We all know how difficult it is to recruit tech talent. But in 2013, the Australian Air Force made headlines as they stepped up to the challenge, launching a major recruiting campaign in an attempt to swell their ranks.

The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), formed in 1921, was targeting very specific talents: electronic engineers.

To grab their attention, it decided to modernise its age-old recruiting methods and processes. It brilliantly invited all potential candidates to solve an impressively complicated maths problem, published online, which disclosed the recruiting phone number to call and apply for a job. This was the maths formula:


Aside from gaining media attention because of their recruiting approach, the Australian Army showed remarkable ingenuity by adapting its processes, distinguishing itself from other corporations and showing a true understanding of its target. A perfectly normal plan of attack, wouldn’t you say? And yet, the vast majority of companies do not fully comprehend the challenges of recruiting candidates in this day and age, or at least have not taken the appropriate measures to adapt to the current situation. This is especially the case for the more traditional industries, which are finding it harder and harder to recruit young candidates.

So what can we learn from this Australian recruiting campaign?

Startups are not the only innovators

Today, all types of companies are emulating the approach of startups. Google, for example, has taken up new management and human resources methods. And let’s not forget all the talk of holacracy, horizontal business models, collective intelligence, Chief Happiness Officers…

All hype aside, a number of big, more or less traditional corporations are offering unparalleled working conditions to their employees, and are able to clearly distinguish themselves from other companies in terms of their recruiting processes and employer brand!

Consider the French Army, who, much like the Australian Army, has revamped their image and made a strong employer brand for itself over the past years, as seen through their adverts and career website. Industrial and cargo carrier groups such as Bouygues Construction and Maersk, respectively, make perfect use of their social networks, notably Instagram, to develop their employer brand and attract young professionals. While startups can be applauded for their innovative way of doing things, big groups are the ones with the firepower needed to apply these innovations on a larger scale.

It’s time to look beyond the CV

In France, the land of the human capital theory, education trumps experience. Yet, it is far too limiting to rely solely on a candidate’s CV. The Australian Air Force was looking for daring candidates with a taste for challenge. So naturally, their recruiting approach was adapted to attract the type of engineers it had in mind. Looking beyond candidates’ CVs and cover letters means discovering their qualities by means other than what’s there, in black and white. What message does the candidate convey via their social networks? What type of leader are they? What are their interests? How well do they communicate? As Canadian entrepreneur and YouTuber Evan Carmichael says, social networks are terrific tools for managers to use and contextualise their teams.

Is sourcing the ultimate lever of differentiation?

Just a few years ago, headhunters were considered a luxury that a large number of companies could not afford. Today, sourcing is quickly becoming the established norm for all recruiters, or the  face of the company. Talent sources are everywhere. The challenge for these “sourcers” is to align these external communities with  in-house opportunities. Recruiters can no longer afford to act as lone wolves in their hunt for talents. They must rely on the help of the company’s entire workforce to identify potential candidates—anytime, anywhere! This is a huge opportunity for companies. They must continuously be on the lookout for new talents, not just when in need, and be able to bank on their employees referring people from their networks.

As French sociologist and philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky states, we are currently living in an experience society, meaning that our focus is placed on experiences. And this reality also effects candidates, who actively seek experiences, starting with the first point of contact with a potential employer. This is where the Australian Army, just like the French Army, has a solid grasp on things. Whereas for a lot of companies, such a transformation would be considered a revolution. It won’t be either quick or easy, but one thing is for sure: recruiting practices will continue to evolve, with or without us. Now is the time to join the revolution!


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