Branding & Identity

What if I told you that your company possesses a powerful recruiting weapon – I’m talking nuclear strength.  It’s so powerful, in fact, that using this weapon would almost certainly improve your quality of hires, retention, productivity, and overall employee happiness.

And what if I told you that every company has the ability to cultivate this weapon in the arms-race that is recruiting?

Maybe you already guessed it, but I’m talking about company culture – or the collective behaviors, values, beliefs, and norms within a company.  Put simply, it’s the company’s personality.  And it’s a huge consideration when talent is scoping out their next job.

How huge?

Consider this: a recent CareerBuilder survey found that “91% of candidates believe employment brand plays a key role in their decision whether or not to apply.”  91%.  And what’s a main driver of “employment brand”?

You guessed it: company culture.

The (troubling) word on the street:

Ok, great – company culture is critical.  So what’s the big deal?

Well, here’s what I’m seeing: too many companies aren’t doing everything they can to take advantage of their culture to bolster their recruiting.

For instance, I’ve seen companies where the only people who really get the company’s culture are their current employees and maybe a few loyal customers.  (And, maybe, some board members and investors.)

But that’s it.  No real showcasing of it to folks on the outside – for example, to people who might be thinking about finding a new job or employer sometime soon.

And that’s a shame. Because every company has a culture.  And it’s worth showing off in order to attract not only the best talent, but – and perhaps more importantly – the right talent.

In essence, companies have a winning lottery ticket…but don’t know how to cash it in.  (Congrats if you caught the Good Will Hunting paraphrase.)

Start strutting your cultural stuff. Immediately.

So you’ve got this important asset that’s core to who you are as a company…but for the most part lives within the four walls of your office.  Here’s how to harness your (currently) secret weapon.

1) Make culture a priority:

First things first.  Acknowledge that your company culture is a top priority.  And I don’t mean, “Oh yeah, we take culture seriously here – it’s really important to us.”

I mean, “Holy crap – we already have a culture…and it’s pretty cool…so why aren’t we telling everyone about it?!  This needs to change.  Today.”

2) Describe your culture:

To make things real, your company’s personality can’t just exist in the abstract sense.

Well…technically it can.  But having your culture exist solely as an amorphous idea in peoples’ heads isn’t going to help you attract talent.  You have to be able to describe it to outsiders, to people who may have never heard of your company before.

So grab a few people in the office – from the most senior positions down to the most junior – and ask them to describe the company’s culture, warts and all.

Literally, just describe it.

Are you scrappy, flexible with hours, love to throw events and parties, and tightknit like a family (sometimes too tightknit…read: everyone knows everyone’s business)?  Or are you a heads-down organization, with a quiet office and data-driven, analytical people who tend to make decisions autonomously?

A couple pointers to keep in mind. At FirmPlay, when working with other companies to identify and document their culture, we look at four components that you may also want to look at:

  • People: what are the people like, and who tends to be successful at the company?
  • Work: what’s the company’s work style like, from typical hours worked per week to feedback style?
  • Play: what do you do for fun?
  • Office: what’s your physical environment like, both within the office and the external surroundings?

If you’re having trouble putting your culture into sentences or phrases, just start by doing simple word association.

Once everything is down on paper, take a step back and look over what you’ve got.  Reread everything, thoughtfully.  What you’ll likely notice is that a few themes pop up consistently in peoples’ comments.  Identify these repeating themes (you usually end up with 3-5).

They’re your company culture in a nutshell.

3) Show, don’t tell:

Remember the old writing tip our teachers drilled into us back in middle school?  “Show, don’t tell.”  It applies more than ever here.  It’s hard for people to get excited about working for your company if they can’t see what that would be like.  That means text alone won’t cut it.

Keeping in mind the cultural themes you identified in the previous step, borrow a camera – DSLR is ideal, but even a good smartphone camera will do – and start capturing the buzz in the office.  Take photos of the desks and workspaces, of people meeting and interacting, and even of the kitchen if you have one.  No need to stage anything, either.  Just capture the office as it normally is.  Aim to get 5-10 good photos.

And if you’re feeling ambitious, grab the people from Step #2 and have them answer again some of the questions you ran through together – only this time looking into the camera.  Again, doesn’t need to be fancy.  Just honest.  It’s worth repeating that you’ll want junior as well as senior folks represented.  Aim to get at least one answer from 2-3 people, and keep the answers to 30-45 seconds or so in length.  (Note: you can upload the videos to YouTube or Vimeo, and then easily embed or link to them wherever you like – more on sharing in the next step.)

4) Communicate your culture:

You’ve done the heavy lifting in the previous steps.  Now for the last step: getting the word out.

There are a number of ways to spread the word, so much of how you execute this step is up to you.  But here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Start with your careers page:  Take the photos and videos from Step #3, combine with some short captions and descriptions, and embed into your careers page.  There really is no strict formula here, so get creative.  The point here is to focus on your culture before throwing a bunch of job openings in a candidate’s face.  It’s a much more authentic approach.
  • Share on social media:  Share some of your awesome new content on all your social media accounts, a little at a time.  And always make sure to include a link to your careers page and job openings.
  • Upgrade your job descriptions:   From now on, make it a rule to describe your culture in every single job description you ever write.  And link back to your careers page for more cultural info (we’re sounding like a broken record, we know).
  • Arm your coworkers:  It’s no surprise that employee referrals are often the best source of candidates.  To help strengthen your referrals, let your coworkers know about the emphasis on culture in your recruiting efforts, and where they can direct their referrals for more information on what it’s like at your company.

You’ve just started harnessing your secret weapon. Don’t stop now:

Congratulations!  You’re steps ahead of the majority of companies out there.  But here’s another little secret – everyone’s catching on to the power of company culture when it comes to recruiting.

To maintain your recruiting advantage, update your content on a regular basis.  Even once every six months works well.  After all, you’re hiring, which means you’re probably growing…which means your culture evolves a bit over time.  Make sure to capture that evolution.  In doing so, you’ll keep candidates engaged – especially the candidates who aren’t thinking of a new job for tomorrow, but rather, for 6 to 12 months from now.

Because the best part about this whole process?

If you do it right, you’ll build up a pipeline of talent that follows you and keeps you in mind.  That is, you’ll have an existing community of engaged candidates you can tap into whenever you have an opening.  So you’ll have less of a need for shotgun recruiting tactics (e.g. massive, generic job boards) that get you hundreds of candidates who aren’t a good fit.  And you’ll shorten your time to hire and overall hours expended per hire, from sourcing to assessing and interviewing.

So start harnessing your secret weapon – your culture.  Before the secret gets out.

Author: Vasilios Alexiou is the Co-Founder of FirmPlay, a new job search site that takes job seekers behind the scenes at companies using photos and videos…so they can discover a job they’ll love.  He received a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from Dartmouth College. Follow Vasilios at @FirmPlay.

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