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20 out-of-the-box recruiting strategies to hire and attract top talent

Alia Paavola
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Although attracting and hiring high-quality candidates is imperative for business growth, it can be particularly difficult in today’s tight labor market.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released in July, the U.S. has 11.3 million open jobs, but only 5.9 million unemployed people. With so many open jobs and not enough talent to fill them, it is vital to use creative recruiting strategies to compete in the war for talent.

How many open jobs there are versus unemployed people in the U.S.

Here, we share 20 out-of-the-box recruiting ideas to help you source, screen, and hire top talent. We also include some real-life examples of how other companies executed these innovative recruiting strategies.

20 out-of-the-box recruiting strategies 

1. Use a creative job title to catch candidates’ attention 

When posting a job, consider using an engaging and unique job title to stand out. That’s exactly what companies like Twitter and Chewy did to attract candidates. 

For example, Chewy put out a job description with the title “Time Ninja,” used to describe a time and attendance human resources candidate, while Twitter sought a “Tweeter in Chief” to run the company’s official @Twitter handle.

The job title will stand out to candidates as they scroll through the typical job-seeking websites and make candidates curious about learning more. 

A Tweeter in Chief job description
Here's an example of the Tweeter in Chief job description.

2. Leverage influencers

One strategy that is used heavily by marketers, but is underutilized by recruiters, is leveraging influencers. Consider paying an influencer who your target candidates adore to post about a job opening to boost applications.

For example, say you are a travel nurse agency with hundreds of job openings. Consider hiring a travel nurse influencer on TikTok with thousands of followers to help promote those job openings. 

Marketers have seen the success of using influencers to promote products, events, or services.  In fact, 80 percent of consumers have purchased something after an influencer recommended it. Try leveraging this same process to see success for your recruiting needs. 

3. Make your job offer memorable

Another part of the recruitment process is letting candidates know when they are offered a job. Consider making this job offer memorable to stand out from your peers and make it more likely for a candidate to join your organization.

One example of a way to make a job offer special is by creating a custom playlist that lets the employee know that they got the job. An example of a playlist could be:

A playlist titled, "You got the job, Georgina"
An example of a playlist you could send your candidates.

Another creative idea to let a candidate know they’ve been selected for the job is to send them a photo of their office or desk decorated with a congratulations banner, their favorite colors, or some of their favorite hobbies.

4. Use hidden job ads to source candidates 

One innovative way to attract candidates is posting hidden job ads to find skilled workers. Companies like Apple and Google are known for using this recruitment strategy. 

Apple, for example, hid a job post looking for “a talented engineer to develop a critical infrastructure component.” The job listing was posted on one of the company's hidden servers, which took a particular skillset to find. 

Another company, German ad agency Jung von Matt, hid a job advertisement link in the 'Lorem Ipsum' dummy text often used by creatives to create mock-up sites and pages. When the recruitment ad was running, the dummy text was copied by 220,000 creatives into their work and there were 14,000 visits to the agency's recruitment page. The company was able to hire an art director through the creative campaign.

A screenshot of the Jung von Matt hidden job description
An example of the Jung von Matt hidden job description.

5. Text with potential candidates

Recruiters can use a text recruiting software for a wide range of tasks such as screening a candidate, arranging a phone interview, reconnecting with a past applicant, reaching out to referrals, or sending interview reminders. Plus, texts have a 98 percent open rate and 45 percent response rate, making it easier for recruiters to get in touch.  

No matter the use case for recruiters, texting streamlines communication with candidates, maintains personalization, and is scalable. 

For example, with texting recruiters can respond to inquiries quickly and can ping multiple candidates at once about a job while maintaining personalization. Pro-tip, find a texting platform that allows you to personalize your texts with ease. Textline, for example, allows you to autofill a candidate’s name so even if you are sending the same message to a group, it is personalized for each candidate. 

From the candidates' perspective, texting with a recruiter can save them from awkward situations such as picking up a phone call or responding to a personal email while at their current workplace.

A 2019 study found that candidates who received texts from recruiters rated their experience 50 percent higher than those without, showing the benefits of adding text messaging as a mode of communication. 

Here’s an example of a text message a recruiter could use to reach out to a referral: 

An example of a text from a recruiter at Bob's Pool Design
An example of a text a Bob's Pool Design recruiter could send a referral.

6. Create a custom, Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok filter

Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok have a lot of daily users. As a result, creating a filter on these platforms can help build brand awareness and may lead to more potential job seekers finding your company.

One company that saw great success by using a customizable filter to help its recruitment strategy was McDonald's. The company created a filter on Snapchat, called a lens, that enabled its target audience to view themselves as a member of the McDonald’s crew and submit a 10-second application. In Saudi Arabia, the recruitment strategy resulted in more than 42,972 applications being submitted in just 24 hours.

