recruitDC from a Marketer's Perspective: A Crash Course in Creative Recruiting

By Jenifer Kern, Vice President, Marketing View Comments

recruitdc_blog_smallOn a last-minute whim, I recently had the chance to attend recruitDC—a local recruiting event with some significant fanfare and followers.

Why, as a marketing professional, would I want to attend such an event? Because marketers are all about the customer and employee experience, and this was an opportunity for me to learn more about our recruiting engine. After all, our business is heavily reliant on recruiting top tech talent and putting them in front of our most valued customers.

It’s hard to appreciate all that goes into the “art of recruiting”—but I assumed it was more of a science than an art. I was wrong! I met recruiters of varying seniority levels and backgrounds and it was clear that the most successful recruiters are the highly creative ones; they lead with the “art” and use the “science” only as needed. These recruiters aren’t afraid to try new things, engage differently, use social as a branding tool, and be authentic to the core. They fuse innovation, HR skills, and marketing/sales in a truly inventive fashion.

Here's how they revealed themselves to me:

My First Encounter: the ‘Used Car Salesman’ Stereotype

Upon arriving, I was instantly approached by the "recruiter as used car salesman" stereotype. Not only did he get up close into my personal space, but dove into his sales pitch before I could even get my name out: “I do sourcing, all kinds of sourcing, part-time, full-time, technology, business, you name it…” The pitch went on and on, but I quickly tuned out and got away.

I had run into, sadly, the most common recruiter stereotype–the ones that use simple science instead of art. Neglecting the inter-personal relationship that needs to be developed before jumping into the sale, this recruiter clearly overlooked the needs of his buyer (me) by forgoing a more creative approach, or any sort of inquiry into my interests, background, skills, or needs. In fact, I was not even in the market for sourcers or recruiters.

*Sigh.* Perhaps I wouldn't last long at this event.

Next: Recruiter Meets Creative Genius

This initial encounter was quickly juxtaposed by the opening speaker, Laurie Ruettimann, who spoke on the importance of personal branding and encouraged recruiters to “put yourselves out there on social media, take risks, cultivate relationships, connect with influential people, and navigate the social web in strategic ways.”

I’ve been to many marketing events and professional networking forums with similar opening messages, and I can easily say that Laurie took the cake. She was witty, charming, creative and highly engaged with the audience in an authentic and down-to-earth way. She provided straight-forward, smart suggestions and remained firm in her advocacy of joining the social media storm as a way to set yourself apart as a recruiter. She attested to the power of social media by pointing to her own personal success story: a former HR leader and recruiting guru, she reinvented herself as an entrepreneur and influential speaker, writer, and social media strategist by starting her own blog site (

Above all, “be authentic,” she said, “because that’s what we’re asking our candidates to be.”

Highly impressed and motivated by this opening presentation, I decided to stick around a little bit longer, although I was prepared to punch out any time. After all, I wasn’t a recruiter; I didn’t need to be here.

But first I wanted to check out the “Talk Tech to Me” panel, which featured highly in-demand technologists who remained anonymous beyond their first names. These people receive upwards of 10 requests daily from recruiters looking to place them with top consulting firms in the DC area. Wow, I was slightly jealous. Could Iimagine being that wanted?! Not really. But the perspective from the panelists was different…the constant barrage of emails, phone calls, and invitations to “connect” can be extremely distracting and annoying.

The panel educated recruiters on the best and worst approaches for reaching out to IT candidates. They gave first-hand accounts of recruiting tactics that led them to never talk to that person/company again; and conversely, more creative tactics that led them to respond to the call/email/tweet/connection.

The panel was extremely engaging and educational. I took at least three pages of notes to bring back and share with our recruiters. And above that, the moderators (lifetime recruiters) creatively moderated a highly interactive 1-hour session that flew by before everyone could get out their questions. Thank goodness I was able to get my question answered!

Next was lunch, okay...I’ll eat then go.

Then came an announcement about “Special Entertainment” after lunch. The performer was to be kept a surprise. I doubted it was going to be Imagine Dragons or Philip Phillips.The perfect time to duck out.

But before I did, I stuck my nose in the auditorium, only to find a guy I spoke to over lunch up on stage performing a catchy rap tune with hilarious lyrics. I charged in and began head nodding and clapping. Another incredibly creative and engaging recruiter with many more talents! Next came a session hosted by Matt Grove, a very entertaining recruiter-turned-improv-artist. Another captivating artist who even drew me to raise my hand and become part of his act. I was having too much fun!

Without needing to recount the rest of my experience, suffice it to say that I spent the full day at the event and had a blast. I was stunned that a recruiting event could be more engaging and interesting to me than my oft-visited marketing events. After all, we’re supposed to be the queens of engagement and digital marketing. Maybe we’re starting to take ourselves too seriously?! Marketers used to be known for their creativity and spunk, but these recruiters will surely give us a run for our money. Because the best recruiters are clearly the most creative ones, and there were lots of them on hand at recruitDC.

Maybe I can score a pass again next year!

(photo courtesy of Lars Schmidt)


Posted in: IT Consulting