Most Sourcing Is Painfully Dull — It’s Time to Try Some Creative Approaches

Jun 25, 2012

Compared to the extremely high levels of creativity and innovation that are found in marketing and product branding, the sourcing aspect of corporate recruiting would have to be given a grade of “F” when it comes to creativity and trying new sources. Using the benchmark standard, the CareerXroads annual survey of external hire sources, more than 90% of corporate hires come from traditional and well-established recruiting sources (i.e. referrals, job boards, the career site, direct sourcing, college career centers, social media, and career fairs). With the exception of possibly social media, you could hardly call any of these major sources “creative.”

In fact, because everyone uses them by definition, they can’t be creative — they are simply common. In order to be labeled as creative, sources have to be unique and infrequently used, as well as effective. For example, creative sourcing might include the use of contests, video games, radio, movie theater ads, billboards, and TV ads. Being creative in sourcing is essential for three basic reasons:

  1. No competitive advantage — if everyone else uses the same sources as you do, your firm simply cannot gain a competitive advantage over your talent competitors. Being a unique user of an effective source does provide a competitive advantage.
  2. Lost in the volume — when literally every corporation uses the same source, your message cannot easily stand out and get noticed, simply because of the volume of recruiting messages.
  3. Active only sources — when you focus so much of your sourcing on active sources (i.e. job boards, print ads, and career fairs), you are failing to reach the 80% of employed individuals who are not actively looking for a job (i.e. the so-called passives). Most creative sources reach both non-lookers and active job seekers.

A List of 20 Proven “Creative Recruiting Sources” That Most Are Not Using

Below you’ll find a list of sourcing approaches that would have to be classified as “creative” simply because so many corporations don’t have the courage to try them. A few of the firms that have tried these approaches are listed in parentheses.

  1. YouTube videos — using employee-produced videos to show the excitement within the firm can allow you to cheaply provide authentic recruiting and employer branding messages (Deloitte, Zynga, and Hyatt)
  2. Your own contest — offering your own online technical contest allows you to assess and attract individuals who are not looking for a job, as well as to get answers to your current problems (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Quixey, and Whirlpool)
  3. Contests sponsored by others — recruiting at externally sponsored contests like cooking competitions and poker competitions can allow you to assess the work of top professionals (Harrah’s, and Microsoft, Dell, and MGM Grand)
  4. Video games — using video games to attract and excite candidates can impress individuals who love video games (U.S. Army, MITRE, and Marriott)
  5. TV/Radio — using both cable and Internet TV shows to show what it’s like to work at the firm can get a powerful message across. Targeting the specific radio stations that your prospect audience listens to can also be effective, especially for diversity prospects (Southwest Air and Zappos)
  6. Movie theater ads — placing ads between movies at movie theaters in order to attract can be effective if members of your target audience are frequent moviegoers (Southwest Air and TSA)
  7. Billboards  using highway billboards to recruit and build your employer brand can make your message visible to commuters (Google, EA and MGM Grand)
  8. Employee referral cards — providing employees with employee referral cards to give to people who impress them during their course of their day can be an inexpensive and effect sourcing tool (Apple and Southwest Airlines)
  9. “Show your work” sites — sourcing on Internet sites like Dribble and Pinterest where individuals post their actual work can allow you to assess and complement on the work of individuals who are not actively looking for a job. Recruiting on Slideshare can also be effective because you can view the presentations of the individuals that you are considering (Southwest Airlines and Work Club).
  10. Location sourcing — physically placing recruiters and recruiting signs close to competitors or where potential hires “hang out” can easily and quickly get the attention of many prospects (EA, zscaler, Google, Cake, Tokbox, TSA, and
  11. Recruiting at non-recruiting events — recruiting at events that are regularly attended by your targets including charity events, sporting events, and wine festivals can allow you to reach employed individuals who are not expecting to be recruited at these types of events. Recruiting at events held by clubs and professional associations that many prospects join can also be effective. (Google, Cisco, IBM, the U.S. Navy, and UPS).
  12. Direct mail — because almost everyone uses the Internet, sending candidate messages directly to their home can make your message stand out (FirstMerit Bank and Starr Tincup).
  13. Consumer products — placing recruiting ads or brand messaging on consumer products like pizza boxes, coffee sleeves, and gas pumps can be a subtle but effective recruiting tool (TSA and Sun).
  14. Question sites/forums — recruit individuals who continually give high quality answers on Internet questions sites like Quora and Focus and on functional forums.
  15. Use the mobile platform for messaging — the smart phone is the most powerful communications medium, simply because prospects are constantly on it and carry it with them at all times. Make sure that your corporate website is compatible with smart phones and use text, voice, and videos to communicate your message to prospects (Sodexo, the U.S. Army, and AT&T).
  16. Talent communities —  for large companies, you can develop online talent communities where you build relationships over time with a group of prospects based on learning and professional issues. Only after the professional relationship is solidified do you pursue recruiting possibilities (Microsoft and UPS).
  17. Assigned referrals — rather than waiting for employees to find a referral, when a top candidate has already been identified, the firm can use software to identify which employee has the strongest social media relationship with the target. The employee (or employees) is then given the assignment to use their connections to contact and to build a recruiting relationship with the target. (Zynga)
  18. Blogs — having your employees write blogs can send an authentic message to individuals who are not actively seeking a job (Google and Microsoft).
  19. Creating a story book — compiling and publishing a book highlighting key employee’s stories about the firm’s culture and environment is a form of authentic messaging (Zappos).
  20. Community organizations and churches — if you’re looking for entry level and hourly workers, an often overlooked source or community organizations and churches. These organizations are likely to be among the first contacted by individuals who have recently joined the community. 

Final Thoughts

If your idea of sourcing is limited to putting together a Boolean search and posting your job on a job board, your overuse of these “tired approaches” may be hurting your firm. Seventy-five percent of all hires come from the same five sources. It may be time to get a fresh perspective, so why not make a commitment to build a relationship with your product marketing and branding teams in order to identify the breath of creative approaches that they use to reach their potential customers?

If you’re not sure whether a new creative approach will work, simply survey a sample of your top employees and best hires to see if using a new source would’ve been effective in reaching and selling them? And remember to ask new hires what approaches attracted them so that you can tell if your new sources actually had a positive impact.

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