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The 33 Cent Trick for Recruiting Top Talent
 

Science uncovers a way you can spend only pennies and increase your chances of recruiting top talent fivefold.

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If you're looking to increase your chances of hiring the best in the business in sought after fields like development and design, the internet has lots of tricks and suggestions to offer.

How about running StarCraft tournaments at top colleges? Or offering paid surf trips to Costa Rica?

If these sort of lavish tricks leave you shaking your head at the laughable notion that your small business could ever afford any hiring tactic to compete with this sort of over-the-top spending, meet Saartje Cromheecke.

A Belgian management professor, Cromheecke recently ran a study that every small business owner with a thirst for top talent and modest budget should know about. Cromheecke and her team noted the success of distinctive recruiting campaigns such as a mathematical treasure hunt Google used to lure talent in 2004, but set out to see if a much simpler adaption of the same principle would work. The British Psychological Journal Research Digest blog reports their findings:

Working with a Belgian technology company, Saartje Cromheecke and her colleagues sent out a real job opportunity to 1,997 potential applicants, around half of them via email (as is the industry standard), and half via a hand-written postcard depicting a coffee mug and a blank daily agenda. The email and postcard message featured the same layout and included the same written information and content about the job vacancy.

Sixty-two of the contacted engineers applied for the job - 82 percent of them had received the postcard, just 18 percent had received the email. Stated differently, only 1 percent of the engineers who were emailed actually applied for the job compared with 5 percent of those who received a postcard. This latter figure represents a high response rate for the field. Moreover, the respondents to the postcard tended to be better educated.

Yup, you read that right. Applicants who received a postcard (current cost of postage: $0.33) were five times more likely to apply than those who got an email. The explanation offered by the researchers was simple: the postcards, by deviating from the usual recruiting script top talent long ago learned to tune out, actually managed to grab people's attention.

Of course, postcards are probably not the right technique for ever recruitment effort, but this underlying principle is adaptable. In short, when it comes to your hiring message, make it a bit weird. Or as the researchers put it: "this field experiment puts forth 'media strangeness' as a more general evidence-based principle, which recruiters might take into account when selecting media for communicating job postings."

Could using a unusual communication channel improve your efforts to recruit the best?

Last updated: May 2, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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