A girl using McDonals's Snapchat filter
Here's an example of McDonald's lens that made it easy for people to apply for open positions.

7. Host competitions to find skilled workers

A few companies like LEGO, Ogilvy, and MGM Grand have turned to friendly competitions to find the right person for their open jobs. 

LEGO, for example, uses a competition called “Brick Factor” to find professional LEGO Master Model Builders. Contestants come from all over the country to compete in two-day build-offs. Competitors are given a theme and a limited amount of time to build a model that is judged on creativity, building skills, and how they interact with the public during the event. The winner of the competition is given the job on the spot.

Hosting a competition, either in-person or online, can help organizations find highly skilled workers that thrive under pressure. 

Screenshot of LEGO's Brick Factor website
Here's an example of LEGO promoting its Brick Factor competition.

8. Turn raving fans into employees

Recruiters could benefit from targeting a company’s best customers. The truly passionate customers could become energized and engaged employees who know the product and brand well. 

One example of a company that used this strategy in a creative way was IKEA when it opened a new store in Australia. The furniture giant had the task of hiring 100 employees. IKEA decided to target existing customers by putting ‘career assembly instructions’ inside the IKEA furniture packages that were already purchased. Thousands of customers applied after finding the directions in their furniture boxes. 

9. Target recently laid-off employees

As recession fears mount, an increasing number of companies have announced layoffs including Netflix, Coinbase, and Stitch Fix. However, the churn in the labor market is presenting a great opportunity to bring in top talent that those companies let go of. 

In fact, 55 percent of technology companies that responded to a CNBC survey in June 2022 said that layoffs were giving them a chance to bring in top-level talent that was previously unavailable. 

Recruiters, as a result, should pay attention to the companies laying off workers and target those employees appropriately. 

10. Don’t be afraid to direct message people you admire

While recruiters often direct message on LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to direct message people on other social media platforms if you think they would thrive at a particular job. 

For example, if you find someone you think is hysterical on Twitter, consider reaching out to find out more about them and if they would be interested in applying for a social media job. 

Additionally, if you admire the graphics or drawings someone posts on Instagram, direct message them to see if they are interested in applying for a job in design.

Here’s an example of a DM you could send a designer on Instagram:

I came across your page and I 💜 your content. I’m a recruiter working with AirBNB. We have a job opening for a new website designer and I think you’d be a great fit! If you’re interested in learning more, just reply here and I can send you additional details.

11. Discover the niche platforms your candidates hang out

While posting on popular online job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed is important, these sites are growing more cluttered. That said, one way to stand out and reach your target audience is by finding the niche platforms where your candidates hang out to share more information about the job. This is not only a great way to get in front of potential candidates but also a way to get to know your target candidates a bit more.

For example, if you are recruiting an emergency department physician, consider posting the job on Doximity, a platform of more than 2 million medical professionals. 

Or, if you are in need of hiring a bartender for a new local restaurant, join a local bartenders group on Facebook and post your job advertisement there. 

Other niche communities could include heading to news outlets like Hacker News for IT experts or engineers, posting on Behance to source designers, or heading to ActiveRain to find real estate professionals.

12. Offer a creative sign-on bonus

In an effort to attract talent, more companies have turned to cash signing bonuses in recent years. In particular, the number of job ads that offered cash sign-on bonuses jumped 454 percent across all sectors in 2021, according to Global Data

While cash sign-on bonuses are popular, consider standing out from competitors by offering candidates a sign-on bonus that is out of the ordinary.

Consider offering your candidate a weeklong, expense-paid trip to a destination of their choice within the U.S., or tickets to their favorite team’s sporting event. 

As part of a way to attract employees, the tech hospitality company SevenRooms pays new hires to take two weeks of vacation and grants them health insurance coverage prior to their first day. The company said offering this bonus allows their new hires to feel refreshed and valued before even starting the new job. The tech company also offers unlimited PTO throughout the year so employees can take time off when needed.

13. Collaborate with HR to offer unique perks

LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report found that 60 percent of job seekers listed compensation and benefits as one of their top priorities when choosing a new job. As a result, consider collaborating with HR to offer unique benefits to attract more candidates.

Most employers offer employee benefits like medical, disability and life insurance, retirement benefits, and paid time off. To add different perks consider offering commuter benefits, complementary college courses, or “summer Fridays” in which there are reduced hours.

An example of a company that offers a unique benefit to attract and retain employees is Meta. The company offers employees that have been there for five years the option to take a four-week paid sabbatical to “recharge.” 

A screenshot of a Meta employee's post describing its unique sabbatical
A screenshot of a Meta employee describing the sabbatical job perk.

