Recruiting: The Hunger Games Edition

Recruiting: The Hunger Games Edition

by Doug Douglasthe-hunger-games-catching-fire-logo

If you are one of those socially awkward people who doesn’t go out much and doesn’t pay much attention to the happenings around you, then “The Hunger Games” may not mean much to you. It’s just one of the biggest film franchises in the past 10 years taking in $155 million in a single weekend…and grew from there. Now it’s back with round two, “Catching Fire” which has already made over $500 million since its release.

It seems like every movie has one line that sticks out that gets quoted by the masses. “I’m the king of the world.” Or , ”I feel the need. The need for speed.” The Hunger Games is no exception with “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Now maybe you are starting to see where I’m going with all of this talk of movies in a recruiting related piece.

When it comes to attracting the right people, getting them through the recruitment process successfully, and retaining them for the foreseeable future, what can be done to place the odds ever in your favor? There are a few things.

Be memorable.

Advantages came to the contestants in The Hunger Games who were the most memorable out of the 24 who were competing. They had huge advantages. In this battle for the very best talent, what sets you apart? What is unique about your company? What do you have to offer that another company may not? What will make you “memorable?”

Let’s face it, if you are trying to recruit the same people that Google, Facebook, or Apple wants – it’s a tough hill to climb. They are all brands that others can identify with easily – they are known. So, how can you make yourself memorable when you are going against a well-known, well-funded brand?

Here are a few suggestions for things that could make you memorable:

Collaboration – Give them the opportunity to be heard, to network with other segments of the business, and to strategize about process improvements. Help them to see the “big picture” of your organization and what impact they can make.

Mentoring Me – Believe it or not, new workers value the knowledge and experience of existing workers. They don’t want to waste time trying things that don’t work. Create a mentoring initiative that helps them to learn and be productive more quickly. This not only helps the new worker to adapt more quickly, but it gives those experienced workers sought after respect as you are acknowledging their wisdom in aspects of the business.

Increased Access – We all live in a culture now where we can share thoughts, feelings, emotions, and information instantly for all to see and hear (check out Facebook or Twitter for evidence). Consider minimizing time spent in a physical office and go to huddle spaces, “Lunch & Learn” events during the lunch hour, and go to Happy Hour with your team after work. Invest in your team personally as well as professionally.

Help Me Lead – Offer opportunities for your workers to develop their leadership abilities. Interested in investigating how a certain policy, technology, or position would impact your organization as a whole? Put together a small team to analyze it and make a recommendations.

Variety – Give them the opportunity to do several things over the course of their week, not just the same things repeatedly. We live diversity and breaking up our day. We thrive on being able to do multiple things and do them well.

Flextime/Remote Work – Decide, as an organization, what matters most. Does it matter that the work gets done, done well, and on schedule? Or does it matter that the work gets done (at the office), done well (at the office), and on schedule (at the office between 8:00-5:00)? Providing workers (when possible) with the option of working in the office or from home, and when they will work, goes a long way. Work/life balance is a major priority to many workers, so giving them deadlines for work to be completed, but the freedom to work at 2:00 a.m. from their apartment vs 4:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in the office is a big difference maker.

Attraction Pay – Offer financial incentives for the recruitment, relocation and/or retention of workers. You might consider staggering these so they won’t all hit you at the same time (hint hint).

Pay for Performance – This is becoming very dominant in both the public and private sectors. Reward your top performers with some type of incentive – extra pay, gift cards, vacation trips, etc.

Student Loan Repayment – If you are worried about investing in a new employee, only to lose them after a year, then creatively think of ways to retain them. One such way is to offer to pay down a certain percentage of their student loans after they have completed a pre-determined length of service with your organization.

Tuition Reimbursement for Continuing Education – This shows that you are interested in their future and having other opportunities for them down the road.

Child/Elder Care – An issue that comes up that can be very stressful is when an employee has kids that need care throughout the work day, or if that employee has parents who are older and in need of care. If your organization can offer assistance in these areas, the investment into the personal aspects of your employees could build trust and loyalty at a much higher level.

Please note that not everything on this list costs money. These “perks” can help make you memorable though when compared to 3-4 other companies who may be pursuing the same candidates as you. All of these types of things need to be established before the sourcing or recruiting of candidates ever begins.

Alliances Get You Further.

As with any good movie, you have the good guys and the bad guys. The Hunger Games was no different. Once the battles began, the bad guys formed an alliance and together, they would hunt down and kill those who tried to go it alone. The good guys, a much smaller group, also protected each other and helped each other to go further in the game. And we all know that the eventual winner will always come from the good guy alliance.

The process and strategy of recruiting is changing. It will be a balance of both technology, as well as human touch. The most successful at striking the right balance between the two will make the candidate feel as though they are in an alliance with you. The human element and relationships/trust built between the recruiter and the candidate will be the emphasis in this model. So, let’s take a look at how this looks.


