Outrageous Recruiting Examples – Stretching Your Conservative Recruiting Boundaries

Recruiting is a risk-averse copycat function. However, to get creative prospects to notice you, having the courage to add boundary-stretching “outrageous recruiting” approaches is needed. Using even one will make your organization stand out.

Outrageous Recruiting Sends Both An Employer Brand And A Recruiting Message 

Few recruiting leaders will publicly admit it, but recruiting is a copycat function. Where every major firm in an industry “follows the leader” by consistently utilizing strikingly similar employee branding, recruiting, and sourcing approaches. This “copy the leader” approach can be self-defeating because you have to “do things differently” to stand out in any competition. Standing out is critical because, in our fast-changing business world, there is no more valuable talent than creative and innovative new hires. These new hires when faced with a significant problem, fortunately, can quickly pivot and then come up with creative and innovative solutions that immediately spur continued business growth.

However, you won’t be able to initially get the attention of this creative talent, unless the first thing that they see and experience is creativity in your recruiting process. Yes, those with crazy ideas will initially judge the risk-taking and innovation level of a company, based on the creativity, craziness and the risk-taking that they see in your recruiting approaches, tools, and channels. For example, Amazon AWS once placed a recruiting ad for engineers on the dating site Tinder. In part, to show that their organization was willing to experiment and take a risk on a non-recruiting focused channel that most cloud computing firms would never ever have the courage to try. Fortunately, it may only take one outrageous recruiting example to establish your image as a firm where risk-taking flourishes.

What Qualifies As An Outrageous Recruiting Approach?

Before you nod and mentally think that your organization already utilizes outrageous recruiting. Realize that whether a recruiting approach qualifies as “outrageous” can only be determined by your target audience. The first assessment criteria that creative types often use is that they think “WOW” when they see it or hear about an innovative recruiting approach. Next, if it qualifies, they immediately want to share it with their creative colleagues. Another criterion that creative types might use is “risk-taking” (i.e., most in HR would never sign off on that practice). Some creative prospects may also use creativity, innovativeness, and originality as recruitment approach assessment criteria.

Examples Of Outrageous Recruiting – How Does Your Organization Compare?

To make sure that we are all on the same page and that we fully understand what is included under the umbrella of “outrageous recruiting.” In the remainder of this section, I will highlight nine outrageous recruiting examples that will hopefully force you to realize that your current recruiting boundaries are too conservative. These examples may even spur you to try at least one new outrageous approach.

  • Taco Bell Uses TikTok To Recruit – TikTok is an increasingly popular dance/music site that allows individuals and firms to upload 15-second multimedia videos. This currently amazingly hot site is already being used for recruiting by Taco Bell, the British and US Army, and the German hospital Klinikum Dortmund.
  • The U.S. Army is using video games to attract – because so many young recruiting targets regularly play and love video games. The U.S. Army is utilizing a trailer full of video games that it locates at schools and malls as a recruiting tool. It also rented out a large esport arena near Denver for the latest release of the popular video game “Call of Duty.” Anyone who came to the release party was able to play the new game, as long as they also agreed to speak to army recruiters.
  • The British Army is using Kim Kardashian’s butt to show it builds lasting self-confidence – Yes, you read that title right. British Army chiefs are recruiting new soldiers with the help of Kim Kardashian’s bottom. The message is being supported with the use of a mock-up of the American TV star’s famous derriere (which has helped her to build an Instagram following of 154 million). Targeting those aged 18 to 24, this TV, billboard, and social media video campaign suggests to potential recruits that signing up to the military can provide not only exciting opportunities, challenges, and adventures. But the continuous rigorous training will also give the recruit a lasting level of self-confidence that would be hard to match in any other profession.
  • McDonald’s uses Alexa and a chatbot to spur applications – Many families now have an electronic personal assistant in their home. “Apply Thru” McDonald’s automated chatbot allows you to begin your job application using only your voice on Amazon’s Alexa. By simply stating “Alexa, help me get a job at McDonald’s” people in nine countries can start the process of applying to a job using the voice assistant. It is part of their effort to “reach people on their terms.”
  • The Australian Army uses drone racing as a recruiting tool – Flying drones is a popular hobby and a highly desirable skill in the modern army. So the Australian Army has created a team that participates in the annual drone championships with 14 other clubs. The competition with 90 of the fastest drone racers allows the Army to open a conversation with young people about the drone and gaming technology opportunities that now exist in the modern army. 
  • Ogilvy and Mather used a video contest to attract salespeople Ogilvy & Mather used this engaging approach to attract some of the most creative minds to one of the largest ad agencies in the world. It leveraged social media to find what it calls “the world’s greatest salesperson.” The company asked applicants to create a video of themselves selling a brick. With the promise that the best videos would be featured at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. The winner was also awarded a three-month fellowship.
  • Rocket Fuel posted a technical problem on its electronic billboard to attract engineers – Rocket Fuel created an electronic recruiting billboard along Silicon Valley’s main Highway that posts mentally challenging technical problems. The interesting, but technically challenging problem, attracts the attention of thousands of commuters who excel at solving problems. It builds the company’s brand, while also serving as a pre-qualifying technique that screens out those that are not interested or skilled enough to solve the problem. Potential applicants can often solve the problem by writing a bit of code. And when they are successful, the solution takes them to a special careers page where they can apply for a job. 
  • Caterpillar’s Global Operator Challenge uses a contest as a recruiting tool – The Cat Global Operator Challenge has operators competing in live operational challenges with heavy construction equipment to help recruit the next generation of operators. The contest helps raise awareness among potential recruits about how those with gaming skills can almost immediately successfully operate the new equipment. 
  • Cisco’s recruitment marketing video showcased their interest in individuality – Cisco’s “Be you, with us” video ad demonstrated the value of unique perspectives, individuality, and the freedom to exhibit them while working at Cisco. This social media recruitment marketing video showcased the individuality of some of its employees and affirmed they are seeking applicants who “don’t blend in” but stand out.

Outrageous Recruiting Is A Moving Target

Originality is a key factor in attracting creative types. Unfortunately, once many firms begin using an “outrageous channel” like Tinder, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitch, they can quickly lose their panache. To maintain your “bleeding edge” recruiting image, realize that you will need to continually monitor your talent competition and add new approaches and channels whenever you begin to fall behind. 

Final Thoughts

Even during a job market with a surplus of candidates, it makes sense to continue targeting the most creative and innovative prospects because of their tremendous business impacts. Once your senior executives understand that these prospects expect creativity and innovation to flourish throughout your organization, they will begin demanding a high level of risk-taking in your employer branding and recruiting processes. The goal is that these potential applicants quickly see and experience a high level of risk-taking in the first company process they fully engage with. Currently, outrageous recruiting areas that are likely to garner a great deal of attention include diversity recruiting, recruiting for “work from home” jobs, and videos that reveal that the company is making a difference. Candidates will also likely talk and share innovation in remote video interviews, assessing candidates using virtual reality, and all aspects of remote onboarding. Finally, realize that to be successful at outrageous recruiting, you may need to shift your recruiting idea approval process. Rather than rejecting recruiting approaches because they make HR and your lawyers nervous, instead, occasionally proactively override those concerns… and try an outrageous recruiting approach anyway.

Author’s Note: If you are willing to share other outrageous recruiting approaches, please post them in the LinkedIn comments section connected to this article. If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with at least one outrageous recruiting idea, please take a moment to follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn and subscribe to his weekly newsletter on Aggressive Recruiting.

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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