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Recruiting Top Talent with Bean Bags and Space Invaders

By February 9, 20124 Comments

Here is a simple equation for all recruitment business owners seeking to hire A-Grade recruiters into their business:  If your office environment is A-Grade, they will come; If it isn’t, they won’t.

Let me elaborate:  Three times this week I have had the hiring process influenced in a major way by the working environments of prospective recruitment employers.  One high calibre candidate, who had the initial interview in a local trendy coffee shop, went along to second interview all fired up and excited about the opportunity ahead.  This time, attending the recruitment firm’s actual offices, the recruiter encountered a shabby commercial space squeezed in behind a retail parade.  Ascending a rickety staircase they were buzzed through into a dark, dingy and overcrowded work space that even had a non-recruitment part of the business squatting in the kitchenette.  No matter how charming, gregarious and visionary the ensuing pitch of the owner, this recruiter could just never picture themselves working in that environment.

Hiring chances zero.

Another candidate came the other way, approaching me to find him a new job because of the chaotic, unstructured and endlessly distracting environment he was currently being forced to work in.  Despite a good salary, great commission, a strong portfolio of contractors and bought-in clients, he didn’t feel it was orderly, uncluttered, or inspirational enough, and is considering moving on.

The third occurrence was sadly a missed opportunity for us.  A candidate referred by word of mouth was approached and invited in for interview.  Looking great on paper and sounding perfect on the phone, we had a range of quality openings for said candidate to consider.  Sadly it never even reached interview stage as the (Gen-Y) candidate had already been offered a role at a firm with a pool table and jukebox and that alone was enough to compel them to just accept without considering any other options.

There is little doubt in my mind that the working environment has overtaken salary levels and career opportunities on the list of importance of today’s brightest and best potential recruits for your business.  If you’re still unsure then have a peep at the world of Red Frog Events in Chicago in the fascinating article The Case for Building Your Employees a TreehouseThe number one direct benefit of having a creative workspace?

1. Easier recruitment. We’ve touted our creative work environment at more than 100 job fairs at universities across the country and now receive more than 2,000 resumes from eager applicants every single month. Camp Red Frog attracts top talent.”

More and more today we are hearing words like “creative”, “inspirational” and “modern” thrown around to attract top talent.  As rec-to-rec recruiters we operate in a candidate short market (well, top-talent short, anyway).  We often find ourselves having to pitch our clients’ businesses to prospective candidates rather than the other, more traditional, way round of pitching a candidate into a client.  More and more we find ourselves describing the clients’ company culture and working environment before we even get close to talking numbers, packages, salaries, commission percentages etc.

So what constitutes an inspirational work space?  When I first got into recruitment it was all about being in the gleaming glass towers at the big end of town.  Cavernous lobbies with a coffee franchise tucked in the corner, leading to soothingly speaking lifts wafting you skywards towards marble-floored receptions, frosted glass meeting rooms and an abundance of chrome.  Nowadays, I’m not so sure.  Inspiration seems to come more from buildings with character, with some history.  Creativity oozes from unplastered walls with exposed bricks.  Modernity is ironically almost a throwback to student days, denoted by jukeboxes, space invaders, pool tables, or bean bags.

Times have changed.  Recruitment environments need to encourage creative thinking and easy collaboration, inspirational meetings and out-of-the-square ideas.  The old prescriptive recruitment techniques are having less effect.  Sterile work environments are making your teams impotent and suffocating their abilities to find solutions for their clients.

A Grade work environments = A Grade recruiting talent.  Go get it.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Craig says:

    Great Blog Jonathan! Clients in our space really need to understand what attracts the top consultants to their business apart from salary package – and then what engages and reteins them….. Ps follow me on twitter @recguruoz Cheers

  • Spot on Jonathan. If any owner thinks this is a second rate issue then they are missing out. Candidate’s expectations are not unrealistic but like anyone when given the chance of working in a modern and attractive space versus a 1980’s freeze frame it’s not going to take too much thinking time to make a decision.

    • George Smith3636 says:

      I’m not so sure – Greg Savage made an excellent point at one of his seminars ” good clean serviceable space ” – and from memory made clear mention not to waste money on something that does not give clear measurable returns ( Ross – you’d probably be fairly familiar with how Greg works and may be better to comment ) but I can’t recall the Sydney Recsol offices ever being overly flash???

  • Sarah Wesley says:

    Suprised you didn’t add a pic of your cool offices!