Come on – give Bob a job!

One man’s search for a job through traditional methods failed. So he set up his own website and started a personal marketing campaign. Could this be the future for jobseekers?

Recruiters looking to fill senior executive positions may find that traditional search-and-selection methods are becoming a thing of the past, if one man’s search for a job is anything to go by.

Rob Lawrence, former European creative director at computer giant IBM, hired award-winning advertising agency St Luke’s to help him create the UK’s first personal-branding campaign. It includes a website and a 40-second ‘viral’ advert, as well as an online shop selling branded merchandise.

Launched on the 25 January, became Lawrence’s solution to the problem of getting in front of people.

Last autumn, after spending four months out of work following voluntary redundancy from IBM, Lawrence decided it was time to get a job. He gave himself three weeks to research what he wanted, compile his CV, search for companies he wanted to work for and target recruitment consultancies.

On paper, Lawrence has a lot to offer. Recruited as creative director of IBM’s European network of Innovation Centers in 2000, he launched a European network of e-business Innovation Centres.

He was also an executive consultant in the IBM Brand Practice, providing strategic advice to clients such as Unilever, BP and HSBC. He was instrumental in winning business worth more than £12m in his three years at the computer firm.

Prior to that, he founded and ran a top-10 new media agency, and was a successful TV and radio producer. However, like many, he suffered when the internet bubble burst.

“It’s a buyer’s market now, but three years ago I was getting calls nearly everyday from headhunters offering me the world on a plate,” Lawrence says.

He was disappointed with the results of his initial job search – only two interviews for jobs that weren’t suitable. He put this down to traditional recruitment techniques. He says he was compartmentalised – in the eyes of the recruitment consultants he had worked at IBM, which meant he would only fit e-business environments.

Lawrence decided there must be more interesting ways to get in front of people that would demonstrate his capabilities. The answer he came up with was to advertise himself.

After researching the idea – which included talking to personal branding experts in the US – he found that no one had done it before. He then approached ad agencies and finally opted to work with St Luke’s, famous for its Chuck out the Chintz television adverts for Ikea. The agency liked the idea so much that it gave its time and resources for free to help develop the campaign.

Three-and-a-half months’ later, the Give Bob a Job campaign was launched. It aims to give recruiters a sense of who Lawrence is and how he thinks – something he feels a CV cannot show.

“It’s a demonstration of applied knowledge and ability,” says Lawrence. “The campaign leverages all the different aspects of the original idea. St Luke’s works for free because the idea is newsworthy and the agency gets exposure.

“We all get a lot of coverage in the national media because it’s an innovative first, and use that exposure to drive people to the web, which is where all the effort pays off with an advert and a shopping experience.”

More than 200 t-shirts have already been sold to the site’s 40,000 visitors, who have also managed to send more than 1,000 e-mails and 20 jobs offers in less than a week.

“In terms of profile and exposure, the campaign has been a success, but the conversion ratio of visits to job offers is comparatively low.”

With such interest in the site, the chances are it won’t take Lawrence too long to land himself a job. But was it really necessary to go to such efforts?

“This world is driven by public relations (PR), and great ideas will attract a lot of PR,” asserts Lawrence. And this is why recruitment practices for attracting the more senior executives could move towards self-promotional materials, such as websites and adverts.

Lawrence maintains that it is the lack of personal service while searching for jobs online that will put off potential candidates.

“Recruitment is high-touch at a senior level,” he said. “Websites are no substitute for people. Although they offer a great way to research jobs, jobseekers ultimately want to deal with a person, not a machine.”

Lawrence is not surprised by Personnel Today’s findings that 98 per cent of recruiters now use the internet for search and selection (27 January). But he warns this figure could be misleading.

“Few people buy cars online, but nearly a 100 per cent of people who buy a new car have been online to do their research before going to a showroom to buy.

“It’s about making an informed purchase, and a job is no different. The web is great for finding out what’s out there and it is a cost-effective job-hunting tool, but it is no substitute for a recruitment consultant who is ready to help and prepared to work with you.”

Is designing your own self-promotional campaign the answer?

“It takes some balls to do it and it’s a high-risk strategy,” says Lawrence. “But then so is being unemployed for two years.”

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