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In August 2009 I blogged  about the innovative recruitment campaign of Australian software company, Atlassian. This campaign invited open slather recruitment agency participation … with a catch. The Atlassian32 campaign was launched with the purpose of hiring 32 software engineers for their Sydney head office.  
After I posted the article on my blog 39 people commented on the article, easily the most number of comments any of my blog posts has received. To say there were contrasting points of view would be an understatement.  
It’s now 6 months down the track so I thought it worthwhile to re-visit the Atlassian32 campaign to see how they are doing. Here’s a summary of the results so far:  
2,500 applications from 55 countries – an increase of over 350% in the number of applicants usually received (per vacancy)  
24 engineers hired – at an average of 1 hire per week (including Christmas and New Year) with 3 offers about to be made  
40% of hires have been from outside Australia – new employees are joining Atlassian from USA, Germany, Portugal, Poland, UK and New Zealand  
halved recruitment costs (per hire) because referrals from staff and external people almost tripled with the Refer-a-Mate program that offers a $2,000 cash bonus  
Only 1 new hire (4%) was from a recruitment agency – previously 27% of hires came from recruiters. Yet for the Atlassian32 campaign 54 recruitment companies signed up to the Bounty Hunter Terms and Conditions  
Based on these results, while acknowledging that the campaign is not yet complete, I would conclude that the campaign has been an overwhelming success for Atlassian. This is bad news for recruitment agencies in more ways than one.  
Most significantly (and depressingly), the seeds of the Atlassian32 campaign were sown by an own goal. Specifically the goose that was laying the golden egg was killed through the actions of agencies, working on Atlassian jobs in times past, repeatedly misrepresenting, predominantly through job ads, the salaries on offer at Atlassian.  
This behavior had a direct impact in three ways:  
i. The candidates had (falsely) raised expectations with respect to remuneration  
ii. When Atlassian employees found out about the salary figures being tossed about in the market place they were, understandably, very unhappy as these quoted salaries were not being paid to existing employees.  
iii. The founders of Atlassian had to undertake direct personal intervention to quell the internal rumblings and set the record straight about remuneration for new recruits  
As a result of this chain of events the recruitment agency sector, indirectly, has helped create a template for Atlassian who were seeking a break-through in how they hire high quality people quickly.  
My summary of the Atlassian Hire-Lots-of-Great-People-Fast template is as follows:  
1. Create a specific campaign – Atlassian32 was created with the specific goal of ensuring every software engineer in Australia knew of the job opportunities available at Atlassian  
2. Use video – Atlassian uses short, interesting videos to provide both job information and an understanding of the company’s values and culture  
3. Use social media to go viral – Atlassian uses Twitter, blogs and other social media to spread the word online which spilled over into the national print media generating approximately $60,000 worth of coverage  
4. Create a campaign that has a compelling and different WIIFM for all – New hires are eligible for a “holiday before you start” (up to $1000), any person who refers a friend to Atlassian who is subsequently hired can claim a “Refer-a-Mate” bonus of $2000 (23% of candidates for Atlassian32 came from Refer-a-Mate), people hired from overseas are given a “Welcome to Sydney” bonus of both Bridge Climb and Café Sydney vouchers and any recruitment agency willing to sign up to the Bounty Hunter Rules was eligible to refer up to 4 candidates over a 5 month period.  
5. Throw open your doors, be generous and be transparent – On 29 October 2009 Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar hosted around 300 people at an Open House at their head office in Sydney, which I attended. Free drinks (disclosure: I had … umm … 3 beers) and food (disclosure: I ate 4 kebabs and, err… lots of sushi), tours of the premises, a witty and informative talk and slideshow by Cannon-Brookes and free t-shirts (disclosure: size S was a good fit) were all part of building word-of-mouth momentum for the campaign.  
When I spoke to Joris Luijke, Atlassian’s Head of Talent, last week he said ‘the results of the Atlassian32 campaign have exceeded our expectations. We have been able to hire a large number of high quality engineers much faster and at a far lower cost than in the past’.  
I asked Luijke what other organisations could learn from the success of the Atlassian32 campaign he said ‘don’t look to HR for creativity and innovation in recruitment. We looked at, and took the best from, the world of marketing and communication and then adapted it to suit our particular culture and recruitment needs’.  
Atlassian have certainly shaken up the recruitment world with their Atlassian32 campaign and I suspect they are not done yet, not by a long shot. Given Atlassian’s history of success in shaking up the software market, I predict that this story has more chapters yet to be written.  
What can you learn from the Atlassian32 campaign?  
Note: In part 3 of this series (to be published in May or June) I will be taking an in-depth look at the performance of the 54 recruitment agencies who signed up to the Atlassian Bounty Hunter Rules as well as reporting on the experiences that recruitment agencies had in working on the Atlassian32 campaign.

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Ross I am not surprised by the results that Atlassian have experienced.

I would add one step in your process. A strong employer brand and EVP.

Disclosures: I am a strong supporter of this type of recruitment approach, & Joris has spoken at 2 of my events over the past year. However I have never had free beer, sushi or T-Shirts from Atlassian 🙂


Your reference to the inflated salaries being posted on job ads sounds like the recruitment I did for Atlassian when I was with Real Time Australia. If the CEO tells a recruiter during the initial briefing "find me a developer who can prove they are worth (insert outrageous base salary here) and I will pay it" they should not be too suprised to see that salary on a job ad. They do get suprised when you do actually deliver candidates at this level which they end up hiring at these "grossly inflated" salaries and have to pay a massive recruitment fee. Google does not like anyone knowing that they use external recruiters and I expect Atlassian feels the same hence the interesting interpretation of their existing dealings with recruiters.

Overall I feel the challange Atlassian made to the market was not fair. The fees were too low and they did not allow the recruiters to get close enough to the Atlassian staff so they could draw up a proper profile of what they should search for.

As I now run a company that provides research support for recruitment agencies I can no longer recruit directly for Atlassian without competing with my own clients so could not have entered the original challenge.

If Atlassian were serious and put the fee up to 20% + GST of base and super I would be happy to put my entire research team behind one of my clients to fill a couple of roles just to blow the whole "recruiters are useless" theory out of the water. I am sure that this realistic fee would also draw out the other Atlassian grade recruitment consultants I know who chose not to participate in the prevous challenge.

Back-dated to time of comment: 24/2/10 2:03 AM

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