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The 17 Most Creative Recruitment Campaigns

Connecting with top tier talent is getting harder every day.

The best candidates aren’t responding to traditional tactics: they’re slipping through the net, and we need to be more proactive to connect with them.

‘Out-of-the-box’, creative recruitment campaigns have helped some companies interact in a unique way with candidates and send their application processes viral.

Here are the 17 most creative recruitment campaigns that we’ve seen: all amazing ideas that will appeal to your innovative side...


History isn’t just for textbooks; recruiters can learn a lot from some of the past’s most famous hiring campaigns.

1. Men wanted for hazardous journey

Sir Ernest Shackleton's famous Antarctic expedition has firmly cemented itself into the imagination of a generation of explorers, partly due to Shackleton’s famous newspaper ad.

One of the most distinctive recruiting adverts in history, Shackleton has a very specific target audience – those that prize glory above safety! Given the fate of the trip, this trait proved to be pretty key...

Shackleton Expedition Advert

2. The famous finger

Could this be history’s most notorious finger? One of the most iconic and enduring images of WWI, Lord Kitchener's appeal to Britons was a vital piece of the army's recruiting drive.

A masterful piece of wartime propaganda, this advert was part of a poster campaign that helped bring the army 1 million new recruits. In fact, September 1914, the month that Lord Kitchener's advert was published saw the greatest number of new recruits during the war.

Kitchener Recruitment Campaign

3. The Imitation Game

Popularized by Benedict Cumberbatch and Hollywood in ‘The Imitation Game’, wartime codebreaking institute Bletchley Park ran a pretty unique recruiting campaign during WWII.

To attract a team of crack cryptologists and code breakers, Alan Turing (who Cumberbatch plays in the movie) put a crossword puzzle in the Telegraph.

The campaign was a dramatic success: Bletchley cracked the German ‘Enigma’ code and played a huge role in the Allied victory.

Bletchley Park Codebreakers Recruitment


Companies can generate enthusiasm for roles by appealing to candidates’ competitive nature. If framed correctly, these contests have the power to go viral and can lead to a huge uptick in applications.

4. The world's greatest salesman

Could you sell a brick to leading advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather?

If the answer is yes, you might have been well placed in the company’s search for the world's greatest salesman. Ogilvy combined a targeted social media campaign with a dedicated YouTube channel to publicize the initiative.

Top contestants were invited to pitch at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, and the winner received a 3-month paid fellowship with the agency.

5. Draft day

Draft day isn’t just for NFL hopefuls. National Oilwell Varco has worked it into its recruiting strategy.

The oil and gas company hold an internal NFL-style draft for its graduate hires after they complete their initial rotations.

Prior to the ‘draft’, candidates high­light their skills and talents in presentations to executives and managers. The company then decides who to hire (or ‘draft’) and who to let go.

NOV internal draft

6. The master model builder

We can all agree that some positions require a certain set of skills... perhaps none more so than a professional LEGO builder!

To find this unique skillset, the company turned to a competitive format. Contestants were given a theme and a limited amount of time to showcase their creativity and talent to develop the best LEGO model possible.

The competition was broken down into a 3 round ‘knockout’ format, with every stage performed in front of a live audience. The final round, (a ‘night build’), saw the winner hired on the spot.

Lego recruitment

7. The iron chef

The MGM Grand, one of Las Vegas’ largest casinos, turned to TV programme the Iron Chef for inspiration when looking for a new head chef for one of their Asian restaurants.

Teams from each of the casino’s 16 eateries, ranging from top chefs right down to cooks from the employee diner, were given a secret ingredient and asked to put together a 4-course meal in under 1 hour.

The victor, a 23 year old sous chef from a 24-hour coffee shop, has increased sales at the upscale Japanese restaurant by 400%!

MGM Grand Recruiting


Complex puzzles can be a great way for organisations to stand out from the crowd and spark the interest of their ‘ideal hire’. They’re also effective at qualifying applicants, and can filter out unsuitable candidates (who can’t answer the problem).

8. Earn $100 in 60 seconds

Competing for tech talent with Silicon Valley powerhouses like Google and Facebook can be a tough proposition, especially if you're a small startup.

Quixey tackled this problem by challenging engineers to solve a 60-second programming puzzle, offering a $100 dollar reward to a lucky participant every day for a month.

A win-win scenario, the best walked away with cash in their hand and Quixey got exclusive access to great candidates – a number of whom they’ve successfully brought on board.

Quixey Challenge

9. The cryptic billboard

In 2004 a confusing Silicon valley billboard presented a mathematical puzzle to passersby.

