Interview by:

Employment Brand as a discipline is a (relatively) new discipline/ career path within corporate recruitment. The reporting structures, and skills needed, are necessarily a work in progress. One tactic that a number of forward-leaning recruitment leaders are taking is to look for talent which comes up from the corporate and/ or consumer-marketing side and has the ability to “learn” recruiting/ TA and how best to showcase the employment brand. Which makes sense - you don’t need to have been a pilot to know how to market JetBlue. But knowing how to market? Yeah. That matters.

Enter Kerry Noone, who leads brand/ marketing for CVS Health’s fairly intense hiring. She brings a traditional marketing background and business savvy to help the brand stay fresh, effective, and competitive in a very tight hiring market.

After completing her MA in Publication Design just as this little thing called “the internet” was taking off, she started off in print for onsite events. Her eye for design carried her into a management role and then into directing membership for a non-profit military association. That gave her a taste for recruitment. When Sodexo came calling, she took the call - they were looking for someone who could bring marketing discipline and an eye for design to their hiring efforts. The web had definitely matured. She worked on Sodexo’s social sites and, along with a brilliant, award-winning team of talent acquisition experts, created an organization that was one of the dominant influencers of how best to do recruitment marketing.

“We were at the very beginning of using social to recruit. I remember the first time someone asked us if we were a bot - they couldn’t believe we were real people. Loved that.”

After Sodexo, she took a step away from recruitment marketing, but - like many of us who discover recruiting - once bitten, it’s hard to let go. Amtrak was looking for help with its employment brand & marketing. While there, she launched their first employer brand strategy & EVP, while also boosting site traffic and email subscribers by large amounts. (Forgive this dad joke): you could say she got things back on track… (seriously: I really am sorry).

In her role at CVS Health, Kerry is charged with leading the brand and marketing of one of the most visible consumer brands in the US. Her role grew in complexity with the announcement that CVS Health would be acquiring Aetna. She has transformed their EVP, technology strategy, and helped guide her team through the complexities of a massive and visible merger.

Despite these “minor” accomplishments, Kerry has very much kept her head. When asked what she loves about her role, it’s about helping:

“Just guiding people through the process matters. I care about their experience. When I have an opportunity to guide someone who’s engaging with us or asking for advice, I feel like I've made a difference. We also use tools for engagement that create a positive experience for the candidate, but the personal, human interaction is what I like most. That’s the right thing to do.”

Her philosophy is that they are there to serve, both the candidate as well as their internal clients. “There are probably different ways you can pivot, I feel, with my role at CVS Health. Each time we launch a new advertising strategy, we have an opportunity to be better than we were the last time. We always need to be moving forward in the right direction, but there are times the business wants something different.  In some locations, for example, our hiring leaders may tell us church flyers are a good way to reach candidates. It's not as easy to track the ROI of a print ad; you lose attribution. We rely on data to guide our advertising decisions, but we have to be willing to try new things, and we always have to be flexible. We may be reluctant to spend money on non-digital advertising options, but ultimately we support our internal client's needs."


What question do your executives ask you the most?

“What are we going to get for this investment?” We get this question most often when we are launching a new advertising strategy, and we report on the metrics of our campaigns weekly.

What is the most important quality/skill you look for when hiring a new recruiter for your team?

We just hired a contract person, so this is timely. We talked to several excellent candidates, each with unique strengths. We had our career site audited for SEO and functionality, so I needed someone to lead and SEO optimization project in 2020. We also needed someone to manage our social media content calendar. It came down to how to balance the team and who would be the best fit. It helps to be a hybrid marketing person, someone who can bring their bucket of expertise, but can pivot and back up team members if someone’s on vacation, the workload is intense, etc. That’s what I love about my team - we all have an area of comfort or expertise, but we can and do pivot as needed.

What do you wish vendors understood before they contact you?

The biggest misconception is that we have a big budget - we don’t. Everyone operates within a budget, and coming in on or under budget is a performance goal for us each year. I always warn new vendors our procurement process can take time, and they need to be okay with that. In terms of connecting, I think relationship building is most important to me. I’ve spent time building relationships with a couple of vendors over the years, and then once the deal is signed, I never heard from them again. That’s not a good move.

What industry blogs and publications do you find most valuable?

I like Harvard Business Review, but there are a few recruitment marketing Facebook or LinkedIn groups that are my go-to. Most of the members are experts in recruitment marketing, employer branding, or HR Tech. When they post content, news, or opinions, I pay attention. I've recently started to listen to podcasts too.

What do you think is the biggest threat facing the talent acquisition industry today?

The job market and competition for talent make me nervous. Candidate experience continues to be a priority too. We get nearly 3 million applications each year but only hire about 130,000 people. How can we make the end to end candidate experience better is a question we ask ourselves all the time.  

Where do you see the talent acquisition industry in 5 years?  

In some ways, it hasn’t changed that much since I got into this space in 2007. In 2007, I had never heard of recruitment marketing. In 2020, most companies not only have this type of role, but they also have a recruitment marketing team. I also have witnessed a delineation of roles and responsibilities between recruitment advertising and employer branding.

If your talent acquisition budget doubled tomorrow, how would you spend the additional funds?

  1. Optimized job descriptions (soup to nuts) from audit to clean up on existing job descriptions to training the recruiters to make sure these are always optimized.
  2. Quarterly employee photo and video shoot days so we never have to hunt, beg, borrow, or steal photos for our career site, advertising, and social media.
  3. Team travel – we work remotely and have never all been in one place at a time. I do my best to keep the team engaged, but, remotely, it can be tough. I also would like for us all to be able to attend an industry conference together.
  4. Headcount – ideally, we would have at least one more on our team who would be a content strategist – always finding and developing and promoting colleague stories.
  5. Sourcing tools for the TA team so we can be more efficient with our budgets and rely less on paid or sponsored job boards.

What is the most difficult role your team is recruiting for right now?

Pharmacy Technician is a role we are always hiring for, and in some markets, it is near impossible to find enough people to fill the role. We hire retail pharmacy technicians as well as for specialty and long-term care. In some markets, we're competing against ourselves with advertising and license requirements vary from state to state. It's a stable career for the person who wants to be in the health care industry but may not want to pursue a 4-year or advanced degree, and it has been a career stepping stone for people who have later become pharmacists.  

How do you stay sane/ maintain balance?  

I work from home, so I would say I don’t struggle with balance. It also helps that I like the people that I work with, and we work hard to make sure we support each other as much as possible. I have a services document for all of the work we do for TA. In this document, we clearly define cost, primary and secondary contact person, turn around, and next steps to submit a request. This process we have in place on my team helps a great deal to maintain sanity.