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Joris Luijke' 5 Key stages to building an amazing recruiting campaign

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Joris Luijke's keynote about creative recruitment from Culture by Design 2015


Edited for grammar and syntax

Joris Luijke Hi, everyone. I would love everyone to stand up who works in fast-growing startups. A majority of the people just stood up here. I just want to say that I truly feel your pain. Now, people who are recruiting in those fast-growing companies, you stay standing up. The rest sit down. I'll be talking about creative recruiting campaigns. You can all sit down. I do feel your pain.

And why do I feel your pain? Because it's really, really fricking hard to find amazing people for your companies. And I've been through this a bunch of times. I worked at a company called Atlassian, and my entire team grew from 130 to about 700 people. Then I joined a company called Squarespace two years ago, when 70 people grew to 500 people. And now, two weeks ago, I joined a company called Grovo, where 170 people are looking to double in a year.

In order for us to find excellent people, you could just do what other people do as well. You can hire an amazing recruiting team, and you can focus a lot on sourcing and search, right? That's what traditionally happens. And what I've done in these companies, and what I've seen done within other companies that is really, really successful is implementing creative recruiting campaigns.

Why Joris Luijke loves implementing creative recruiting campaigns

Firstly, you're able to find people that normal recruitment can't locate. If you execute a creative recruiting campaign successfully, the message goes viral, and you're able to find that person that is somewhere coding on a mountain in Colorado. We found people in Spain, in the midlands of the US. We found people everywhere. That's only possible through creative recruiting campaigns.

Secondly, if you have a recruiting team, or the recruiters that are sitting here, recruitment to a large extent is a repetitive task. You do the same thing over and over, and you get really, really good at it. But look at your recruiters. They probably didn't make the decision to become a recruiter when they were high school. They kind of fell into it. Implementing creative recruiting campaigns gives your recruitment teams the opportunities to stretch different mental muscles, project management, creativity, all these other things, which I really like my recruiters to experience.

And thirdly, and this is a more obvious one, it helps you to, especially if you're not on Facebook or on Google, and you already have an amazing brand, it helps you to get your brand recognition out there.

Those are the three main reasons why I like implementing these recruiting campaigns.

5 Key stages to building an amazing recruiting campaign

I'm going to give you the insights of what we did, and what many other organizations have done, to build an amazing recruiting campaign, and there's five key stages to building one.

  1. Align with your culture.
  2. Stand out, be interesting 
  3. Have an anchor event
  4. Create urgency
  5. Create a vehicle for your message to spread  

When I was starting to write this presentation last week, what kind of started out as joke become the actual presentation that I'm presenting to you today, so bear with me. I'm going to try to explain the five steps in creating a creative recruiting campaign through the dating behaviors of cool (and not so cool) animals. Bear with me as I'm going to explain to you the dating rituals of garden snails, and coral reefs, and birds, and flies, and all of that stuff, to explain to you how creative recruiting campaigns can actually be built.

Align your recruiting campaign with your culture 

The Bali bird. Now, the Bali bird is an interesting animal. Basically, they build beautiful nests, and in front of those beautiful nests, they portray everything that they like, that they found in the area and that they really, really like. And every single Bali bird displays different things in front of their nest. And now the female Bali bird goes around and around, looks at all the Bali bird nests and says, "Hm, I like your stuff."

It'd be like if you're going to someone's apartment for the first time, you know, you have a date, and you go to their apartment, and you look around like, "Oh my god, this guy is terrible," or "This woman has terrible taste in art." That kind of stuff, right? The Bali bird does that too, and this is what happens then.

What does the Bali bird teach us? You want to make sure that you express yourself as a company, that you truly align yourself, your campaign that you're developing, with the company culture and the key messages that you want to portray. That's the essence. That the foundation of every single campaign.

Recruiting campaign alignment - Ikea and Etsy

Two companies that did this very well, first there was a company called Ikea. Ikea in Australia, a number of years ago, opened up these mega centers, these massive Ikea stores, and they needed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. And what they did is they wanted to have a campaign that really reflected what they were truly about as a company.

You know how you, at Ikea, you get those flat packs, right? One thing they noticed is that lots of the employees that were currently working at Ikea were customers of ikea before. What they did, very brand aligned, very much in line with their core message of "do it yourself." They created an instruction manual, not just of how to put together your furniture, but also how you could construct your career with Ikea. Beautifully done. Beautifully aligned.

Another example closer to home, our neighbors at Etsy, our friends at Etsy. What they did when they opened up a new office in San Francisco, they needed a lot of developers. They're in a market there, it's tough. It's not easy to find developers. What Etsy did is they combined their brand of craft, which basically made their company successful, with the need to hire coders. "Coders Craft" was their campaign. They put together these beautiful banners that they put all over San Francisco, for example, about the load balancer. Again, portraying craft with their need for engineers. Beautifully done.

