Recruiting industry pundits, including yours truly, spend a lot of time chasing shiny objects. News releases touting artificial intelligence, chatbots, and virtual reality tend to standout more than, say, PR touting a new CEO or homepage redesign. Readers tend to engage more with all things new than they do old school content.
And let’s be honest — sentiment among many recruiters goes something like this: Want to effectively recruit? Then unplug the computer and pick up a telephone. Technologies come and go, but good ol’ fashioned smiling-and-dialing has its place in a world of advancing technology.
However, sometimes something comes along that’s so retro that it seems new again. Enter Swedish-based Ericsson, a high-tech company in its own right, and a full-day event it calls “Swarm Stockholm.”
During “Swarm,” the company sends out its interns, 90 total this year, to hit the streets and talk to real people about opportunities at the company. “With a number of open R&D engineering positions on our docket and an urgent need to fill them, we decided to leverage one of our most valuable secret weapons: our interns,” said Anders Österlund, Sweden employer brand lead in a recent guest post. “Swarm” is “designed to engage with the interns, employ a guerrilla marketing approach to spreading the word about our open positions, and encourage them to build relationships with one another along the way.”
In addition to being a recruiting endeavor, the event serves as a way for interns to bond with each other.
“When our interns joined our project group early the morning of the event, we handed out information and branded T-shirts, before dividing the group into teams,” said Österlund. “Each team was assigned a location determined by its visibility among target audiences and high-volume foot traffic.”
The interns went out on the streets, armed with catchy signs that said things like “Bored? Join us. We create the future.” Interns also had handouts with a list of open positions, details on each, and information on how to apply. The interns greeted commuters as they exited metro stations and talked with anyone who wanted to learn more. The event also generated internal buzz with full time employees who walked by.
After greeting the rush-hour traffic, interns went deeper into the city to engage with people throughout Stockholm. In addition to pitching job opportunities, interns participated in a series of challenges, dictated by the home office. Tasks included things like taking photos at radio base stations, which are integral to Ericsson’s business, recording videos of team members doing innovative things, and a logo challenge, where interns created interpretations of the Ericsson logo, using outside objects and things in their bags.
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“By the time the event ended, the students had engaged with more than 500 people, with a ripple effect to thousands more who were exposed to our Stockholm swarm and the positions we have open,” wrote Österlund. “Each of the 90 interns who made this possible left the day with 89 new friends and colleagues and energized for their upcoming months as part of our company culture.”
Playing devil’s advocate, the targeting with this strategy sucks. The company talks in terms of engaging or exposing people to the company and its jobs. However, you didn’t hear anything about interviews or hiring. It’s also probable that if you’re not a well-known global consumer brand, or at least a local business with a high degree of awareness, this is a complete waste of time, because you’re not getting the residual benefit of generating sales and building a brand.
However, Ericsson gets kudos for getting out of the office and actually engaging with human beings out in the wild. In addition to shaking the trees for job candidates, interns got to know each other, full-time employees were energized and the Ericsson brand benefitted. All things that are pretty tough to do if you’re behind a computer in a cubicle.