14. Produce a ‘day-in-the-life’ video to show candidates

Another recruitment strategy that employers can use to boost their reputation and attract new candidates is creating an inside look at what it is like to work at your company with a day-in-the-life video.

LinkedIn is one company that created a unique video to show prospective candidates. Marvin Li, an engineering manager at LinkedIn, strapped a GoPro to his head and shot a day-in-the-life video that revealed an insider perspective about what the job entails, what the office looks like, and more.

Companies can also opt to film short interviews with employees or publish written employee testimonials on their websites. The key is to ensure there are testimonials from a range of roles and seniority levels. Companies can ask questions like:

  • What’s the company culture like?
  • What do you love about working here?
  • How would you describe your coworkers?

15. Share free informational content

As part of a longer-term recruitment strategy, develop informative content like blogs, webinars, podcasts, or ebooks, focused on helping potential candidates land roles in your industry. Publishing this content and offering it for free fosters a sense of goodwill toward a brand, which may appeal to potential employees.

Some examples of content you can share include a webinar on preparing for an interview, a blog post on ways to make your resume shine, or a podcast about common interview flops. 

Consider also posting informational content or “how-to” videos on TikTok, one of the most popular social media channels. This would be a creative way to attract candidates.

Chipotle is an example of a company that posted informational content on its TikTok page as part of a recruiting strategy. The company shared a short TikTok video describing the nontraditional benefits of working at the restaurant chain. The recruiting campaign led to a 7 percent increase in applicants from the month before, according to the Financial Post.  

16. Play the long game

Although the average time to fill a position varies by sector, it takes more than 33 days in 15 industries, according to LinkedIn. One strategy to help reduce this metric is to play the long game.

For many companies, the recruiting process is often transactional and short-lived. Typically, a candidate is hired or not chosen and the relationship ends. Instead, work to build long-term relationships with candidates as a way to keep your talent pipeline full and fill roles faster. 

One of the best ways to play the long game and build those relationships is by keeping in touch with candidates and reaching out to them when new job openings arise that they may be a great fit for.

Another option to keep candidates engaged is to send a monthly newsletter with relevant content like blogs on interview tips, links to new job openings in the industry, or candidate success stories. 

17. Find unique spots to post offline ads

Typical offline job advertising includes posting an ad on bulletin boards in high-traffic areas like train stations, restaurants, and coffee shops. Instead, try placing these ads in unique places to generate buzz. 

For example, Volkswagen was in need of skilled new mechanics. The vehicle manufacturer distributed damaged cars to repair shops across Germany, concealing job advertisements on the underside of each one. The campaign resulted in many mechanics, who saw the ad while working on damaged cars, applying for the job. 

Volkswagen's ad for mechanics
An example of Volkswagen's offline job ad.

18. Gamify your employee referral program 

Employee referrals are one of the most valued and trusted sources talent acquisition. However, a report from Greenhouse found that only 20 percent of recruiters are happy with how often employees participate in referral programs. As a result, consider revamping your employee referral program to encourage participation.

One company that used this to its advantage was the freelance platform Fiverr. The company started awarding points to employees who shared job openings on social media and made referrals. The company then created a public leaderboard that tracked the points employees earned. At the end of each period, employees that had the most points were rewarded cash, additional PTO, and other rewards like tickets. The points-based system helped Fiverr boost referrals and get more visibility on social media. 

19. Encourage past employees to ‘boomerang’

Rehiring past high-performing employees has several benefits, including reduced time to fill the position and less time onboarding. Past employees know the ins and outs of your organization and have a performance track record.

Kronos, for example, encourages past employees to reapply for open jobs. It has a dedicated section on its website where it calls on employees to “boomerang back.” Other companies like EY and Citi also encourage former employees to come back. 

20. Consider arranging regular walk-in recruiting events

Consider offering a recurring, easily accessible hiring event for prospective employees. 

One employer that recently began offering these recruiting events is Baystate Health in Massachusetts. The organization hosts weekly, open-invitation events in which those who walk in are guaranteed an interview with a recruiter. The organization also hosts recurring hiring events throughout the year called "Night Owl Operations," which helps them recruit people who work night shifts. The idea was inspired by Chick-fil-A, which also offers open interviews throughout the year.

These recurring events don’t need to be formal interviews either. Instead, they could be coffee meet and greets or happy hours for candidates that employees referred. These events allow a candidate interested in applying to meet the team and get a sense of the company culture.

The bottom line

Companies across the U.S. are competing for talented workers. To help draw more candidates in and hire great employees, consider using a few of the out-of-the-box recruiting ideas on our list. Who knows, you may find the next game-changer for your company. 

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