Why do candidates come seeking employment at your company? There are a lot of potential answers to that question. Maybe they were walking by your building and saw a Help Wanted sign; a friend suggested they apply; they saw a job listing on a job board; or they just liked the reputation of the company. Generally, people look for a job listing that matches their skill sets, and then they sort through the companies offering possible positions. Their preference for one company over another is often based on the brand image projected by the company. Why do they pay attention to brands?
When someone is looking for a job, he or she is looking for a place to be associated with and connected to for a period of time. Few people take “secret” jobs that they tell no one about. The image of our personal worth is often wrapped up in the job we have and the company we work for. As a result, “brand” matters. People look for a brand they’d be proud to be associated with. If the brand is inconsistent, if the brand has negative connotations, or if the brand is disreputable, then top talent may be less likely to want to work for that company.
Just as important to many candidates is the consistency of the brand. Do all parts of the organization project the same image? Therein lies the problem for many companies. Research has found that there is a lot of confusion within organizations of who is actually responsible for the brand or company image.
A report by Universum found the following:
This lack of clear ownership when it comes to company branding causes confusion, both within the ranks of the company and beyond, with candidates who go through the interview process. There may very likely be a lack of consistency in the message the candidate is getting. The company, via the CEO, projects one image, HR has another, the hiring manager yet another, and finally, what employees say about their company may all send mixed messages that leave candidates potentially dazed and confused. There is even one story of a candidate who was unsure about a company and expressed that on social media, only to have the offer rescinded because of that expression of uncertainty.
A brand starts with the images and messages the company projects in its recruitment ads. It is then bolstered by how the candidate is contacted and treated by the company. Companies that project themselves as having highly talented employees need to have a process in place that supports that assertion. And what company doesn’t want to project a high quality of the talent? Quality talent attracts more quality talent. Such a company would do well to use an assessment tool in its hiring process. Assessments reinforce the image of “quality talent” and make the candidates who “pass” feel that they are part of a more exclusive group.
That only works, however, if that “exclusive” feeling continues throughout the process. The HR department that doesn’t respond for two weeks or the hiring manager who is not prepared for the interview and hasn’t read the resume is inconsistent with the brand a company is trying to project. As a result of this type of inconsistency, you may have a quality candidate who now becomes hesitant and questions his or her choice of companies.
The first step in being consistent with the brand is to decide who in your organization is really going to own the brand. In reality, this takes work from many departments and a coordinated effort, but I am of the school that when it comes to finding talent, HR should own the brand.
The second step is to develop the message, whatever it is going to be. Whether it’s the best place to work, the most caring, the highest quality talent, the most fun, the greenest, or whatever you select, it’s all fine; just make it consistent throughout the process.
The third step is to train everyone, including all of the employees, on the brand message and hold them accountable for their delivery. This is especially true of the hiring manager. Ultimately, candidates make a decision on accepting a job based on who they will be working for after the hire. If that hiring manager does not project the brand, then all the work done by HR, the CEO, and marketing will go down the drain.
Put your brand message in actions and accessories, not only in words. A branded company is like a charismatic actor – it should have its own image. No matter how good it is, it should be unique. If your company is praised for high quality, everything within it should speak of this, from your head hunter’s proficiency to the paper you use for notes.
The opinion of your company is partially created during your conversations with candidates. Successful or not, a candidate will consider his impression of your company along with the others. In most cases, they will simply restate your words, so be sure you put your brand message into each interview.
Time is a measure of branding. If you want to create a brand, keep your brand design and image for a long period of time. If you try to change it before you get the number of clients you desire, you won’t be recognized. This is important, as most people buy brands, not products.