Make a recruiting campaign that stands out 

But, unfortunately, I hate to break it to you, just being brand aligned is not enough. You need to be interesting as well. You need your campaign to stand out from the noise. And if one bird really understands that, it's the Manakin bird. Now, the Manakin bird understands that just being observed is not enough. You need to stand out, and he does these pretty terrific dances to attract the female birds, and this is what you see then. This bird definitely knows how to be interesting. And I think that's the second phase of any creative career. Of course, you need to be brand aligned, but you need to be interesting as well. You need your campaign to really stand out.

Two examples. One of them is from Squarespace where I used to work, when we implemented a campaign called "Initial Commit." Initial Commit was born out of the need to find more interns. The year before, we had 80 interns applying for a job at Squarespace. After implementing Initial Commit, we have over 2,200 interns apply for a job at Squarespace. Over a quarter of all eligible engineering students at the schools that we targeted applied for a job at Squarespace. That's insane. That truly, truly is insane.

What we did is, besides making the campaign very brand aligned is, we rented out this mansion in Montauk, and we said to the interns, "Your first week of your internship, you get to stay with your fellow interns in this house in Montauk." And we really campaigned that as well. We introduced that message in our campaign.

That message went around and around and around at the campuses. Of course, no intern applied for a job because they could stay in a beach house for a week. That's not why you apply for a job. They applied for a job at Squarespace because they felt aligned with what the company had to offer. But the message most certainly spread, because we did something interesting. We could have done what every other company did. We didn't. We did something special. The core of our message was helped to spread with something interesting, just like the Manakin bird.

Anchor your recruiting campaign with an event                             

Phase 2. Now what can a coral reef in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, teach us? The one thing that they can teach us is that you need to ensure that you anchor your campaign against another event that happens in the world or within your company. The coral reef only procreates a few times a year, and that is in December, when the temperature's are high, and at full moon. And at that moment, this is what happens.

Anchoring your campaign against a certain event, what do I mean by that? Take the "Be a Part of It" campaign. Much more certainly, an aligned campaign that was interesting as well. We got people from outside of New York City who applied for a job at Squarespace. We offered them an entire long weekend in town on us. We sent them to a jazz club, a nice museum. We didn't just invite them but their partner or significant other to come along with them, because the decision to move cities, you really make alone.

But probably the most important thing that we did, we anchored it against another event that was naturally happening in the company. This is very, very unscientific graph to indicate the number of page view onto the Squarespace website at a time right after Super Bowl ad. Squarespace had an ad on the Super Bowl. Lots of people were looking at the company, and right after that, we launched the campaign. Because of that, we had over 2,500 people applying, just by managing to find an event that helped us to get the message more attention. Very, very important.

Now, you can do that with all sorts of things. You have a big product release, or you may get a new funding round. All of those things that make your company stand out and have more eyes on your company is a good time to be thinking about launching a creative recruiting campaign. Or, on the other hand, the "Europe, We're Coming to Steal Your Geeks" campaign of Atlassian. It's slightly a different situation. This also unscientific graph represents the economic downturn in Europe. The economy was going to crap, and what we did with Atlassian, is we sent a bus around Europe, filled with Australian beers and swag, all across the cities. But we did that in the midst of the economic crisis, and it basically said, "Here's this company from Australia, where the beaches are beautiful, the sun is always shining," and here we are rolling out the red carpet.

That message got picked up by media. We got onto Spanish national TV. People were disagreeing with it. People were fearful of the brain drain. With only a few weeks, we had thousands and thousands of applications coming in, and we selected the 50 absolutely best. Timing of your campaign is absolutely everything.

Create urgency in your recruiting

Now, you can see, all of those campaigns has these other prerequisites we well, right? They were aligned, they were interesting, and they were well timed.

Now what can a completely different animal in the animal kingdom teach us about the urgency levels that drive action. Now, the mayfly is the animal in the animal kingdom with the shortest lifespan. They only live one day, and during that one day, they only have one thing on their mind. Urgency. Urgency. Now, there's some companies do this well. Others don't do it well. But with any campaign, you're looking at a coupon for dishwasher detergent, or something like that. There's always a by and by a certain date. You have to create urgency, either officially or artificially.

One company that did this very well was Red 5, it's a gaming company. And they were short of gaming developers, and they're very hard to find, so what they did is they selected 100 really, really strong gaming developers. They selected them, and they sent them all this beautiful box, very brand aligned. Beautiful imagery of their previous and inside was a little iPod. And that directed them to a site, and that site had written on it, basically an opposite job application, why the company really, really liked them and wanted them to work for them.

