Uncovered: The most creative ways to embrace the recruitment process

8 min read

03 March 2017

With the UK suffering from labour and skills shortages, the onus is on companies to get creative in terms of hiring – even if it means only changing a small element of the recruitment process.

Candidates are no longer responding to traditional tactics. Because of this, businesses have had to embrace some “out-of-the-box” thinking in terms of the recruitment process. It doesn’t mean tried-and-true methods should be thrown out the window, but know there are numerous benefits to be had from getting “quirky”.

Namely, you remove their tension, increase their want to work for you and, straight off the bat, garner yourself some word of mouth marketing when they return home – if they can stay off their phones for that long. Even if that one candidate doesn’t end up working for you, their discussions with others may prompt them to take the initiative and approach you.

Hidden job descriptions are a brilliant example. More often than not, such methods tend to be cost effective – and the creativity behind it will ensure candidates flock in. Ikea Australia did exactly that, hiding job descriptions in the form of career instructions – much like its famous DIY brochures – inside furniture. The stunt resulted in 4,285 applications and 280 hires.

Danish agency Uncle Grey famously jumped on board the guerrilla recruitment bandwagon. It attempted to hire a front-end developer by setting up sponsorship deals with players of shooter game Team Fortress 2. These players would then place ads inside the game. Over 50 applications were received in the first week.

But if you can’t change your recruitment process in a massive way, then there are small tweaks that will make the day and process unforgettable. It also doesn’t have to be at the attention-grabbing marketing stage. After canvassing the corporate landscape, an overwhelming amount of bosses told Real Business about sprucing up interviews.

The latest trend is to include tricky questions. For example, Next has asked candidates about childhood memories, British Airways canvassed for opinion about its CEO and Tesla is known to quiz people on coping methods for repetition. This, according to James Reed, chairman of REED, is largely thanks to Google.

“The tech giant popularised the idea of asking candidates to solve questions, but it’s not for the fun of it. When it comes to brainteasers, interviewers are attempting to unearth an ability to attack the question. Asking how many golf balls fit inside a jumbo jet isn’t about finding the aerospace engineer and a measurement-obsessed golfer among them.

“Creativity questions also come in many guises, from ‘What superhero would you be?’ to ‘What type of biscuit are you?'”

In fact, the mentioned biscuit question is a favourite of Julie Mott, associate director at Howett ThorpeHer piece of advice: don’t be afraid to veer off course – far away from the generic questions candidates will have looked up online and prepped all night for. It will definitely make them remember you – even if your recruitment process wasn’t wildly wacky.

“Ask random and irrelevant questions,” Mott said. “These questions can be as bizarre as the following: ‘If you could be an animal what would you be?’ and even ‘What colour would you be?’ You’ll start to get a feel for who they are and whether they’ll mesh well with the rest of the team.”

Find out more tweaks bosses have made to the recruitment process on the next page, including not being confined to the office.

Better yet, why not shake up the recruitment process by actually throwing them into the office from the get-go. At least that’s what Erin O’Brien, cultural developer at entertainment company Gram Games, advocates.

According to O’Brien, it’s best to have people jump in, get a look at projects, and share their views and suggestions. Most candidates don’t normally expect to get a behind-the-scenes-glimpse. However, this subtle tweak has worked well for the company, ensuring potential staff gain trust in colleagues early on. This method is most likely to foster a sense of loyalty – and eradicate the possibility of graduate gazumping.

“Many companies are too worried about giving away secrets or glimpses into products. We see this as the start of a relationship where respect for new opinions is paramount to the success of the company. We also ask them to meet with all aspects of the production team – we want them to be able to work with everyone, not just in their siloed discipline.”

By contrast, Tom Craig, co-founder of digital agency Impression, tries to steer clear of the traditional hiring haunts. He also explained that you shouldn’t feel confined to the office.

“As a rule, we stay away from recruitment agencies. Additionally we do not adopt a ‘typical’ interview approach. We will often give potential candidates the opportunity to meet us for an ‘introductory chat’ in a nearby pub, bar or cafe.”

Similarly, Richard Hanwell, associate director at The Sterling Choice, prefers to search for candidates in unlikely places. He’s garnered success from hiring people in the hospitality sector. “We can teach recruitment, we cannot teach passion, character, etiquette and the desire to go the extra mile,” he said.

He also offered advice from his time in Asia, claiming the Singaporean government was keen on pushing companies to hire from prisons, specifically when it came to offenders close to the end of their sentence. Also, when in Hong Kong, he encouraged others to stop interviewing based on individuals CVs.

I advocate an open day, where you would look to secure 15-20 candidates. Then you can replace a group interview with a group challenge. It’s one thing to hear candidates say they’re good team players but it’s quite another to see it in action. In this situation, the task need not be directly related to the job itself, but it will select the team players as well as the natural leaders.”

You don’t need to go big to draw attention, but get those minds whirling and think of a way to alter your recruitment process – even if only a little. After all, someone else is bound to make a splash, and possibly draw top talent away from you.

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