The Game Changers: When Authenticity Goes Wrong in Recruitment Marketing

Authenticity is a word that is probably said too often in the marketing world. Endless rhetoric on why being authentic, genuine and real (especially when it comes to those pesky millennials) is the only way to appeal to people and grow your business in today’s #fastpaced, #VUCA world.

If that is indeed the case, the Australian Department of Finance missed the memo in the most spectacular way possible. If you haven’t already, take a look at the video below and you’ll see what I mean:


At this point, I advise you take 30 seconds to collect yourself.

Now, as you may know, recruitment marketing is what we do. We’ve also completed a fair few videos in our time, so this is definitely an area of expertise for us. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that our in-house video expert’s reaction to the above was a three-letter exclamation of shock and horror.

And, who can blame him? Between the forced jargon-filled dialogue and awkward semi-human interaction between staff, the painful realisation that this is all very serious was a real breakpoint for my faith in humanity. If this was some kind of David-Lynch-meets-David-Brent mash up, then I could probably live with that; and there is still a part of me that is convinced the Australian Department of Finance moved their (admittedly swish) offices from Canberra to Twin Peaks, WA.

But considering that the only two options that come to mind are:

  1. The department is the weirdest workplace this side of the uncanny valley, or
  2. They made every mistake in the book when trying to produce an authentic, genuine portrayal of their organisation.

I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter.

We’re givers here at Prominence, and we’ve written a couple of blogs already to get you off on the right foot with video. However, here’s a few extra tips to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap as the Australian taxpayer – unwittingly paying an exorbitant sum of money for a video you neither want, nor need.

1. Don’t try to be cooler than you are.

Let’s be honest, the business world is obsessed with keeping up with the latest in buzzwords and biz-speak, so I can understand the temptation to buff out your script with a dash of professional panache. Agile, disruption, robust – these are all repeat offenders, but this video takes it to another level. From young leader network dinners to the just-forced-enough-to-be-patronising diversity programme plug, it seems like the department’s main goal was to force a mention of at least two of their initiatives every 15-20 seconds.

Then there’s the bizarre attempts at implying some kind of hip, tech start up vibe. These include the awkward coffee drinking, the depressingly awful buddy programme segment, and the constant featuring of iPads and tablets, as well as a mention of how “Tom couldn’t make it, so we Skyped him in.” Can you believe how casually it all went down in that meeting? With someone on Skype, no less. They weren’t even in the room! That’s without even mentioning the unforgivable “paleo pear and bananabread” moment, which is destined to live on in recruitment video infamy (bonus points for anybody who can show me a pear that isn’t paleo).

The big lesson from this is to just be yourself. If your company is kind of old-school, don’t be ashamed. Don’t go around sticking post-it notes to the wall just for the sake of the video. It does yourself and your people a disservice, and you’ll come off looking like that weird uncle who still wears tie-dye t-shirts and thinks bum-bags are an acceptable accessory. More importantly, you’ll inevitably only create something that will appeal to an audience you’re not trying to attract. Everybody wants different things out of their workplace, so embrace your audience.

2. Never give real people a script.

One of the best ideas the department had was to use their real people in the video, and yet it’s also the reason why it’s failed so badly. If this video is an advert for anything, it’s an advert for not using a script when you’re not using actors. Actors are trained to read scripts. Accountants are not. Would you use an actor to run your accounts? It might seem easy on paper, but coaxing great delivery out of people who don’t have a lot of experience being on-camera, who are being forced to say something that means nothing to them, is a recipe for disaster.

Your team members can be a great asset for your video, but you have to use them in the right way. We haven’t used actors or scripts in any of our recruitment videos, and we’ve had great success just by asking them a number of questions and capturing their honest, genuine answers. When it comes to real people, you can’t create authenticity. The best you can do is create opportunities for it to show itself, and be quick enough to catch it on film. Although recruitment videos do have an end goal and we’ll often have a direction in mind, some of the best moments of our videos have been the unintentional ones; things we didn’t expect people to say at times we didn’t expect to hear it, that have made for gold when it comes to the final product.

If you do want to feature your team members in the video, don’t patronise them by giving them a script. Give them a platform to express their own feelings and opinions and give them the time and environment to get comfortable on camera. More often than not, you’ll end up with something better than anything you could’ve written. That’s true authenticity.

Otherwise, you can end up with lines like “They’ve certainly hit the ground running, or actually, I should say, sprinting.

3. Work with people who know what they’re doing.

If you’ve decided it’s time to craft the recruitment video you’ve been dreaming of, I’d urge you to work with someone who you trust to bring that vision to life. It’s far easier said than done, but working with people who have experience in the field and with whom you can communicate your goals and ideas clearly is the difference between success and failure. Don’t let your dreams be crushed, like the wonderful people at the Australian Department of Finance. If you’re looking for an experienced team with a proven track record of recruitment video success, then as always feel free to give us a shout, we’re happy to see how we can help you. On the other hand, if you’re more of a DIY-er, take a read of our guide to filming a recruitment video yourself and then go and invest in some quality equipment. It’s Friday, after all. Treat yourself. [editor's note: it was Friday when this was written, but really, it doesn't make a difference. You can treat yourself whatever day you like. Go on, you deserve it.]

The Other Side of the Coin

To ease off a little bit, I admit that it’d be unfair to mention every mistake the department made without pointing out some of the things they did right too. Firstly, the production value was top notch. Everything was well lit and mic’d, and on a technical level at least, the video looked and sounded good. Plus, they used a drone for that opening shot, and drones are awesome. A special mention should go out to the editor, who did a great job of putting something together that obviously caught people’s imagination when they didn’t have a whole lot to work with – and most of the VFX work is pretty tidy.

But that’s enough of all that positivity. I could go through this video and nitpick a hundred different things that made me laugh, cringe, cry and all of the above, but why should I do that when someone else already has? For a more detailed analysis, check out Mumbrella’s glorious shot-by-shot breakdown of the video – it’s a riot.

The big question is: did it work? Did this video serve its purpose? There’s certainly an argument to say that, in a world of fake news and alternative facts, it doesn’t really matter. You saw it. Even if it was unintentional, they won the publicity game and it may yet produce great recruitment results. There is even the possibility that this has gone over all of our heads, and it was a cleverly concocted plan to create entice blogs exactly like this one. Worst case scenario, the video only serves to convince people that accountants struggle with the concept of emotion, and have probably been sent back in time to destroy us.

So in reality, what damage was done?

I’m intrigued to find out whether this bottle of viral lightning turns into a successful recruitment drive for the department, or if it just whithers away into the low-attention-span (those damn millennials) ether of the internet. Maybe this video will open the door for more videos in a similar vein, Australian broadcaster SBS is already getting in on the fun and I doubt they’ll be the last. In the meantime, I’m just going to head downstairs for my paleo pear and bananabread. Would you like to join me?

This was originally posted on the Prominence blog - take a look at the original version here and stay tuned for more recruitment marketing insights.

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