6 ways to attract the best digital talent for your company

Jan 26, 2017 · 5 min read

Author: Spencer Ayres, Product Director at Freeformers.

Originally published on 18 March, 2016.

Earlier this year we looked at ways for people to make their CV digitally-fit for 2016 and beyond.

But what if you’re the person on the receiving end of that CV, or the one responsible for the search to find people with top-notch, future-proofed digital skills?

In October 2015, the BBC reported that more than 12m people and a million small businesses did not have the right skills to be successful in the digital economy.

While just this month (March 2016), this piece from Information Age looked at research suggesting a huge percentage of companies are finding it hard to recruit the right digital talent in the UK.

So how do you attract the best and most digitally innovative and motivated people? Here are some tips and real-life examples.

1. Show applicants who YOU are

When Etsy wanted to hire new software engineers, the peer-to-peer marketplace knew they were up against their reputation as an arts and craft site. The competition for tech talent in Silicon Valley is extreme, so Etsy knew they had to make a splash. What did they do? Well, the company plastered the San Francisco Caltrain Station with posters of knitted goods, all described with software terms. The campaign was dubbed “Code as Craft” and the message was clear: We may have a cosy exterior but we’re also a technology powerhouse. It broke down the misconception and showed they understood digital in the same way those they hoped to attract would.

Another example is GrubHub, the US food delivery service. They turned to Snapchat to find a social media intern, asking candidates to apply with a snap of their best doodle. You can ask for a CV too of course, but seeking out a creative, social media savvy person in the places they hang around can prove you know what you’re looking for and that you “get it”.

2. Let the applicant show who THEY are

There are still companies who make jobseekers fill in longwinded application forms. This is not the way in the 21st century. Instead try giving them some freedom to really demonstrate their personality, their skills and their knowledge — both of you as a company and of themselves. Giving them a chance to be creative or apply in a way that’s personal to them will tell you far more about potential candidates than having dozens of identical forms in front of you to wade through. The latter also won’t mark you out as a dynamic company so you may miss those who could flourish by choosing exactly how they present themselves to you.

3. Turn the job hunt into a game

For some companies, the problem isn’t how to attract great candidates — it’s sorting out which are brilliant. Google tried to tackle this when looking for data scientists. They waited for people to type certain specific industry terms into the search box and a pop-up then appeared saying: “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?” It led to an exclusive Google domain where the candidates were issued a number of challenges, before the best were contacted by the company. Not only did this help filter through potential candidates quicker, it also created a feeling among applicants of having earned the chance to be part of something exclusive.

4. Be prepared to change the rules

If you’re genuinely looking for a creative person to shake things up, you really need to let their future boss do the hiring. So instead of leaving it all up to HR, fully involve the people who will be managing them and even their potential co-workers. These people are uniquely placed to help write the initial job ad, as if they were writing a pitch to a potential date. Not that we’re suggesting looking for the right job match on Tinder, but you know what, a bit of different thinking could widen the pool of top talent to choose from.

5. Tap into the networks but don’t judge

Businesses already look at social media accounts as part of the recruitment process and they use it to advertise vacancies too. Social channels can spread news of openings fast to the right sort of people. But when recruiting from today’s youth — those who have grown up with social media at the heart of their lives — it is important not to rush to judgment based on what they’re saying on Twitter, posting to Facebook or snapping on Instagram. Naturally, there may be some comments or activities that make you shudder or raise a concern, but always remember that the person they are now may not be the same as the person who wrote something shocking a few years ago. After all, back then they had no idea you’d be looking at it to decide whether to give them their perfect job.

6. Seek out your Superfans

Digital ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi took it one step beyond social media when looking for new advertising creatives, opting instead to use a dedicated app. This was a risky move, as getting people to download yet another app can be a big ask. But Saatchi & Saatchi reported their applicant pool doubled after this experiment, which was successful because Superfans got something in return. The app encouraged them to submit ideas for feedback from the company’s Mobile Creative Director. Only after doing this were people told the company was hiring. This meant all the job applicants were people who already felt the company had given something back to them fostering the beginning of a two-way relationship. And it also ensured the company could see a wide-range of ideas and suggestions developed without the pressure applicants would otherwise have been under if they knew it was a test for a job.

Want to find out more about what we do and why it works? Get in touch at hello@freeformers.com or reach us on Freeformers.com, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook!


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We do the people part of digital transformation & prepare your employees for the future of work. How much could we save your organisation? bit.ly/ffdigitaldrag

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