What We Can Learn About Recruiting From Avatar’s Creator

Aug 2, 2010

A long time after the rest of the world, I finally saw the movie Avatar, and I was thrilled. Not from the 3D or the big story, but from the fine details. These, in my mind, made the difference, leading millions around the world to believe there is such a planet like Pandora (or that we’ll find one in 150 years time — in 2154, as James Cameron wrote).

I believe these details can help recruiters reach a huge success, especially if they use the social media.

But I’ll start at the beginning.

How Do We Convince People That Something Illogical Really Exists?

This was in my mind, one of Cameron’s biggest challenges. He did create, of course, the big story: a fictional world, on a different planet, so we have a great story that he needed to “sell” to the viewers. I wanted to touch one piece of it — the emotional connection to the world he created.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ll add a short explanation (the long version’s available on Wikipedia). The story folds in a planet named Pandora: a lush, Earth-like planet. Pandora is inhabited by the Na’vi, a 10-foot-tall (3 meters) blue-skinned species of sapient humanoids. My point begins with the fact that the Na’vi live in harmony with nature.

After seeing the movie, while reading of the background behind Cameron’s research for Avatar, I learned that movies like “Pocahontas” and “Dances with Wolves” inspired Cameron in the making of the Avatar (it was fascinating to read how he took a small piece from each movie or book and together created a new world). I wasn’t surprised.

There’s a direct line between what I read and saw during the past few years in movies depicting the connection the Native American people have with the land and the life on it and what Cameron showed about the Na’vi’s harmony with nature. There is one main difference.

During the movie’s three hours, Cameron makes us believe in something that dozens of movies regarding the Native American culture didn’t always manage to make us believe.” The harmony with nature in Avatar is presented through a physical connection between “Humans” — the Na’vi, and the plants and animals around them.

Cameron’s Na’vi have long hair and in it a group of nerves leading to the brain. Their hair is typically braided, and when they ride their local “horse,” the rider’s hair (connected to their brain) connects to the horse’s hair. This way they control the horse’s movement by the power of their thought alone. In the same way, when connecting to the trees around them, to their ancestors’ spirits in one of them, they do it the same way — connecting their hair to the tree.

The Power of a Physical Demonstration

This was the one detail didn’t leave me even after leaving the theatre. I tried to figure out what was so strong for me in this connection of human and nature. The idea of “human/nature connection” wasn’t new. The new piece was the physical demonstration that I couldn’t “wave off” and say, that’s B.S. I saw a physical connection between men, women, and nature. As soon as you see the connection, it’s much easier to understand how the man “thinks right” and the horse runs to that direction. Or how the movie’s star manages to control the Great Leonopteryx (Toruk in Nav’i), an accomplishment that no other has before.

The main difference between the old Native American movies and Avatar, was in the fact that Cameron created a physical connection that we could see, understand, and believe. I didn’t need to be convinced that there’s a harmony with nature. I saw it physically happening in front of me.

What’s the Connection to Recruiting Employees?

When we recruit employees (like many marketing processes) we want to create the best employer branding we can … our organization is the best place for you to work in. The marketing parallel statement is of course: our product is the best for your needs. Many organizations find perfect candidates, but they can’t “pull them in” to the hiring process. At times, the candidates don’t go past the first step: arriving at the first interview or agreeing to a phone interview. They take a peek into the company’s website or remember what they heard about it and pass. This is true especially with “passive” candidates: they’re working, satisfied from where they are. Recruiters constantly need something strong to use to pull them to the organization.

Showing Clearly With Vivid Colors: Through Social Media

Like Cameron in Avatar: show the candidates as vividly as you can, why they should come and work with your organization. Show something that is clearly demonstrating the fact that your organization is the place to work for. Enable them to personally connect to it. Your challenge is to liven up the professional and social life in the organization for someone who is still not in it.

I’ll Agree — It’s not an Easy Task

I do believe though that social media tools can give you the answer if you use them correctly. Take “Best Buy” and its Twelpforce — the collective technical support team formed last year to give help through Twitter. The company’s staff answers questions (from customers or others) within minutes. Any candidate interested in Best Buy’s Service Department can just watch this magic of the crowds, inside the company. It comes from a body of people that focuses not only on customers, offering help to anyone that needs assistance. If there are candidates who don’t like this way of work, they probably won’t hand in their CV. I’m sure that for Best Buy that’s excellent — focusing only on those who want to be part of this “support team spirit.”

Another great example is Microsoft and its blogs network, that worldwide, through all of Microsoft’s sites, enables employees to speak freely with interested partners and readers. The blogs of the engineers themselves exposes candidates to the “real” life in Microsoft. Uncensored, clear, and focused, out there for all to see.

It Takes Guts

It takes a lot of guts and courage from organizations, willing to leave the “fait” of the organizations’ branding and marketing in the hands of the employees, with no censorship on every word coming out of the employees. There is clearly no one simple way, one route to follow, where the perfect candidates fall in your lap.

There is, however, something in the world of social media that makes me feel like it’s closest to Cameron’s physical demonstration in Avatar. It is the power of the crowd of employees in the organization. Use the voice of your employees through social media tools, and they’ll get your message through.

Let your best employees talk and they will demonstrate it to the right candidates.

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