The beleaguered art of the recruitment film

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Time to read: 5 minutes (excluding video content)

I’ve had a few jobs in my time.

From gardening in Cornwall to the stock-room in Argos, then a waiter, bar work, broadcast television, before finally landing in digital content. The spark was lit for me after falling in love with The Big Breakfast as a kid. Every morning I tuned in and soon I realised I wanted to work there. I eventually ended-up as a runner on work experience on the show, although the producers and Wayne Hemmingway did dress me up in a Jean-Paul Gaultier body stocking. They said it would be ‘funny’ which it was, although it scarred my mother for life when she saw me rock up on Channel 4 at 7am resplendent in designer lingerie. I was hooked however (to the job). It was also the first time content had been used to sway me into a career, albeit indirectly.

In a global market where the gig economy has transformed the way we do business and that more of the workforce will eventually be freelancers, especially in the US, it’s not news that the competition is fierce to attract the best talent to work full-time.

If you’re a tech company, you can expect an employee to stay with you for the average period of two – four years (seven years if you’re Cisco apparently). It’s true that attrition is healthy for a business so some staff turnover is welcomed, but attracting the right talent in the first place is still the sweet stuff of the people teams’ dreams (I know, my better half works in HR).

Brands and agencies alike are falling over themselves to snare the best candidates from first to fourth jobbers, but where do you turn your often modest budget and resources to really make an impact? Content appears to be the answer for most, but it is not a silver bullet and get it wrong and you risk far more than just alienating people.

You normally see the same old formula in a plethora of recruitment video content: Employee talks to camera – walks into office – people working or pointing at screens – happy faces – a group of people around a desk or water cooler…you get the idea. Replicate this and you risk looking like a stock footage parody of yourself. Sometimes this formula works for the kind of business you are and the type of candidate you want to attract. If breaking through the noise is your aim however, you need to get creative.

Heineken first caught my attention of where the bar can be set (no pun intended) with the exceptional go places campaign released in 2016. The online interview process with big-budget production saved for most TVC’s accompanied by a sumptuous UX experience makes you want to take the test even if you’re not looking for alternative employment. It acts simultaneously as talent attraction and a real marketing tool. It still resonates today and you can have a go yourself here (although don’t let the boss see you). Those fond of quick turnaround should look away however as it was produced over the course of a year with over 75 real employees featured.

Another brand woo’ing attempt sees SodaStream occasionally pervert the course of comedy in places. Although it’s one gag throughout, it’s still a stand out piece because of its charm and the ethos of the company is nicely packaged into less than three minutes. Some of the gags really do fall flat on their backside, but for me that adds to it. With tongues firmly planted in cheeks SodaStream eschews seriousness to impart the all important brand message that they’re willing to have fun and hopefully, that’s exactly what your typical day is going to be like.

It’s not just videos however where recruiters are eyeing the opportunity. Netflix, the darlings of OTT streaming, have taken on podcasts to give you a thorough insight on what business and the working environment is like. A different avenue to utilising video and on first listen it definitely feels like a more relaxed affair because let’s face it, most employees hate having a camera shoved in their face. Time to Netflix podcast and chill.

However, after a ten second youtube crawl I discovered the following video on partner engineering from Netflix. Production value is high, the on-screen graphic device is well executed but this does reflect the recruitment video formula previously mentioned. It can be argued that it works for that particular demographic of candidate but it doesn’t really grab you like the podcast.

Sometimes the home-made approach to gain authenticity works. Get a mobile phone and go around the office asking your colleagues why they work here, especially if budget is tight. It still needs to be well executed however. Think scrappy, not crappy.

This is the approach taken by a few years ago but even then, it felt very wide of the mark. In a time when we all have mobiles, why would you incorporate the faux ‘shot-on-a-cheap-camera’ graphic to enhance authenticity when the lo-fi nature is obvious? Production value isn’t everything I hear you cry, but you have to ensure your reason for going lo-fi is a reflection on your values and I’m not sure’s effort here has paid off.

At ‘O’, we took the lo-fi but ideas centred approach when we worked with Manifest (we’re part of the group) to put out a call for people to join us. We asked senior campaign manager Julian Obubo to star in it (you can also hear his dulcet tones on our very own Fresh Meet podcast) and you can see the result below. Kidnapping aside (except on a Friday) we’d hope that you get a real sense of the culture without us resorting to recruitment minutiae and a seven camera shoot in Pinewood Studios.

Quoting a man who was intensely difficult to work with and who no doubt was an HR nightmare, Steve Jobs once said: “The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.” As an employer, a recruitment video can be one of those exceptional lengths to attract the best of the best. Be wary that putting yourself out there with video is effectively turning that content into your shop window; showcasing your values, your ethos and your culture. Ensuring that window is a true reflection of you is the secret sauce.

Finally, a word of caution.

Check out this bad-boy from Haigh Associates. They insist (follow the thread) that this is not a culture video. Not sure I’d personally go into this particular shop after seeing this but then again, I assume I’m not the kind of candidate they’re looking for.


Christian Anderson-Ramshall is Head Of Production at The O Collective.

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