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20 of The Most Creative Candidate Recruitment Campaigns

Any time you have a job opening that you need to be filled, you need to find the most qualified people to fill it. Sometimes this will be internal promotions, but most of the time, you’ll be looking at a much larger audience to find the perfect fit. Attracting that audience is difficult, given the constant demands on everyone’s attention and the difficulty of promoting an opening in a field full of similar openings.

We’ve written before about creating compelling, creative job advertisements. If you have trouble putting those tips into practice, it can be worthwhile to get some creative inspiration. Thus, we’ve gathered twenty of the most compelling, creative, and interesting recruitment campaigns that we’ve seen.

1. Great “Grafic Deigner”

Horizon FCB, a health agency based in Saudi Arabia, ran a job posting with text that was intentionally riddled with issues:

“There are 10 mistakes in this ad. If you beleive you’re a great grafic deigner with an eye for details, Spot these mistakes, than sent us your feedback on the pelow address including your  CV & portfolio”

Among the many mistakes in the ad were typos, spacing issues, kerning issues, and centering issues.

This encouraged people to showcase their attention to detail, reach out to the email address attached to the ad, and put themselves into contention for the job listing. This ad is a great way to include a basic skills test before an application even arrives.

2. Berrge Tattoo

This tattoo artist shop was recruiting a new artist to work with them and decided to use a rather creative way to test them as part of the application process.

They printed out their job ads on a paper that had the texture and pattern of skin with slightly lighter spots that faintly indicate a QR code. Phones can’t read the QR code as it is, but if the aspiring artist fills in the blanks with a pen, it becomes functional. This is a self-filtering test for one of the most important requirements for a tattoo artist: a steady hand with ink.

3. Microsoft Math

One of many job advertising campaigns over the last decades, Microsoft decided to add a challenge. They printed a one-page job posting with the salary, job duties, and requirements.

However, they obfuscated their contact information for the position. Rather than a simple web URL or phone number, they published an equation. The equation, when solved correctly, would produce a phone number that the applicant could call to put their hat in the ring.  Again, this is a great way to add interactivity and a self-filtering process to the first phase of job applications.

4. The Bletchley Park Crossword

Some job advertising goes back decades. In this case, Bletchley Park was recruiting codebreakers during World War II, to work alongside greats like Alan Turing in attempting to crack German codes.

In another brilliant act of filtering and skills testing, they published a crossword puzzle with a few unique rules: the clues might require anagrams with no indication of whether this was true, the clues were obtuse and difficult even by the standards of the day, and most importantly, you had 12 minutes to do it. You can see the crossword here. Those who did it successfully were invited to work with the secret organization. Could you join them?

5. The World’s Greatest Salesman

In 2010, the sales company Ogilvy & Mather was looking for high-talent salespeople to join their company. Knowing that the world of sales is full of people who would jump at the chance, they put a high barrier to entry for an application. Aspiring candidates had to produce a video of themselves selling a brick to the company.

To advertise this campaign, among other things, Ogilvy produced this YouTube video. It’s dramatic, it’s high-impact, and it’s extremely memorable even by today’s standards. It also worked well for them.

6. LEGO Brick Factor

LEGO is a worldwide sensation, a timeless toy that brings joy to millions. It also requires constant innovation and design to keep its kits unique from year to year. To accomplish this, LEGO requires Master Builders, people with creativity to design new models within specific constraints.

To find the right people for the job, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers host a competition called Brick Factor, in which competitors would build unique models throughout these three events, and are judged by a panel that includes the two most important groups: other Master Builders, and children who just love LEGO. The winner of the competition is hired on the spot.

7. The Cisco Tribe

Cisco is a global tech company, and its workforce is as varied and diverse as the planet we live on. They showcase this through their recruitment campaigns, particularly with hashtags like #WeAreCisco and #BeYouWithUs.

Real employees discuss company culture and their lives outside of the company, portraying many of the benefits of working with Cisco. You don’t have to conform to the company to thrive; you can simply be who you are, and still be valuable to the company. Though this campaign was started years ago, Cisco keeps it going to this day.

8. Eurowings Matching

Eurowings is an airline based in Germany with an award-winning recruitment campaign using the novel platform of Tinder. Tinder, a dating app, presents the user with profiles for people of their preferred orientation and allows them to swipe left to ignore or right to connect.

The trick is, the profiles were for jobs, not for people, and swiping right “matched” the user to the job, giving them more information about the opportunity available to them. It was an intensely creative use of a new platform most wouldn’t think to use for recruiting.

9. Quixey’s $100

Quixey, a Silicon Valley startup, needed to compete with tech giants to attract clever software developers. To do it, they issued a month of challenges lasting one day each. They produced a piece of code with a bug in it and challenged people to find and fix the bug.

