Being Different Attracts

Differentiating your organization from others in the eye of the candidate is becoming our challenge as recruiters. It is increasingly difficult to recruit solely on the basis of salary or benefits or even on the merits of a particular job.

With everyone offering almost the same packages, tweaked and customized as they are, how can an organization gain a competitive advantage in recruiting? What tools or techniques can recruiters use that don?t simply rely on salaries and benefits?

One of the lessons of the past decade is that tangible things such as salary, the size of the office, or the amount of technology you will get as an employee are becoming less important than the experience and engagement they will find once they are at work. Candidates are more focused today on the purpose and nature of their work than they are on these other attributes. And this is perhaps even more obvious in Generation Y candidates.

Even outside of work and recruiting we can see where experience is more important than product. Starbucks, for example, doesn?t sell just coffee; it actually sells an “experience” built around a cup of coffee. A customer is attracted to Starbucks because it has created an environment designed for casual conversation, for quiet reading, or for meeting a friend. You can buy a muffin or a roll, a cup of cappuccino or espresso, or just plain old coffee. You can select a grande or a venti, not just a small or a large. And you gladly pay a premium for the coffee.

The same applies to Borders or Barnes & Noble that offer much more than books. They offer entertainment and recreation. They create an environment for students to do their homework, for authors to write their books and articles. They offer live music, oral readings, coffee and other foods, and a huge selection of magazines and newspapers (much more readily accessible than those in the public library, and still free!).

Nordstrom, the famed retailer, offers live music played on grand pianos and features wine and coffee bars for their shoppers. A single clerk, who crosses from department to department with the customer, offers advice, color and style suggestions, and personalizes the shopping trip. The price is premium, but so is the experience.

While every generation likes to have fun and be entertained, it is an expectation of Generation Y. Work should be fun, engaging, and meaningful. They want to work at places where people work hard but have a good time doing it. Recruiters need to find ways to make the recruiting experience more engaging and much more fun.

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Make Recruiting Fun

For most of us, looking for a job and interviewing is confusing, stressful, and painfully slow. Good recruiters will transform their career sites into ones that showcase the fun aspects of the workplace. These sites could offer tours done in a fun and interesting way. They could improve the job information by having actual employees talk about what they do.

Even recruiting events can be entertaining for candidates. You can put together events that bring groups of candidates together and get them laughing and involved. Southwest Airlines uses humor well and knows how to entertain both passengers on their flights and their prospective employees. Disney is also a master at this. People remember humorous experiences and continue to have positive thoughts about the provider.

Make Recruiting Educational

By providing learning experiences, free seminars, onsite classes, or other events, you create a sense of connection and begin a tie-in to your organization. Candidates absorb information and gain insights into the culture and working environment of the firm simply by attending a class or other onsite activity. This can be an excellent way to show how your company is different than another one in a similar industry.

Make Recruiting Creative

Get candidates involved in doing something different and totally absorbing. Computer games are a form of escapist experience. Anyone who has played a computer game knows how easy it is to become completely absorbed with the unfolding drama. Recruiters can create an activity that involves candidates intensely in their organization or with people from the organization. Some companies use outdoor team-building activities to create an experience such as this, but one could also develop an interactive Internet-based tour of the company that requires candidates to make choices and get involved. Recruiters can gain a much better understanding of what motivates and interests candidates by tracking what choices they make. But, while they are involved in the experience, they are learning about your firm’s culture and people, almost without realizing it.

Make Recruiting Sensual

Appeal to the senses. This is the area that Borders and Starbucks have mastered. Books, coffee, music, friends, smells, and colors are blended into an aesthetic experience that we all find some level of enjoyment in. Recruiters can use the corporate environment as an important recruiting tool. If your firm has nice lawns, modern and spacious buildings, a nice cafeteria, a gym, or a day-care center, you can tailor a tour that appeals to the aesthetic side of a candidate and showcase the environment. Yahoo!, SAS, and many other organizations have created such environments and they are, in themselves, differentiators.

The bottom line is simple. It takes more than a good offer, a good salary, and a good job to attract candidates and get them to say yes. Successful recruiters will increasingly need to use the tools of good marketers and learn from the lessons of the business world. Creating experiences is an inexpensive way to differentiate your company and improve your recruiting success.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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