Wild, Crazy, and Bold Recruiting Allows You to Avoid The Competition

If you work in the conservative world of corporate or agency recruiting, it never hurts to occasionally take a quick look at the wild side of recruiting. Such a look is especially valuable if you’re looking for a competitive edge in recruiting (and who isn’t). You gain a competitive advantage when you place your recruiting messages where they will appear with few or no competitive messaging nearby. In fact, adopting a strategy of recruiting “boldly and differently” becomes a distinct competitive advantage because your firm is the exclusive user of offbeat recruiting approaches that conservative practitioners shy away from.

As an added benefit, the boldness of your recruiting approach might by itself actually serve as a signal to prospective applicants that your firm is dominated by innovation. And especially during slack time, it makes sense for strategic recruiters and recruiting leaders to pause and take a second look at all effective but less-frequently used recruiting approaches. Remember that even though the following listed “grow a pair” approaches are less frequently used, each one has still been effective.

The Top 10 Unusual, Bold and Outside-the-box Effective Recruiting Approaches That You Should Consider

In order to stimulate your thinking, the boldest and the most unusual approaches are listed first.

  1. Drive-by recruiting — this boldest of all recruiting approaches occurs in front of the facilities of your talent competitors. Displaying recruiting messages in front of and around a competitor’s facility allows each of their employees to see your recruiting message. One of the boldest approaches in my “Recruiting Hall of Fame” was implemented by Zscaler in the Silicon Valley. For a week it drove a minivan with a large “we are recruiting Bluecoat employees” sign on the side. In other bold cases: TokBox placed a “recruiting taco truck” literally in front of Yahoo’s headquarters that gave away tacos in exchange for a resume, and Tumblr recruited Google employees by giving away hot coffee to those waiting in line in San Francisco for their Google bus ride to work.
  2. “Get to know us” pop-up recruiting parties — when you’re moving into a new market, an unusual but effective way to meet potential recruits face to face is by throwing a one-day pop-up party. Edelman in the PR space and Shake Shack and Taco Bell in fast food have both sponsored these types of parties before store openings. These events are generally held at local venues where attendees are fed and provided with giveaway corporate-logoed swag. Firms generally start by advertising and creating a buzz on social media. Shake Shack ended up hiring an amazing 40 percent of the nearly 150 attendees at one event.
  3. Proximity recruiting, capturing prospects when they walk by — although it might initially sound weird and intrusive, another form of proximity recruiting uses the concept of “geofencing” around a particular targeted location. It is both powerful and relatively easy to do. Under this approach, recruiting messages are automatically sent to the mobile phones of individuals who physically enter the proximity of each targeted location. That location could be an industry conference, a competitor’s facility, or your own facility. This geofencing approach has been used to spread marketing messages for years. However, it has recently been adapted to recruiting by the U.S. military, C.R. England trucking, and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Geofencing is possible because it uses the information already stored in your mobile phone’s GPS system. It is especially effective when it comes to poaching from a competitor firm. And although you can do it on your own, there are fortunately vendors that can help you quickly set up an effective process.
  4. Using controversial lifestyle sites like Tinder to recruit — most recruiters use mainstream social media like LinkedIn or job-posting sites like Indeed to find candidates. Smart recruiters realize that most professionals, and especially usually those who are not actively seeking a job, spend little time on these types of sites. The types of controversial larger sites that they do spend a great deal of time on include dating, gaming oriented, conservative-leaning, and even marijuana-focused sites that are seldom used by queasy corporate recruiting leaders. Bold organizations like Amazon and Mychefit have successfully placed recruiting ads on Tinder. Siemens and the U.S. Air Force have used Tumblr, and the U.S. Secret Service has even placed recruiting ads on the controversial site Breitbart. The key to getting started is to first realize that firms need to recruit where your target non-active jobseekers spend their time. Next, realize that many in the next generation don’t see recruiting on controversial sites as damaging to a firm’s employer brand.
  5. Targeted radio ads and podcasts are effective and inexpensive — with a higher percentage of the population working, coupled with commute times getting steadily longer, now is the time to consider reaching a high volume of recruiting targets during their drive times when you have the undivided attention of at least the passengers. Targeted radio doesn’t usually mean placing ads on the most popular stations and shows. Instead, it means use radio to reach narrow niche groups, usually by placing ads on smaller stations and on specific shows that are frequently listened to by the demographic group that you are currently targeting. And with the growth of mobile phone usage, podcasts are also becoming great ways to reach targeted candidates either through the content that is covered or connected advertising. And because there are no visuals, setup costs for both radio and podcasts are low, and both can be put together rather quickly. A related approach to get the attention of commuters is to place recruitment advertising on electronic billboards along the highway, an approach recently used by RocketFuel.com.
