Recruiting Lessons from ‘Fast Company’

Feb 20, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

The March 2009 issue of Fast Company lists its take on the 50 most innovative companies in the world.

As I read their analysis, it seemed evident that the lessons learned about what makes a company innovative could be directly applied to the recruiting industry. With this perspective in mind, here’s how I’d translate business and product innovation into recruiting ideas.

Some of them are wild and crazy, but then again, they might just work.

Innovative Recruiting Lessons Loosely Interpreted from Fast Company

The order shown below is my ranking of the ideas themselves. The Fast Company ranking is also shown.

  1. Amazon #9 on the Fast Company list. Innovative idea: developing the Kindle ebook based on the idea that you should focus first on your customers’ needs when delivering products and services, not some preconceived idea of the way it should be. Application to recruiting: if you want to hire top people, first figure out how they find career opportunities, why they engage with a company to evaluate a specific opportunity, and why they select one job over another. This seems so obvious, yet when I look at how most companies write ads, screen candidates, keep them interested, and make offers, it’s great advice. Maybe you should be reading this on a Kindle.
  2. Intel #6. Innovative idea: created teensy chips for targeted market applications. Application to recruiting: stop posting big, boring job ads on career sites. Instead, use Twitter and micro blogs targeted to narrower audiences, or push your jobs using aggregators to specific functional sites.
  3. Team Obama #1. Innovative idea: empower your customers to participate more actively using the latest online technology. Application to recruiting: create talent communities. This is a search engine optimized talent hub grouped by job class that’s easier to find than an individual posting, and certainly more inviting. This micro site funnels candidates to a prospect pool to be nurtured using some CRM tool. To capture their attention, prospects can interact with recruiters and hiring managers without applying, just to get more information. What an idea! Imagine allowing customers just to look around and easily compare products before buying one? Now that’s a recruiting idea worthy of consideration.
  4. Google #2. Innovative idea: continuous innovation. Application to recruiting: always improve what you’re doing, use consumer marketing concepts to reach people before the competition to establish a competitive advantage, and try stuff out even if it doesn’t work. Application to recruiting: just about everything you do now should be reconsidered. It fact, maybe have the recruiting and sourcing department report to marketing or be run by someone who is customer-focused?
  5. Hulu #4. This is the TV-on-the-Internet company. Innovative idea: make a site that’s easy to use and fun, and easy to create by getting rivals to work together. In this case, Fox and NBC Universal. Application to recruiting: make it easy as possible to have prospects find your site and get engaged. As part of this, maybe recruiting should have its own dedicated IT staff. There are just too many rivals for the corporate IT department’s attention, so this way you could try more new things faster.
  6. Apple #5. Innovative idea: offer great design, charge premium prices, don’t stop innovating, and be green. Application to recruiting: Make your jobs different than the competition; offer something unique; sell on career growth, not compensation; and be green.
  7. Hewlett-Packard #12. Innovative idea: partner with non-related companies in order to offer your customers a unique and custom product experience. Application for recruiting: Partner with non-traditional organizations outside your company to attract a different type of prospect. For example, you could partner with Trump Casinos and invite recent MBA grads to a poker championship (it’s been done by Harrah’s) or develop some type of online competitive interactive game for your sales reps.
  8. Cisco #5. Innovative idea: continue to act like a start-up. Application to recruiting: don’t be bureaucratic. This means HR, comp, legal, and the OFCCP shouldn’t be driving the design of your hiring processes. This doesn’t mean you’ll be out of compliance, it just means you won’t be boring.
  9. Pure Digital Technologies #7. This is the company that makes the Flip video recorder. Innovative idea: make the product easy to use and offer customers a chance to interact with it by customizing it. Application to recruiting: rather than have prospects find a specific job, drive them to a talent hub of all comparable jobs. At this warm-up page let them interact with recruiters, find related jobs or have them design an “ideal job” by describing the work they enjoy the most and are great at. Then let your ATS bring forth what “best fits” for them. At the extreme, maybe let candidate’s create their “ideal job” and then repackage the jobs you have open to fit this.
  10. Ideo #10. This is the top design company on the planet. Innovative idea: the company has grown from just designing products to transforming systems to designing for behavioral change. This means adapting the product or service to incorporate a benefit, like saving the planet or at least getting better gas mileage. Application for recruiting: stop thinking about just hiring people to fill jobs, instead, think about offering careers. You’ll need to understand the behavior criteria your prospects use when looking and comparing positions to start this process. To implement it, you’ll need to apply every one of the ideas mentioned above.

We’ll be discussing these and other innovative recruiting ideas on my Recruiter’s Wall blog. So join and participate. There’s only one criteria — be innovative!

As I review the other innovative ideas on the Fast Company list, there seems to be a number of common themes or principles that stand out as guidance. For one thing, all of these ideas are innovative. As obvious as that sounds, being innovative is hard, because you’re fighting the status quo.

So if you want to be innovative, expect lots of naysayers, a bit of ridicule, and some grief.

Start small. Being innovative doesn’t mean copying someone, it means being first, but copying can help to prove your point and establish your bona fides. Trying out lots of different ideas until one sticks also seems to be part of being innovative.

Continuous change and constant renewal seems to be another aspect of this.

What’s also interesting is that these companies have always been innovative; it’s part of their corporate DNA. So it’s not a surprise to see any of them on the list. This becomes a chicken-or-the-egg problem for recruiting, then. Can a corporate recruiting department housed in HR ever become risk-taking and innovative?

Perhaps not, but since all of these companies are doing fairly well from a competitive standpoint, being innovative certainly has a significant ROI that can be demonstrated. Maybe it will take some gutsy person to make an innovative pitch to the CEO to get the process started. This alone is pretty innovative, so show some guts and get going.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!