Creating the Recruiting “Experience”

It is increasingly difficult to recruit solely on the basis of salary or benefits or even on the merits of a particular job.  With everyone offering almost the same packages, tweaked and customized as they are, how can an organization gain a competitive advantage in recruiting? What tools or techniques can recruiters use that don’t simply escalate salaries and inflate benefits? 

Some clues may be found in a book called The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage (Harvard Business School Press, 1999).  It points out that selling products or services on the basis of price and quality (read salary and benefits) alone is not enough to ensure success or profits.  What people are willing to pay more for is an “experience”– a series of memorable events that a company stages to engage the customer in a personal way.

Starbucks doesn’t sell just coffee; it actually sells an “experience” built around a cup of coffee.  A customer is attracted to Starbucks because it has created an environment designed for casual conversation, quiet reading, or meeting a friend. You buy a muffin or a roll, a cup of cappuccino or espresso, or just plain old coffee.  You select a grande or a venti, not just a small or a large one.  And you gladly pay a premium for the coffee.

Nordstrom, the famed retailer, offers live music played on grand pianos and features wine and coffee bars for their shoppers. A single clerk, who crosses from department to department with the customer, offers advice, color and style suggestions, and personalizes the shopping trip. The price is premium, but so is the experience.

There are four experience realms outlined in the book that – with a little imagination — can be used to improve your recruiting success.


The first of these realms is that of entertainment.  We are all attracted to that which amuses us or that makes us laugh.  I have seen some college recruiters who have used humorous elements to attract candidates.  Videos are a great way to introduce humor. Get your employees to create a funny scenario, story or a skit about life in your company or about the recruiting process. Develop a contest that creates excitement and attracts attention.  But, you can also find ways to create an entertaining event for candidates.  You can put together events that bring groups of candidates together and gets them laughing and involved.  Southwest Airlines uses humor well and knows how to entertain both passengers on their flights and their prospective employees.  Disney is also a master at this. People remember humorous experiences and continue to have positive thoughts about the provider.


The second realm is education.  By providing learning experiences, free seminars, on-site classes, or other events, you create a sense of connection and begin a tie-in to your organization. Have one of your well-known employees offer a webinar or an educational talk that you can record and put on your career site. Provide information that gives candidates insights into the culture and working environment of the firm. Show how your company is different than another one in a similar industry.


The third is to provide an escapist experience – getting candidates involved in doing something different and totally absorbing.  Computer games are a form of escapist experience. Anyone who has played a computer game knows how easy it is to become completely absorbed in the unfolding drama.  Recruiters can create an activity that involves candidates intensely in their organization or with people from the organization.  Some companies use outdoor team-building activities to create an experience such as this, but one could also develop an interactive Internet-based tour of the company that requires candidates to make choices and get involved.  Recruiters can gain a much better understanding of what motivates and interests candidates by tracking what choices they make.  But, while they are involved in the experience, they are learning about your firm’s culture and people – almost without realizing it.

Esthetic Experience

The fourth realm is to provide an esthetic experience –something that appeals to multiple senses. This is the area where Starbucks is a master.  Books, coffee, music, friends, smells, and colors are blended into an aesthetic experience that we all find enjoyable.  Recruiters can use the corporate environment as an important recruiting tool. If your firm has nice lawns, modern and spacious buildings, a nice cafeteria, a gym, or a day-care center you can tailor a tour that appeals to the aesthetic side of a candidate and showcase the environment.

The bottom line is simple. It takes more than a good offer, a good salary, and a good job to attract candidates and get them to say yes.  Successful recruiters will increasingly need to use the tools of good marketers and learn from the lessons of the business world.  Creating experiences is an inexpensive way to differentiate your company and improve your recruiting success.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

This article originally appeared in the Future of Talent newsletter and has been republished here with permission. Kevin Wheeler is also our speaker at ATC2022.

Join Kevin Wheeler at ATC2022. Kevin is one of the most prolific voices globally on Talent Acquisition helping today’s Leaders anticipate and navigate the numerous trends that will shape the Future of Work.

Related articles

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sign up to our newsletter

Get a weekly digest on the latest in Talent Acquisition.

Deliver this goodness to my inbox!