5 creative recruitment campaigns and what you can learn from them

Considering the current overflow of people looking for work, recruiting employees for your company may seem relatively straightforward. But, employing the right people is a lot trickier – and to do so you need to draw them in in the first place.

Recruiting the best requires a coherent campaign that encapsulates your brand’s ethos and makes the people you want to want to work for you. These five organisations successfully did just that:

  1. Bletchley Park’s crossword

The use of puzzles and codebreaking as part of the recruitment process can provide a feeling of exclusivity and secrecy, in turn attracting intelligent and inquisitive employees. Google is one such organisation to use this method through a billboard posing a mathematical puzzle, leading to a web page with another equation to solve. Similarly US intelligence agency NSA used a Twitter puzzle to recruit computer hackers.

One of the first to use this type of innovative recruitment was Bletchley Park – home to World War II’s British intelligence heroes, like Alan Turing, tasked with breaking Enigma. In order to recruit people in a discrete manner for such an important task, they decided to use a crossword.

Amid complaints that The Daily Telegraph crossword of 1942 was too easy, the chairman of the Eccentric Club held a competition in the newsroom at Fleet Street. The test was simple: solve the crossword within 12 minutes. Five people managed to complete the task, which had unknowingly (by both them and The Daily Telegraph) been watched by the War Office.

Several weeks later, they were sent letters marked ‘Confidential’, inviting them to make an appointment with Colonel Nichols. This later saw most of them working at Bletchley Park trying to break the ‘unbreakable’ code.

  1.  IKEA Australia’s career instructions

It goes without saying that you need to represent your brand cohesively through the recruitment campaign in order to attract the right candidates.

IKEA’s brand is all about assembling, so what better way to recruit than by inserting ‘career instructions’ into flat packs? The Australian branch did exactly that, leading customers to literally deliver the career instructions to themselves.

It endeared people to the brand while also resulting in 4285 applications and 280 hires. Furthermore, no money was spent in the distribution and marketing of the campaign, with IKEA only incurring printing and design costs.

  1. Swedish Armed Forces’ social experiment

Rather than focusing on the physical aspects of the job in the Swedish Armed Forces, their recruitment campaign ‘Who cares?’ focused on the mental.

Devised by DDB Stockholm marketing communications agency, a person was placed by themselves in a black box in central Stockholm. This man was filmed in the cell-like box, which was live streamed to a campaign page accessible to anyone.

After the anonymous box was left with no one in there for four days, a man entered through a monitored airlock. The box had no instructions for the person contained, who could not look out of the box. People passing by, however, could look in it which emphasised the feeling of isolation.

The side of the box asked ‘Vem Bryr Sig?’ (Who cares?), and stated that ‘a person will stay locked up until replaced’. The volunteer would have to sit in the box for at least one hour by themselves. After an hour was up, the air-lock would open and if there was a person standing there, they could switch places.

The recruitment campaign played on the empathy and compassion of everyday civilians to see who had the desired, self-sacrificing personality.  Over the course of four days, 74 people volunteered to take the place of someone they didn’t even know.

And was the campaign successful in recruiting? The target was 4,300 applicants for 1,430 positions – and they ended up receiving 9,930 applications.

  1. Jobsintown’s ‘Life is too short for the wrong job’

German employment website Jobsintown decided upon a playful, visual campaign to attract those unhappy with their current jobs to their site.

The print advert simply contained various images of self-service machines such as coffee machines, washing machines and arcade machines. But on the side of them were printed images of people seeming to work inside of them in cramped conditions.

Supposedly in the washing machine, for example, was a woman with sweaty hair and minimal sunlight, surrounded by foam and cleaning products as she scrubbed clothes with an old fashioned hand wash board. Beneath a children’s coin-powered truck, there was also a superimposed image of a young man doing the job of the motor, turning it with his legs in a dirty, cramped space.

This campaign is incredibly relatable to anyone feeling tired, overworked and unappreciated in their job and also injects humour amid the irritation.

  1. Volkswagen’s poaching hidden job ad

When Volkswagen wanted to find new, undiscovered talent they decided to conduct a slightly less traditional mode of recruitment.

The German car manufacturer decided to poach the competition by sending some ‘undercover’ employees to auto repair shops. They dropped off damaged vehicles with job adverts attached to the undercarriages which said ‘Gezocht: Monteurs’ (Wanted: Mechanics) along with the recruitment website URL.

Each of the undercover Volkswagen employees also interacted with each mechanic when they dropped off a car so that there was also an added, personable and human feel to the company.

The hidden placement of the ad made the job feel personal and special, and resulted in the recruitment of a number of talented mechanics new to the industry, but with a lot of potential.

With creative recruitment campaigns stretching as far back as World War II (and further) how do you think you can reach new recruits while retaining your brand voice?

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