And they did something else that was really, really smart. They said that they were working on a special project. And if the recipient of the box wanted to participate and apply to be part of that special project, they had to apply by a certain day, because the special project was going to go ahead with or without them, right? They artificially, or maybe officially, created urgency, hence the reason why the campaign was so successful. Creating urgency is an essential ingredient of your campaign.

Create a vehicle for your message to spread  

And then my all time favorite, the garden snail. The garden snail explains that just good looks are not enough. You need your core message to reach your target. Now, what the garden snail has, on top of their head, a little love dart. And once a garden snail sees another garden snail that looks kind of attractive, they shoot this love dart into the body of the other garden snail. And it kind of creates these hormones, or something like that are released, and basically it's up to the other garden snail, like, "Hey. I'm interested in you. Are you interested in me?" And if that's the case, this is what happens.

My wife actually said it was weirdly sensual, this. It's like, it's really weird. Anyway. Hire the vehicle. That's right. I was distracted by the snails. There are lots of ways to do this. We use social media a lot. You can use Facebook, Twitter, as a vehicle for your message to reach your target audience. At Squarespace we actually used Spotify, because developers are often hooked into Spotify, so we just sat in Google Spotify ad space. It can be very targeted as well, work very well.

Or you can do something like Jung von Matt did. Jung von Matt is an advertising agency in Germany, and they knew that lots of the people that they were hiring for were designers and content creators, and they often used this fake "blah-bah" text to put into a website as a place for a, they call it a Lorem ipsum.

What Jung von Matt did is, they created their own Lorem ipsum generator, so basically you can say, "I need two paragraphs of text," and it spits it out. Has anyone seen it?

Basically, they created this, and after a while, once the sides started to get traction, they started to include this message:"Do your layouts deserve better than Lorem ipsum? Apply as an art director and team up with the best copywriters at Jung von Matt." This was a tremendous success, and just very, very smart way to find a vehicle for your message to actually reach your target audience. It's also brand aligned. It's also very interesting. But the vehicle that they used was very, very smart indeed.

Sometimes, you want other people to be writing about you, especially newspapers, because media has a massive, massive reach, and you just can't simply obtain by using Twitter or Facebook and other things. In order for you to launch a successful campaign, think about how you can make your campaign newsworthy.

Hiring 100 or more people in one year

How many people are looking to have 100 people next year? 100 people or more? All right.

Of course if you're hiring 100 people, you're not alone. I'm hiring 100 people. Your colleagues are hiring 100 people. Many people are hiring 100 people. It's not newsworthy. But if you say something like this, "Grovo invests $12,000,000 in new tech jobs," that suddenly becomes a headline. It's an investment. You have to understand, if you want your message to spread, what journalists want to hear. And messages like that just strike a chord. Use journalists to get your messages to spread.

Another thing that we did at Atlassian, ages ago, when I was still working there, was when we launched the 32 Campaign. We were still very small, 130 people. We didn't have much of a brand name back then. One group had a contact list, lots of the folks that we wanted to talk to, and they were recruiters. And those recruiters, we didn't really like working with them all that much, because they were agencies, and it was a bit of a hate/love relationship that we had with them.

But at some point, as part of the campaign, we needed a vehicle, so we said to those recruiters, all the recruiters in Australia, we said, "Every single recruiting agency can submit candidates to us but based on three rules. Firstly, you're not allowed to send more than three candidates to us. Second rule, you have to sign up to our terms and conditions. And a third rule, if none of those three people is hired, we never want to do business with you again."

Now, that message struck a cord with many recruiters. It did a few things. The quality of candidates that were submitted through agencies went up massively, so they did a better job. But secondly, it created a lot of discussion in the industry. Newspapers were writing about it. Lots of blogs were being written about it. It would become a discussion topic of the quality of recruitment agencies in the world, and basically we found a completely different vehicle for us to utilize media, and utilize recruiters, and get our message to spread.

In summary, if you want a successful recruiting campaign, you have to think through all these five phases. Make sure that you really align your campaign with your brand. It's the basis of every single campaign. Be brand aligned. Just like the Manakin bird, though, make sure that you're campaign stands out as interesting. Just being brand aligned is not enough. You have to do something out of the ordinary. Thirdly, make sure that you anchor your campaign against an event that you already have, a product release, an investment, an economic downturn. Make sure you create urgency, like the mayfly teaches us. Make sure you create urgency, so people are not just seeing your campaign, but they're actually encouraged to apply as soon as possible. And very importantly, find a vehicle for your message to spread.

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