15 creative recruitment strategies for hiring great employees

Last updated:
July 29, 2021
February 26, 2024
min read
Brendan McConnell
Table of contents

In an incredibly competitive recruitment environment, such as the one we’re faced with today, it’s important to think and act differently; to stand out from the crowd.

The old, tired, traditional recruitment techniques simply don’t cut it anymore when you’re in the thick of the battle for talent. Instead, it’s all about separating yourself from your talent competitors by making your employer brand unique, your job ads appealing, and your recruitment process seamless. And when it’s time to acting differently, creative recruitment strategies are your best friend.

To land the top talent – especially in the more competitive technical fields like programming and engineering – you need to use innovative, out-of-the-box recruitment techniques to turn the right heads. This means looking at your current recruitment program, and asking yourself:

How can I be more creative? How can I get the right people’s attention? What are my talent competitors doing, and how can I blow them out of the water?

But, thinking and acting creatively is only the first step. Once you have your initial list of ideas, you should diligently test, experiment, measure, and test your recruitment strategies again in order to find what works best for your needs.

If this sounds like a daunting task, don’t worry – we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of 15 creative recruitment strategies that will help get you thinking about your own tactics. These recruiting strategies focus on the following stages of the process:

  • Employer branding
  • Candidate sourcing
  • Candidate screening

With that in mind, let’s get started!

Creative strategies for employer branding

Employer branding is the foundation that your entire recruitment strategy rests on. Building a positive employer brand takes time. Thankfully, there are some innovative recruitment strategies that can help speed up the process.

1. Use authentic messages to build your employer brand

You’ve probably seen a traditional, PR-approved recruitment video more than a few times. The messaging is usually polished, the visuals pristine, and there’s sometimes a lack of authenticity. This creative hiring tactic takes a very different approach.

Instead of relying on your PR team to come up with your employer brand, collect the stories and messaging from the people that matter most – your employees. Interview them about why they love working for your company. Then, take those golden nuggets and display them proudly on your careers page, in your job ads, and on social media.

2. Build broad employer awareness using social media

Having a strong employer brand within your niche candidate pool is one thing, but it’s quite a different ball game when you’re known globally as a great place to work.

One creative recruitment tactic you can use to reach this level is use to power of social media to amplify your employer brand. Share compelling content, engage in conversations with the public, encourage employees to tell their stories, and advertise yourself and your values. When done right, this innovative hiring tactic can lead to great things for your brand on a global scale.

3. Use virtual reality to show off your workplace

This one’s a little off-the-wall and may seem a bit Bladerunner at the moment, but virtual reality is quickly becoming a game changer for creative recruiting strategy. Companies are starting to use virtual reality techniques to show potential candidates what it’s like to work at their office, or what their daily tasks with entail.

In case you’re skeptical, here are a few “real life” virtual reality examples.

Army's simulation is a good example of creative recruitment
British Army’s tank simulation.

4. Use video to build your company brand quickly

While careers pages and employee testimonials are key to building an employer brand, videos can help achieve the desired outcome much faster. Take advantage of channels like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get your employer videos out to a wide audience quickly.

Using the creative recruitment tactics above, combined with the incredible broadcasting platforms available today, will allow you keep up with companies who use television and radio to constantly promote their brand image, but for a fraction of the cost.

One company that really understands the power of online broadcasting is Dollar Shave Club. From their first (hilarious) viral video, to their more serious careers video, Dollar Shave Club has built its entire company and brand around the power of online video.

Innovative candidate sourcing techniques

Sourcing candidates is where the vast majority of creative hiring strategies can be leveraged to your advantage. This is where you can really start to talk directly to your target candidates, in a language they understand. Remember, sourcing candidates always starts with understanding who they are.

5. Recruit from “alternative” websites or channels

To stand out from the crowd, look beyond the websites where everyone else is advertising. Spend some time understanding where your candidates hang out online, and find ways to promote your culture and your job openings there.

This can be industry blogs or message boards, Reddit channels, social media groups, or any other location where your candidates regularly congregate. And don’t be shy; some of the largest companies in the world have done some crazy things to source candidates.

Amazon, for example, once used Tinder to hunt for engineers. Goldman Sachs promoted job openings on Spotify. And Virgin Atlantic went even further with creative recruitment tactics using their own seatback TV screens to woo their own passengers.

Spotify ads can be seen as a creative recruitment technique
Goldman Sachs’ Spotify ad

6. Find thinkers and problem solvers by using hidden job ads

This creative hiring tactic has gained a lot of publicity over the years because of its originality. Companies like Apple, IKEA, and Google have all launched incredibly unique and creative recruitment campaigns targeted at finding the best and brightest problem solvers through riddles and hidden job ads.

These have included videos containing complex instructions to follow and complete, billboards containing math problems, and virtual mazes.

Apple, for example, hid clues and breadcrumbs throughout its website for any curious engineer looking to solve a mystery. The reward? A unique web page that advertised a hidden job with Apple. This is creative candidate sourcing at its finest.

