Finding the right person for a job has been a struggle since the dawn of human cooperation.
Until the emergence of the modern recruitment industry post-World War Two, the most common way of finding someone to fill a position was to place a small ad in a local newspaper. Looking back on these ads the racism and bigotry of the age is horribly apparent; the concept of unnecessarily narrowing your talent pool hadn’t been properly considered yet. In the 20th century more people entered the workforce and populations became more skilled - primarily due to societal changes and improved access to education – resulting in employers having to think creatively to find the right people to fill positions amidst the vastly increased talent pool.
The benefits to designing a recruitment campaign unique to your business are manifold. In a crowded marketplace saturated with information it is essential that your employer brand stands out from the crowd.
On most lists of the best recruitment campaigns you’ll find Earnest Shackleton’s “men wanted for a hazardous journey” ad. Unfortunately, that advert is most likely a myth, but it does indicate an interesting and early trend towards creative recruitment – albeit one of brutal honesty. Whether it’s the City of Los Angeles looking for a graphic designer or the Royal Marines telling 99.9% of people not to apply, sometimes a creative approach can tread the delicate line between professionalism, humour, and attracting the right kind of person.
Taking a more creative approach to your recruitment can be time-consuming and a lot of effort, which begs the question:
It has long been understood that finding someone who fits into the culture of your workplace is just as important as finding someone with the right technical skills - if not more so. It is essential to candidate attraction, but also to staff retention. If you have a talented workforce but they do not feel like they are in the right “kind” of organisation they will never reach their full potential and, in turn, you will never extract their full value.
It can be difficult for a candidate to gauge the culture of a workplace while in a traditional interview setting and, from an employer perspective, it might not be possible to get a true sense of someone’s personality when they are in such a pressurised situation. This is where more creative approaches to recruitment can help to bridge the gap between the right person on paper and the right person to propel your business forward.
Sticking to a traditional recruitment plan (standard job descriptions, advertising on job boards, competency-based interviews, and so on) will definitely yield results – they’re tried and tested methods. However, you are likely to be reaching the same pool of candidates as your competitors, meaning you’re not only competing for talent but you’re also missing out on a vast section of the talent pool. There are exceptionally talented candidates who you simply will not reach with the traditional approach, such as people who are not actively looking for jobs and those who generally do not use job boards as a means of finding employment. Designing a creative recruitment campaign and targeting it at the right people will not only reach a more diverse cross section of the population, it will also encourage people to share your campaign with like-minded people who may not have been in your target audience.
The more diverse your workplace is the more diverse the thought, idea-making, innovation and implementation will be. With increased innovation comes increased creativity, which can only be a good thing for a workplace’s vitality and profitability. Research has shown that companies with the most diverse top teams tended to be the top financial performers; your hiring practices must aspire to and reflect this.
PR and Brand Awareness
A well-designed creative recruitment campaign might have an impact beyond just the talent pool – it could do wonders for your employer and brand awareness. In 2018 the airline Eurowing used Tinder profiles to advertise various positions within the company to reach a younger audience and attract people who may not have thought of Eurowing as an employer of choice. The campaign landed them two advertising industry awards, reached over 600,000 people and had an engagement rate of just under 10%. All in all, it was a success for creative recruitment and taking a left-field approach to a common issue.
Not all creative ideas are created equal, however. The British Army tried playing up to millennial stereotypes in an attempt to paint perceived personality flaws (“selfie addict”, “snowflakes”, “phone zombies”, and so on) as positive traits that could find a place in the army. However, the campaign was widely criticised as tone deaf and insulting, resulting in a tremendous amount of bad PR and coverage. It’s difficult to say if the old adage of “all PR is good PR” holds true in the social media age, but generally speaking it’s wise to remember that insulting the people you’re trying to hire for an inherently dangerous job probably isn’t the way to go.
Perhaps one of the most mysterious recruitment campaigns is Cicada 3310. It’s so mysterious we can’t even be sure if it is a recruitment campaign at all. In 2012 a group calling themselves Cicada 3310 posted a series of exceptionally diverse and complex puzzles centred around cryptography, steganography and data security. The clues for the puzzles spanned “internet, telephone, original music, bootable Linux CDs, digital images, physical paper signs, and pages of unpublished cryptic books written in runes”.
