Creative Recruiting Approach Yields Passionate Results

Recruiting is part of my job here at Viget and as everyone knows, it's hard to find great people. We know the traditional methods of recruiting often fall short and that hiring exceptional people may require exceptional methods. We recently started a recruiting experiment and the results were exciting. I thought a summary might be valuable to other employers who wrestle with recruiting challenges. In September, we posted two different advertisements for an Office Manager job. They produced distinctly different responses from applicants. One job listing (see #1 here) was a replication of the standard job description on viget.com. The other was more creative – “A Letter to the Hard-Working-But-Currently-Uninspired Job Seekers” who are looking to work for a company “that values its employees and holds them to high standards.” See #2 here. We posted them about a week apart on the DC craigslist under the office/admin category. The first thing that stuck out was our job title. Skimming the category (which has several listings each day) reveals a lot of repetition. Recently, the category listings included:
  • Administrative Assistant/Office Manager (Fairfax)
  • Executive Assistant/Office Manager (Arlington/Chevy Chase)
  • Office Manager for Child Care Company (Montgomery County)
  • Office Manager / Sr Executive Assistant (Mclean VA)
  • Administrative Assistant (Washington, DC)
  • Office Manager (McLean, VA)
Our first goal was to inspire someone really looking for something special to click and read our job description. Our unique title provided the hook. Our results looked something like this:
  • 9/11/07 Straight job description: about 100 applicants in 1 week
    • 75% gave standard response
    • 25% gave less than standard response
  • 9/19/07 Inspiring letter: about 80 applicants in 1 week
    • 50% gave 2-5 paragraph personalized letter and resume
      • about half of these made an additional creative gesture
    • 40% gave standard response
    • 10 % gave less than standard response
It's worth noting that we received fewer responses to the "inspiring" post, which was both expected and appreciated. One of the big recruiting challenges for a small company is digging through all the noise. The hurdle of reading a more involved post successfully filtered out a lot of potential applicants that lacked the initative we were looking for. The “standard response” from applicants was a 1-3 line email, a 1-3 paragraph cover letter, and a resume. In the second round of applicants, the standard response was perceived as sub-standard; we couldn’t believe anyone would read our letter, decide to apply, and not make any effort to be personal or creative. Creative gestures from applicants included:
  • a homemade post card sent by USPS
  • a basket of brownies left at the front desk (highlighting a previous catering career and a tendency to over-achieve)
  • extensive power point presentations
  • several cleverly photoshopped photos depicting the applicant as a needle in a haystack
  • a box of professionally printed cards which elegantly highlighted the candidate’s skills and experience with one line printed per card
We were reminded that lots of people want their jobs to be more than just a paycheck. Many wrote passionately about seeing the Office Manager position as a chance to make a powerful impact on Viget's culture and well-being. The opportunity to contribute to a company in a meaningful way was one of the most often cited reasons for applying. It was also informative to see what they felt was worth emphasizing. One candidate wrote that she was excited about the possibility of a job “where people have high expectations of me because they believe in my ability to work hard.” This comment was a positive contrast to the many applicants who emphasized wanting an opportunity to be better appreciated by their employer. I felt much better equipped to assess the second batch of applicants fairly and I think on average they were more qualified and well-suited to the position. I also got a sense of how much energy and effort each person was willing to put forth to make an exceptionally good first impression. This quality was critical to our evaluation of candidates. Lastly, it was a lot more enjoyable to review the second set of applicants. The brownies and packages were surprising - who doesn't love brownies? - but the real pleasure was actually connecting with human beings. We had a deep need for an awesome office manager which we wrote about honestly. I received emails from people with a deep desire to work hard in such a role. I felt like we were connecting with the applicant pool in a much more meaningful and productive way. Our experiment worked! Hilary, our new office manager, exceeds our (high) expectations on a daily basis. She's happy to have found a great place to work and we are thrilled to have her. We have since used a similar job listing approach to find a new Internet Marketing Specialist who will be starting in January, and we're trying another variation to attract the ever-elusive exceptional Ruby on Rails developer. Whether it's microsites like teamviget.com or creative job listings on Craigslist, we're committed to trying new things to stay fresh and targeted. Will they continue to help us find the best and brightest? Only time will tell. Good thing this creative recruiting stuff is pretty fun!

Emily is Viget's people director, hailing from our Durham, NC, office. She specializes in heart-to-hearts and asking questions that don’t have concrete answers.

More posts by Emily