Imagine this: you’re outside the office on a glum Monday morning. You’re about to cross the threshold into another workweek when you’re greeted by a peculiar message underfoot, inviting you to check out employment opportunities elsewhere.


That scenario played out in London a few weeks ago, when guerrilla recruiters from Ocado Technology (the engine behind Ocado, the online-only supermarket) literally took their campaign to the doorsteps of rival companies, including Skype, Amazon, and UBS. They ran a pressure washer over a stencil on the dirty sidewalk to reveal witty text – quips like “Fed up of being a drone? Try programming one instead” and “Allowed to pitch ideas to your CEO? Then implement code in 2 hours? Thought not.” The temporary advertisements also contained a hashtag and website to visit, along with an in-person meeting place where the company set up a “pop-up” job booth later that day.

These job ads are attractive in a number of ways that commonplace channels – direct emails, social media messaging, etc – are not:

  1. 1. They're Mysterious
    In a culture where everyone knows everything about everyone – your Gravatar icon or Facebook photo stubbornly following you wherever you "go" – it’s refreshing to not quite know whose hands applied the messages. We only know that it's "Ocado" -- this quirky, mysterious company. And that's a good thing. They've branded themselves with mystery. Mystery breeds curiosity. And curious candidates come a-knocking.
  1. 2. They're Unexpected
    We are so used to being bombarded online -- if not by recruiters, then by politicians and grassroots organizers; people hawking online petitions, surveys, and coupons; people sharing links and cat videos; spammers; pop-up ads -- that we're not really paying attention anymore. It's like... inflation of our sensory capacity. We're tuned out. However, when you don't expect to see words staring up at you from the sidewalk, you pay attention... because words that don't appear on a screen are a novelty nowadays.
  1. 3. They're Temporary
    Without a permanent email or tangible flier in hand, passive candidates will probably feel compelled to act quickly before dirt and rain obscure the messages. And the advertisement gives them a reason to act quickly, too -- they're encouraged to stop by the booth and meet these guerrilla recruiters in person.
  1. 4. They're Culture-Driven
    These job ads have the same gritty allure as graffiti art, applied by stencil under cover of night. The company comes across as somehow subversive and “underground.” I mean, Ocado presumably paid someone to sneak out here in the dead of night -- a fact which may subconsciously appeal to the young, innovative, independent techies they're looking for. Yet it’s also squeaky-clean. No spray paint, no tape, no paper – in fact, the sidewalk is even cleaner than it used to be. The methodology itself speaks volumes about the company's inventive, "green" approach. The content of the ads themselves are almost secondary.

Tags: Facebook, Amazon, Industry, Skype, Ocado, Guerilla recruitment, Ocado Technology, UBS, Gravatar