  6. Use name-generation search firms to get you started — many of the large corporations and almost all of the smaller firms that I have advised struggle with sourcing industry professionals who are not actively seeking a job. But once they identify the names, these recruiters have no difficulty with the remaining phases of recruiting: making contact, assessing, and selling these prospects. So if being provided with just the names of individuals working in your job family at your targeted firms would kick start your recruiting, consider using search firms that offer unbundled services, including name-generation services. Firms like R.W. Stearns, Westport Intl, and The Perkins Group will for a fee provide you with a complete list of names, contact information, job titles, and brief bios. The concept is simple: if you excel at building relationships and convincing candidates, focus on that and let someone else who specializes in finding the names do the sourcing for you. One hospital even successfully offered referral bonuses to its employees who merely provided “just the names” of hot prospects.
  7. Recruitment ads placed during movie trailers — because watching movies at theaters is still popular, place recruitment ads before a movie. Southwest Airlines pioneered the process, but now trucking firms looking for drivers and others are now emulating the practice. The Archdiocese of New York even used a movie trailer had to attract potential priests. Recruitment ads during movie trailers are inexpensive and get the direct attention of both active and non-active job seekers. Their best feature is that they can be placed before targeted movies that are most likely to attract viewers who work in your industry.
  8. Snail mail delivered recruiting messages on paper — with the ever-growing volume of text and email messages that we all receive, electronic recruiting messages that appear to be spam are almost always ignored. And because of the focus on electronic messages, recruiting messages that are printed on paper and delivered by the Postal Service are actually quite unusual. And because they may be opened when your recruiting target is relaxing, there’s a good chance that they will actually be looked at and actually read. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service itself recruits potential applicants using printed materials. You can also recruit using messages printed on paper that are inserted in product packaging and via birthday/anniversary cards. Printing recruiting messages on the heat sleeves at a coffee shop adjacent to your competitor may also be a print-based idea worth another try. Handwritten and addressed personal message cards and notes are always among the most effective.
  9. Recruiting using cable TV ads — because of its wide reach and impact, the most common channel for product advertising has been broadcast TV. Historically lean recruiting budgets have limited the use of TV for recruitment. However that has all changed in recent years after major firms like Walmart, McDonald’s, Coors, and Koch have pioneered the use of both broadcast and cable TV ads for employer branding and recruiting. Because cable TV commercials use video, they have the added advantage of allowing the viewer to “see and feel” the passion associated with working at the company. Another advantage of TV ads is that they reach both active and non-active job seekers.
  10. Referral cards take advantage of face-to-face interactions — data from almost every source reveals that employee-referral programs routinely produce the highest volume and the highest-quality hires in corporate recruiting. Referrals are especially powerful in the retail and customer-service areas because your employees meet these people throughout their day. However, during times when many professionals no longer carry business cards, any interaction with an outstanding customer-service person can be improved from a recruiting perspective if the employee can hand them a referral card. For example, the card from Apple not very subtly says that this employee has just witnessed an outstanding job, and if the person is ever in job-search mode, Apple would be excited to consider them. Such a positive startling message and the fact that the card will likely be kept for a while make this a powerful recruiting approach. There’ll are also electronic referral cards that can be sent to individuals you meet online.

Final Thoughts

This article was designed to cause corporate recruiters who are always saying that they are looking for “outside-the-box approaches” to spend a few minutes thinking about unique but seldom-used recruiting approaches that some would consider to be wild and crazy. Using recruiting approaches that are not used by your competitors can provide you with a competitive advantage. Your message may be the only one that potential recruits will see on that medium. And since all of these approaches have worked before, do a pilot test to see if a particular one provides you with great candidates and a competitive advantage. And in the future, don’t be surprised when firms try recruiting in even more far out ways, including during videogame contests, at recruiting kiosks placed in retail and on campuses, using credit card information, and using online virtual reality videos. Using a unique but data-supported recruiting approach is innovative just by itself.

Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, follow or connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to the ERE Daily, and hear me and others speak at ERE’s April event in San Diego on “recruiting in a candidate-driven market.”

As seen on ERE Media on 12/18/2018.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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