The purpose of these puzzles is still unclear, but the prevailing theory is that they were designed to find highly skilled individuals for some kind of common purpose. It has been posited that the CIA, NSA, MI6 or even a religious cult are the people behind the challenge, but no organisation has taken credit. Between 2012 and 2016 Cicada 3310 sparked the imagination of the internet community and saw enormous amounts of chatter, engagement and interest.
It might be difficult to replicate this kind of success as a small business, or even a large one, but the central premise stands in any situation – to find the best people you must pique their interest. If a candidate is highly skilled and in demand, they may not be inspired to apply for a standard job. Crafting your recruitment campaign in a way that plays up to the skills you’re looking for and the kind of personality you’re looking for could potentially yield significantly better results while simultaneously getting people to talk about your brand.
How to do it
A worldwide cryptography treasure hunt orchestrated by a secret organisation might be outwith the scope of your recruitment budget, but that’s not to say you can’t get creative in other ways.
You can learn much more about a candidate from a video than you can a written application. Whether it’s a pre-recorded application or a live video interview, you will be able to better gauge their personality and confidence. Asking candidates to make a short video as part, or instead, of their application could attract the kind of people who work better with visual, creative mediums as opposed to traditional written ones. For some jobs this could be the difference between finding the ideal candidate or potentially wasting a lot of time and money on someone who isn’t suited to the role.
We wouldn’t recommend you use video as your only barometer – meeting face to face is still essential for almost all recruitment – but it can help you narrow down the initial batch of applications. At any rate, our own research has found that candidates have more faith in companies that use multi-stage recruitment.
Crafting Your Message
When you’re recruiting you’re not just finding someone who’s right for your business, you’re trying to convince people that you’re the right business for them. There are multiple ways of doing this, but they all come down to one thing – crafting your brand’s message.
Lithium’s low budget brand video shows that you don’t need glossy animations or blockbuster production to come across well on film - you just need to be authentic. The video doesn’t look forced or overly scripted, which is its charm, and it targeted firmly at the kind of people they want to join the team. Authenticity will trump spending any day of the week in terms of positive employer branding opportunities.
Salesforce use Instagram and Snapchat to highlight the successes they and their employees enjoy, including awards they’ve won, staff events, and plenty of examples of their company culture. While Instagram and Snapchat aren’t the new social media kids on the block anymore, many companies still shy away from using them to their full potential. Salesforce identified that their target employees frequented those platforms more than others and designed their message accordingly, and with over 15,000 followers it’s clear to see that it is an effective approach.
Knowing how to market your business to potential employees is one of the best ways to make sure you’re attracting the right candidates to your positions. If you don’t have a clear idea of who you are as a company it’s unlikely anyone else will - and when it comes to people taking the plunge to join your team, ambiguity is not a positive trait. Crafting your message is more than just knowing what your company does, it’s about articulating your goals, ethos, ambition and personality. It’s an ideal time to get creative; think about what kind of media your target audience consumes (where they spend time online and in real life) and then craft your message accordingly. If you want to attract creative people make sure that your campaign sparks their imagination and is displayed in a place where that community will see it. If you want to attract senior level professionals you’ll need a different approach - there is no one-size-fits-all solution to creative recruitment.
How your company looks is closely tied to the message you deliver, but is often overlooked in the recruitment process. The imagery you use will be the first thing any potential applicants see - if it doesn’t reflect the quality, ethos or branding of your company you’re instantly putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage. If you spend a lot of time, effort and money on crafting the perfect recruitment campaign don’t sell yourself short by skimping on the visuals. Make sure that everything you put out into the world is on-brand and professional.
If you don’t have the budget to hire a graphic designer (and it’s always worth remembering that you get what you pay for when it comes to commissioning creative contractors - people can’t pay their bills with “exposure”), simplicity is the way to go. Your company font on your company colours will always look better than an amateurish, if noble, Photoshop effort.
Making it happen
Everything we’ve detailed above is a lot of effort. If you and your team aren’t 100% invested in your plan it won’t work; in the recruitment world confidence begets confidence. If you design a strategy and then only half-implement it you can be sure the results won’t be optimal, plus it could actually harm your brand’s image if things go haywire. Be confident, be creative, and trust in the fact that a recruitment campaign designed with your target audience in mind could find you the new employee that changes your business for the better.
If you'd like to talk to one of our experts about your hiring process or your recruitment needs, please get in touch and we'll find the perfect person for you to speak to.