“Find Harry Potter” was Virgin Money’s brief to us. Our task was to find a creative entrepreneur to lead the bank into bold new territory with the role of Head of Innovation. And ‘The world’s most creative job interview’ was our headline-grabbing, experiential assessment solution. It led to both the discovery of an exceptional leader, and the nationwide adoption of a new employer brand based assessment model.
Our brief was clear: “I want you to find me Harry Potter: a creative genius who can come along and change banking.”
Virgin Money approached TMP with a sizeable challenge; to attract a creative thinker for their Head of Innovation role, someone from outside banking that could help them become an even more customer-focused organisation.
It was the sort of out-of-the-ordinary brief we relish, one that plays to our multi-disciplinary strengths to create talent solutions. But it posed some big questions. How do you engage this audience? And what’s more, how do you reach them in the first place, when we can’t pursue the normal processes? Above all, by making the front pages, not just the job section. As Joanne Hannant, Head of Resourcing at Virgin Money put it, “you don’t reach someone like Dhiraj through advertising in Marketing Week.”
We got to work creating a headline-grabbing experience that would generate noise in the right places. And that experience was ‘The world’s most creative job interview’, a hybrid of immersive theatre and robust assessment. Applications set the convention-breaking tone: candidates were invited to submit a three-minute video selfie explaining how they were going to change banking – as if pitching to Richard Branson himself.
The assessment was no cosy chat in the corner office either. We employed robust psychological principles to design immersive exercises that would test core skills and reveal Virgin Money’s next creative genius.
Picture the emotional rollercoaster as candidates arrive at a secret location, where they’re told that they have to pitch – completely unrehearsed – ideas to an inscrutable Dragon’s Den-like investor panel. They’re then ushered into the dark depths of an industrial ‘cellar’ – enough to scare one journalist into making a run for it! – tasked with proving the contents of a mysterious case. Next it’s time to persuade an intimidating bouncer to let you into a party, before exploring a jungle campsite and giving a rousing motivational speech to a football team. At 3-0 down. All before meeting any Virgin Money executives.
“The thing I loved about TMP is they have that really interesting blend of a robust approach to assessment and the creative ability to think differently.”
Head of Resourcing at Virgin Money
Alongside coverage in the usual HR publications we earned high-profile media coverage in mainstream titles like The Evening Standard, City A.M., Campaign, Marketing Magazine and Brand Republic, with a combined estimated circulation of 30 million. 204 people applied and 10 outstanding candidates were chosen for the ‘interview’. Which all led to the discovery of the successful applicant, Dhiraj Mukherjee, one of the founders of the music application Shazam, and a truly creative entrepreneur.
And Dhiraj himself agrees that it was the innovative nature of the activity that won his attention, because it spoke volumes about Virgin Money as an organisation: “The process of innovation started with recruitment and the journey has continued. One of the things I love about working at Virgin Money is that innovation is in people’s DNA. It’s easy to get people fired up about ideas.”
The new assessment approach has also clearly introduced a legacy beyond a new Head of Innovation. After three successful pilot recruitment events, Virgin Money gave TMP the green light to roll out immersive assessment nationally (‘Dr Virginia’s Institute Of Wonderful Experiences’).