Warren Buffet said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." Companies have spent many years and countless dollars building their brands, but their five minutes comes all too often during the hiring process. However, this need not be the case. Organizations have the ability to strengthen their brand with all candidates, despite the fact that, ultimately, they won't hire most of them.
To examine how a company might successfully brand itself during the hiring process, let's look at five distinct phases of the process.
When someone locates a job opening, the first thing they will typically see is a job description. A well-written job description can serve as a viral marketing piece and get tremendous visibility for the position -- and the company. Instead of a bulleted list of must-haves, the job description should answer the key question for any candidate: Why should I leave my current position, where I'm respected and well compensated? After reading the job description, candidates should find the position and company interesting and be compelled to apply.
Most job seekers want to learn more about a company before applying, which usually means visiting the company's careers web page. Even with familiar brands, this area is very important since the person looking at it probably is evaluating the company for the first time from the perspective of a potential employee. If a company's careers web page is underdeveloped and uninformative, there are some simple steps to upgrade it. Company employees should determine why they enjoy working there, and then add the most compelling reasons to the site. This can be done by highlighting company perks or low-budget YouTube videos that enable a prospective employee to get a sense of the culture.
A streamlined application process should achieve the following three goals.
Meet EEO and OFCCP requirements. Do it. Where branding is concerned, this falls into the "no news is good news" category. For some reason, unfair hiring practice lawsuits seem to reflect negatively on your brand.
Gather information about the candidate. Gathering information about a candidate allows you to determine whether that person will be a good fit. However, there's no reason why you can't use the information-gathering step to also enhance your brand. Give a strong candidate the opportunity to differentiate him or herself from the rest of the pack by asking job-specific questions that enable the hiring manager to compare all candidates against the same criteria. Gathering information beyond a standard résumé shows a company's focus on hiring the best individuals, which increases its appeal and strengthens the brand.
Provide closure to all candidates, regardless of the outcome. When an organization doesn't even have the common decency to say "no thanks," it makes it seem uncaring and impersonal. It doesn't take much, but treating all candidates with courtesy and respect will go a long way toward enhancing your brand.
Once you get to the interview process, the interaction has more depth and is more personal. Impersonal gestures such as the interviewer showing up late and not being informed about the candidate's experience create an instantly negative impression in the mind of a candidate. And the impressions the interviewee takes out of the meeting can have far greater implications than the interviewer intended, as the candidate could be a blogger, social networker or active participant in an industry-specific user group. To enhance a brand, everyone with whom a candidate meets needs to create a positive impression of the company and leave the candidate yearning to return.
At a time when organizations may relax and ease off, there are some compelling reasons to continue to push the brand to the soon-to-be employee. Despite signing with a company, new hires can get cold feet before their first day and suddenly change their mind. This can occur because they received an attractive counteroffer from their current employer, got a competing offer from another company, or just had second thoughts about making such an important move. By having someone follow up with the new hire before his or her first day and reinforcing the bond that was created during the hiring process, companies can minimize the risk of losing their soon-to-be employees.
As a company brings on new employees, it provides them with an opportunity to present their brand to a captive audience while also bringing talented people into their organization. An individual's impression formed while applying for a job can be both powerful and lasting, and a company's ability to capitalize on this will earn it strong advocates. Since job seekers may also be future customers, clients or shareholders, this is an opportunity companies cannot afford to waste.
Ryan Flynn is a project manager with Accolo Inc.