Disruptive Recruiting

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Eyjafjallajokull eruptsYeah, yeah I know you’ve heard it all before. But there is some seriously cool stuff happening in recruiting and I am literally bursting to tell you about it. From Hackruiting to superhero sourcing to employment branding that’s (literally) out of this world, check out the cool things employers are doing to impress candidates. And then… steal these ideas!

Etsy recruits better than you. Well not really, but they are supporting Hacker School in New York and this is one very cool program: 

Hacker School is a three-month, immersive school for becoming a better programmer. It’s like a writers retreat for hackers. We (Nick, Dave, Sonali, Tom and Alan) run the program every four months in New York and meet Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30am to 6:30pm. We provide space, time to focus, and a friendly community dedicated to self-improvement.

How do they provide free education, equipment, workspace and… beer? Well, companies like Etsy, this next quarter’s founder, underwrite the cost of the academy for the opportunity to offer the coders jobs at the end of their term. All work is project-based rather than curriculum focused and the hackers work with each other to accomplish goals rather than competing for grades.

Why it’s innovative: The collaborative education is free, and the entire system (from underwriting company to the pressure to take a job with a supporting corp upon graduation) is completely honor-based.

How could you emulate this in your organization? Using internal employees or former candidates with something to give back, or starting an informal class is a good place to start. Perhaps pair this up with a nice employee referral bonus or give your employees 20% time if they agree to help teach a course on company grounds or guide a community college group. Run an agency? Start by hosting a coder meetup or hackathon.

Campus Recruiting is as easy as getting an Airstream. Whaaaah? It’s true, sorta. Lots of startup founders are looking beyond the golden hills of Silicon Valley and taking this show on the road. It’s about time, with Silicon Prairie in the Midwest, Silicon Beach in LA, and Silicon Hills in Texas (here are five others ). When you’re competing against the big guys, it pays to cooperate with your fellow startups. Organized by ReadyForce (a name familiar to many recruiting folk),  Hacker Tour 2012 kicks off September 12th.

The tour targets computer science and engineering students at 25 top campuses, including Cornell, Princeton, Penn State, MIT and Harvard on the East Coast, which they claim will reach 20,000 students.

Why it’s innovative: Because campus recruiting has long been hailed as this bastion of organization and highly processed recruiting. Startups have already shaken up the way we’re recruiting (yes, they have) so why wouldn’t they eventually tackle this niche? It costs just $5000 to sponsor this “recruitbus” a number that while not small, is more attainable for SMBs.

How you can try it: If you can’t afford a tour of your region on an awesome bus (with the buy-in of your fellow startups, this is not that far out of the realm of possibility) you could rent one for the day. What if you sponsored the bags and boxed lunches from a food truck near your competitor for an afternoon? Or found out how to get in on campus recruiting (or organize some) in a smaller city?

To recruit the best, just give them a cape. St Louis-based Magenic did just that when their recruiting super genius Bob Shoewe (it says that on his business card) realized that the people he wanted to hire were the best at what they do. So he asked the CTO what super amazing technical heroes like:

“He [said] there are three things software geeks are into: comic books, music and sci fi,” Schoewe said. “The people we’re trying to hire are professional, but they haven’t lost their passion [for those things].”

To that end, the company embraced a whole new terminology and employer branding campaign. Titles, business cards and even job fair collateral were shifted to the new brand and the internal staff love it:

Candidates have embraced the concept to the point where they incorporate superhero language — like calling their technical skills super powers — into cover letters for job applications, Schoewe said.

Why it’s innovative: Every little boy and girl has a dream and sometimes where we end up is pretty far from that dream. But with this campaign, Magenic is tapping into a source of pride for their employees and in addition to the recruiting benefits, creating a high standard that the employees and candidates WANT to live up to.

How can you do this? It’s almost employment branding 101, simply take a look at your current employees’ likes and dislikes and start building a brand that reaches out with those in mind on channels that your candidates are likely to be using.

How Mohawk Guy can help NASA recruit – This is recruiting disruption ripe for the plucking. You might recall that the internet went crazy over the fact that we landed a rover on Mars a guy in the control room had an awesome mohawk. The realization, apparently a first for America, that someone interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) could be not nerdy, took Bobak Fedowski by storm. Already the young man has appeared on several live chats, discussing what it’s like to work at NASA and how he got into his current job role.

Why it’s innovative: NASA probably has a pretty great recruiting program already but the real opportunity here is in the next generation, most notably those who may have bypassed the maths and such because they seem too hard. Using Bobak as an ambassador into classrooms not only makes NASA look cool, it makes studying STEM look cool.

Can you use it? Absolutely. One of the things that Mohawk Guy showed us is that upending the current thinking about what your company looks like is massively important. When you defy expectations and show the (actual) diversity and approachability of your organization, you win.

By Maren Hogan