Recruitment: Gangnam Style!
What can employers learn about recruitment from the techniques of viral internet videos?
There’s a delightful parody floating around YouTube of the Gotye song ‘Somebody That I Used To Know.’ Actually there are about 17,000 of them ranging in delightfulness but the one I’m referring to is ‘Some Recruiter That I used To Know.’ If you’ve ever been on either end of a recruitment process, then it will ring familiar to you. Search for it or its kiwi creator Adam King. (“Always a pen… Always a pen…”)
As popular as the original Gotye song’s video was on YouTube, it cannot hold a candle (or luminous smartphone) to the billion views, or thereabouts, of PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style.’ My beef here is how YouTube counts the views. The moment you click PLAY, that counts. So, if you watch one second of it, refresh and start again and repeat, all those ‘views’ count. They shouldn’t but they do.
Too many employers treat recruitment like YouTube treats view counts. A recruitment process is just that – a process – and it shouldn’t count until it’s completely finished. And when’s that? I’m going to say that it isn’t finished even when the role is filled and a contract is signed. There’s a period, and it’ll vary from time to time and from organisation to organisation and from role to role, but there’s a period that the new hire needs to remain and be productive for the recruitment to have been considered a success. I reckon the recruitment process shouldn’t be considered over until that period is complete. Then tick all the boxes you want.
So recruitment would then include orientation, induction and maybe even the first period of performance management, up to and including a performance review. That’s the equivalent of watching the YouTube video all the way to the end. And the best thing is that recruitment doesn’t involve Justin Bieber. Or, if it does involve Justin Bieber, I’m assuming you’re reading this article in 2015 and you’re hiring for McDonalds. I’d probably hire him. I imagine he’d be great at customer service but you’d have to insist on a hairnet. And this might be the first and best ever use of a hairnet for both improving food hygiene and fashion.
I’m assuming that mocking Justin Bieber is safe, as few Beliebers would read Employment Today, unless it’s 2040 by which time I’ll be holed up somewhere safely in a cave with my guns and Led Zep vinyl LPs.
So, how does a Gangnam video get so popular? How does PSY get a billion views instead of having to settle for half a billion? One theory is that his is the perfect music video, being derivative and paying homage to about twenty different classic music video scenes. Why wouldn’t you cut n paste from the timeless classics just like cutting n pasting from old position descriptions?
How else do these viral videos get so virulent and are there learnings from their approaches for recruiters? Dan and Chip Heath’s book ‘Made To Stick’ outlines the critical components of ideas that stick and get retold and retold, spreading out through inter-related professional and social networks, not just in today’s world of wires and wireless, but timeless principles of engagement dating back millennia. The components are as relevant to gossip, mythology, urban myths and music videos as they are to the reputation of a workplace as a fantastic employer. There is simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. No one really believes job ads or the hype but they do give traction to stories. “Hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.” That’s the power of repetition and Gangnam Style is certainly testimony to that.
It doesn’t have to be stories about waking up in a Cambodian hotel bath full of ice minus a kidney. That’s probably not a better work story but it is one that starts their book. But as the Heath brothers write, that’s the kind of story that gets around because it has those features. It’s similar with Gangnam Style. I remember reading years ago an early edition of ‘What Colour Is My Parachute’. (It may have been on a tablet – a stone tablet.) It stressed that most jobs weren’t gained via CVs and answering job adverts in the newspaper. It was all about over-hearing about a vacancy or knowing someone who knew someone. Employers and recruiters need to get their message out there in story form. The Heaths sticky idea criteria spell out an acronym: SUCCES. It’s almost success but is missing that last S. I recommend adding Substance.
And getting back to that Gotye parody ‘Some Recruiter That I Used To Know’, there’s a recurring line in there that I particularly liked:
“But you treat me like an accountant and that feels so rough.”