Offsite Recruiting — Boldly Recruit Where Your Targets Hang Out

If you’re having difficulty attracting applicants, consider adding an off-site recruiting component to your existing recruiting strategy. The standard corporate recruiting model is a “come to us” approach. Meaning that if you want a job at our firm, you must be willing to take time out of your busy day to find out about and then apply to our firm. In direct contrast, under the “go to them” off-site alternative, corporate recruiters physically go to where the firm’s recruiting targets “hang out.” This offsite model often involves using a mobile recruiting van, recruiting at the local mall, recruiting at public events, or recruiting near where your targets use commuter transit.

The Many Advantages of Off-Site Recruiting

Off-site “go-to-them” recruiting is of course already the standard approach for college recruiting. However, it also offers many advantages when a firm is recruiting experienced talent. Those many advantages include:

  • Its uniqueness attracts — because the approach is unique and somewhat of a surprise, curiosity alone will attract many prospects.
  • High volume of prospects — because the target locations have large populations. This approach can expose a considerable number of prospects to your recruiting information and at a much higher volume than any corporate recruiting website could. Where appropriate, offering product giveaways or discounts can also be an additional attraction tool.
  • It attracts the currently employed — This approach also attracts the highly desirable but hard to reach, and excites not-active jobseekers. Your targets don’t have to be actively seeking a job to be intrigued by the unusual appearance of an off-site recruiting RV or pop-up mall location. It also provides a situation where a not-looking prospect would not likely have their guard up against recruiters.
  • They have time to reflect — It attracts prospects when they have free time to explore new opportunities outside of work hours.
  • No recruiting competition — because of the offsite location selected, there is not likely to be any recruiting competition close by.
  • Relatively low cost — most of the costs involved are variable, so they can be quickly reduced. This is because vehicle, billboard, and location rental costs are only incurred during times when your firm is actively recruiting off site. And, after you collect performance data on the quality of the applicant and hire, any ineffective approaches and locations can be quickly dropped.

The Top 10 Offsite Location Recruiting Options

Rather than being a rare occurrence, offsite location recruiting has actually been practiced by numerous firms (many of which are cited in the following section). Below are the top 10 most effective offsite recruiting approaches that a firm should consider, with the most commonly practiced ones listed first.

  1. Recruiting near commuting locations — are ideal because prospects have a lot of spare waiting time. Perhaps the boldest example was when Yahoo placed a “recruiting coffee cart” alongside the line of employees waiting for its “Google bus” to arrive. Numerous other firms, including Booz Allen, Nortel, Dawson, BeginRight, and the U.S. Army, have rented an RV or bus. Which can be located near bus, train, and commuter parking locations.
  2. Recruiting at the mall — In both big and medium-sized cities, everyone finds his or her way to the mall. The U.S. Army has led the way in providing pop-up recruiting locations in vacant spaces and even hands-on interactive simulations inside popular shopping malls. An alternative is to get permission to place a mobile RV in the mall parking lot. If your firm has its own retail location like Home Depot, a recruiting kiosk can be placed within it.
  3. Recruiting where targeted company employees hang out — Across the street from many large firms are restaurants and bars that are frequented almost exclusively by company employees. When I was working for HP, I was surprised to learn that Intel regularly sent recruiters to what we called “The HP bar” across the street from our headquarters. Targets inside them are especially easy to identify because they frequently wear their company badges. Placing a recruiting van close to food trucks that employees frequent can also be wise. And, placing a recruiting van/bus across the street from a college or high school campus (outside of traditional recruiting months) can also be effective.
  4. Recruiting at vacation spots — If many of your prospects vacation at a close-by location, put up a recruiting booth there. A “recruiting at the beach” approach can be especially effective if you are recruiting college students who flock to these locations during spring break. Numerous firms including the military, IBM, and Agilent have used this vacation-spot approach.
  5. Recruiting at conference hotels — are great recruiting locations because they are attended by top talent. However, when a conference discourages active recruiting, consider renting a prime meeting room along the walking path to the conference at the primary conference hotel and staff it with a recruiter. You can also encourage your employees who are working your own firm’s booth on the trade floor to identify top talent for after the event recruiting.
  6. Recruit at public events — If data indicates that your recruiting prospects are likely to attend large sporting, music, or entertainment events, recruit at them. For example, Booz Allen has recruited at boat races and parades and UPS at rock concerts. Firms like Southwest Airlines have found that placing subtle recruiting ads during the trailers prior to a targeted movie can also produce positive results.
  7. Billboard recruiting — Recruiting billboards placed in locations where there are frequent commute backups will likely be noticed by everyone. Firms like Google and Rocket Fuel have used freeway billboard math problems in order to get the attention of technical prospects during their commute drive. Strategically placed billboards in the right physical location can also be used to show commuters that still have a lot of time left in their commute, that if they changed firms, their commute would instantly become much shorter.
  8. Recruit near your competitors — This bold “recruit in their neighborhood” proximity approach isn’t as rare as you might think. For example, the startup tokbox actually placed a recruiter in a taco truck that was parked directly across the street from Yahoo headquarters. And it gave out free tacos to Yahoo employees that provided them with their resumes. Zscaler used an even bolder approach when it placed a “We hire Bluecoat employees” sign on a minivan and drove it around this competitor’s headquarters for a week. Glimpse placed a van that provided a free Internet network named “Glympse is hiring” for Amazon employees waiting in their cars at Amazon’s next door parking lot.
  9. Recruit at corporate sponsored meetups — Many firms periodically hold in-person off-site events that can include technical seminars, product introductions, and potential investor forums. Although they are purposely not billed as recruiting events, an event sponsored by your firm can provide an opportunity to show off your products, culture, and subtle recruiting at online meetups covering technical functions can also be effective.
  10. Geolocation zone recruiting — Sometimes your prospects just happen to be physically close by one of your facilities. So consider using mobile Geofencing technology (another form of proximity recruiting) which allows a firm to send automated recruiting or other mobile phone messages to those who enter a designated geographic zone.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting leaders who realize that the power has shifted away from the firm and toward top-quality candidates already know that they must make a significant strategic shift. One of those primary shifts should be the adding “off-site location recruiting” to your recruiting mix. You can be confident with this approach because it is borrowed from retail marketing and sales, where it has proven to be exceptionally effective. Fortunately, both the concept and its execution are simple. All you have to do is find out where your target prospects “hang out” and then find the best way to place your recruiters/employees and your recruiting materials in front of them at these locations.

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Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.