Should candidates ever be ‘sold’ on a job?

The fine line between effective branding and over-promotion

Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl

I have written quite a bit about employer branding and candidate experience. There is no doubt many employers are starting to recognize they have to “woo” candidates to a certain extent, and they cannot simply sit back and act like they’re doing candidates a favour by offering them a chance to apply for a job. 

Employers no longer hold all the cards. Highly talented individuals often have their pick of job offers and can afford to be choosy when it comes to the job offers they accept and the organizations they ultimately choose to work for.

Because of that, employers need to treat candidates with dignity and respect and ensure the candidate experience is as positive as possible. Organizations need to evaluate and possibly revise their entire employment value proposition and position themselves as employers of choice in order to attract top talent.

Providing a realistic job preview

One of the goals of employer branding is to attempt to promote the job and the organization. However, another important goal is to provide candidates with a realistic job preview so they can have a good understanding of what the job actually entails and what they can expect working for the organization.

This improves retention of new hires by showing what the job is really like “warts and all.” Providing such a preview of the job and the organization helps weed out candidates who might not be interested in working in such an environment.

However, many people wouldn’t necessarily be turned off by the work environment, as long as they know what they’re getting themselves into. Human nature is such that we’re more likely to accept a given situation if we know about it in advance and can mentally prepare for it. People also feel better about organizations that are transparent and authentic in their communications.

From an employer branding perspective, it’s also true there is little point in telling lies about the organization or positioning it as a best employer when the reality is completely different. One commenter put it best when he said, “the best way to position an organization as an employer of choice is to actually become an employer of choice.”

While it is important to provide candidates with a realistic job preview and be truthful in employer branding, there is a fine line between over-promoting an organization or opportunity and failing to promote it sufficiently. There needs to be a balance between being honest, transparent and authentic about an organization and the jobs within it and being able to attract, retain and engage sufficient numbers of high quality candidates.

How much promotion is too much?

Effective recruitment definitely includes a certain amount of marketing and promotion. But how much promotion is too much?

There are a few situations where excessive promotion of an organization or a job opportunity can land an employer (or its agents) in hot water. I have already discussed untruthful employer branding and the negative impact on employee retention and engagement, but there are other potential problems as well.

One potential problem is inducement damages, which are awarded by a court over and above ordinary reasonable notice damages in a wrongful dismissal suit. The idea is to avoid inducing employees to leave a secure position elsewhere – usually through grandiose promises of career advancement, impressive perks or financial security.

Headhunters are sometimes guilty of over-promoting jobs or organizations. This is largely because many agency recruiters are salespeople at heart and actively try to “sell” candidates to their clients while also “selling” the opportunities to candidates.

There is nothing wrong with this as long as the agency doesn’t cross the line into lying about the job or the organization and the client is able to provide the candidate with a realistic job preview.

For example, when I was an agency recruiter we once had to gently persuade a candidate to go on an interview with the media division of a large software vendor he was a little wary about working for. The company was a household name, but as a “techie” he questioned the organization’s business practices and commitment to quality.

We highlighted (among other things) the fact that the division in question was run as a separate business, and after the interview he was really interested in working for the organization – so much so he preferred that opportunity over another one he was also pursuing.

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