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MEC-SXSWi

By Marie-Claire Barker, Global Chief Talent Officer, MEC

Each year, the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, hosts a job market, inviting the richly diverse and creative talent attending the conference to explore the opportunities with the exhibiting companies.

I’ve seen many job fairs throughout my career but since SXSW is a festival that features a unique convergence of original music, independent films and emerging technologies, I was interested to see exactly what companies were offering here, what was different? Of course, many companies were (still) giving away pens, candy and sunglasses, encouraging a proportion of adult trick-or-treaters through the doors. But for those who were there to look for real career opportunities, it was clear to see how companies overall are changing their messaging to engage prospects in new ways, through creative approaches and new technologies.

For example, a few companies led with the benefits on offer; from beer on Fridays to bring-your-dog-to-work day, rather than the traditional approach of laying out what a career path would look like. Others had their ‘higher purpose’ on a large banner above their booth, and one company had created what looked like a yoga studio, embracing employee wellness and mindfulness. All in an effort to target a new generation of employees, one that is looking at their next career move as an experience and comparing companies to see what would be most interesting and relevant.

At MEC we were seemingly not different in our approach. We too wanted to give prospects an experience, but we didn’t do it by giving away free swag. Instead, we invited prospective employees for a walk through our New York offices. We created a series of three short virtual reality 360 films that transported the viewer from the exhibition hall in Austin to the NY subway, and out onto 7th Avenue with a view of Times Square. From there they walked through the doors of the MEC office to experience the vibe and meet the people that work there. We created a fully immersive and fun experience to represent our culture, using smartphones and Google Cardboard.

Of course MEC was not alone in using new technology for a different approach to recruiting. Grindr, for example, placed all its opportunities on a cool looking USB key, enabling candidates to browse when and where it suited them. The Director of Employer Engagement and Operations at Duke University was visiting booths, leaving behind her a business card with a QR code on the back that gave companies direct access to student’s resumes.

All of these examples demonstrate how the recruiting landscape is evolving, moving towards experiential experiences in order to ‘sell the company’ rather than candidates having to ‘sell themselves’. Authentic employer branding and creative initiatives are essential in this cultural economy but there is still a long way to go, and I can’t wait to see how we and others will continue to innovate in this space.

First published in M&M Global, 16 March 2016

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