At some point in our job-seeking lives, we’ve all interviewed at a company that felt more like a military school than an exciting, flexible, creative, ever-evolving workplace culture. The signs start early in the hiring process: a dry, lifeless job posting or stale employer branding that does not feel inspired. A blizzard of paperwork, including reams of rules and regulations for submitting a resume. A monochromatic HR office filled with identically-dressed drones who are clearly reading from a script. I can remember walking out of a few select interviews earlier in my career and saying to myself, “There is no way I’m working at that mausoleum.” Or better yet – I’ve enjoyed being part of a world class organization recruiting top talent – where every day of interviewing seems to feel like a rush of adrendaline. You see – I’ve been on all sides of this equation in my own career – The best of the best, the good, the ugly.
The simple fact is that recruiting is often a company’s first impression, and a reflection of its culture and workforce brand personality. It’s a spectacular — and too underexploited — opportunity to wow, woo, seduce and excite talent. Top talent doesn’t want to work in Dullsville.They want to work in a company that understands, challenges, excites, surprises and delights them. They want to work hard, play hard, and feel appreciated. Recruiting should be where the courtship starts. Your organization doesn’t have to be a Zappos or Google to start using savvy — and social media — to attract “the right fit” and talent skill set you need to soar.
Here Are Five Steps You Can Take To Turn Your Talent Management Strategy Into A Powerhouse Branding and Marketing Culture.
1) Take A Workplace Culture Inventory. Take a good hard look at your current HR and recruiting practices. Put yourself in the shoes of a talented person who has never heard of your company. How are you trying to reach that person? Are you using filtering tools to target the right kind of talent you need? How big a part does social media play? Are you engaging brand advocates and influencers? How is the language in your employer branding and follow-up information? Stodgy branding can be a real turn-off (as can self-consciously hip or snarky content that seems shallow). What about your career site design? Is it fresh and appealing to all generations? How are your initial and follow-up contacts conducted? Deconstruct the whole recruiting process form initial posting to final hire. Where along the way do you need to change to catch the eye and imagination of the talent you need? Solicit feedback from recent hires and even those who decided to take another career opportunity – yes, at another brand.
2) Make The Necessary Leadership Changes. Your weaknesses should be pretty obvious when your inventory is finished. The question becomes: do we jettison the whole process from soup to nuts, or are enough parts working that we can make selective changes? Whatever you decide, consider hiring outside talent to help you develop a holistic, integrated recruiting process. Of every choice, ask the following two question: is this going to help us attract stellar talent? Is it a true reflection of our company? Because the last thing you want is to present your company in a misleading way. Remember: HR and recruitment is a major branding opportunity. The goal is to lodge yourself in people’s minds as a great place to work, even if with talent that isn’t looking for to switch jobs at the moment.
3) Engage Your Marketing Talent. HR and recruiting don’t exist in a vacuum. They may be the initial contact with talent, but the more input that other departments have, the stronger and more integrated the process will become. This is especially true, of course, for the departments and functions that will be directly impacted by the applicant. Solicit input on specific job postings from people in the department where the job is. Ask top talent from across the organization for suggestions on making your marketing pitch intriguing and enticing. The more buy-in you have throughout the entire organization – including marketing, the more likely you are to hire just the right talent.
4) Use Social Media. The HR gods were smiling when social media was invented. It has evolved into a dream tool for finding and communicating with brand advocates and influencers. Are you exploiting it to the max? Are you using the whole panoply of social media to establish a presence and dialogue that goes way beyond a specific job opening? Social media is nothing less an historic breakthrough in branding and talent engagement. Again, hire outside help if you have to, a specialist in social media who can help you target your resources and efforts for maximum return. Get input from social-media-savvy employees from across the organization and beyond. Use video if possible. And make your online interface and career application process user-friendly.
5) Keep It Real. As I touched on above, your HR and recruiting process must be honest — a genuine reflection of your company’s leadership and workplace culture. If you misrepresent your brand, you’ll attract the wrong kind of talent, and when someone is hired they’ll feel like the victim of a bait-and-switch. Whether your organization is way zany, slightly playful, or downright dour, you want to attract talent that feels comfortable in your culture.
HR and Recruiting are an untapped gold mine for too many organizations. Work hard to make them a reflection of your mission and methods, appealing and user-friendly, and able to identify and exploit social media to reach and communicate with the right talent. This is an exciting exercise in leadership excellence.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 09/01/2013.