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Author's profile photo Jeff Mills

When Attracting Talent, Be Authentic, Not Cool

Over the last decade, companies have had to make a big shift in how they portray themselves as employers. Before the mass-market adoption of the internet, companies had bright, shiny brands. And 95% of the time, that bright, shiny brand controlled the conversation.

These days, when we live our lives online and pretty much everything can be researched, accessed and called out by anyone (think: sites like Glassdoor, where employees—and ex-employees—give the real scoop on what it’s like to work there), brands have to be much more proactive and real.

This can be scary and overwhelming, but at the end of the day, it’s a good thing. Culture matters to top talent more than ever before, and when they understand your culture—your real, authentic culture, not some shiny image you’re trying to project—they are far more likely to stick around and recruit more high performers.

Still, some organizations think they can fool candidates into thinking they’re different than they actually are. In this day and age, that usually means trying to look hip, cool, fun, or more like Facebook.

If hip and cool is your culture, share it. But if you’re stable, consistent or driven – share that instead. You won’t look like you’re trying to be something you’re not, and more importantly, you’ll attract the candidates who are right for you.

To illustrate how portraying your authentic employer brand works (and how it really, really doesn’t) here are a few opposing executions of cultural videos to check out:

Great job Misses the mark

Dropbox does a good job of sharing what’s unique about its corporate culture through the voices of its employees (even without anyone actually in the video!). It’s well executed, it has just the right amount of humor, and it keeps you engaged enough to actually watch through to the end.

Groupon, on the other hand, seems to miss the mark. This spoof-like tour of its new office space tries too hard to be funny while not showing you what the environment is like. Granted it is an office tour, but this is a recruiting video. Everything feels like window dressing, there is not much substance and would make me question the motivations of the “unpossible” build out of their offices.

Jetblue nails it with a documentary-style video that follows a real day in the life of a flight attendant. Is this job right for you? Following along with the story can actually help you decide.

Rackspace tried to explain what life is like at the office and what a typical day looks like, but this feels more like a forced promotional video, with dramatic music, and a focus on what makes the company different from competitors. After watching, I still don’t have a clear sense of what it would be like as an employee.

As I was researching this, I saw something that caught my eye, The Muse, which helps companies be more authentic in their approach to the candidate experience by promoting culture. So I reached out to them to talk about this challenge many companies face. First off, The Muse describes themselves as “a full-service solution to create an authentic, visually beautiful profile of your company” – Dropbox and Bai Brands are two good examples. Lindsay Moroney, Chief of Staff at The Muse, whose team is responsible for all employer content creation said, “We take great care to make sure companies on The Muse are being as real as possible when talking about what makes them special.” I think this is the key point – being real and true are what make you special and if you are honest about that, you will attract the right talent for you.

When you focus more on what you truly are as a culture, the better return you’ll have in hiring and employee engagement. If it feels forced or not quite right, check yourself, stand back and reevaluate. Would employees who have recently left the organization agree with what you’re saying? If not, rethink your approach, as they will likely call you out on it.

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      Author's profile photo Sven Ringling
      Sven Ringling

      very good insights. I've always believed that, as a hiring manager, you can make candidates do most of your job: if you are authentic, they can self select.

      So, if a candidate with the right skills, who likes the compensation package still drops out after the interview, don't see it as a failure. You probably have presented the organisation well and avoided a hire with a poor fit.

      Author's profile photo Jeff Mills
      Jeff Mills
      Blog Post Author

      This is true. The self-selection process is important and an important one that employers should consider. Let that be your guiding principal to employer brand and recruitment marketing. If you are designing a program that is focused on "does this help the candidate make a decision" vs "am I telling the candidate what I want" you will win in the long run to your point.