3 More Shrewd Ways to Attract and Recruit the Right Talent

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About a month ago we published a post on how to attract talent on a budget. We actually had these three additional ideas for attracting and recruiting talent but couldn’t fit them all into one blog post.

Recruit With Intention

These ideas won’t do much good without a plan. So before you jump ahead and try these ideas, read the previous post if you haven’t already. I recommend you fill out the candidate persona template describe in that post before you go ahead. The candidate persona will be of immense use when designing and planning the following activities.

1. Arrange a Party for Your Employees Where They Invite Their Friends

Organize a party at your office and ask your employees to invite their friends.
Organize a party at your office and ask your employees to invite their friends.

For this to work, you need to check the recruiter vibes at the door. Instead, the goal should be for as many prospective hires as possible to attend, have fun and walk away with a strong, positive impression of your company. That means you need to plan this party as you’d plan one for your friends. Hire catering and entertainment. Decorate and prepare. Perhaps you can task some of your staff with planning the event.

To add some intellectual flavor, you could start the event in the late afternoon with speakers to warm up the crowd. Start with serious topics and end with an emotional talk that will set a good mood for the rest of the evening. Athletes and adventurers are usually a good choice as speakers for these kinds of talks. That will allow people who have evening commitments to come attend for a bit to take part of the talks and still get a positive impression of your business.

I did say you should stay away from the recruiter tactics but putting up a table with some information about your company, its clients, and open positions won’t hurt. Just don’t walk the room and pitch your company to attendees. That’s a surefire way to ruin a good mood.

Budget: This one can vary depending on what you aim for. Speakers, DJ, and catering can easily hit multiple digits. Start with setting a budget and see what fits in there considering your ambitions.

Timeframe: Be patient. This may not create leads on the first attempt but will over time. Stick with it and have fun. You’ll be rewarded.

How to do it

  1. Goal. Who are your aiming to recruit? What kind of event would they like to attend? Refer to your candidate persona and come up with ideas. Try them out by asking people in the same group such as your employees.
  2. Budget. What’s this worth to you? What would the cost be to recruit these people using other channels? What is the value of other positive effects of the event such as brand perception and employee loyalty?
  3. Communicate. Set a date and communicate it early. Build momentum by marketing it through your website, social media accounts and by asking staff to share it with their friends.
  4. Organize. Set up a team in your company to manage and organize the event. Chances are people will love the idea and will be eager to help. Just don’t take advantage of their enthusiasm by asking them to do the planning work uncompensated and outside office hours.
  5. Content. Ask the team to come up with ideas for the format and content. Look at what other companies have done. Pick the things that worked.
  6. Plan. This is the hard work. You need to find caterers, DJ’s and speakers. Allow at least three months for this if you’re ambitious. It’s not a full-time job but many event suppliers are often booked for months if not half a year or more. Smaller events can do with less planning. Remember to devise a way to collect anonymous feedback from guests.
  7. Execute. Bring a good mood and the attitude to ensure that everyone has a good time.
  8. Evaluate. Analyze the feedback from guests to see what you did right and what could be improved. Ask those who approach you as client or recruit leads what made them contact you. Summarize and discuss the outcome with the event team.

2. Organize a Hackathon With Exciting New Technology

A hackathon doesn't have to about writing software code, it can involve anything creative.
A hackathon doesn’t have to be about writing software code, it can involve anything creative.

Wikipedia defines a hackathon as “a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject-matter-experts, collaborate intensively on software projects.”

If your agency provides technical services such as software development, this concept is probably not new to you. The good thing is those hack days also work for less technical roles such as copywriters and designers. Hackathons can range in length from evenings and afternoons to multiple days.

I’ve attended quite a few hackathons over the years and the things that make a hackathon a success are:

  • An accessible venue that is easy to reach without having to be let in and navigating a maze of offices.
  • Comfortable rooms with good tables and chairs, fast wifi and easy access to power to plug computer and phone.
  • Not a noisy place. Some people need to be able to have conversations and draw on whiteboards, others just want to crunch. A space with satellite meeting rooms is a great venue for a hackathon.
  • Snacks and drinks. Ideally healthy ones. I recommend against alcohol as it makes people less effective. Instead opt for juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. A Mediterranean buffet, such as Lebanese food, is often appreciated and includes vegetarian dishes.
  • Candy, nuts, and chips are often appreciated. Serve them in glasses so that people can grab one and bring to their table.
  • If you’re playing music, keep the volume low and unintrusive.
  • Short talks, so-called lightning talks, can be an inspirational part of a hackathon. Just make sure people can work undisturbed. Keep talks in a separate room with doors to block off the sound.

For a comprehensive guide to hackathons, see my extensive guide to organizing Drupal conferences. The guide isn’t specific to Drupal, the concepts apply to any kind of hackathon.

Budget: If your office is easy to reach, chances are you can host the hackathon there to save money. Just clear desks and warn staff that strangers will be walking the offices so they can remove personal items. Otherwise, most hotels can offer suitable venues for hackathons.

Timeframe: The goal of a hackathon is to get people to associate your company with exciting new technologies, solutions, and ideas. This doesn’t happen overnight so make hackathons a habit.

