Can a simple barcode bridge the chasm between print and online engagement for recruiters?

The advent of 3G cellular nets —plus the widespread adoption of broadband-capable IPhones, Blackberries, and Android-equipped mobiles—promises an exciting new wrinkle in recruiting practice. Government recruiters should be particularly enthusiastic, because this technology effectively creates a new and stunningly inexpensive gateway for engaging recruits with convenient mobile phone access to your Web, online, and video materials.

The linchpin in this approach is the “QR” (or “Quick Response”) code. On the surface, QR codes appear blandly unimpressive. They’re no more than two-dimensional barcodes that contain short strings of text (for instance, a URL, an email address, or a phone number). But when a prospect uses his or her properly equipped mobile (more on this below) to photograph a QR code, the phone immediately cuesup its encoded text string ready for use as a link to the Web or to the autodial function of the smartphone. This means the prospect can connect directly by phone, or open a web site, or download a video or PDF, all without keyboard or touch screen input.

Need an example? Here’s the QR code for Wikipedia’s Mobile main page.

Admittedly, QR encoding represents only an incremental advantage over finger-keying. But it’s more than just a convenience factor. QR codes can be imprinted virtually anywhere, from a brochure or business card to a poster to a Job Fair station to a T-shirt or billboard or bus wrap. If you’re a particularly dedicated ambassador for your agency, you can even tattoo a QR code on yourself (a temporary tattoo of course).

Giving a presentation to potential recruits? Embed a QR code on the projected title page and your audience can download the full slide show, supporting materials, or even a virtual library of supporting materials on the spot, right to their mobile phones. Targeting selected campuses? Place an inexpensive fractional ad in the college daily and embed your QR code in the layout. Bonus: you’ve got the “cool” factor working for you with your primary targets of influence. And because this technology is mobile-based, you can track QR responses geographically.

This technology is already in widespread use in Japan, where it originated, and is enjoying enthusiastic adoption in Europe. Consider the British billboard on the left, which was central to the national promotion of the zombie film 28 Weeks Later. (The image at right is the QR code for TMP Government’s web page.)

Is the adoption curve favorable? The skeptics among you are probably citing the apparent complexity of linking all the elements necessary to complete the engagement cycle here. For instance…

  • How do you create printable QR codes for your organization?
    [A: There are many free QR generators available on the Web. Do a Google search to find one.]
  • What “apps” are necessary to equip a potential recruit’s mobile phone as a QR reader?
    [A: Just one, and there are scores available, all free. Go to this site ( for a hyperlinked list of downloadable reader apps.]
  • Why are we so certain that potential recruits will embrace this technology?
    [A: Because they already are. In Japan, where this technology originated, its use is nearly ubiquitous. And again…the “cool” factor I mentioned above.]   

On the horizon: a new generation of QR codes. Get ready for the next stage…Mobile Multi-Colour Composite codes (or MMCCs). They pack scads more data into the barcode and can respond to a cell phone scan by returning embedded digital content that includes video, games, imagery, ringtones, and so on. And these barcodes do not need an internet connection to function. The data is all in the image itself.

Ponder that for a moment, and what it could mean for your mobile outreach to potential recruits.


Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy


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