Creative Recruiting

Reaching beyond online job boards to find your next great hire.


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A recent survey of small- and medium-size metalworking manufacturers found that 91 percent of them are experiencing significant challenges in finding qualified employees. As I travel about the country meeting with manufacturers, many tell me that finding qualified team members is their number one challenge. What to do about it?

Not long ago I stumbled across an article entitled “13 of The Most Creative Recruitment Campaigns,” authored by a Ben Slater and posted on the website social-hire.com, in which the author compiles a summary of some of the more interesting strategies employed by companies in the efforts.

In one example, well-known furniture company Ikea placed job descriptions in every package of furniture it sold, enticing the purchaser to learn more about potential career opportunities. Advertising jobs directly to your customers who presumably already appreciate the value of your brand. Brilliant!

Yes, brilliant, but likely not particularly practical to a contract machining outfit engaged in the business of providing product to its customers. Mining the employees of one’s customer may win the recruiting organization a great employee while losing it a great customer. That math doesn’t work so well. But …

What about letting your suppliers know about your open positions? Many suppliers love to talk, and they may also know which of your competitors’ employees is in the market for a new position. Let them market your position for you.

Consider the Volkswagen campaign to lure employees away from other companies. When the iconic automobile manufacturer found itself in need of skilled auto mechanics it circulated damaged vehicles to repair shops located all about Germany. Posted on the undercarriage of the vehicle was an advertisement enticing the reader to consider employment with Volkswagen. What was the first thing the auto mechanic saw upon hoisting the vehicle up on the repair lift? You got it.

Sending your want ads directly to the employees of other organizations? Difficult. However, could your employees do the handy-work for you? I recently read about a company that printed hundreds of business cards with the words “Our Company is looking for Great People. Call this number and tell them _______ said you were Awesome!” It then distributed the cards to its employees and asked them to hand one out, completing the blank with the employee’s name, every time they received great service. The person at the drive through window offers exemplary customer service—give them a card. Fantastic assistance at the grocery store checkout line—a card. Auto repair shop, sporting goods store, bank teller, you get the idea.

Being always on the lookout for people with a knack for customer service and leadership potential is an outstanding recruiting tool. I was once on the dock of a manufacturer whereon a mishap occurred involving a forklift truck. As the lift truck was entering the back of a trailer, the wheels of which were not chocked, the trailer lunged forward, suspending the lift truck between the dock plate and the trailer. Thankfully the lift driver escaped without injury. But what to do about the forklift? While a dozen bewildered employees stared on doing nothing, a non-employee contract truck driver by the name of Dan, who just happened to be on the dock during the whole melee, sprung to action. He fashioned a tool using a come along and two lengths of chain, and in less than five minutes the lift truck was safely back on the dock. The president of the company watched the entire episode and was suitably impressed by Dan’s quick thinking and leadership. He invited him back for an interview the following week. Are you waiting for another resume to drop on your desk or are your eyes always open for your next potentially great hire?

Back to Slater’s article. Computer gaming company Red 5 Studios found itself in heated competition for awesome talent with other software developers so the organization’s enterprising leadership team came up with a remarkable strategy. First, they listed their 100 dream candidates, people they would love to have on their team if only they could entice them to join. Once these individuals were identified, Red 5 used social media to research their backgrounds and work histories. The CEO then recorded a personalized message for each individual on an iPod that was sent to the candidate. The message outlined the dream candidate’s work history and invited each to apply for a position with Red 5. According to Slater 90 percent of the recipients responded to the invitation!

Not about to purchase 100 iPods? Understood. But why not make a list of 100 dream candidates? For years I have kept such a list. I recall attending the Sur/Fin show in Chicago more than a decade ago. As I walked the show floor I happened across a young man who I had included on my list. We struck up a conversation covering a variety of topics at the conclusion of which I suggested that our organization was in a recruiting mode and if he was aware of any potential candidates I would love to hear about them. A few hours later I sat in the depths of Union Station waiting to board my train and who should happen to sit down next to me but the fellow on my dream candidate list. We conducted an informal interview all the way back to Milwaukee and within weeks he had joined our team. Include on your list people in the industry, previous co-workers, friends and acquaintances of yours and your employees who would make ideal teammates. Then devise a strategy to reach out to each of them.

In today’s cutthroat job market, online advertisements leave your organization with the same odds as every other poor soul trolling the waters of the candidate pond in the hopes of getting a lucky bite. To set yourself apart, get creative! 


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