Honesty in Employer Branding and Attracting Candidates

You’re hiring! That means finding and attracting candidates who you then need to evaluate for the position. But it’s not that simple, is it?

Let’s define what it is you or your company wants when you’re looking to hire. Bottom line? You need somebody who can do the work you need done.

But typically, most employers also want that someone to:

  • Do the work really well
  • Have the traits and interpersonal skills that enable them to work with others in the workplace as necessary
  • Help strengthen their organization through their efforts

We’ve seen a shift in how we talk about recruiting and hiring, and the idea has emerged that employers need to market themselves to candidates as great places to work/people to work for, similarly to how a company markets to customers. Over the past two decades, we’ve seen the Internet multiply and diversify–no matter what it is you’re looking for, you will find it in abundance, and easily. A little too easily, sometimes.

You want job applicants? Here you go, five hundred resumes in your inbox in response to your job post on Craigslist! Boom. I bet you can’t wait to diligently read through each one, never getting frustrated at the huge swaths of resumes from unqualified and clearly disinterested candidates, huh?

It can be a revelation for most job seekers when they begin to understand that employers can have just as difficult a time finding the right employee, as candidates do finding the right job. We’re so often told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and just keep knocking on doors, which in this decade is interpreted as sending out as many digital copies of your resume as possible. And that, unfortunately, isn’t effective for the job seeker or the employer.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of job descriptions that include intimidating amounts of information on the qualifications and experience required, with a list of expected duties so long you wonder if they’re really looking for a mere candidate, or if they’re expecting to hire Superman. (I’m assuming here that his super-speed makes Superman a superhuman multi-tasker.) These kind of job ads are misleading, as they’re usually set up to try and weed out the unqualified, rather than entice only the suitably qualified to apply.

There are things you can do to make your job advertisement more inviting and interesting, and consequently more appealing to the great candidates that are out there and have choices about where to apply. We have an infographic guide to the basic components of a great job post, and following that is a great step forward. Don’t list everything that could possibly have to do with the job–a wall of text is unattractive, less likely to be read, and may actually attract those unqualified applicants. “Oh! They mentioned using Microsoft Word! I may not have these other skills, but I’ve got that one! I should totally apply.”

The shift towards employers approaching recruiting from a marketing and branding standpoint is a natural one, but like successful marketing, it helps to be targeted and honest. Think Buckley’s cough syrup. Their tagline is, “It tastes awful. And it works.” You know what to expect when you try it. Why not use the same approach with candidates?

In a Forbes article titled “Job Seekers Aren’t Stupid, So Start Being Honest With Them” Susan LaMotte writes:

Embrace honesty. One of the major tenets of CEB’s study reinforces the need to move on from pretending careers opportunities are all sunshine and roses. Instead of singing praises about the perfection that is your company, focus on honesty. Tell candidates what stinks about working there. Be honest both about what’s really great and what’s hard. For example, Netflix announced that they don’t actively invest in development or focus on rules. Reality and honesty may drive down volume but they’ll increase fit and satisfaction. Take a look at your company’s careers site. Are there any frank or honest revelations? Probably not.

Ultimately, the recruiting, application, interviewing, and hiring processes are for both the candidate and the employer to determine if the other is the right fit.

There are things that we can do to encourage job seekers to use intelligence and strategy when applying to jobs, and there are things you can do to encourage the right people to apply. Honesty is one of them.

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