Winners got $100, a t-shirt, and an opportunity to apply for the job. The campaign was creative and the incentive was great, though their

method of advertising for the campaign fell a little flat, and the company eventually folded for unrelated reasons.

10. Google’s Challenges

Google is well-known throughout the tech industry for picking up the ideas of the people who came before and running with them. They weren’t the first company to use challenges to attract applicants, but they’re well-known for their cleverness and consistency in their ads.

Everything from a billboard with a cryptic message leading to a numerical URL with a job application, to their interactive coding challenges, remain written in history as some of the best job advertisements ever devised.

11. Volkswagen’s Sneaky Advertising

VW needed to hire mechanics, and they knew one thing: to hire skilled trades, it’s best to reach them where they spend their time. Their campaign was extremely clever and used resources only they would have.

They intentionally broke a group of vehicles and took them to mechanics and shops across the country. The trick? Each vehicle had a job advertisement hidden in the undercarriage, where only the mechanic working on it would see it. The campaign was clever and it worked, attracting a variety of skilled mechanics for their open positions.

12. Red 5 Studio’s Direct Targeting

Sometimes you don’t know who you need to hire, just what they bring to the table. Other times, you have specific candidates in mind. Red 5 Studios, a gaming company, identified 100 top candidates for their studio, the “dream team” they would love to hire.

They specifically researched these 100 people, created customized messaging for them, and reached out directly. The result? Nearly a 100% response rate from each of the people they messaged.

13. Ikea’s Career Instructions

Another example of reaching people where they spend their time. Ikea expanded rapidly in the Australian market in the early 2010s, and they needed to hire to staff those new stores. To do so, they targeted Ikea shoppers.

They created a set of “career instructions” in the style of their assembly instructions, and inserted them into the flat packs for their furniture. Anyone who purchased such furniture during that time was bringing that job opportunity into their own home themselves. All told, they received 4,200 applications and hired 280 candidates from the campaign.

14. The Swedish Army Cares

The Swedish army wanted to recruit people with a selfless instinct to help others. To accomplish this task, they crafted a clever social experiment. They put a large black box in a public square, and let someone enter it once an hour.

Left alone inside and trapped in this box, they were stuck… unless someone else stepped up to take their place. To add to the experiment, the inside of the box was streamed online, to build publicity and get people invested in the people inside. They aimed to get 4,300 applications from the experiment, but ended up with nearly 10,000, not to mention all of the free media coverage.

15. The British Army Flipping Tropes

The British Army’s roster has been falling, and they decided to target Millennials to sign up.

To do so, they crafted a series of vintage-looking recruitment posters as part of a campaign. These posters target millennial stereotypes (“Me Me Me”, “Snowflake”, “Class Clown”) and flipped them on their head, pointing out the good attributes of being self-confident, focused, and compassionate. The campaign received a lot of backlash in the media, but it worked, spreading a lot of awareness and getting a much-needed recruitment push.

16. BJL Providing what People Need

Everyone has needs. Sometimes those needs are transient, which is what BJL – a marketing firm – took advantage of. During a popular awards show, attendees needed access to the internet, and they checked out the publicly available Wi-Fi in the area.

BJL provided the strongest local Wi-Fi signal, with a landing page that redirected users to a careers page before allowing them to go further. It was a tremendous success, with some CVs coming in before the night was over, and more in the following days.

17. Matsushita Electric’s Careful Positioning

Japanese electric company Matsushita Electric took a page out of VW’s book: reaching potential candidates where they spend their time.

In this case, they carefully positioned their job advertising at the top of electrical poles that needed work, so that when workers arrived, they would see the opportunity for a better position. At five meters off the ground, they were guaranteed to be qualified applicants that are sending in their resumes.

18. Shield Security Hijacking Technology

Shield Security is a private security company that needed to hire new people. To target existing security personnel, they simply sent their employees on flights.

As those employee’s luggage was scanned, the security tech monitoring the feed would see, in metal reflective letters visible only on the x-ray machine, information on how to get a job with their company. Poaching competitors is a time-honored tradition, and this is an innovative way to go about it.

19. Toggl Leveraging Social Success

For a time, Facebook quizzes were all the rage. Toggl made use of one, developing a personality quiz that gave the people taking it a variety of different results.

The low barrier to entry encouraged applicants, while the self-filtering of the quiz helped people engage with the opportunity and the work they would do for the company. It was an overall successful strategy and resulted in talented new employees.

20. Join the Band

Another example of using an unorthodox channel to reach people: Spotify.

The streaming music service was looking for a new developer, but rather than promote a typical job listing, they created a customized playlist and circulated it. The playlist is an eclectic set of music, but what’s important here is the song titles. When put together, they spell out a call to action for developers to reach out. It got someone the job, that much is certain.

Your Turn

These are just 20 of the countless creative recruitment campaigns throughout history.

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