13 of The Most Creative Recruitment Campaigns

By Ben Slater

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creative recruitment campaigns

Top talent slips through the gaps in most companies' recruitment strategies. Generic job adverts and careers pages fail to engage the best candidates, and companies often fail to connect on a human level. Creative, 'out-of-the-box' hiring campaigns have helped some companies interact in a unique way with candidates and send their application processes viral.

These are 13 of our favourite approaches to talent acquisition, all great ideas that can spark your creativity:

Hidden Messages

Hidden job descriptions and messages help companies approach candidates in unexpected situations. They're a good way to connect if your target market is employed elsewhere, and they tend to be very cost effective:

1 - Ikea Australia: Secret job description

The Swedish Giant cleverly concealed job descriptions inside every pack of furniture sold. The campaign cost nothing - customers literally delivered career information to themselves, and it resulted in 4285 applications and 280 new hires.  Simple yet so effective.


2 - Volkswagen: Hidden advert

In need of skilled new mechanics Volkswagen distributed damaged vehicles to repair shops across Germany, leaving a job advert on the undercarriage of each. It helped the company bring in a number of talented workers and establish themselves as an innovative recruiting brand.

Volkswagen Hidden Recruitment Ad

3 -  Red 5 Studios: Personalized iPod

Competing with larger software companies for the same pool of talented candidates, Red 5 had to think outside the box. They selected 100 'dream' candidates (all employed elsewhere), used social media to research them extensively and sent each a personalized iPod complete with a message recorded from CEO Mark Kerr covering the candidate's previous work and inviting them to apply. 90 out of 100 recipients responded and 3 left their jobs to join the Red 5 team. A big win.

Red 5 Recruitment Marketing


Complex puzzles that uniquely apply to a companies 'ideal' applicant can spark interest and effectively filter out unsuitable applicants:

4 -  Quixey: 60 second challenge

Silicon valley startup Quixey, competing with the likes of Facebook and Google for top talent, challenged engineers to solve a 60-second programming puzzle, offering a $100 dollar reward every day for a month. A win-win scenario, the best walked away with cash in their hand and Quixey got exclusive access to great candidates - a number of whom they've successfully brought on board.

Quixey Recruitment Challenge

5 - Google’s Cryptic Billboard

A confusing 2004 Silicon valley billboard presented a mathematical puzzle to onlookers, directing anyone clever enough to solve it to www.7427466391.com where they were faced with another challenge. On completion they were met with the below message:

“Nice work. Well done. Mazel tov. You’ve made it to Google Labs and we’re glad you’re here. One thing we learned while building Google is that it’s easier to find what you’re looking for if it comes looking for you. What we’re looking for are the best engineers in the world. And here you are.”

Generating discussions on Mathematical and Engineering forums even before the architect of the message become clear, Google filtered potential applicants to a small group of enthusiastic 'problem solvers' - a trait that the company values highly.

Google Cryptic Billboard


Companies can arouse enthusiasm for roles by appealing to the competitive nature of candidates. If the proposition is interesting these contests can quickly go viral:

6 - MGM Grand: Iron Chef

The MGM Grand looked internally for a new head chef for one of their restaurants, running its own version of popular reality show 'Iron Chef'. Teams from each of the casino's 16 eateries, ranging from top chefs right down to cooks from the employee diner, were given a secret ingredient and instructed to put together a 4 course meal in under 1 hour. The victor, a 23 year old sous chef from a 24 hour coffee shop, has increased sales at the upscale Japanese restaurant by 400%!

MGM Grand

7 - OgilvyOne: The world’s greatest sales person

To add quality talent to their sales team advertising agency OgilvyOne launched a clever recruitment campaign to find 'The World's Greatest Salesperson'. Using a dedicated YouTube channel and targeted social media campaign they invited applicants to sell them a brick! The top contestants were given a chance to pitch at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and the winner received a 3 month paid fellowship with the agency.

8 - Mastercard Canada: Internship social media challenge

Using the hashtag #internswanted, Mastercard Canada gave college students the chance to compete for an internship on social media. Applicants each submitted an idea for a product, app, or technique to help the company move towards creating a cashless future. Contestants were judged on the amount of 'likes' and 'retweets' their ideas got. They received 532 qualified candidates, and expanded their program to hire an additional intern due to the talent quality.

Mastercard intern recruitment campaign

Guerilla Recruiting

'Off-the-wall' campaigns that approach a talent acquisition problem from a unique way have strong social currency. They lend themselves to being widely shared, and are good ways to approach candidates that the company might struggle to reach with a different solution:

9 - Uncle Grey: Fortress 2

Struggling to find Front-End Developers through standard channels, Danish agency Uncle Grey, aware of it's target market, turned to popular online game 'Fortress 2'. They struck a sponsorship deal with top players who represented the company as ambassadors within the game, distributing posters and promoting the recruitment page url. Within a week Uncle Grey had more than 50 applications and had sourced their ideal candidate.


10 - Swedish Armed Forces: Who Cares?

The Swedish army used a 4-day live streamed social experiment to raise their profile and bring in a wave of new recruits. An anonymous black box was placed in central Stockholm to much confusion. Then, every hour someone entered the box through a controlled airlock. Left with no instructions or information the room was streamed to a campaign page widely shared on social media. They could only leave the box if a total stranger was willing to exchange places. The campaign received widespread national attention with 74 total participants. The army had targeted 4300 applicants for 1430 positions, they ended up being inundated with 9930 applications!


11 - Jung von Matt: Lorem Ipsum

German advertising agency Jung von Matt repurposed the layouts familiar to designers to recruit creative directors. Creatives using the 'Lorem Ipsum' generator were presented with a job description including a link to the company's website. 200,000 copied the announcement into their designs, and the campaign generated 14,000 visits to the careers website and significant social media buzz.


12 - Royal Marine Commandos: 99.99% need not apply

The Marines focused on the determination, athleticism and focus required to be a Royal Marine with their 99% need not apply advert campaign. Only a small proportion of recruits generally complete the Commando training, and the campaign was an effective challenge to potential applicants with the appropriate mettle to succeed. The provoking adverts have won a number of awards and helped them attract suitable candidates.


13 - Atlassian: 'We're coming to steal your geeks'

To deal with the shortage of Australian engineers, software company Atlassian launched a campaign to hire and relocate 15 European developers and relocate them to Sydney. Decking out a bus and hosting meetups and interviews all over Europe, potential candidates could track the bus' progress and apply for a chance to move to Australia's 'Silicon Beach'.

Atlassian Recruitment Campaign

For more posts like this check out the Beamery blog


Ben Slater is VP Growth at Beamery, the world's most advanced sourcing platform

Follow @BenJHSlater


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You might like these blog posts How to Encourage Employee Voice and Increase Employee Engagement, 7 Tips for Hiring an All-Star Employee Who Will Help You to Grow Your Business, How To Get More Mileage Out Of The Content You Already Have, and Employee Referrals: Tips to Build a Successful Referral Program.

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