wellI recently spoke at a local college to a group of company representatives about employer branding for small to midsize businesses. You can read about it here if you missed it and then come back to finish reading this post.

The Background

At the end of my presentation I took questions and then went to sit down and eat delicious pasta. A couple of corporate recruiters approached me wanting to talk about ideas for high volume local recruiting. The company they work for is going through some exciting growth and has hundreds of on-site help desk positions available. They were looking for some additional avenues for candidate generation apart from the typical recruitment activities of job posts, attending job fairs, and posting on social media. Could I help?

Well, it happens I had a technique up my sleeve that I was confident could help.

This is about highly strategic planning where the primary objective of the event isn't just a good time. This is about embracing and promoting the concept that recruiting is everyone's job. It's about team building and promoting positive corporate culture. It's about attracting more candidates like A level associates you esteem, and learning how to inject steroids into your employee referral program. If you don't have an employee referral program this is a great way to kick one off.

The Strategy

I went to a newish charming family owned neighborhood Mexican restaurant and asked what their slowest evening of the week was. Then I said I wanted to fill the place up with new customers - give them a great 2 hour networking event, and support a fellow local business. What was the catch? Give me a two for one deal on appetizers, throw in free pitchers of soda and play some good Spanish pop. The company wouldn't buy alcohol for guests but if the restaurant put out some great drink specials at the cash bar in the other room - they could turn a nada night into an excelente one! I also encouraged them to have restaurant discount coupons on hand that we would pass out to our guests. They were SOLD on the idea, happy to fill the place up on an off night and get a bunch of free advertising. In fact - they offered up some of their paid radio spots to help out.

I went to work on internal communications, letting employees know we were going to do an off-site networking event to become more involved in the community, support a new local business, provide some let your hair downtime and meet people who might be interested in what we do. Employees could voluntarily attend if they brought two people with them that they had a lot in common with and would like to work with - whether or not they were currently looking for a job. I gave them 3 week's notice and required RSVP's for a headcount for the restaurant. Anyone that brought a friend who became a new hire would receive an amount $25 above the normal employee referral bonus. I also perked each attendee a couple of dress down passes.

In the meantime, I prepared entry tickets with basic fields to be filled out at the door and collected for random drawings and my database, and bought a pack of stick on Hello my name is... badges.

  • Name
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Are you interested in employment opportunities?

In addition to internal invitations for employees to attend with friends, the meetup was promoted on social media (to include several local LinkedIn groups), via the radio spots we co opted from the restaurant, and on local event calendars. I culled thetchotchke closet for corporate logoed items to giveaway as favors for attending and purchased a few $25 Sheetz gift cards for a raffle drawing. I created a slideshow (without audio so it wouldn't interfere with Man) on a loop of day-to-day activity, employee celebrations and smiling faces around the workplace, that embodied our corporate environment and had it playing on the big screen TV on the wall.

Check out the latest from Man

The Event

I was counting on employees to bring people like them that they had things in common with and whom they would want to work with - and that's what I got. People like to hang out with likeness! When friends met other staff and saw how down to earth and interesting everyone was, they started mixing and mingling, devouring taquitos and becoming one of us - if even for a couple of hours. Along with a few hiring managers, I worked the room and was able to do some great informal pre-screening.

The turnout was far superior to any on-site 'open house' the company ever had (those always tend to be a bit stuffy don't they?). We filled the place.

Post Event

Back at the office the next day I sent two emails - one to the staff thanking them for the wonderful evening and another to guests that attended. I let the guests know that we were proud to be in a community rich in talent and diversity and provided information and links to open positions for their consideration. I also asked them to call me personally if they had interest in discussing opportunities or even just a question or comment. And then I asked that they share the openings with anyone they thought might be looking for a great opportunity - for an additional wave of referrals.The outcome was that a good number of qualified candidates applied and applicant numbers had a healthy increase with residual effects over the next 6+ months. Many hires came out of that event. New hires were mentored over the 90 onboarding period by the friend that brought them in and received a small retention 'friend' bonus after 6 months.

Total cash outlay for the event was about $400 - about the cost of a post on a big job board. Totally worth it!

What kind of creative strategies have you used to meet your local recruitment goals?


Image attribution:Ryan Photo Collection - Escondido Public Library - Pioneer Room (Vol. 21, PC 91-786).


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