Billboards + Hiring: 4 Tips for HR Teams and Recruitment Marketers

“Signs, signs, everywhere a sign.” -- Five Man Electrical Band

When was the last time you called a number listed on a billboard? Never. Me neither. Yet, dotting highways across the country are billboards with phone numbers, QR codes, and too much information. 

With today’s ultra-competitive hiring and the uptick in road travel over last summer, many organizations are turning to billboards to drive job awareness. From Fortune 500 to small businesses, I’m amazed by the volume of hiring-related billboards and all the design faux pas. As someone who’s worked in recruitment marketing for more than 20 years, I’ve seen and created my fair share of recruitment billboards. So, here are a few top tips to consider before putting up your next one. 

1. Define the Purpose and Key Message 

One billboard shouldn’t communicate 10 messages. They are not meant to work that hard. In a recent conversation with a vice president of brand strategy for a major U.S. transportation company, he shared, “A billboard can’t be all things. Too much information can take away from the potential impact of the sign. You need to make something people will remember.” As you’re developing your next billboard ask yourself:

  • What do I want people to know? 
  • What do I want people to do?
  • What information do I need versus what is nice to have?

Now, say it in seven words or less. According to one of our former CMO clients and various media agencies, billboards should say what they need to in seven words or less. Why? Because short-term memory holds, on average, seven items.

2. Make Billboards Easy to Read and Safe for Drivers

This seems obvious, but countless billboards are hard to read. Off of I-78 in Pennsylvania, there is a light blue billboard with a thin yellow font. Try as I may, I simply cannot read it. That is money wasted. 

Advertisers have a limited amount of time (six seconds on average) to convey a message that is often far away. Therefore, when it comes to effective billboard design, you have to design with the driver (i.e. the candidate) in mind. (←Click to tweet!)

Keep the billboard message short so it’s easy to recall later. Use high contrast colors, and select an on-brand font that is readable from the road. And, as tempted as you may be to add the world’s largest QR code, refrain from including something that encourages people to use their phones while driving. 

3. Research Placement and Timing Options 

If possible, scout the area to understand the physical landscape and billboard possibilities. Are there digital billboards or solely traditional? How close or far from the road do the billboards sit? Is there good visibility or is the view obstructed? 

Billboards drive awareness. Selecting billboard placements near office locations can give people a sense of where they could work. They are also great for wayfaring. It’s likely you’ll want to consider more than one billboard as part of your recruitment marketing campaign. Using your people insights data, determine the typical commute time and select billboard placements in commuter proximity. 

Billboards take time. People need to see them more than once or twice. They do not work as an immediate direct response tool. The takeaway here is, when it comes to billboards, thoughtful advance planning is best. 

4. Reinforce Billboards With Other Media 

When it comes to marketing, studies indicate people need to receive a message seven times before it sticks. This is one reason why billboards work well when coupled with additional media such as social or radio. Visibility, repetition, and multiple interactions aid recall. Now, not only are people driving by your message at 70 miles per hour, they are seeing or hearing it across other channels where they consume content. These channels become great opportunities to share messages left on the billboard cutting room floor. 

Depending on the market and running time, billboards can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. And, honestly, it’s hard to measure the return on investment. 

Some organizations include unique vanity URLs on billboards, add “billboard” as an option to the ATS referral source list, or ask applicants if they saw the billboard during the pre-screen interview. If you’re new to billboard recruitment marketing, consider piloting the awareness campaign in a key market to test, measure, and refine your approach before lining all of your local highways.  

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