Hodes Interview: So a recruiter walks into a bar ...
So a Recruiter Walks Into a Bar ...
Rahul's world of cutup creative
Stop by the Bernard Hodes Group home base in New York City and you will likely spot Marcom creative director Rahul Siddharth winding his way around the office, with a smile on his face and an easy solution to the most intractable problem.
Rahul, who does standup comedy on his off hours, sees the lighter side of the tough business of recruitment, integrating his talent for one-line zingers into the creative campaigns he presides over. Are recruitment and human resources professionals funny people? “Without a doubt!” says Rahul. We spoke with him to find out how levity informs his creative work.
Q. So, has humor always been a part of your life? And, have you always applied it to your work?
A. Yes, as a creative director, I try to incorporate humor in my work whenever possible. If I can't fit it in my creative work, than I definitely enjoy fitting it into my workday. Humor is important because it alleviates the everyday pressures of stress and promotes creativity.
Q. If you could improve your everyday work, what would you suggest?
A. Well, I'd really like to take a Monday off here and there; perhaps workers should get a “Sad Day”. Then, I could call up my boss and say, “Hi, I'm not coming in today. The Yankees lost and I'm Sad.” And then my boss would say, “Oh you poor thing. You better stay home. We don't want you to spread your sadness around.”
Q. What is the benefit of using humor in the world of recruitment marketing?
A. The average American's attention span is dwindling, while our commercial “noise” is increasing. So advertisers and marketers are always looking for new ways to grab audiences' attention. People respond to emotion, and humor is an especially strong quality that strikes both personal and universal chords. Incorporating it into a company's employer brand creates a positive perception of approachability, honesty and realness.
The advertising industry in general capitalizes on entertainment. We have a gecko selling car insurance (Geico), ducks selling life insurance (AFLAC), talking babies selling sandwiches (Quiznos Sub), and people dressed up as furry animals selling coffee (Dunkin' Donuts). A toothpaste ad can no longer simply sell fluoride protection; it's gotta be singing, flying and doing the meringue.
It's important to see how these humorous consumer branding campaigns impact an employee's perceptions of what it's like to work for those companies. More often than not, people want to work in a fun, challenging and rewarding environment. The AFLAC consumer ad branding is so successful (90 percent brand awareness) that it incorporated a duck into its logo. Some of the humor and quirkiness of the consumer brand is automatically carried through to the employer brand. Some of it needs to be created. It's crucial for recruitment professionals to develop an employer brand that complements the consumer brand to complete the experience. (I hear they actually give new hires AFLAC rubber ducks).
Q. How does one make marketing and advertising funny?
A. It's hard to answer the question of "What is funny?" More often than not, what is funny to one person is not funny to another. Laughter is a subjective phenomenon. Humor, in advertising, ranges from the hard belly laugh to the soft smile. Warm fuzzies and good vibes count, too. Essentially, two components are necessary for an advertisement to elicit a chuckle: an emotional visual and intelligent copy. When they complement each other, that's when the magic happens.
The HODES funny bone
Humorous ad campaigns helped our clients get noticed by getting candidates chuckling
Q. How do you avoid falling flat with humor in recruitment advertising?
A. Six words, nine syllables: focus group, focus group, focus group.And know your target market. Recruitment advertising is a serious industry. So, care is required when using humor to attract prospective candidates.
Q. Are human resources professionals funny?
A. Three words, four syllables: without a doubt! Comedy is about truth and pain, and the truth is HR professionals go through a lot of pain. There are mountains of ever-changing forms to fill out, policy changes, hiring freezes and hiring frosts. HR professionals are like the Rodney Dangerfields of their company. They tend to get “no respect!” (shift tie) until someone needs them.
Q. What are some examples of recruitment marketing solutions that you have seen that implement humor in a successful way?
A. The major job boards have used humor quite often over the years. Last season, HotJobs worked with Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" to develop an integrated media promotion. Not to be outdone, CareerBuilder, at this year's Society for Human Resource Management conference, went with live monkeys at their tradeshow booth. Let me repeat that, people stood in line to get their picture taken with live monkeys in business suits. That's funny!
Employee referral programs are a great medium for using humor in recruitment advertising. Catchy phrases, animals and characters have all been used to promote referral programs with considerable recognition and success. Bernard Hodes Group created an ERP program for Nova Star called "Livin' Large" that makes me titter. Did I just say “titter”? Can you cut that?
Q. British comedy is dry and wry in many cases, whereas American humor is often straight-ahead, pie-in-the-face. How would you describe your brand of comedy?
A. I'd describe it as intelligent, dry, sophisticated comedy. I do lots of storytelling about my family, which taps into universal truths about familial politics, relationships and expectations.
See Rahul’s standup routine in action
Q. Who are some of your favorite comedians?
A. For social and political commentaries, I like Chris Rock,Conan O'Brien, Dennis Miller, George Carlin, and Dave Chappelle. For sophisticated sitcoms humor, I think Larry David's “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is incredible, “Arrested Development”, and the animated “Family Guy”.Even though his sitcomhas been over for quite some time, I saw Jerry Seinfeld live and he was simply amazing. He takes standup to a sublime art form.
Q. And, finally, they say pain and adversity inspire art and humor. What was the worst job you ever had?
A. When I was 16, I drove a laundry truck that had no radio, no air conditioning and no cup holder. I did that in unforgiving heat for five summers. Then, I got my first job in advertising. And ever since, I've been begging to get that laundry truck job back.
Rahul Siddharth is the creative director in Marketing Communications at Bernard Hodes Group, and moonlights as a standup comic.