Creative Recruiting Strategies: What The Experts Say

creative recruiting strategies

In a highly competitive job market, the onus is on recruiters and HR professionals to think outside the box if they want to hire the best talent. Creative recruitment strategies are critical to source, attract and then retain the cream of the candidate crop.

Many may think that creative recruiting is an innovative approach to recruitment, but it has been used in the past. Being creative, different, and unique is a crucial part of the successful hiring equation. Especially nowadays, when the market is overly saturated and competitive, making hunting for skilled and experienced employees harder than ever before.

To catch the perfect employee, you can no longer post job applications on various boards and wait for resumes to start coming in. 

Hiring is more about persuasion and catching attention, and what better way to seize the attention and interest of your target employee than to make your recruiting campaign gripping and compelling?

This article will lead you through different creative recruitment strategies bound to catch your ideal candidates’ attention. We will go over:

  1. The proven practices and principles of creative recruitment,
  2. Most creative recruitment strategies that have ever existed,
  3. Case studies  of the most successful creative recruitment strategies,
  4. And how can you become better at creative recruitment!

Let’s say goodbye to the dull, black letters on white background type of job applications and hello to the attention snatching creative recruitment strategies that will bring you the best workforce and save you time and energy.

7  proven principles of creative recruitment strategies

Let’s observe some of the principles of creative recruitment that have been utilized by some of the biggest companies and proven to work over and over again.

Handpick and flatter

This is a strategy for when you’re recruiting for a more niche role, perhaps, or a senior-level role. Identify your dream candidates for the position, research them in as much detail as possible and reach out to them personally.

A perfect example of this principle is the case of Red 5 Studios, a game company. They have handpicked 100 ideal candidates and got to “know” them by going through their social media profiles and work history. Afterward, they have sent each one of them an iPod with a personalized message from the CEO themself.

The result? More than 90 of them responded, and 3 even left their current jobs to come on board. Furthermore, many more people discovered the company through word of mouth!

Self-selection Screening

Self-selection screening is a way of pre-qualifying applicants. Simply introduce an open invitation event to candidates before the interview stage. Those who turn up are really keen – those who don’t, not so much. This also gives you an opportunity to assess candidates in a group environment while giving candidates more insight into who you are and what you do.

This allows you to cut down the time you spend sifting through resumes and conducting interviews by identifying the candidates who are genuinely interested in the role.

Do NOT attend job fairs.

Let’s face it. Job fairs will not cut it anymore, mainly because all the best candidates already have the job.

Our advice?

Go headhunting at other events that are NOT job-related. 

For example, if you are searching for a great social media marketeer, attend a social media marketing-focused event. It is bound to be filled with people who are passionate about it, plus you will be able to get to know this target group better.

You can search for these social events on Meetup or similar platforms.


Gamification is the “use of gaming principles and design in non-gaming situations, [to] identify potential employees by posing virtual challenges that require the skills necessary for a given job.”

Gamification is the hot trend of the moment, playing a role in everything from recruitment to education. As creative recruiting strategies go, it’s particularly worth considering. It has enormous social-sharing potential and sets you apart as an employer, as well as offering an easy way to pre-test and pre-qualify candidates.

Marriott’s My Marriott Hotel game particularly stands out here.

In the game, players manage a virtual hotel restaurant kitchen, including supplies and employee management. Marriott generated interest in the hospitality industry, increased brand awareness, and sourced talent from 120 different countries: an overwhelming success in an industry you might not expect this sort of creativity.

Savvy advertising

Recruiters must become marketers if they want to succeed in this era. Try investing in online advertising on online forums related to your skills or targeting relevant keywords. 

Craft compelling videos, explore different formats, utilize podcasts and various social networks.

Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook are getting old. While they are still the biggest social networks, depending on the type of talent you are hunting for, you might want to investigate the potential of new platforms like TikTok, ClubHouse, and Snapchat. 

Sometimes a well-crafted 15 seconds video can bring you more success than broadcasting your job openings on dozens of different platforms.

For more information on this topic, check our post about a complete content marketing guide for recruiters. If you want to go with a specialized agency, check this list of best b2b content marketing agencies.

Don’t ignore past applicants.

In a talent-tight market, it makes sense not to ignore the talent that’s already shown an interest. Use an online recruitment system to effectively keep track of your candidates and ensure you can contact them again in the future.

