The Rise of Experiential Recruiting

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It seems like every day a new software like ZipRecruiter comes out claiming to be the end-all-be-all solution for sourcing company talent. While these platforms can be useful in their own way, they perpetuate the digital divide and dehumanization of human resources. With the national and global market for talent more competitive than ever before the need for a real solution has never been more pressing. Especially for companies trying to attract talent to markets that aren’t traditional talent magnets. Thus far, the path forward has always been low touch: put your positions on a website, then hope and pray your ideal candidate stumbles upon your post, makes it through your digital sorting platform and lands that perfect position. The largest challenge with that process is it deals with people, who are not at all formulaic or consistent in how they maneuver through the world. We actually don’t know if someone is the right fit until they are in real-life situations.

Over the years, NEWaukee has become known for its events and programs. What began as a simple way for people to meet their peers and explore the city they call home has evolved into a testing ground for NEWaukee to study human engagement in the past nine years. What truly makes people tick, what motivates them to take action and most applicably to this conversation, how do they seek new employment.

As NEWaukee has established its expertise in employer branding and experiential recruiting, we have encountered a severe disconnect between what companies say they want and what they actually do to attract and retain talent. People-based experiences are fickle and time consuming. Most companies are stricken with intense demands for new talent and limited budgets to try something previously unprecedented by the organization or department. But that is not enough of a reason to simply continue using the same dysfunctional strategies and tactics and expect different results.

One obvious trend that has surfaced in our research is that talent values experiences over things. This has been established through substantial research and the validation of experiential marketing. In an age where we are more connected than ever through an innumerable amount of communication platforms, folks inherently know that they are being marketed to all of the time. Hence the in-person experience with a consumer brand is a key differentiator in terms of consumer conversion. The exact same principle is true of recruitment – but we would wager to say it is even more needed, as whether or not someone devotes 8 – 10 hours a day to a place of employment affects an individual’s entire life. Hence the need for experiential recruitment – an opportunity for candidates and employers to truly interact with one another, evaluate what type of cultural fit makes sense for either party and encourages long-term commitment in employee retention.

Of all of the industries we’ve witnessed, college sports leagues understand and have adapted experiential recruiting in the clearest and easiest ways to attract top talent. Here’s what we can glean from the experiential recruitment process used by college sports leagues across the county that should be applied to every TA department, regardless of industry:

  1. Think About the Whole Talent Lifecycle. While most companies look at recruiting as getting a person to fill a role, college sports leagues have developed an entry point for all people to experience their brand, even if they might not be a good fit for the company. Their consumer brand (ticket purchasers) seamlessly integrates with their employer brand (the players) making the call to action when recruiting more easeful and accessible.
  2. Engagement and More Engagement. Instead of waiting for talent to come to them, college sports leagues creates deep levels of engagement by going to where talent is. They don’t expect the top talent to inherently know what they have to offer as a company and they take extra care to meet them where they are in truly engaging ways.
  3. Show Versus Tell. When luring a candidate to a team, top talent is invited to experience the campus and to connect to the larger community where the league is located. College sports leagues understand that full integration into the whole lifestyle afforded by the university experience is just as critical as the spot on the team. They find new ways for the candidate to feel the active culture of that team and through that process, both sides can decide who is a good fit.
  4. Immersion and Integration. The experience doesn’t stop after the new recruit accepts the offer to join the team. An intense focus on training, introductions to key constituents, custom support for academic endeavors and plenty of philanthropic or community service opportunities all take the players off the field and out in the community resulting in a true brand ambassador. Engagement is high and intense ensuring that the players themselves are real-life recruiters living and breathing the culture of the league.
  5. Departure is Never Goodbye. Finally, when a player has ended his or her season or college sports career, the interaction with the league does not end. Expansive investment in alumni networks ensure that players are engaged and enthusiastic ambassadors of the employer brand for years to come. The same should be true for companies, keeping the door open for candidate boomerangs who expand their skills elsewhere and can reenter the workforce better equipped to service the organization’s mission.

The process of experiential recruiting is truly transformative when implemented well. But it requires individuals within large and small organizations to challenge the status quo and try something different. To help with that, NEWaukee has developed a Talent Lifecycle with a suite of services that support every branch of the human resources team from employer branding, experiential recruiting to employee engagement.


To learn more about experiential recruiting or about how NEWaukee can service your talent needs, please visit: www.newaukee.com/services or contact us at contact@newaukee.com.