Betabrand’s home page totally, utterly sucks right now. There are universally despised fonts (Papyrus!), poor web practices (rotating 3-D logos! Under Construction flames! IE!), crap navigation, and preposterous image placement. It's nothing short of “an abomination of Web Design.”
But instead of someone getting fired for the stunt, the hope is just the opposite. Yeah, it's kind of a request for spec work. But it's a damn creative one.
“We’re going to have a terrible, terrible version of our home page live for a day and a half in the hopes that it will find its way in front of web designers that get the joke,” Chris Lindland, cofounder of the San Francisco ecommerce company known for disco hoodies and Vagisoft fleece said on the eve of the awful site's launch.
Along with being the latest in a long line of Lindland-approved marketing stunts, the home page hack job is an attempt to circumvent traditional recruiting tactics at a time when web developer and programmer jobs are the toughest tech positions for companies to fill, according to Computerworld’s 2014 Forecast survey. Fielding resumes from online job postings and wading through interviews to select new hires is often burdensomely slow and time-consuming for executives and their teams. Outsourcing the task to recruiters can easily cost a company 15% to 25% of a new hire’s first-year salary.
This isn’t the first time the usual options have left Betabrand seeking a smarter way to attract fresh talent. Last summer, the company successfully hired a Web developer after launching a campaign promising first dibs on a newly designed tuxedo for a successful referral. That person is still with the company. This time, Lindland hopes readers of Betabrand’s regular newsletter, which typically announces new products and arrivals, will spread the word about the open role, a UI/UX designer spot that opened up after an employee left to pursue a career in music.
Pirating the newsletter, a tool for driving sales, to recruit another member for its five-person developer team might mean less money coming in temporarily, but it’s a strategy Lindland expects to quickly pay for itself.
“You can make X amount of dollars by putting out a newsletter with a new pair of pants or you can save X amount of dollars on recruiting fees,” he says.
It’s an approach that also stands to pay dividends in employee satisfaction. It not only involves current web developers in the hiring of the next person they’ll work closely with, but also offers them a chance to flex their creativity to build something that’s essentially a comedic performance of nerdy web design jokes only insiders will truly appreciate.
“This is an amazingly fun hack project for the existing team,” Lindland says.
At just the time of year when urges to perfect, well, everything seem to be leaking in from every direction, the prospect of getting it completely wrong with the boss’s blessing is refreshing.
He adds: “It’s their chance to do all the things that are no-nos in their business.”