Use pre-employment skills testing.

Pre-employment testing can eliminate up to 70% of unqualified applicants before you waste time interviewing them and proves your candidates can actually do the job you’re hiring them for.

Not the most amazingly original suggestions I know, but when certain ideas come up frequently, it’s a pretty good indication that you should get on board. Even if you pride yourself on institutional traditionalism, every organization can benefit from these methods.

Most creative recruitment campaigns

Now that we have gone over some of the best ways to approach creative recruitment, let’s see how other companies have done that.

Hidden Messages

Hidden job descriptions and messages allow you to approach candidates in unexpected situations. They’re a great weapon if your target market is employed elsewhere, and they tend to be very cost-effective.

Ikea Australia hid job descriptions inside their sold furniture, costing them nothing and resulting in over 4000 applications and nearly 300 new hires.

Volkswagen placed job adverts for mechanics on the undercarriage of cars needing repair, quickly establishing a reputation for innovative hiring. 


creative recruiting strategies

Using puzzles is a great way to generate interest and filter out unsuitable applicants. Quixey and Google are two companies we could be learning from.

Quixey, a Silicon Valley start-up competing with the likes of Google for talent, designed a 60-second programming quiz, aiming to lure out the best of the best.

It’s no surprise that Google is embracing creative recruiting strategies. Their 2004 creative problem billboard did just the trick by filtering potential applicants to a small group of enthusiastic problem fixers. A trait that they highly value.


Competitions can be a fantastic way to arouse interest and can quickly gather momentum online if they capture people’s imaginations. Social Hire offers 3 noteworthy examples.

MGM Grand was looking for a new head chef for one of their restaurants, so they ran their own version of the reality TV show Iron Chef. The eventual winner and successful hire increased sales by 400% – that’s some pay-off.

Another brand we’d expect to be embracing creative recruitment, Ogilvy one ran a social campaign to find ‘The World’s Greatest Salesperson.’ Contestants were asked to give their best shot at selling a brick – and the winner received a three-month paid internship with the prestigious agency. Win/Win.

MasterCard Canada held an online competition to give students a chance to win an internship. This campaign resulted in more than 500 qualified candidates for the brand.

Guerrilla Recruiting

Think off-the-wall, majorly outside-the-box recruitment… Campaigns like this lend themselves to going viral and can be a great way to raise your brand profile and find top talent.

Leveraging insight into their target market, Swedish agency Uncle Grey formed partnerships with top gamers to create a highly successful in-game recruitment strategy. 

A four-day live-streamed social experiment, this guerrilla strategy saw Swedish Armed Forces gain nearly double the number of qualified applicants they’d been targeting. 

Another advertising agency to make the list, Jung Von Matt, attracted creative directors by embedding their job descriptions in the Lorem Ipsum generator used by creative. Exceptional. 

Royal Marine Commandos. It’s a classic advert format but with a conceptual twist, focusing on the confrontational ’99.99% need not apply’ tagline. Award-winning and highly effective. 

Australian software company Atlassian quite literally drove a bus around the world looking for engineers to hire and relocate. The bus was labeled ‘We’re coming to steal your geeks, and its progress could be tracked online, garnering tremendous support.

Case studies on some of the most brilliant creative recruitment strategies

These ideas all sound great on paper, but let’s analyze some of the top creative recruitment strategies and what fueled them to get that title.

How TGI Fridays received 2000 applications for 80 minimum wage jobs

creative recruiting strategies

TGI Fridays are a friendly reminder that the work environment and experience can be well utilized to attract and retain high-quality employees.

Thanks to nurturing that, they are being inundated with applications in what Chief Executive Karen Forrester calls “a rush to work with the company.” 

Ms. Forrester credits their vast successes to the companies status as a “UK Success story,” having been named the ‘Best Big Company To Work For In The UK.’

The secret to their success?

With 82% of employees saying that they feel a “strong sense of family” with TGI Fridays, it’s fair to say that they’re doing a fantastic job building a community.

TGI Fridays offer an apt example of the power of community with their online ‘Fridoids’ hub. The online community has been made to celebrate and project the culture of TGIs, and has proven a valuable way of elevating their employer brand. The corporate website now receives 600% more page