14 Outrageous Recruiting Approaches: Try One, You Might Like It!

Let’s face it, recruiters are a conservative lot. When it comes to selecting tools and strategies, they rely primarily on the tried-and-true conservative approach. During my many conversations with companies, salespeople, and especially executive recruiters, I have found that there are many exceptional recruiting and selling practices that are currently used by only a select few recruiters?? but that would be worth considering if you are looking to fire up your recruiting. Except for a few of my colleagues in executive search, I am one of the biggest advocates of creativity and aggressiveness in recruiting. The 14 approaches described below can easily be classified as both creative and aggressive (if you have others to add to the list, send them to me at [email protected]). I highlight these “outrageous” recruiting practices here not because I expect all recruiters to utilize them, but because they can at least serve as a gentle shove or wake-up call to show that many recruiters may have become too conservative over time. 14 Outrageous Recruiting Approaches

  1. Call the spouse and recruit the kids. Because families have a significant amount of input into a candidate’s decision, send flowers, T-shirts and small gifts to the home in order to differentiate yourself and your company. Provide information on any superior benefits your firm might offer to families, domestic partners, or spouses.
  2.  Benchmark to recruit. Call the top firms (or piggyback on others at your firm that are actively benchmarking) to benchmark their best practices, then use that benchmarking process to identify and build relationships with potential recruiting targets.
  3. “Magnet hire” recruiting. Identify superstars within your industry and target them for hiring. Use these top performers as a magnet to draw others to your firm. Hire them to send a message that things have changed at your firm, and that the very best now see it as a great place to work.
  4. Banner in the parking lot. With so many firms in trouble, now is a great time to recruit away top talent. Set up a recruiting van across the street from a competitor or visit watering holes across the street from the facility. Don’t rub in the fact that your competitor may have hit hard times, just provide information on other opportunities.
  5. Snowstorm recruiting. If your facility is located in a good weather area, track the weather in other states and place recruiting ads during and immediately after particularly bad storms.
  6. First-day-hire bounty. Ask new hires on their first day who else is good at their previous firm. Provide a cash incentive, or “bounty,” if the targeted person is recruited within 90 days. Where appropriate, ask the new hire to assist in the recruiting process.
  7. Promoted announcements. Track press releases, newspaper announcements, and newsletters that announce who is promoted at rival firms. Target those individuals who were not promoted right away and revisit those who were promoted after two years to see if they might now be willing to move on.
  8. Beginning-of-the-year hire targets. Rather than posting a job and waiting for whoever might be available to come to you, instead begin the year by identifying the people in your industry who your senior managers would really like to hire during that year. Use the list to build relationships with those candidates and focus at least half of your recruiting efforts on hiring them sometime during the year.
  9. Hire to hurt. Identify key individuals at your competitors who, if they were “hired away,” would significantly hurt your competitor. Look at competitors as you would a sports team with no backups in crucial positions. Be sure to exclude people who are easily replaceable in the marketplace or who have a strong “second” that can easily step in. Ask your current employees who used to work at the firm to help you identify these key individuals.
  10. Interview to steal ideas. Use interviews as competitive intelligence tools. Include individuals from every key competitor in your interview process?? both to recruit them and to identify how they and their firm would attack your problems.
  11. Give me five. Most referral programs are passive and rely on employees to come forward with referrals. Instead, approach top performers, mentors, and experts directly and ask them to name the top five individuals they know in other corporations. Use these names as recruiting targets and, where appropriate, ask the individuals to help in the recruiting process.
  12. CEO calls. Make your CEO your chief recruiter. Ask him or her to schedule specific times to call finalists in order to “close the deal.”
  13. Reference recruiting. Identify the references of your top hires during the last year. Then call them back to see if they know other candidates of equal quality. The fact that they were right the first time increases the odds that they will be right again.
  14. Parking lot video. Some states allow you to identify the owner of a car from its license plate number. In those states that allow the practice, drive through the parking lot of competitors and videotape the license numbers of expensive cars and those that arrive early or stay late. Get the names and addresses from DMV and use them as recruiting starts.


Conclusion Job fairs, job boards, and other traditional recruiting approaches have their value. But if you really expect to attract the best, you need to expand your repertoire of recruiting approaches. Begin the process by asking consultants and other top recruiters about “outrageous approaches” that they have used or have heard that others have used. Next, develop relationships with executive search professionals and salespeople within your industry (almost invariably they are among the most aggressive). Continually build your toolkit, and when other, more conservative approaches don’t work, try out some of these outrageous approaches. These approaches are not for everyone, but they certainly can serve as a wake-up call to demonstrate that there are more aggressive recruiting approaches available that might allow you to get around those persistent recruiting roadblocks. I find that these roadblocks are mostly mental, and that they are especially common in healthcare, where recruiters seldom come from executive search or sales backgrounds. Before you scream “unethical,” remember that in a global economy, what is “unethical” to one person may be standard practice in another part of the world!

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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