Anyone clever enough to solve it ended up at where they were faced with another challenge. On completion they were met with the below message:

“Nice work. Well done. Mazel tov. You’ve made it to Google Labs and we’re glad you’re here. One thing we learned while building Google is that it’s easier to find what you’re looking for if it comes looking for you. What we’re looking for are the best engineers in the world. And here you are.”

This campaign generated discussions on Mathematical and Engineering forums even before the architect of the message become clear, and gave Google access to a small group of enthusiastic ‘problem solvers’ – a trait that the company values highly.

Google's cryptic billboard

10. Can you crack the code?

If you’re hiring for a unique position, you might need a unique campaign. GCHQ (the British version of the NSA) launched an online ‘treasure hunt’ to find the next generation of brilliant minds who will help protect Britain against cyber attack.

The complicated puzzle was aimed primarily at candidates interested in problem solving and computer technology, and was only solved by 1% of the 400,000 people who attempted it.

The campaign was resounding success, and GCHQ have since claimed that they were delighted with the hidden talent that it exposed!

GCHQ Recruiting challenge

Secret Messages

Hidden job descriptions and messages help companies approach candidates in unexpected situations.

They’re a great way to connect if your target market is employed elsewhere, and they tend to be pretty cost effective.

11. Mechanics wanted

How far would you go to fill a role?

In need of skilled new mechanics Volkswagen purposefully distributed damaged vehicles to repair shops across Germany, concealing a job advert on the undercarriage of each.

The scheme brought the company a number of talented workers and helped to establish the car manufacturer as an innovative recruiting brand.

Volkswagen advert for mechanics

12. Personalized iPods

Red 5 Studios had to think outside the box to compete with larger software companies for the same pool of talent.

They selected 100 ‘dream’ candidates, used social media to research them extensively, and sent each a personalized iPod with a message recorded from CEO Mark Kern discussing the candidate’s work and inviting them to apply.

In an age of recruiting templates and LinkedIn In-Mails, this effort really stood out. 90 out of 100 recipients responded and 3 left their jobs to join the Red 5 team.

Red 5 studios ipod

13. Flat-pack furniture

Want your application process to go viral for free? Maybe you should take a leaf out of Ikea’s book.

The Swedish retailer hid job descriptions inside every pack of furniture sold. The campaign cost nothing – customers literally delivered career information to themselves, and it resulted in 4285 applications and 280 new hires.

Simple yet so effective!

Guerilla Recruiting

‘Off-the-wall’ campaigns that approach hiring problems in unique ways tend to have strong social currency, and are a great tactic if you want to go viral (they tend to be widely shared).

They can also be good ways to approach candidates that the company might struggle to reach with their standard practice.

14. Online game sponsorship

Every technical recruiter knows exactly how hard it is to hire great front-end developers, but few get as creative as Danish company Uncle Grey.

Keenly aware of the profile of their ideal candidate, the design agency struck sponsorship deals with top players of online game Fortress 2.

These players represented the company as ambassadors within the game, distributing posters and promoting the company’s recruitment page URL. Within a week, Uncle Grey had more than 50 applications and had found their ideal candidate.

15. The ‘geek stealers’

What lengths would you go to if you needed to make 15 technical hires?

Faced with a shortage of Australian engineers, software company Atlassian launched a campaign to ‘steal European geeks’ and relocate 15 developers to Sydney.

Decking out a bus and hosting meetups and interviews all over Europe, potential candidates could track the bus’ progress and apply for a chance to move to Australia’s ‘Silicon Beach’.

atlassian recruitment campaign

16. Lorem ipsum

Want to connect with a great designer? Try infiltrating a tool that they use every day...

German advertising agency Jung von Matt cleverly added a job description (and link) to the ‘Lorem Ipsum’ generator (a tool that designers use to create placeholder text).

200,000 designers copied the announcement into their work, and the campaign generated 14,000 visits to the careers website and significant social buzz.

17. Who cares?

How far would you go to help a stranger?

The Swedish Army live streamed a peculiar 4-day social experiment to raise their profile and attract new recruits.

They placed a mysterious black box in central Stockholm (to much confusion), and invited someone to enter the box every hour through a controlled airlock. Left with no instructions or information the room, this person could only leave the box if a total stranger was willing to exchange places with them for another hour.

The campaign was streamed to a page widely shared on social media and received widespread national attention with 74 total participants.

The army had targeted 4300 applicants for 1430 positions; they ended up being inundated with 9930 applications!


Read more about the best approaches to talent acquisition and recruitment.