Apple's hidden game is a good example of creative recruitment

7. In-person hiring events and group sessions

Hosting hiring events for your company is a great way to source many candidates quickly. This creative hiring tactic has been used on large, national scales, down to intimate gatherings with a handful of candidates.

The key is to showcase your company and your brand, while at the same time staging informal candidate screenings as you mingle. This helps you source and sort candidates at a much quicker rate than traditional methods.

8. Develop and target a “most wanted” talent pipeline

This tactic is similar to account-based marketing. where you know the customers you want to have and go after them with everything you’ve got. If your goal is to get the best talent you can, then it’s great to know exactly who those people are. Create a shortlist or talent pool of your ideal candidates, and use any variety of creative hiring tactics to entice them into joining your company.

Use your discretion, of course, into how you want to approach these high priority target candidates. But don’t be afraid to think creatively to help you land that big fish.

9. Re-engage past candidates and boomerang employees

Innovative hiring doesn’t always mean finding creative ways to recruit new candidates. Sometimes, the best candidates are already sitting idle in your ATS, or are even former employees. If you find yourself coming up dry in your hunt for top talent, turn your attention to your ATS database.

There is a virtual gold mine of pre-screened candidates who were once engagement enough to apply for a job at your company.

Sort through your ATS using job descriptions or skills searches to find candidates who fit the bill, and reach out to them to see if they’re still interested. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, reach out to former employees to see if they’re interested in staging a comeback.

10. Remote job fair, university, and college recruitment programs

Event recruitment, and attending job fairs and school recruitment days, has been around as a tactic forever. Often, however, companies feel that they need to be physically present at job fairs in order to participate. This isn’t the case in today’s recruitment landscape. Instead, it’s possible to pitch your company and job openings at fairs and schools all over the world via video chat, messaging apps or virtual presentations.

While being physically present to talk to candidates is typically more desirable, remote access to these job fairs lets you interact with significantly more candidate pools than you would otherwise have access to. Quantity is definitely an appealing option for recruiters looking to fill their candidate pools with future new hires.

Creative ways to screen candidates

Once you have the candidates into your ATS, you can now start using some creative candidate screening strategies to zero in on the best ones. If candidates have responded positively to your sourcing techniques, then you should keep this experience going into the next phases.

11. Screening candidates using gamification

Gamification has become a popular and innovative recruitment tactic for testing and filtering candidates early on. Use common gaming rules and design to simulate job tasks and test the candidate’s ability to complete them. You can incorporate task-reward conventions to measure the candidate’s engagement and performance.

For example, create different levels of task difficulty for candidates to navigate through. Or award badges or gifts for achieving certain milestones.

A great example of gamification in recruitment is Unilever’s 20-minute game that they ask candidates to complete early in the application process. This is an excellent way to screen candidates early and remove any applicants who are not able to complete the required tasks.

12. Use social media to stage auditions

Social media can also be used as a great tool to screen candidates, especially for creative roles such as graphic designers, writers, and videographers. Ask candidates to showcase their work on a social media platform of their choice. This allows you to not only see their work but also how well they use important media channels that will no doubt be integral to their job.

For example, if you’re seeking a videographer who will be tasked with creating compelling content for the web, ask them to develop a video campaign on their job trial. This will show you the extent of their videography skills, as well as their creativity in getting their work out into the world.

13. Reduce candidate stress in your application process

This may not sound like a particularly creative recruitment strategy, but take a moment to think about how much stress affects your ability to showcase your abilities.

While some people thrive under it, many people simply cannot put their best foot forward during a stressful job application process. Unless you’re looking for someone to fly the space shuttle, you should take steps to reduce stress wherever possible so that you can truly see the potential in each candidate.

This can be as simple as improving your communication with candidates, removing unnecessary or redundant steps, or allowing candidates to interview remotely. Anything that will help your candidate focus on the conversation and explaining why they’re the perfect fit will help your screening process.

14. Text message interviews

That’s right! Conducting interviews over text message is officially a thing in 2019, and will likely remain one for the foreseeable future. While this may seem a little bit strange, and may not be for everyone, there are some benefits to this innovative hiring tactic:

  • Text messaging is one – if not the – most popular communication channels today.
  • Text message interviews let you talk to your candidates through the channel they use the most.
  • It’s great for conducting initial pre-screens.
  • It can reduce the time spent on calls.
  • They can be combined with chatbots to cover the most basic and mundane of interview questions.

… need I say more?

creative recruitment strategies with video

15. Use video interviews

In addition to reducing stress, video interviews also allow you to source candidates from anywhere in the world. They can be short, three-question interviews at the very start of your screening process. They can be long-form conversations with multiple stakeholders. Or they can be casual get-to-know-you presentations to give some color to the candidate.

Video interviews are here to stay as a creative recruitment strategy. And you should jump on board as quickly as possible to reap the benefits. Luckily, Recruitee has a great video interview app to get you started.

Whether you use one or all of the creative recruitment tactics outlined in this article, it’s important to always take steps to adapt and improve your process. Doing so will help distinguish you from your closest talent competitors. Not to mention give you the upper hand in the ongoing talent shortage.

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