Recruiting: Does it Need a New Home? How About Over in Marketing?

In a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 1,250 company leaders from 60 countries have made it official: recruiting key talent is priority No. 1 for CEOs. Yes, CEOs say there is a big threat to business growth by not having the right talent in place.

At the same time, we have all heard ad nauseum that HR needs to become more strategic and less tactical. Since Recruiting reports to HR, this criticism applies to them as well. It’s a case of guilt by association.

Let’s face it: It’s always seemed like Recruiting was sort of tossed into the HR function because no one knew what else to do with it. Employment yes – having it report into HR makes sense. You know, filling reqs for those positions that are relatively easy to find.

But true strategic recruiting? No — it has just never “clicked” in HR.

I want to talk about how we might “save” Recruiting — the strategic kind — by transferring it to another department that is more closely aligned with it. The transfer I propose would strengthen Recruiting’s ability to take on a more strategic role. This is important because of the new attention it’s getting from CEOs.

Here’s a thought: What about a home in Marketing?

I believe that Recruiting should report to Marketing. Here is why I say this. Recruiting and Marketing are both outwardly focused, concentrate on the future, share a common vision for the business and have very similar responsibilities, albeit with different populations — Marketing with customers and Recruiting with candidates.

Yes, there are some differences between the two, but let’s look at the similarities:

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  • Market intelligence — In Marketing, this focuses on providing the company with information to understand what is happening in the marketplace, what the issues are, what competitors are doing, and what market potential exists. For Recruiting, this involves researching supply and demand in all company locations; competitor companies in terms of who they hire from, who they lose people to and who their competitors’ key employees are.
  • Branding — Marketing builds an image/brand of the company’s products/services that is essential for product success. The branding process is about creating specific, positive mental and emotional associations to these products/services. Branding is also important to Recruiting. A strong employment brand enables the company to attract potential employees. Getting people to view the company as a great place to work is what employment branding is all about.
  • Communications — Tailoring messages to different types of customer groups and leveraging different communication channels is something that Marketing does well. Recruiting needs to do the same. Using some of Marketing’s communication methods would help them create material for the company website, job sites, social media — any place communication is used in recruiting efforts.
  • Segmentation — Market segmentation involves dividing the broad market into groups of individual markets. It is about understanding each individual market’s wants or needs and how they make buying decisions. If done properly this helps to insure the highest return for marketing/sales expenditures. For Recruiting it means segmenting jobs between difficult and those relatively easy to fill. It takes more time and effort to source and recruit people for jobs that are key and have critical skills. For example:
    • Recruiting: Reporting into Marketing. Requires high-end skills in sourcing candidates. This function is responsible for finding candidates with very specialized skills.
    • Employment: Reporting into HR. Responsible for hiring for jobs which require skills that are relatively easy to find and where there are typically a lot of candidates. The job is mostly administrative — no special sourcing skills are necessary.
  • Differentiation — Marketing differentiation is the way to make a company’s products/services more desirable than similar products/services of its competitors. Marketing looks for ways to differentiate – to make products/services “stand out” and be noticed. It is the heart of competition. For Recruiting, differentiation means making the company “stand out” to candidates and making it look like a more desirable place to work than its competitors.

Let’s face it. HR has always been risk averse — both for legal reasons as well as the mentality of needing to “follow the pack.” Differentiation for Recruiting, like Marketing, is the heart of competition.

Making Recruiting truly strategic

By placing Recruiting under Marketing, I believe it would strengthen its ability to become truly strategic. There is also an opportunity for synergy between the two in a way that would not occur if Recruiting continued to report to HR.

The combination of these two functions is a real “natural” to me. Picture the swan finding a home with other swans. Works better than the swan trying to look like a duck with the other ducks in HR.

What do you think? Does it make sense to you?

