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

Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for,, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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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