How to do it

  1. Aim. Set a goal for the event and decide on a target audience for your recruiting efforts. Use the candidate persona to come up with ideas for technologies or themes to cover. Ask your staff what they think is interesting or exciting. Remember that a hackathon doesn’t have to be about programming. It can also be about writing and design. You could, for example, use the hackathon as a way to help a local NGO or non-profit.
  2. Budget. Decide how much you’re willing to spend based on what you believe the return will be. Remember that you can usually get far with just a few hundred euros spent on food and drinks.
  3. Plan. Consider what will be needed to prepare the venue. If you’re aiming for a larger hackathon, organize a team that will help plan and execute the event. When it comes to open source, people outside your company are likely more than happy to help. Give them t-shirts to make them recognizable. Limited edition t-shirts are also a nice keepsake.
    Remember to brand the venue and order rollups and signage with your logo and the name of the hackathon. You want to make it clear that your company sponsors it.
    If you want speakers, invite them as early as possible. Decide on a policy for compensating lodging and travel costs. Same goes for experts you invite to organize workshops. Many will attend for free but expect their expenses to be reimbursed.
  4. Market. Set up the necessary channels such as website or Twitter accounts. Give a member of the team the task of managing these. You can tweet about sponsors, speakers or topics. You can find more marketing ideas in my guide.
  5. Execute. Expect a long day. These events take a lot of work and you’ll likely feel like you’re running around all day fixing problems and putting out fires. That’s alright and completely normal. I recommend setting up a shared group chat among the members of the organizing team to coordinate the work.
  6. Follow up. Gather everyone involved in organizing the event afterward and evaluate. Take notes for the next time. Be attentive to feedback from attendees, good and bad.
  7. Celebrate. Organize a dinner for the team as a reward. They’ve likely worked hard. Share the success and pat your backs. You’ve earned it.

3. Write Openly About the Work-Life at Your Agency

Start blogging about what it's like at your company. Focus on emotions and experiences.
Start blogging about what it’s like at your company. Focus on emotions and experiences.

Too many companies make the mistake of assuming that those who read their blog is interested in the same things as they are. As a result, most blogs are full of brag posts about new clients or projects. A company should be rightfully proud of winning an account after having worked hard but it doesn’t mean the world cares.

When it comes to blogging for prospective employees, it’s even worse. Very few companies even consider prospective team members as an audience of their marketing. There are some exceptions. These companies have dedicated blogs to draw the attention of potential hires. This is called recruitment marketing and it’s getting more and more common.

The number one rule is that prospective employees trust your employees more than they trust you. So for your recruitment marketing to work, involve your team. Refer to the candidate persona for topics to cover. But also ask your team what they’d want to read about when considering coming to work for you. Give them the time and resources to produce content that answers those questions. They don’t have to write perfect posts. Instead, ask them to write a synopsis and an outline and have a professional write finalize it.

To succeed in recruitment marketing:

  • Focus on what prospective team members need and want. Don’t superimpose your own ideas on those you wish to recruit. Build your strategy on empathy and genuine understanding.
  • Let your non-managerial staff be the senders of the messages. They’re way more trustworthy than recruiters, HR staff or executives.
  • Be painfully open and transparent. Don’t censor what staff wishes to say. You’ve delegated to them, now don’t renege on that. If something at your company isn’t working well, don’t hide it. Instead, show that you’re aware of it and what you’re doing to fix it.
  • Don’t worry what potential clients might think. This isn’t for them, and if they don’t like what they read, they’re probably not a good match for you.
  • Consider culture. Ask your team questions like: Why did you choose to work here? Why do you still work here? What’s your favorite thing about working here? What’s your favorite way to work? These are seeds for things to write about on the blog. But not only that, they are also important questions to answer as part of defining a cohesive culture in your company. You will want to attract people who fit that culture.
  • Discuss difficult issues. If your company has had an internal meeting about preventing sexism and #metoo, write about it. You may not have those problems at your workplace but it shows that you are aware.

Budget: Communication takes time and effort. It’s a long game and doesn’t lead to immediate rewards. You need to be consistent and focused and you have to have a plan. Set the budget you can afford and make a plan that fits that budget. That doesn’t mean you can’t start small. Just have a plan for it.

Timeframe: Six months to a year at least. This isn’t a quick fix but it will yield return upon return. Set realistic targets, define a strategy and tactical actions, work, trust the process and evaluate. Scale it according to your needs.

How to do it

  1. Goals. Determine what you wish to achieve in terms of recruiting. Refer to the candidate persona I covered in the previous post for an idea about who you wish to attract. What makes them an ideal candidate? What do they value? What drives them?
  2. Culture. Consider your company’s culture and what’s needed for someone to be a good fit there. Discuss it with your team and document the findings. Find principles and values you can unite around as a team. Think about ways you can communicate these ideas to prospective employees.
  3. Strategize. If you’re starting a blog, create a content strategy for this blog. Make informed decisions about target groups, topics, formats, and channels. Use the same thinking you used when defining the strategy for your regular blog. Take this as seriously, if not more. Work without a plan is sadly often wasted work.
  4. Start small. A good first step can be publishing a page on your site about your workplace culture with an open staff handbook.
  5. Be consistent. This work doesn’t end. Consistency beats quality. If you need to cut the scope to be consistent, do it. It’s better to post less ambitious, yet genuine, content regularly than extensive polished pieces rarely.
  6. Follow up. Use analytics software to track engagement with your content and also ask candidates your interview if they’ve seen it and what they think. Use the content as a starting point for a discussion during interviews with potential new hires about your company’s values and vision to determine cultural fitness.


Which of these ideas is your favorite? Why?

Please post a comment. I read all the comments.


Photo Credits


Author: Jakob Persson

Jakob is the founder and CEO of Zingsight, the company behind Bondsai. He's been involved with the web for over twenty years and has previously co-founded and grown a web agency from 4 to 70 people. Jakob holds degrees in media technology and cognitive science. He consults in product design and management, and business development. Jakob is an experienced skier and a learning scuba diver.