The quiet streets. The friendly faces. The fresh country air. Rural areas can feel a world away from the hustle, bustle, modernity, and anonymity of the city, which makes them an entirely unique challenge for a former urban recruiter who may need to fill a number of rural roles.
The greatest challenge for the recruiter is the fact that rural areas have an extremely limited supply of talent. Unlike urban areas, where you can and get a good number of candidates by doing nothing more than posting a job ad, you may need to get a bit more creative in the country.
Happily there are a wealth of ways to do just that.
Let’s take a look at 15 of the most effective ways to recruit in rural areas: the techniques that will ensure you and your job openings get in front of as many relevant eyes as possible.
While traditional, old-school, and ‘analog’ forms of marketing may almost be a thing of the past in the city, they still have their place, particularly in the world of rural recruiting.
1. Notices in the window: The windows of the local supermarket, hardware store, and gas station continue to serve as the proxy bulletin boards of rural communities, and as soon as one eye is caught, word tends to spread fast. If you can get permission to post your job notices there, you’ll be surprised at how many candidates might come forward.
2. Food flyers: Get local pizza shops, grocery stores, and other food delivery services to include your flyer with their meal deliveries. This method has been all the more effective during COVID, when food delivery numbers have gone through the roof. So effective is this method that some rural recruiters say they get up to 40% of their candidates this way!
3. Yard signs: Far from just a method to announce your political allegiance, placing yard signs in strategic locations can get your firm and opportunity out there. Again, one view can set off a chain reaction of phone calls and recommendations within the community.
4. Billboard advertising: Again, a somewhat old-fashioned form of urban marketing (unless you’re a lawyer) is still very much alive and effective in rural areas. A country billboard ad can be incredibly affordable – you might be shocked at exactly how cheap it is – and, like a yard sign, it can also be very effective.
5. Cardstock coasters: An effective and creative way to get the word out pre-COVID, and eventually post-COVID, giving stacks of branded cardstock coasters to bars and restaurants can make you a point of conversation on evenings and weekends. Bar owners also love them, as it’s a way to help their local community find work, rather than simply giving free advertising to whichever brewery supplied the last batch of coasters.
6. COVID testing centers: If the bars are closed due to COVID, simply move your marketing to where people actually are: the local testing center! Get permission from the local authority to post a flyer at the sign-up table. Again, by selling this as an opportunity for the testing center to help its community by granting access to jobs, they’ll likely be more than willing.
Physical advertising aside, there are a wealth of other marketing methods that can prove effective in rural areas, including:
7. Radio spots: Does your rural area have its own radio station? In some communities this form of advertising can be as effective and targeted as a social media campaign, as everybody seems to listen! You’ll also once again be surprised at how affordable a few keys slots can be.
8. Video tours: If a picture tells a thousand words, video tells 25,000 every second, or so the thinking goes. Film a video tour of the role/company you’re hiring for, and post it on social media. Community Facebook groups in particular can be a great way to share the opportunity, so post your video there.
9. Facebook: Speaking of Facebook, it’s as present in rural areas as it is in the city, so make good use of targeted posts and ads in your rural market. These campaigns tend to see far higher levels of engagement in rural areas, where job opportunities don’t grow on trees. The Facebook Job Search feature can also prove effective, particularly for entry-level and light industrial positions.
10. Leverage local government: It is in the best interests of local government to grant its residents access to positions, so most will be more than happy to post your role/s as a ‘job alert’ on their website.
The final piece of the rural recruiting puzzle is one that demands feet on the ground. Close-knit rural communities are far more welcoming to recruiting firms who commit to shaking hands and making fans, so networking is arguably your most valuable form of marketing.
11. Local unemployment offices: The most obvious place to start your tour is where you’ll find those most receptive to a job opportunity: the unemployment office. Get the office to share details of both the job and your firm with jobseekers.
12. Mayor/Town Manager: Who is the head honcho of local government, or the one whose remit includes employment? Find out and ask for their help, as they may be able to get the word out more effectively than you. Who knows, perhaps they offer some form of subsidy or financial aid to those who bring jobs to the community!
13. Local employers: While this initially might seem to be a conflict of interest, it’s a smart move. By partnering with local employers outside of your actual client/s, you can negotiate a deal where they refer people they can’t hire to you. If you structure it right, it’ll be a win for the employer, a win for the worker, and a win for you!
14. Local nonprofits: Without skin in the employment game, nonprofits can help you to generate fantastic visibility for your opportunity. Contact those who might be able to help and get them to spread the word.
15. An eye-catching event: Hold an event in the community that sells your opportunity. Rent out the local gym or community center, give your event a catchy name like ‘[Location] JobFest 2021’, and offer food and drink to bring the locals in. Consider teaming up with a volunteer fire department to bring a local flavor to the day.
The challenge of rural recruiting is an entirely unique one. As such it demands a few unique strategies to be a success.
By combining any or all of the above, you’ll be far more likely to fill those rural roles, helping you, your client, and the community in the process.