Out-of-the-Box Recruiting Ideas for a Tight Labor Market

HR Recruitment Hand Making Tangram Puzzle

A tight labor market calls for unconventional hiring methods. Thanks to widespread job growth and record-low unemployment, dependable, hardworking employees are hard to come by. This means recruiters and hiring managers need to think outside the box. 

We’ve got 20 creative, engaging, and off-the-wall ideas to help you attract applicants for your open roles and tap into new candidate pools. 

Why Do You Need Creative Recruiting Ideas?

As pretty much any company can tell you, it’s hard to hire right now. And though economic signals are mixed, job growth does not appear to be slowing.  

It’s a highly unusual, unprecedented type of market in which candidates are quitting, starting, and moving between jobs at a rate we haven’t seen before. 

If you want to adapt during such an exceptional market, you can’t rely on the same old sourcing tactics you always have (job boards, we’re looking at you). We’re not saying you should throw your conventional recruiting strategies out the window. We are saying you need to supplement them by trying new ideas and seeing what works. 

Important Tip for Using Out-of-the-Box Recruiting Ideas

As with any new recruiting strategy, it is essential to plan your approach, track your progress, measure your KPIs, and analyze the results. 

Every strategy must work as a one-off. While some of the ideas below may sound fun (and they’re meant to!), they should be a deliberate component of your broader recruiting strategy. The tactics you choose to incorporate should make sense based on your company culture and target candidates. 

That said, let’s dive in.

20 Creative Recruiting Ideas to Find New Candidates

1. Use alternative media

Everyone posts their positions on job boards and sponsors LinkedIn posts. These platforms are crowded but far from the only places candidates hear about jobs. 

Have you ever thought about advertising on a YouTube channel? Making a guest appearance on a podcast? Listing your job as a blurb in a niche email newsletter (which has made a big comeback in recent years)? 

Consider the type of content your target candidates consume organically, going beyond platforms that are intended for professional use. The audience you reach may be smaller, but it’ll also be more select, which is key to finding candidates who are a strong match. 

2. Get creative with your ads

Don’t rule out traditional job-seeking platforms like job boards. But why not change up your messaging so your listing stands out among the thousands of others copied and pasted over and over by hiring managers? 

Check out this epic newspaper advertisement seeking laborers to join an expedition to the South Pole.

Cut out of a newspaper that reads "Men Wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success."

While the ad’s historical legitimacy is muddy, it’s still a great example of a description that grabs the reader’s attention and gets people talking. You can do the same by spicing up your ‘help wanted’ ads with humor, wit, surprise, or sentimentality. 

Related: Creative Ways to Advertise Job Openings

3. Host a party

If you’ve ever watched a reality show like The Bachelor, you know the big opening-night cocktail party is when the sparks start to fly. While contestants eat, drink, and mingle, the viewers get to sit back and get a captivating glimpse into who these people really are. 

Hosting your own party (with no cameras and far less alcohol) can create a low-pressure environment for potential candidates to learn more about the company while you simultaneously learn more about them. 

4. Recruit in unlikely places

Restaurant and retail workers are experts at dealing with difficult customers. Who’s to say one of them wouldn’t be a great fit for handling important client accounts? Or that stay-at-home mom whose youngest child just entered kindergarten–she might be the perfect candidate to tackle a new challenge as your office administrator.

Just because someone doesn’t come with a direct background in your line of work doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable experience from a different but parallel field. Consider recruiting from those industries for other types of jobs where candidates might have developed transferable skills. 

5. Hold a competition

If you need a talented graphic artist, hold a design competition. If you’re looking for a head pastry chef, host a bake-off. Putting out a call for funny short stories could help you find a stellar writer. In addition to offering the winning candidate or candidates a job, be sure to offer a lucrative reward to make entering your contest worthwhile. 

6. Go on an outing

You’re probably familiar with Meetup, the online platform connecting people with similar interests looking to make new friends. If something like this fits with your company culture, arranging a meetup-style outing to an art gallery or kayaking excursion could attract prospective candidates while giving them a fun way to interact with their potential future coworkers. 

7. Help employees cash in

Employee referrals aren’t a new strategy; they’re one of the best sources for finding skilled candidates who turn into long-time employees. If this isn’t a high-performing recruitment channel for you, maybe it’s time to increase your referral bonus.

According to the ERIN employee referral app, the average referral bonus is $2,000 for startups, $2,500 for healthcare workers, and $5,000 to $10,000 for software engineers. Really make it worth your employees’ time to consider who they know and which of their contacts might make a great hire. 

Related: How to Make Your Employee Referral Program a Powerful Recruitment Tool

8. Host a virtual happy hour 

…Or book club, or any kind of online, social-meets-professional event. Video chat platforms like Zoom make it easy for participants from any geographical location to attend, which is ideal for broadening your candidate pool.

