of this medium be?  You should expect approximately a ½ to 1% response rate on average.  Size of the mailer does not automatically increase success at a proportionate rate.  For example, if you are in Michigan and send a 5,000-piece direct mail campaign to all of the pharmacists in a 5 state regional area and then double that amount and send an additional 5,000 to Georgia and Florida should you expect double the response rate?  Demographics don’t play in your favor.  So be careful of the bigger is better ideology.  I am a big proponent of quality vs. quantity.  This has proven to be true. Your geography and market dynamics will make a tremendous difference in the response.  Supply and demand of the skill set will have an effect.  For example, 5 years ago vs. today, what do you think your response rate for a physical therapist mailer would be?  Those dynamics have changed. 

Direct email.  I have not separated this here, but understand the same dynamics all apply.  The difference is that smaller subsets of potential people are going to have access to email.  I know this is growing everyday, but with the growth of the personal computer market and email marketing, people are getting more reluctant to offer email addresses.  They don’t want the unsolicited marketing.  However, this is much cheaper and lends itself to a much more dynamic message.  (Again, more about all of that down the road.)

We will address this topic again in the future and give some more working dynamics and resources for successful direct mail programs.

Choose to make it a great day!


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