By: Jon Picoult
“Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”
That’s how Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, defines company branding. It’s the sum of all the impressions that you, or your business, leave on another person. And the real test of the quality of your brand identity is what people say to their friends, family and colleagues.
But there’s another, equally important dimension to your brand strategy, and that’s the employer component: what are current and prospective employees saying about your company?
Managing your employer brand is important since it influences your ability to attract and acquire talent. However, with job candidates frequently griping about recruiting processes that are devoid of basic professional courtesy and respect, it seems many businesses are neglecting this part of their brand strategy.
Here are five examples of common grievances that job candidates wouldn’t dare reveal to you directly -- grievances that have the potential to damage your brand strategy, along with tips on how to ensure that your applicants don’t utter these same words:
“I still don’t have a clue what I’d be doing in this job.”
Many job descriptions focus more on what skills and experience the position requires, and less on the actual job responsibilities. Those that do detail job duties often do so in such a generic fashion, that they provide scant guidance as to what a typical day on the job involves.
Quick tip: Write your job description so the content addresses the candidate’s (and not just the company’s) information needs. Once the candidate pool is narrowed, give your finalists a chance to talk to and shadow an existing employee who is in a comparable position. They’ll appreciate your transparency and the opportunity to hear what the job really entails from someone who’s currently in the role.
“I can’t get a straight answer from them.”
Job candidates often feel strung along by prospective employers. One minute the hiring process is moving forward at breakneck speed; the next it comes to a complete standstill -- yet the employer continues to reassure the candidate that everything is on track. Internal dynamics are often driving this equivocation: glitches in getting approval to hire, longer-than-anticipated candidate sourcing, an extended interview process, etc. But no matter how legitimate the back story is, the end result is a candidate who feels misled.
Quick tip: You may be inclined to keep candidates in the dark for fear of exposing internal dysfunction or losing the candidate due to a delay in the recruiting process. Resist that temptation. Be straight with candidates if your hiring process has run into a few speed bumps. Set clear expectations when hiring timetables have changed. Candidates will appreciate your candor and find it a refreshing change from their interactions with other employers.
“My time is as valuable as yours. Don’t waste it.”
Ever arrive late to interview a job candidate? You apologize and the candidate politely replies, “No problem, I understand you’re busy.” What candidates won’t say to your face is that making them wait 20, 30 or more minutes is a personal affront to them. It sends a signal that you don’t think their time is as valuable as yours.
Quick tip: Make a point of keeping scheduled interview times. If you’re held up for some reason, have someone contact the candidate to advise of the delay and indicate how long you’ll be.
“Here’s an outrageous idea: How about reviewing my resume before the interview?”
Employers like candidates who demonstrate that they’re organized and prepared -- as evidenced during an interview by their knowledge of the company and the job, and the quality of questions they ask. But this expectation cuts both ways. When candidates encounter an interviewer who is obviously unprepared (“What job are you applying for again? Give me a minute to browse your resume…”), it sends a disturbing signal.
Quick tip: Reserve at least fifteen minutes before each scheduled interview to familiarize yourself with the candidate’s background. Make a point of demonstrating to the person that you’ve reviewed their resume or application in advance.
“Thanks for following up with me as promised… NOT!”
It’s so easy for those involved in the hiring process to make cavalier commitments (“You’ll hear from us in the next two to three weeks”). Then three weeks go by and most candidates are greeted with… deafening silence. Promising to follow-up promptly is a great show of respect to the candidate. It’s the follow-through, however, that’s really needed to earn goodwill with your candidates.
Quick tip: Even if you don’t have any news to share about the status of their candidacy, still follow-up with applicants when you promised. A phone call or e-mail just to say “you’re still in the running and you’ll hear from me again in [x] weeks” will leave candidates reassured and impressed.
The importance of understanding what candidates are saying behind your back (and addressing their criticisms) can’t be overstated.
These days, when candidates do talk behind your back, they’re usually shouting from the rooftops, thanks to various social media platforms, some of which were established precisely for the exchange of information about employers. A single, negative impression made by just one job applicant can easily turn into a broader, brand tarnishing incident.
Fortunately, you can put the candidate word-of-mouth dynamic to your advantage. All it requires is shaping a recruiting experience that’s distinguished by its professionalism, respect and courtesy.
Do that and you’re bound to have people talking behind your back. But this time around, they’ll be singing your praises and pointing other candidates in your direction. That’s what great branding is all about.
Jon Picoult is Founder of Watermark Consulting, a firm that helps businesses impress their customers, candidates and employees. Jon is a frequent writer and speaker on workplace issues. Prior to founding Watermark, he held senior executive roles in service, technology, sales and marketing at Fortune 100 companies. Learn more, or read Jon’s blog, at www.watermarkconsult.net.