Harbinger gets the jump on job seekers with promo

Just ask anyone in business these days what their biggest challenge happens to be at the moment. Dollars to doughnuts, they'll tell you their toughest task is figuring out how to recruit and retain great staff. ...

Just ask anyone in business these days what their biggest challenge happens to be at the moment. Dollars to doughnuts, they’ll tell you their toughest task is figuring out how to recruit and retain great staff.

Certainly, that’s the case with Toronto-based marketing communications consulting agency Harbinger, which came up with a rather interesting alternative to using conventional job postings and personnel recruitment agencies in its employee search process.

The outcome of an all-staff brainstorming session last year, the firm decided that it needed to do something to stand out in the crowd of public and media relations organizations competing for new talent.

The solution? Call on the firm’s internal strengths and apply a promotional marketing approach to its employee search strategy.

In immediate need of a new senior account manager, Harbinger devised a plan to attract a great number of applicants for the position by creating a month-long promotion that would give all potential candidates a chance to win a free, expense-paid trip for two to Jamaica.

The way the ‘Life’s a Beach’ promotion worked was simple: Every candidate who submitted a resume had their name entered into the draw. So as not to leave its current staff feeling left out, the company also conducted a draw for them to win a Jamaican vacation.

It’s worth noting that winning the draw did not guarantee that the person would also get the job.

To help get the word out about the promotion, Harbinger built a new Web site (www.harbingerideas.com) specifically to support the contest and promoted it through ads in the marketing trades and a concentrated media relations effort, as well as through postings on Internet job sites.

The firm also made attempts to generate some word-of-mouth and viral e-mail buzz by having staff spread news of the campaign to their friends and family. As part of the plan, staff members were asked to send out 10 ‘chain letter-style’ e-mails to people they knew. Meanwhile, plastic beach pails and shovels were distributed to Harbinger clients and partners to generate even more awareness of the promotion.

Of course, while such a promotion could easily boost the number of ‘junk’ resumes that end up on the recruiter’s desk, Harbinger’s president, Jeff Weiss, says one of the key advantages it offers is the potential to discover highly desirable candidates who might not otherwise have applied.

‘There’s this group of people out there today who are working away and are unhappy, but they’re not actively searching for jobs,’ he says. ‘This was a unique approach for us to get those people to look up and say ‘Wow!’ It brings them out of the woodwork.’

While Weiss won’t reveal just how many resumes he received as a result of the ‘Life’s a Beach’ promotion, he says both the quantity and quality of resumes far exceeded his expectations. And, yes, he did manage to hire someone in the end.

‘Because we’re trying to position ourselves as a non-traditional agency, we’re looking for non-traditional people, and I think the promotion allowed us to do that, while continuing to build retention among the great team we already have,’ Weiss says.

The fact is, he says, few communications companies do a very good job of marketing themselves, despite the obvious resources they have available to do so. ‘The whole marketing and communications industry is like the shoemaker’s children,’ he says, stressing that Harbinger would like to break that pattern.

‘What we try to do for our clients, we try to do for ourselves,’ he says. ‘This promotion is part of that.’

Also in this report:

- Make your supplier do the work: With a little imagination and sufficient lead time, it’s possible to wow your customers for a song p.B10

- Just the ticket: What’s new and noteworthy in the world of motivational merchandise p.B12

- TSO boosts database with ‘Escape from Reality’: Viral marketing campaign invited subscribers to supply e-mail addresses of like-minded friends p.B14