Three of the most innovative recruitment campaigns in history

Main Image

Recruitment isn’t new. People have been looking to engage with other people with a very particular set of skills (as Liam Neeson so succinctly put it) since the dawn of time.

 So here are three of the most innovative recruitment campaigns in history;

Julius Caesar c60BC

JC did a fair bit in his time. Arguably the most famous Roman Emperor he conquered most of the known world, ended democracy in the empire, spawned a Shakespeare play and ultimately devised the world’s first finder’s fee.

Although he isn’t well known for being a forefather of the recruitment industry, JC devised a strategy to grow recruitment into the Roman Military, which was in dire need of men to protect the conquered lands and march ever onwards to more.  So, in 60BC (approximately 2062 years before they invented LinkedIn) he announced that any soldier who recommended another man who was subsequently recruited into the army, would receive a finder’s fee in payment.  Apparently the scheme was a massive success. 

Veni, vidi, tirocinium

I came, I saw, I recruited

British Intelligence Services c1942

It’s difficult to understate the importance of the efforts of Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park. 

The fact that a man who, along with a very small team, saved the lives of millions by shortening the 2nd world war by 2 – 4 years, was vilified, imprisoned and persecuted because of his sexual orientation seems crazy in today’s day and age.  Add to this the fact that, unable to face the persecution by the very society he had played such a major part in saving, he committed suicide by eating a poison apple, makes for a pretty incredible story (Interestingly, he is also attributed with pretty much inventing the computer)

How the team at Bletchley Park was recruited is just as amazing.  MI5 wanted to recruit a team of people with a particular way of thinking.  The Germans had a seemingly unbreakable code called the Enigma code and the British knew they needed to crack it.

So they engaged in a recruitment drive via personal networks across universities, as well as going out to market. They did so by putting out a cryptic crossword in The Times.  The questions were written to identify lateral thinking.  They offered a prize to anyone who could complete it.  They then approached successful winners with a covert job offer.

The team was so diverse that Churchill, on visiting, said “"I told you to leave no stone unturned to get staff, but I had no idea you had taken me so literally." This diverse team was so successful they pretty much won the war, saved millions of lives, spawned a movie with that guy from Sherlock Holmes, and invented the computer.  As far as recruitment drives go this one could be the worlds most successful.

Google c2004AD

In 2004 Google was A search engine, not THE search engine.  It’s hard to believe that back then the future was uncertain.  You could be finding holes in the historical facts in this blog by Yahooing it, but you’re not.  If you bother at all then you’ll probably be Googling it.  But back then things weren’t so clear-cut.  Realising that the way to market dominance was to hire the absolute best, Google engaged in one of the world’s best recruitment drives.

They put up, next to the freeway, a plain white billboard with nothing on it but the words

“(First 10 digit prime found in consecutive digits of e).com”

No company name, no logo, no sales pitch, no job ad, just a puzzle almost meaningless to us mere, non-genius types.  Once solved the puzzle took the genius to a web page on which there was another puzzle, then another, then another.  If the genius got through all of these then they were presented with the opportunity to work for Google.  Needless to say Google managed to hire some of the smartest people on the planet and became one of the most valuable companies of all time.  It’s all true, honest, go on, yahoo it. 

So there you have it, 3 major innovations in the history of recruitment.  One of which helped spread the roman empire as far north as Britain, one of which saved millions of lives and one of which defined the Internet. 

Your daily tweeting about what you had for lunch doesn’t look so innovative now does it?