No: A Recruitment Marketing Strategy

“No,” seems like a pretty simple word. It’s used in phrases like “no means no” to explain just how simple and obvious the answers are. Yet, no has become an ugly word in our society. No one wants to say no anymore.

Actually I’m sure there are plenty of times where we want to say no. The reality is that we don’t. We say yes to one more carpool or cookout thinking “oh it’s fine” as the begrudging feeling grows and we feel the pressure of too much yes build like a ticking time bomb. At work, it’s worse. We say yes to shifts, to late nights and “stretch projects.” We say yes to “almost good” promotions and “almost good enough” raises, often lacking the courage to put our foot down and say “no.”

But there’s a place for no.

We hesitate to say no when it comes to recruiting. Let’s start with a traditional careers site and job description. All of the content is focused on why it’s a great place. Why this job is better than another job. What makes us wonderful. Then you go to the interview. If the recruiter thinks you’re great, they go on and on about how great the job is. The same happens in person.

If they don’t move you on, what happens?

Nothing. That’s right. Most recruitment marketing is all rose colored glasses and we wonder why people don’t fit when they show up on day 1. Why retention becomes a moving target. Why people aren’t happy at work. With that said, I’m starting to believe that using no as a recruitment marketing element is a better idea than ever.

Don’t be negative (in recruitment marketing) they said.

I can almost hear the optimist’s cries now.

Look, if you want to stand out in this market – you have to do something completely different.

No is not an ugly word. In fact, no is a tool of trust if you use it the right way. If you share it as a matter of expertise, trust is the ultimate recruiting strategy. Plus, it plays into a psychological element to tell someone why not. It’s a way to build appeal and drive interest for certain, driven personalities.

Here’s where I’ve seen “No” Recruitment Marketing content at it’s best:

  • A video about what would make you a bad culture fit
    • Why It’s Great: It came from the CEO and was used as an interstitial page between “Apply Now” and the first step of the application. Telling someone after they apply isn’t a great idea but having this inspirational message before helped them drive quality in their online applications.
  • Instead of requirements, say “don’t apply if…”
    • Why It’s Great: Write the rules and make them specific. Tell people your (real) bottom line instead of listing a bunch of “nice to haves” that may lead your best candidates to disqualify themselves.
  • Gamification: win/lose scenarios, “bet you can’t
    • Why It’s Great: I pity you if you never had the chance to use this on a younger sibling or cousin. Works every time because you’re challenging their ego. If you’re looking for that – this is a great way to capture their attention.

recruiting Recruitment Marketing Advice

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Katrina, I couldn’t agree more. Being able to say No in work (and life) is important, powerful, honest, brave and in way too short supply. And yeah, I’ve used the “bet you can’t” too (with five younger siblings). Great post!

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