The tried and tested recruitment process of advertising a vacancy online, selecting candidates and carrying out interviews may work for plenty of organisations – but there is more than one way to catch a fish.

An unusual application and selection process shows off your creativity as an employer and can also provide some unexpected results. It might be just what you need if traditional recruitment methods aren’t resulting in the candidates you’re after. But what sort of thing might just work?

Turn your staff into a talent-scouting network

Employee referral schemes are an increasingly popular tool used by organisations to encourage their staff to recommend friends or professional contacts they think could be suitable for a job. Candidates will most likely have a favourable opinion of the organisation if the referee enjoys their job – though they’re unlikely to recommend it as a workplace otherwise.

Deloitte Middle East is one employer which pays its staff a referral fee if they “introduce a candidate for recruitment who subsequently joins the firm as a result of the introduction.”

Plug in a chatbot

For the organisation short on manpower and wary of the time it takes to get through all the initial job applications, ‘chatbots’ might be part of the answer.

Co-founder of and CHRO of MySecretTeam, Galina Racheva, says AI could be the future of recruitment, automating a large chunk of the process. Chatbots could be used to perform early-stage interviews where there is a particularly large number of applicants, for example.

On the other side of the coin, jobseekers could even make use of them, suggested Racheva. “Recruiters and HR departments are clearly using bots to their advantage and the time has come for jobseekers to do the same,” she said. “Chatbots can be used for interview preparation and for providing feedback: Siri, Cortana and Google Now all offer technology that has been available for some time.”

Recruit exclusively through social media

Book publisher Penguin Random House (PRH) tried to shake up its recruitment practices by recruiting for four marketing positions entirely through social media in 2015. ‘The Scheme’ was an HR-led campaign to recruit four marketers to a 13-month paid programme, with the aim of eventually placing them in permanent roles.

The campaign began with a Twitter countdown and teasers in the publishing press. Applicants to The Scheme were required to meet just two criteria: to have finished full-time education and to have the right to work in the UK.

“While the process was open to everyone, whether they were leaving school, college or university or already working, social media activity was targeted at the 18-34 age range, and Tumblr provided the perfect platform to reach this demographic,” said Neil Morrison, group HR director for UK and international companies at PRH.

Woo the families too

Convincing your chosen candidate that you’re a great place to work and the city or country is a nice place to live may not be difficult, but what about their family? Winning over potential employees’ relatives could vastly improve retention rates if they are relocating to a new country.

“Few organisations aim their recruitment campaigns towards attracting the families of a potential candidate,” said Annalinde Nickisch, HR consultant and partner at The Thought Factory. “However, many have implemented comprehensive ‘onboarding’ policies, which are specifically designed to appeal not only to the candidate, but to ensure the entire family is supported throughout the relocation process. These policies are included specifically to ensure that family members agree to the relocation.”

Target your customers IKEA-style

When an Australian branch of the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA needed more staff, it had the clever idea of recruiting its customers. Inside boxes of flat-pack furniture, it included leaflets that looked like assembly instructions but were actually ‘career instructions’ to ‘assemble your future’.

As the leaflets were distributed inside the firm’s own furniture boxes, it didn’t have to pay for postage or advertising costs. The campaign resulted in 4,285 job applications and 280 new hires.

Set challenges for your candidates

Virgin Money has designed an interview process that involves setting candidates a series of challenges, which require different skills to complete. These include problem-solving, creativity, entrepreneurial knowledge and persuasiveness.

It’s been described as “immersive and engaging” and the idea is to cast the net beyond candidates with a financial background to those who have the right skills but currently work in a different sector.

Honourable mentions for nearly-but-not-quite excellent recruitment strategies go to…

Honesty is the best policy

When Ernest Shackleton wanted to find some hardy explorers to join him on a polar expedition in the early 1900s, he’s said to have placed the following legendary advert in The Times:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

Sadly, no evidence has yet been found that this job advert ever really existed, despite extensive archive searches of The Times and other publications Shackleton was known to have read.

The TV reality show

Back in the days when Donald Trump was just a billionaire real-estate tycoon and host of The Apprentice in the US, a pan-Arabic version of the show was planned for 2005. Mohammed Ali Alabbar, Emaar's founder and chairman, was to be the man doing the firing for a version of the popular business-based reality show set in Dubai. However, Alabbar pulled out and the show was cancelled before it began.

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