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7 Companies That Took Candidate Sourcing to Another Level

When it comes to candidate sourcing, why reinvent the wheel? Write a job listing, post it online, incentivize employees with referral bonuses, then sit back and watch the resumes roll in. Simple? Not exactly. Some positions are harder to fill than others. If you get 1,000 resumes for a job posting, you’re lucky to get 50 qualified applicants from that pool. “Spray and pray” is not an effective technique for finding candidates, so we searched for the most creative ideas from companies that did reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Here are seven of the best we found:

Online retail giant Zappos (which, BTW, doesn’t use job titles), encourages candidates to network with recruiters on its own private social network, bypassing job postings entirely.

Tech company Automattic (most notably known for, as well as its contributions to WordPress) requires all potential hires to audition with the company, during which they do actual work and are paid $25/hour. Around 40% of applicants make the final cut. Longest interview or best idea ever? [source: Brazen Careerist]

Social Hire has this great tidbit: In need of skilled new mechanics, Volkswagen distributed damaged vehicles to repair shops across Germany, leaving a job advertisement on the undercarriage of each. It helped the company bring in a number of talented workers and establish themselves as an innovative recruiting brand.

London-based ad agency Gyro International started 2010 with the goal of growing its creative department by 50%. To jumpstart recruitment, the agency identified its strongest competitors in the area and researched the most frequented lunch spots for each competitor’s employees.

The creative company contacted restaurant owners and convinced them to replace 100,000 regular sandwich bags with Gyro bags; each replacement bag included messages like  “Should I stay? Should I go?” and “Is your career going somewhere?”

Soon, candidates employed by competitors were eating straight out of the Gyro recruitment message. The 100,000 sandwich bags were distributed over one month, and within a few weeks, Gyro saw a 20% increase in web traffic and made three hires, including a senior creative manager.

In 2012, in the midst of a shortage of Australian engineers, software company Atlassian launched a campaign to hire and relocate 15 European developers and relocate them to Sydney. Decking out a bus with the message, “We’re coming to steal your geeks,” and hosting meetups and interviews all over Europe, potential candidates could track the bus’ progress and apply for a chance to move to Australia’s “Silicon Beach.”

Amy Rees Anderson, founder and former CEO of MediConnect Global, says in Forbes:

“I continually needed to find new people, and I needed them fast – but what I wanted most was to get the attention of employees who were currently employed elsewhere. I sat down with my team to brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas that we could use to get those people’s attention. These brainstorming sessions resulted in amazing ideas that produced incredible results.”

Think billboard advertising is played out? One of Team Anderson’s ideas: “We found that renting billboards near busy freeway exits close to our location is a great way to let people know we were hiring. We made the imagery fun and catchy so it drew people’s attention. We also found that it was important to keep the wording to a minimum and make the web address easy to remember so that once people are out of their car and back at their computer they can look up the website and see the open positions. Our most successful billboard was one that had an employee of our company posing in a company shirt with the wording ‘This is what awesome looks like…Now Hiring’.” Impressive!

One of the most creative sourcing techniques we’ve discovered comes from (surprise!) search engine giant Google. We all use online search, but so do genius Yale-educated mathematicians. Googler Max Rosett was one month into his job as a software engineer at Google when he blogged about how he got his foot in the door on The Hustle.

Seconds after he Googled “python lambda function list comprehension,” Rosett’s search terms yielded a peculiar result: They “split and folded back to reveal a box that said ‘You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?’” Rosett clicked on a little turquoise box that read “I want to play.” Up popped, a programming quiz that Re/code reports Google has deployed before to source talent.

Google challenged Rosett to solve an elaborate programming puzzle. He had 48 hours to figure it out, but he didn’t need that much time. He unraveled the riddle in just “a couple of hours.” The puzzles kept coming and Rosett kept solving them, five in two weeks, he says. The sixth solved problem was the charm, triggering a request for Rosett to submit his contact info. Then came an email from a Google recruiter. Then an introductory phone call. Then he scored an interview and a job just a few months later.

Want more creative sourcing ideas? Read about Five Companies Killin’ the Recruiting Game with Snapchat.