5 Out-Of-Box Recruiting Tactics You'll Want To Know About

Attracting and recruiting top talent is getting harder and harder every day. Top candidates are either not actively looking or are being contacted by other companies too, making it extremely challenging to get a candidate’s attention and interest to apply for your company.

So what are some of the creative, unique tactics companies have used to help them better connect, engage and recruit top talent? Here are 5 effective ‘out-of-box’ recruiting ideas to fire up your inspiration today:

1. Billboards

While this isn't necessarily a new marketing tactic, if done right, it can definitely be an effective one. A traffic jam may be one of San Franciscans’ biggest annoyances, but for some companies it is the perfect opportunity to get a candidate’s attention. It's especially useful in large commuting metros that are dense with competing local talent competitors. Dice, for example, opted to go with billboard advertising to both recruit employees and promote their tech recruiting website and tools.

To target potential recruiting professionals and companies, Dice’s campaign features three different engineers posing as models wearing nothing but their boxers, and right next them reads “Dice has the hottest tech talent” or “Find the hottest tech talent,” with a link to their website.

For tech talent who may be looking to make a career move, Dice also rolled out these clever “code talking” billboards, encouraging tech and engineering professionals to go to Dice and search for their next opportunity.

Similarly, few years ago the gaming company Electronic Arts paid for a billboard that displayed its hiring message in the form of ASCII code. For tech onlookers, if they solved the line of code they would get the message "Now Hiring."

2. Google foo.bar

For many developers, cover letters are a time-consuming, outdated application process that doesn’t really give them the opportunity to demonstrate their technical ability. They would rather submit their past work, side projects or open source contributions to showcase their skills and experience.

It’s also been said that companies like Google prefer to look at a candidate’s coding to gauge their technical ability, rather than screening through traditional processes like cover letters and resumes.

Perhaps this was why the company started this secret interview process few months ago to screen and recruit new developers. Potential candidates are invited to take a coding challenge on this mysterious page called “foo.bar” when they search for certain technical terms on Google. If they accept the challenge, they supposedly have 48 hours to solve it.

According to a now-Google employee, software engineer Max Rosett completed five more challenges before he was given the option to submit his contact information. Few days later, a Google recruiter reached out to Max for a copy of his resume and the rest is history.

Google’s foo.bar challenge is definitely a clever and cost-effective recruiting tactic to hire tech talent. Not only did it save recruiters an enormous amount of time to phone screen candidates, developers also got an interesting, hands-on programing test to showcase their technical talent.

You don't have to be a company as big or well known as Google to take advantage of tactics like this. Another recent example of a company hiding recruitment messaging in their own site is this gem that appears when looking in the source code ("View Page Source") of pretty much any page of The LAD Bible's website. Clever, right? Flickr got some press doing this as well a couple years ago. 

screenshot of source code of theladbible.com

screenshot of source code of theladbible.com

3. Uber “Code on the Road” App

Like Google, Uber is trying to recruit engineers by sending passengers a “Code on the Road” challenge within their rider app. Passengers are given the option to complete three coding challenges, with a one-minute time limit for each exercise. Scores are given based on one’s answers, and if candidates did well they have the opportunity to connect with a recruiter via the app and apply with Uber.

It’s unclear how Uber identifies which riders are tech and engineering professionals, since the company claims it does not use passenger information for the app and is only targeting cities where there is a large tech worker population, such as Seattle and Austin. But hiding a coding challenge in one’s product is definitely a clever and unique way of getting the candidate’s attention and to apply, particularly those who might not have considered working for Uber before or any prospects that Uber recruiters might have missed.

But what if your product isn’t as accessible to potential candidates as Google or Uber is? Is there still a way to make your recruiting process more fun and different? One potential idea is, instead of asking tech talent to submit their cover letter or resume, you can ask candidates to help solve some of the major challenges your company is currently facing. This allows you to gauge a candidate’s coding skills, and at the same time it gives prospects insights into the kind of problems they’ll get to help solve if they were working at your company.

4. Sonos Case Study Challenge

This same tactic can be applied to non-technical roles as well. At the consumer electronics company Sonos, candidates are given a practical problem to solve as part of their final round of interviews.

For an HR role, for example, an applicant might be asked to help solve an employee engagement challenge and share their recommended solutions to tackle the problem. For PR candidates, they would be asked to create a blog post and develop a social media plan around it. Finance candidates are given customer analysis materials, and asked to share their key take-aways as well as ideas for improving the analysis. All candidates, regardless of their roles, are also asked to talk about their passions in another challenge, and to share how they are bringing their passions to life at work, school and outside of work/school.

These challenges help hiring managers to better evaluate a candidate’s problem solving, analytical and communications skills as well as cultural fit. And at the same time, candidates are also given an opportunity to show their skills in a relevant way by solving a real-life company challenge. It’s a great way to get candidates excited about working for your company and to help them see the impact they’ll get to make in the role they’re interviewing for.

5. GoDaddy “Mirror” Employee Referral Program Launch

Employee referrals are one of the most effective ways to recruit talent. Research has shown that a referred candidate is often faster and cheaper to hire, and will onboard more quickly and stay with the company longer compared to a non-referred hire. But companies, big or small, often face the challenge of inconsistent understanding and promotion of their employee referral program.

That’s one of the reasons why GoDaddy recently launched this marketing campaign to help promote and encourage employees to participate in their updated employee referral program using Linkedin Referrals. Instead of making employees sit through hours of "sleep-friendly" HR training sessions though, every employee received a hand-held mirror on their desk with a note that says “This is what a GoDaddy recruiter looks like.”

Pictured: Andrew Carges, VP of Talent Acquistion at godaddy 

Pictured: Andrew Carges, VP of Talent Acquistion at godaddy 

Why mirrors? It’s simply to show employees that, regardless of their roles, employees at GoDaddy are all recruiters and brand advocates for the company, and they are all responsible for attracting and recruiting the best people to join the company.

On the back of the mirror are simple, clear instructions that explain how to sign up for the new employee referral tool and where they can go to learn more about how program works and the process for employee referrals.

GoDaddy’s creative campaign certainly makes promotion of their employee referral program easier and more fun, and more importantly improves employee awareness and understanding as well as participation in the program.

Have you seen any other cool ‘out-of-box’ recruiting tactics that have gone viral and worked really well? Please share them below!

Do you need help with building or optimizing your recruiting strategy? Contact me here and let’s chat about how we can help improve your recruiting results.

Will Staney

Will is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies, LLC and the former Head of Global Talent Acquisition at rapidly-growing startups Twilio andGlassdoor. Prior to that he held recruiting leadership roles at enterprise software leaders VMwareSuccessFactors and SAPwhere he lead strategic programs includingemployer brandingsourcing strategy, recruiting operations and systems process design.

During his over 7 years as a recruiting practitioner, after 10 years in sales and marketing, he developed a passion for building what he calls "modern recruiting machines". He would push innovation from the inside, execute on his vision, and once it was realized he would pass the torch on to those he had mentored and move on to his next challenge. He was destined to start a consultancy so he could help as many companies as possible adopt a more proactive recruiting strategy with community in mind.

In his free time, Will enjoys riding his motorcycle, trying out the newest gadgets, and spending time with his two kids, Foster and Felicity.