Bacon Carts And Public Displays Of Creative Recruiting

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Apr 13, 2012
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

There are a lot of things people will do to recruit tech hires. And apparently, it is all about the bacon.

By bacon, I mean the smoked pork product of course. Crispy, fried deliciousness in an easy to carry package.

Some of the zing of these types of recruiting tactics had faded with the recession. But with the competitiveness of certain sectors of the job market, will we see a return to these sorts of events and PR stunts? And really, how effective are tactics like this, anyway?

Bacon (and free food) a big draw

I was interested in a recent Wall Street Journal piece that highlighted some of the more creative ways employers were attracting job candidates:

When human-resources executive Amelia Merrill joined Risk Management Solutions Inc., a company that models risks associated with natural catastrophes, she faced a challenge in attracting the technology professionals her new employer needed.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, where the firm is based, no one seemed to know what RMS was. Eager to raise its profile and hire database and software engineers and others, RMS rented San Francisco’s popular ‘Bacon Bacon’ food truck for a day and set up camp at a cloud-computing expo in Santa Clara last November.

This reminded me of something the Microsoft Kinect team did last fall (via The Seattle Times):

Microsoft is trying to double the size of its Kinect for Windows engineering team in Redmond, from 35 to 70, and it hired ad agency Wexley School for Girls to add some sizzle. Wexley dreamed up the campaign, with the tagline “Wake up and Smell the Future.”

The promo made its debut today in the shadow of headquarters in South Lake Union, where a stream of bacon lovers braved the downpour for free strips of Swinery pepper bacon.

Apparently bacon is a big hit with the developer crowd. But beside the obvious PR factor of these sorts of moves, is there any actual recruiting benefit to them?

Judging the impact of public displays of recruiting

According to RMS in the WSJ article, it has helped them get more call backs when they call candidates.

I’ve talked with several other leaders for whom that isn’t the case. One has held happy hour events across the street from a competitors office. It’s fun to do he said, but ultimately they are still getting the results from their more traditional efforts. Another said if you are looking to get a specific ROI from an event like this, you should be thinking about it as a marketing or branding exercise, not a direct hiring activity.

At least from where I sit, I don’t think you can underestimate the PR factor here. Sure, it’s a stunt. Sure, some of it has been done before. All of it is fairly easy to replicate. But there is something to be said about carrying out a provocative recruiting message first or doing it bigger than anyone else is willing to do. And when it gets publicized, there’s a message that’s sent that could help future recruiting efforts. Even opening a few more doors with highly valued talent could help justify it.

Nobody is abandoning their traditional recruiting approaches wholesale for this, it is an interesting marketing tactic. And certainly there are worse things to sink marketing dollars into.

That being said, I’m still holding out hope for the bacon truck to park itself outside my home.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.