9. Target small town, USA

If you’re located in a major metropolis like New York or Los Angeles, it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that the best candidates will come to you, physically speaking. But if you’re open to hiring remote workers, turn your focus inward—to the country’s heartland.

Targeting your recruiting efforts to small towns and even rural areas not only helps you reach new candidates but also allows you to access more affordable labor than in high-cost-of-living areas.

10. Tap into niche networks

There’s a network for every niche, from soccer to scrapbooking. Do you have a presence on the channels where strong candidates are most likely to hang out? Slack channels, online forums, and gaming platforms can be viable sources for finding hidden talent.

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11. Look to do-gooders

Does your company partner with any volunteer groups? Are there charitable organizations adjacent to your field, like Habitat for Humanity, if you’re in the construction business? Volunteers may welcome the opportunity to interview for a paid position, especially if it’s in a field they’re already passionate about. 

12. Go old school

As recruiters, we’re glued to our devices. But there’s value in putting down the screens and returning to the basics with old-school tactics like flyers, billboards, and direct mail pieces. They worked back then and might work surprisingly well for you now, too.

Here’s a standout example from Carnegie Robotics that not only says ‘we’re hiring,’ but addresses one of the biggest pain points candidates in the field are likely to be feeling. 

Billboard with a picture of a robot pointing to words that say "We're still hiring humans."

13. Piggyback on current events

Use events that everyone’s talking about—the Super Bowl or Black Friday, for example—as themes for your recruiting ads and materials. It’s an excellent way to keep your messaging fresh and show that you’re tuned into the social and cultural things that are going on around you. If you need help coming up with ideas of which current events to target, take a peek at any social media app’s ‘Trending’ page.

14. Make it a game

Filling out a job application hardly sounds like fun. Add some entertainment to your recruiting by gamifying the process of sourcing candidates with a game or puzzle that’s embedded on your home page or careers page. Gather names and email addresses for entry and award a prize, like a gift card, to one random winner each week.

15. Use your packaging

If you sell a physical product, you’re already investing time and resources in packing and shipping customer orders. How easy would it be to insert a flier with recruiting messaging into each package? Happy customers are your best brand advocates, and they can also turn into some of the best employees.

16. Be seen around town

If you’re hiring locally, use lawn signs placed in conspicuous locations around the area to drum up attention about your openings. A headline that encapsulates your biggest selling points–’Flexible hours!’ or ‘Unlimited overtime!’, for example–is sure to catch the eye of passersby. 

A hiring sign from Wright Beverage Distributing offers positions with a pay range of $18 to $20 per hour, plus commission and incentives, with the potential to earn $25 per hour. The sign also advertises a $750 signing bonus and mentions three available shifts for picker/loader roles.

17. Wrap your cars

If your work involves any fleet vehicles, like delivery trucks or service technician cars, take your recruitment messaging on the go by incorporating it into your vehicle wraps. Your openings will change more frequently than you can change the graphics on your vehicles, so you’ll want to point viewers to a static destination like the careers page of your website, which you can update frequently with your latest postings. 

A McLane delivery van with a "Now Hiring" advertisement for warehouse and Class A driver positions. The ad features images of smiling employees. The van is white with black and red accents, displaying the McLane logo prominently.

18. Collaborate with influencers

We typically associate influencers with promoting physical products, but there’s no reason their message has to be limited to consumer goods. Partner with strategic influencers to sell the benefits of working for your company, reaching a highly targeted audience and showcasing your creativity. 

The key is to be selective. Instead of casting a huge net with an influencer who has a million followers, your investment will be more likely to pay off if you find a micro-influencer (that’s someone with under 100,000 followers who caters to a highly specific niche) whose audience is super aligned with your candidate pool. 

19. Head to the movies

Video ads are engaging, but they’re easy for viewers to skip over or tune out on their personal devices. One place where you’re all but guaranteed a captive audience that can’t press a ‘skip’ button is at the movie theater. Most theaters offer local ad spots that run before the big film previews at surprisingly affordable rates. They’re usually sold by the week, which makes it easy to test different messaging and analyze results. 

20. Offer free education

Continuing development is a major job seeker priority, especially among Gen Z workers. You can use this as an opportunity to connect with prospective candidates by offering educational events like seminars, webinars, and skill training sessions at no cost. Afterward, nurture the relationship with attendees by sending follow-up messages and promoting relevant job openings. 

Harnessing creative strategies to get the word out about your job openings can give you an edge in today’s competitive market. With methods and messaging that are aligned with your employer brand, you’ll not only enhance your recruitment efforts but showcase your unique company culture, mission, and employee value proposition. 

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn