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Innovative recruitment

Alison Coleman

Innovative recruitment

Innovative recruitment drives, social media and online presentation of skills are revolutionising the job-seeking process. Alison Coleman looks at how you can maximise results whichever side of the fence you are on

Advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi recently invited a group of prospective employees to pitch for a job in a lift – a real-life reworking of the ‘elevator pitch’. This illustrated one important thing: prospective recruits are no longer picked from a pile of CVs but are recommended by colleagues, found on social network sites or sought through ever more creative means.

An unconventional recruitment strategy can reflect the company’s culture. For example, experiential advertising agency iD recently adapted its interview process to resemble a speed-dating event. Potential recruits submit a video application and successful candidates are invited to a speed-date interview, comprising three 10-minute “dates” with an account director, a line manager and a potential workplace peer.

“We get to know our people before we’ve even looked at their CVs, and are confident that we are identifying the right candidates,” says iD’s CEO Paul Ephremsen. “This strategy ensures that we don’t waste the time of our team or the candidate in the initial phase. I’m a firm believer in recruitment processes that reflect the work environment candidates will be entering.”

The aim, he says, is to enable new recruits to understand the company, its culture and history, and allow the company to assess the potential fit of a candidate in a more effective way than traditional interview processes. 

For example, the recruitment challenge faced by global ad agency gyro was that it was a new company formed from a merger, so the brand was relatively unknown to potential employees. The firm’s solution was as unconventional as it was inventive, and involved the use of sandwich bags. 

Marketing director Patrick Danaher explains: “We identified a number of agencies in London to attract staff from; then we staked out which sandwich shops they frequented at lunchtime. Based on that data we created and distributed 100,000 gyro-branded sandwich bags carrying a subtle ‘Is your career going somewhere?’ message to the relevant shops.”

The strategy worked: website traffic spiked by 20%, applications flooded in, and the company made three hires, including a senior creative manager. It also saved money, costing gyro just £4,000 compared with a potential £25,000 in recruitment agency fees. “We were an unknown agency, so we knew that we had to do something different; it was unexpected but effective,” says Danaher.

But does doing something different when recruiting always deliver results? Although it is an essential first step, creativity is not just about attracting more applications from good candidates, says Kate Russell, managing director of Russell HR Consulting.

“It should be about identifying and keeping the right people. To do this you need to create a process that draws in applicants of the type you want and at every stage gives you objective data to help you decide whether to keep someone in the process or to reject them,” she says.

Proactive jobseeking

It isn’t just employers who are being creative. In a highly competitive jobs market, individuals seeking their next management role are also finding innovative ways to connect with prospective employers, including bearing some of the costs.

At headhunting specialist The Lighthouse Company, top C-suite level candidates pay for representation by an agent in a similar way to performers or sportspeople. Founder Kathleen Saxton says, “We are providing this service for a small but growing number of individuals at commercial director level and above, who are reaching the peak of leadership levels. For example, it could be a managing director preparing to move up to a CEO position. For a small fee, and their exclusivity to us, we will find them their next role. It is a different and quite innovative approach to career management and executive search.”

Traditional recruitment processes, such as assessment centres and complex multi-stage interviews, are by no means obsolete, but in the digital age more and more employers are developing recruitment strategies based around social media.

Recruitment should be about identifying and keeping the right people. To do this you need to create a process that draws in applicants of the type you want and at every stage gives you objective data to help you decide whether to keep someone in the process or to reject them.

Research by online jobs advertiser shows that vacancies advertised on social media platforms are receiving approximately 16.5% more relevant traffic compared with conventional advertising, suggesting that social media is likely to become increasingly significant.

Some companies have used it to target specific talent groups. Unilever, for example, recently handed over its Facebook graduate page to its new graduate recruits. A virtual environment where current employees can talk to potential recruits about what an organisation is like to work for communicates the corporate message far more powerfully than a regular printed or online job advertisement. 

While it does offer employers a cost-effective and direct way to communicate and build reputation ahead of need, social media should be part of an integrated strategy to ensure consistency and efficacy, says Jane Kirk, director at executive search firm Armstrong Craven. 

“There is still a need to employ search methodologies to reach senior or difficult-to-find people as well as engage with those in greatest demand on a one-to-one basis,” she says. “However, strategies should be re-engineered in a new, more flexible format to deliver a greater ROI.” 

Another emerging trend in recruitment is the use of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Peter Gold, an expert in emerging recruitment technologies, says: “Mobile technology is a growth area and there is a lot of development around mobile career sites to facilitate job alerts and rapid responses for managers working remotely or on the move.”

Online presentations

New recruitment technology is not going unnoticed by candidates either. One of the latest is, a tool that allows people to upload slides and other content, such as images, pdfs and videos, which are available to view on demand. This allows them to present themselves virtually, even if they and their presentation audience are not free at the same time.

Early adopters have included media-savvy graduates and the creative industry. When asked to present themselves in a creative way for their applications to internships and postgraduate programmes, many have used this technology with high rates of success. 

It offers an ideal solution to the challenges of mainstream recruitment at more senior levels, says CEO Spencer Lambert. “Recruiters have huge numbers of CVs clogging their inbox. It would be a lot easier if you could briefly meet them all, but that isn’t feasible. provides an alternative, rapid insight into an applicant's personality,” he says.

But with a proliferation of new media channels and applications, are employers simply extending their reach and focusing on quantity of applications rather than quality?

James Elfin, client partner at talent management consultancy Work Group, says that this isn’t often the case. “Identification and connection with candidates is still important,” he says. “A top manager from a major bank could be courted by a host of prospective employers and search agencies on a monthly basis. They will stay or move on the basis of employer reputation, not whether they can be reached or not.” 

But in focusing on creative recruitment strategies, employers could lose sight of their business case for talent acquisition, says Angela Peacock, chair of global training organisation People Development Team. “Your recruitment process should reflect the overall strategy of your business, which has to include the talent strategy and diversity at source,” she says. “Long-term success, turnover and growth are dependent on the brains of the business, and that is what your recruitment strategy should reflect.”


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