Recruiting Innovation and Kurt Cobain

A few weeks back I was asked to record a promo video for the forthcoming Rec Fest event. One of the questions I had to answer was what was the best festival I’d ever attended. The answer was an easy one it was Reading 91, I was 19, it was a fantastic line up of music and it was back in the days when you could bring your own cheap beer into festivals.

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly Nirvana playing near the bottom of the bill as a more or less unknown band, just a few short weeks before the release of their game changing NeverMind album. Here’s the video, me and my friend Simon are somewhere in the front row, pretty much opposite Kurt Cobain:


The really interesting thing I noticed when I watched this video back recently was the strangely muted audience reaction to Smells Like Teen Spirit (it's about 10 minutes into the video). Three months later every student union in the land would be blasting it out every five minutes but on this particular day in late August 1991, 99% of us in the audience were hearing it for the first time. The restrained reaction shows that no matter how things were post rationalized afterwards when we were in the moment we were blissfully unaware of the revolutionary nature of what we were listening to.

So why is this relevant to recruitment? While over the last 15 years we’ve been working through a time of monumental change. The Internet was the original game changer in the early 2000s, Social Media has rocked the boat in recent years and now the exponential growth of the mobile internet is pressing the reset button on everything. Employers and Recruitment Agencies are often criticised for being slow to change and certainly, for the last few years at least, they have been playing a constant game of catch up with their target audiences. It’s clear that no one sets out to be behind the curve but sometimes it is very difficult to spot what is front of you particularly when you’re as busy as recruiters are at the moment. As my Nirvana experience shows though, it is important to take a step back sometimes to question the status quo and take in some alternative viewpoints on what is going on. There could be something revolutionary right in front of you which, if you take the time to evaluate it, will give your company a competitive advantage for years to come.

So what about my own performance as a teenage future predicting music guru? Well on extracting our sweaty selves from the densely packed crowd me and friend had a post mortem on what we had just seen. “I think they are going to be the biggest band in the world, what do you think?” said Simon. "I think they were great but I doubt we’ll ever hear of them again” I replied

One of us of course was right and the other one had obviously overindulged in the cheap beer!