Should You Repel Job Candidates Instead of Attracting Them?

Author and entrepreneur Charlotte Marshall explains how, contrary to conventional wisdom, the recruiting process is exactly the right time to start sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of your employee experience.
Should You Repel Job Candidates Instead of Attracting Them?
Image credit: Charlotte Marshall
Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP
Leadership Futurist and Gender Equity Advocate
6 min read
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What if the key to disruption in the recruiting industry was as simple as repelling the wrong candidates from applying to your jobs? Think about how much time and energy is spent sifting through applications, interviewing candidates and ultimately rejecting those who aren’t a match for your company. Or worse, how many people accept offers only to leave your organization as soon as they realize some of the challenging aspects of your culture? The drain on resources is a huge cost to businesses already strapped in an uncertain economic environment.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Charlotte Marshall, co-author of the new book, Give & Get Employer Branding: Repel the Many and Compel the Few with Impact, Purpose and Belonging and Global Employer Brand Lead at Danaher Corporation to talk about the current state of the recruiting industry and why it’s ripe for change.

In the book, you discuss the unique brand of adversity. What does this mean and why is it important?

Give & Get explores the intrinsic links between the effort, commitment and sacrifices required to feel the impact, purpose and belonging you can find within. Your employer brand and EVP [employee value proposition] become much more effective when you couple the strengths, benefits and opportunities with the adversity people must embrace to thrive within your organization.

It’s your specific brand of difficult that makes you different. Owning it could be the very thing that helps you attract and keep the right talent, while dissuading the rest from overwhelming your talent funnel with unqualified applications.

Related: Yes, There Can Still Be Positive Workplace Disruption

What are the revolutionary steps companies need to take to attract, engage and retain talent?

Most companies look at their EVP as their chance to sell their company to candidates — to showcase their strengths, benefits and opportunities. But this is only half of an effective EVP. The best kind of EVP is a two-way street where transparency about the true employee is shared. This means being open about organizational vulnerabilities, cultural conflicts and potentially negative behaviors, even if that means scaring off some candidates. In truth, that is exactly what you want to do: You repel the many to compel the few who will truly thrive at your company.

People are drawn to authenticity and truth. It’s endearing when people use self-deprecating humor. It’s refreshing when someone admits a weakness. As an organization, you must have the courage to be vulnerable. To admit the gaps. To talk about the challenges, the adversity and the long road ahead.

That's a great point. Employee experience starts during the applicant process, but repelling sounds too negative.

Most of the time, recruitment is in the rejection business, an appalling waste of time and money with significant human cost on both sides of the process. One of the most impactful ways to improve this situation is to use your employer brand to help more people self-select out of the process before they apply.

There is a clear economic factor at play. The more applications you have, the more you must spend in man-hours and administrative costs to filter through them and find the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Equally concerning are the potential implications to employer brand. Let’s say your organization has 1,000 people and your turnover rate is 15 percent each year. The national average for resumes per job requisition is 250. That means turning away approximately 37,350 people each year. If each person has a social network of 500 people, your brand exposure is more than 18.5 million people forming potentially negative opinions about your company.

How does sharing the full truth of an organization’s culture create a more effective employer brand and EVP from the perspective of the candidate?

How can candidates start to imagine whether they have what it takes to succeed if you don’t first show them what it takes? If you want to define an authentic employee experience, seek out the adversity within your organization. Specifically, when we’re deciding whether to stay or join an organization, there are three main buckets of adversity we’re looking to satisfy: purpose, impact and belonging.

To assess and evaluate each of these, we first must gauge how hard it will be to achieve each one. Without understanding the adversity before them and the size of the challenges they will face, candidates are unable to determine whether they have what it takes. The solution is to craft a meaningful employee value proposition that offers a mutual value exchange.

As a D&I leader and advocate, the concept of hiring for cultural fit feels more exclusive than inclusive. How is this playing out in the world of talent acquisition?

Culture fit has become overused in an attempt to articulate the value of culture. While the sentiment behind the words may have been to promote diversity and inclusion, it is quite limiting in the literal sense. "Fit" implies there is a specific type of person for an organization, which challenges the fundamentals of what D&I stands for.

Organizations now recognize the value of diversity, leading to greater innovation, productivity and value. People prioritize inclusivity and a sense of belonging. The new objective of "culture add" accommodates and recognizes the value of difference much more effectively.

Related: Now Is the Time to Integrate Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Into Your People Programs

How do companies bottle the magic of their organizations and define what makes them special?

A good employer brand can remind people why they do what they do. A world-class employer brand gives you the power to recruit willing advocates, ambassadors and brand activists who knowingly protect, nurture and proliferate your employee experience and the culture that fuels it.

The written architecture of your employer brand must give enough information for applicants to discern if your business is right for them while also accurately reflecting what it feels like to be part of your organization. Your employer brand must resonate with your internal audience in such a way that they proudly agree with what it’s like to belong and contribute to your organization’s purpose.

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