There has been a trend in the past few years to try to automate as much of the recruiting process as possible and actually speak with as few people as necessary. This methodology will not work with the new generation workforce. Technology will still play a major role though. Corporate websites need to be well written and targeted. Job Descriptions need to be more than just bullet points listing responsibilities – they need to include who the company is, what they stand for, why this job matters, and why someone would want to join you. Application processes need to be quick and easy. Automated responses need to be generated at key steps in the application process to let them know they have successfully applied, resume is being reviewed, didn’t reach the minimum requirements for that role but another might be a good fit, etc. Text messaging capabilities from your applicant tracking system should be included. Online scheduling tools should also be available so a recruiter can enter days/times when they are available and a candidate can schedule a time to speak (allowing the candidate the freedom to respond and schedule something at night or on the weekend instead of trying to reach the recruiter during normal business hours and playing phone tag for 3 days). You Tube channels, Twitter feeds, social networking, and landing pages specifically for recruiting – these are necessary forms of marketing. Technology should be seen as a tool to offer accessibility and speed to various aspects of the recruiting process, but not as something to automate the recruiting process. The human element is vital in recruiting Gen Y.


Get out of the cubicle and into the masses. This should be seen as a primary role in recruiting activity. Strike up conversations with those who seem to be exceptional or interested. Exchange contact info and places on the web where they can continue to connect and dialogue about the company and opportunities there. Send a text from time to time, just to check in. Be available to answer questions, or run an idea by the other person. Meeting new people at job specific networking gatherings should replace job postings to some degree. Reaching out to referrals through social media sites instead of attempting to get past a gate keeper who monitors calls coming into the company. Consider having regularly scheduled Open Houses at your office for potential employees to come and see your environment, speak with your employees, meet the management, hear about the kind of work that you do there, and envision what it would be like to work there. Get to the college campuses – and get there now! If 60% of the workforce will be retiring within the next few years – that means their replacements are enrolling in college right now. Start building those relationships now – identifying who the best and brightest are – and start getting them thinking about you!

I believe the days of posting a job on Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, or Craigslist, and that being the primary way to reach the most candidates, are coming to a close. The role of Recruiter is morphing into more of a Guidance Counselor. It’s less about a sales job by the Recruiter, and more about the corporate opportunities, integrity of the leadership, and the ability for the person to fit that job into their desired lifestyle. Those companies who can position themselves in an alliance with the best candidates – they win.

Your Mentor Changes Everything.

In the movie, each Tribute had a Mentor assigned to them. The Tributes had no experience from which to draw from, but the Mentor – they had not only been there before, but by the fact that they were still living and breathing – meant they won The Hunger Games in their season! Who better to advise the newbies than a seasoned veteran?

Please understand that as I researched for this writing, and I started seeing the various aspects of what it’s going to take for companies to be successful in hiring the best talent available, I started accounting for time, resources, and money. While some organizations may have the technologies in place to accommodate the automation needed to keep things moving smoothly and efficiently, others will either have to invest in it or outsource it to a recruiting organization that does. Some have internal recruiting teams that can have methodologies, strategies, and job descriptions changed to take advantage of the things we have discussed here today, but others will either have to add more resources to accomplish the recruiting tasks or outsource it to a recruiting organization that can take on your identity and function as your internal team.

For most organizations, this is going to take a shift in the allocations of people and money. You may save money from not having to do as many traditional job postings online or in newspapers or on radio or even billboards – but you may have to increase the dollars spent on travel so you can have recruiters go to various parts of the country to speak about your company, or to add text messaging abilities to your communications plan. You may not need as much office space if most of your team is on the road or works “off hours” attending networking events in the evening, but you’ll likely spend more to get real-time online scheduling capabilities or adding a marketing communications leader to your recruiting team to handle all messaging.

Big Dramatic Ending.

Near the end of The Hunger Games, it became evident that one of the two remaining good guys would have to turn on the other – there could only be one person who survives and wins. But then, oh so unexpectedly, the rules were changed! Because the two main characters had fallen in love, they changed the rules so that they both could live happily ever after.

You may be wondering how in the world I’m going to spin this back to Recruiting….do not fret…I can!

The rules to successfully recruiting the people that your organization needs to be successful, and thrive in the future, have changed. Keep in mind that your people ARE your business. If you place people into various roles that are average at their jobs, you’ll likely get average results. If you place people who simply want to draw a paycheck and don’t really care about the company’s reputation or results – then that causes problems for your entire organization. We are looking at talent shortages in many areas. The candidates will have many options before them on where to invest their careers. There will be a battle – a Hunger Games of sorts. If it’s true that the company who hires average people will get average results, and the company who hires underperformers will likely underperform – then the one who hires the very best talent will likely thrive.

You don’t have to be the biggest company. You don’t have to have to most resources. You DO, however, need a plan that makes sense and appeals to your key target.  That plan should be a priority, and begin executing on it as soon as possible. When your company has the right strategies, and the right people are implementing them, you’ll be hiring the best talent available – and the odds will be forever in your favor.

About the Author…

Doug Douglas is the President of DX2 Consulting, a recruitment optimization firm. He works with companies from various industries to make their recruitment efforts effective and efficient. The results are lower turnover rates, lower recruiting costs, lower lost opportunity costs and a significant ROI for the company. He can be reached at


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