Posted on 7 January 2013

Domo Recruiting Billboard: Offensive? or Just (Really) Bad Taste?

A recruiting billboard from Domo along I-15 in Utah County is either offensive or just really (really) bad taste.

North-bound travelers on I-15 through Lindon, Utah will find a recruiting billboard from local tech startup Domo that many will find either shocking, offensive, oddly funny or just downright lame.

Odd billboards from Domo’s chief, Josh James aren’t a new thing. It’s kindof his schtick, hailing from days back at Omniture (now Adobe) and even using secretive billboards to attract people to his newest, then-stealthy gig, which turned out to be Domo.*

Designed to read like a classified ad (in the personals section), the ad reads:

Sexy young startup seeks hot engineers
4 a good time, go 2

Initially, this ad is clearly trying to play a joke on the idea that Domo is putting out ad after ad to hire engineers, something akin to putting a personal ad out or joining an online dating site (insert golf clap here). This is something that’s not lost on me or the recruiting industry in-general, but I have always felt this conversation that “recruiting is like dating” just lends itself to the wrong kinds of allusions.  The last thing we need in the world today are more hiring managers going about hiring staff like they would try to find a date for Friday night.

However, thinking just barely beyond the initial impression, it becomes clear that this billboard is, at a minimum fairly tasteless, but in the extreme, highly offensive to both women as well as any self-respecting professional looking for work.

  • Are Domo engineers hotter than other engineers? I mean, if this is what’s being recruited for, they should have an unusually attractive workforce…
  • Are candidates measured by hotness? Is there a technical term for that? What programming language(s) do hot people write in?
  • If your hotness quotient should diminish over time, are you passed up for promotions or does your percentage in the bonus pool shrink? As an analytics/dashboard company, are these rankings published (with photos, of course) on the internal intranet?
  • I’m not sure — Is this an ad for a long-term relationship or more of a one-night-stand type thing?  Would you want to work for a company that just wants to NCMO?
  • How would you feel after being hired to find out that the next engineer hired is actually getting all the attention? Would you be jealous? Is this a precursor to an episode of Sister Wives?

All jokes aside, while the billboard isn’t technically sexist (It doesn’t specify that the sexy startup is masculine or feminine or that said sexy startup is seeking a preference of males or females), it does lend itself to a pretty cheap kind of relationship between the employer and the employee.  If being hired is like being selected for a date, what kind of experience should a candidate–or employee–expect to have in that environment? I’m not going to lie, I am pretty shocked that Human Resources didn’t step in and squash this billboard pretty fast.

Look, if an employee in a company I worked with put up a sign outside their office saying exactly this when they began hiring for a specific job to fill, it would be taken down pretty fast by either request or by force. Even if there’s, perhaps, nothing immediately harassing about what this sign says, it sure smacks of it and that’s pretty plain to see. I wouldn’t recruit on a job being advertised this way.  If the company is just looking “4 a good time”, then what does that make the recruiter??

* Disclosure: I used to work for JJ at OMTR. Have no idea if this matters, but since there’s a connection here that might not be readily apparent, I figured I should say something.

5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Robert Merrill Says:

    Perhaps I am the only one who thinks this is poor taste?

  2. Aryl Watson Says:

    Robert – I read this & wanted to comment. I laughed when I saw this & still think it’s pretty cool. A few things that affect my perception of the issue:

    – I’ve been a tech guy & worked at tech companies
    – I’ve been at start ups
    – I’m not, nor ever have been in HR.

    The third point is the crux of the issue. I focus on the tech part (and laughed) & you immediately thought of the HR ramifications (and all the fires you’d need to fight because of it.)

    I think the ad plays to a memory that most great devs have – they were a nerd in high school & never got to date the head cheerleader. DOMO subconsciously brings them back to HS – and they apply

  3. robertmerrill Says:

    Aryl, you’re totally right that I would think that (being indoctrinated to see potential HR-violations wherever I go). And, while I can see that it’s intended to be funny or cute, and I can see where you’re coming from…. it crosses a line that didn’t have to be crossed. I guess what I’m saying is, “keep it classy”…

  4. jpmuofu1 Says:

    Anyone with half a brain can look beyond the surface level physical appearance metaphor and understand that “hot” could be applied to someones talent level and/or the demand for their skill set. In addition, don’t you want to have a good time at work? Is the only way to have a good time sex? If anything, your blog post shows a shallow perspective on the world and a lack of ability to see beyond surface level sexual innuendo.

    In my opinion, this is a funny, effective billboard and one that will likely be very effective with the target audience. That being said, it is in Utah County which means it will probably offend a lot of RS presidents and uptight zoobs, which is probably worth the price of the billboard alone.

  5. Brad Says:

    Is this article serious? I’m still trying to figure out if this is an Onion-like article (if so props to you for reeling me in). Do we say their Abraham Lincoln on a bear w/ machine gun billboard is Domo clearly trying to promote violence and animal cruelty? Think you’re reading waaaaay too far into this. The problem is not the billboard, it’s a society that gets offended over everything. The only message Domo is sending is showing a fun company that isn’t boring enough to create the kinds of lame billboards (and culture) everyone else does (and apparently unintentionally repelling those who don’t belong there)

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