Why your HR Dept may be Trashing your Brand

Bill Aronson  Director & Senior Manager Writes:

This is an open letter to CEO’s. If you like it please share  with others.

Recently I got shortlisted for a position. I had a really good telephone call with a senior partner. Two days later I contacted the head of HR and thanked them for the interview and asked where the process was. He said, “I will go down the hall and speak to the partner and get right back to you.” A week later I made a follow up call. The HR person said, “The partner has been very busy but I have a meeting with him later today. I will get right back to you.” Of course they never did. Have they chosen someone else? Have they got side-tracked with other pressing business? I have no clue.

Sound familiar?

To put this in context the company say that the kind of people they are looking for are “people who care about our clients’ business challenges and are passionate about accepting only the highest quality outcomes. They see things through to the end – always.”

The vast majority of people are not intrinsically bad. They don’t mean to cause hurt or offense. Most communication issues are just because we are unconscious.

So imagine that 50 customers contact your company. Do you:

  1. Ignore most of them
  2. Keep them hanging on
  3. Don’t bother to communicate
  4. All of the above

Option 4 is what the typical HR department does every day. Your HR department might be far more effective if run by your marketing department. Here’s why.

Every day HR departments put out enticing adverts. The essence of them is the same. Come and work for us. We have this great job that you will love. We are a fantastic company.

Advertising jobs is a marketing function. Let’s say 50 people apply and 3 get shortlisted.

That’s 50 people that have made an effort to engage with your company and believed the claims that you made in your advert. You might not realize it but all of those people genuinely believe that they are suited to the role. So what do you do with the 47?

  1. Ignore most of them
  2. Keep them hanging on
  3. Don’t bother to communicate
  4. All of the above

This is the process that you have designed and implemented.

On average less than 5% of companies that advertise positions bother to even send a formal confirmation that a candidate has not been shortlisted. Make a telephone call? Don’t be silly. Why would they do that? Let’s not get into whether this is right or wrong. It’s dumb. Really really dumb. Over in the marketing department you have one team trying to establish great relationships with clients while your HR department is trashing your brand by mistreating people who want to work with you.

What will those 47 people do? They will tell at least 4-5 other people how you couldn’t even be bothered to contact them. So now your job advert has created 200 people who think badly of you. If they are connected on social media then thousands of people may get to know.

Dear CEO why are you paying your people to trash your brand?

Now you shortlist 3 and one person gets the job. Normally you will tell the successful candidate within 48 hours. What do you do with the others? Do you telephone them? Do you meet them face to face? Do you contact them within 48 hours? Probably not. They will get a letter in the mail a couple of weeks later. While they are waiting they are wondering, hoping and getting more and more nervous. This is a process that you have unconsciously designed. And like all good processes you repeat it day in and day out.

The 47 were hurt and annoyed by your behavior. These other 2 are seriously hurt and annoyed because they really had a chance. They will be your strongest negative marketers. What you don’t realize is that you hired all the 50. The successful candidate works for you. The other 49 have an unpaid part-time job of negative marketing your business. The shortlisted candidates are your Chief Negative Marketing Officers working for your HR department which now stands for Harming Reputation.

So what is to be done?

This negative marketing campaign that your Harming Reputation department is running is an accidental unintended consequence of focusing on finding the right candidate for the job. The 49 are collateral damage.

If you change the context then you change the consequences. Build a process designed to attract 50 people to connect with your company. Make the accidental unintended consequence that one of them gets a job. And if you don’t know how to do that then get help. The investment will be more than paid for by stemming the flow of negative stories and conversations that your current process is unconsciously designed to do.

The bottom line. Build a process to treat potential employees exactly the same way as potential customers. Because one day they just may be. If you don’t then you don’t deserve to be in business. (only 1 in 100 businesses make it to their 20th birthday).

And dear LinkedIn. If you really want to stand out from the crowd of job sites why not require employers to sign up to a Code of Conduct if they advertise with you? What would be the top 3 points you would like to see in such a code? Here is my bare minimum.

  1. The advert must state the remuneration band
  2. All candidates will be contacted within 48 hours of the decision to shortlist
  3. All candidates will be contacted within 48 hours of confirmation by the successful candidate of acceptance of the position.

It’s surprisingly easy to be generous. If you like this post please take 2 seconds to click the LinkedIn ‘share’ link just below the headline at the start of this post. This will inspire me to keep writing, strengthen your network and help others. Collaboration eats competition for breakfast.

Bill Aronson is a thought leader who helps organisations to be authentic. He does this by telling businesses the truth (in the nicest possible way). Then he helps them build systems and processes to achieve an authentic culture.bill@enterprisedesigner.com +61 (0)400 27 4548.