Jacque Vilet, president of Vilet International, has more than 20 years’ experience in international human resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor, and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. She has also been a speaker in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications. Contact her at


8 Comments on “Recruiting: Does it Need a New Home? How About Over in Marketing?

  1. I’ve always thought that recruiting should be taken out of HR. I find that the marketing department can find much more qualified and unique candidates. Let HR stick to the administrative work, and leave it to marketing to find the truly outstanding and unparallelled candidates. As the Marketing Coordinator for a Human Resources Outsourcing company, I believe that this article carries very valid and crucial pointers for improving HR. Thanks!

  2. Oh please. Nothing new stated here beyond the usual lets come up with a supposed new idea and move something from HR to a group that can do things better. Great recruitment is everyone’s role, and clearly great marketing is a key component. But from where I sit, as a Head of People in the high tech space (and from prior experience in other industries), you give way too much credit to the marketing function as driver of business process. I am more apt to have recruitment run as a stand along function if you asked me. Clearly you must come in contact with some poor HR functions (which I realize is not uncommon). Beyond cool videos, free snacks, and the latest social media buzz, it is the authenticity of the culture, the way a company is lead, the values it stands for and the meaning derived through the workplace that people care about. Coolness is not a sustainable business practice, and buzz has a limited shelf life. As for CEO perspective on talent is number 1 issue. That has always been the issue.

    1. Totally agree with you Steve…I work in Recruiting for a software company and worked as an HR Partner for a software company in my last role. It is unfortunate people are still out of touch with the direction the HR Profession is driving companies… I have to beleive it is because they have not experienced it in their own company, which is also unfortunate but it depends on your leadership and your culture. We are not administrative and we have a seat at the executive table just like Marketing. Our Recruiting team is phenomenal and most of our roles are filled by our team sourcing talent or our employees referring top talent! We are also lucky to have our own team member in HR that focuses on our employment brand and culture. Our Marketing team is phenomenal at what they do as well, but I am sure they would agree that Recruiting belongs in HR. Would also love to hear what is considered an easy job to fill…no such role in the Tech industry.

      1. Theresa and Steve, I agree with you. I think folks should stop trying to figure out where Recruiting should go and focus on the employee promise and deliver it accordingly! Also, what does the author mean that nobody knew where to put Recruiting so they threw into HR? Hasn’t it always been in HR? Most employees equate Recruiting with HR. When I worked in employee relations and told friends I worked in HR, they always asked me if I was a recruiter.

        1. The reason why HR typically can’t “…stop trying to figure out where Recruiting should go and focus on the employee promise and deliver it accordingly!” is because HR is a function of the Legal Dept, which has no vision for “the employee promise”. Instead, HR tends to be focused on “Risk Management”.

      2. In most companies, HR is a function of the Legal Dept. The larger HR team does not understand the role Talent Acquisition typically. To me, I agree with this article – TA is a function of Marketing. It is outbound, customer focused and needs to function in that fashion. Far from robbing the employee experience, it frees the TA team to become fully focused on the new employee as a functional customer, rather than as a unit of legal concern. HR has continually become more and more focused on the Law and less on the new employee for more than a decade.

  3. Dear Jacque,

    isn’t this an old paradigm discussion? Why are we still thinking in terms of the tradtional functional silos? I believe that this functional split is based on types of organisations that are fading out. We are in the transition to a new sustainable information era. Network organisations are part of this. In this type of agile organisations competencies of all involved are crucial to get things done. Who is responsible? That all depends on who is best positioned and “equipped” to ensure that the promise to the customer is kept.

    I agree that HR and Marketing are growing towards each other. HR is about talent acquisition and engagement and Marketing is about customer acquisition and engagement. Both depend more and more on social media.
    Time will learn how it will all work out. There is a great change that HR in the traditional form will become HR being Hardly Relevant. In order to become and stay more, Highly Relevant than ever, integration with IT and Marketing is a development that won’t stop.
    Best regards,
    Alexander Crépin

  4. While recruiting IS marketing, I’m not sure it should be moved to marketing, because the essence is too different and merits its own attention and goals. That said, at Zao we help companies manage their referrals and there are many similarities between effective recruiting and good marketing campaigns – more info at

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