Branding has shifted dramatically with the advent of Internet technologies and social media. Companies can’t simply create a logo, a catchy tag line and a single, unified message and call it a day. Today’s brand marketers are challenged to truly connect with consumers in a more personal way.
Customer service has become a huge part of the branding experience as companies address public commentary that can have a negative impact by going viral, reaching thousands, if not millions via social channels. New data technologies allow companies to push out different brand messages to varying consumer sets, based on sex, demographics, online shopping behaviors and psychographics, at the micro- and macro-level with a few clicks of a mouse.
Chris Malone and Susan Fiske, in their book, The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products and Companies, profess that the brands with the greatest success today embrace two things to the fullest: warmth and competence. Humans are wired to migrate towards people who are warm and competent and thus it makes sense that brands capable of embracing these two traits will be inherently magnetic.
Reading this was an “aha moment” for me. Not only regarding the concept of branding, but in how it also relates to the process of recruiting.
I believe that recruiting is lacking both warmth and competence and that these deficits are damaging the reputation of the industry as a whole and the companies that are hiring.
Chris and Susan drive home the point that consumers value a company in which they can feel the presence of the people behind it. When you call a 1-800#, and a human responds to your needs, we find satisfaction. When we call and get a computer that doesn’t allow us to speak to a live person, no matter how many times we push “0” or “#,” we scream a blue streak of obscenities and want to disengage. The people behind the scenes, their attention to consumer needs and their ability to connect with us, is key to our perceptions as a whole about that company and our willingness to continue to engage.
So, given all this, it makes sense that building out talent within an organization should be handled with the utmost care. If the brand is, to a certain extent, as successful as the people behind it, then mining talent is of tremendous importance.
In order to attract top talent, HR teams and hiring managers are the “face” of the company and need to exude warmth and confidence to convince a candidate that he or she should join the organization. Too often this is not happening, and companies are behaving with a certain amount of hiring hubris that gets in the way of the process.
Every impression a company makes on an individual counts. If Ed interviews with HR for a marketing position, leaving his current office for an hour or more to meet with you, it’s common courtesy to get back to Ed and let him know that he is not right for that particular job. Too often this does not happen. Ed’s follow up calls are not returned and his emails are ignored.
This has negative consequences. One being that, as Ed moves on in his career, you may want to re-approach him and he’ll probably turn a blind eye on you, just as you did to him. Another being that Ed might choose to share his negative experience with others in the industry. Perhaps he’ll post it online, where he’s connected to hundreds or even thousands of people through his professional network.
Over the years, countless media executives have told me that they have made it through 10+ rounds of interviews — hours of time and preparation — only to be told they did not make the final cut, without further explanation. When trying to get feedback, they received silence.
The rare person who actually took the time to give constructive feedback was remembered. He and his company stood out. His empathy, understanding and commitment, at the human level, to the process of hiring left the candidate feeling fulfilled, even though he didn’t get the job. Although the desired result was not achieved, the candidate was left feeling positive towards the company due to the fact that he was treated with respect throughout the process. He was treated with warmth and competence.
Similarly, external recruiters contracted to represent a company are an extension of that company’s brand. If these recruiters can’t properly explain the company’s value proposition, they are incompetent. If they treat candidates poorly in the company’s name, they are lacking in warmth. There’s not a day that goes by when a candidate does not relate a story to me about her terrible experiences with external recruiters. These candidates, in turn, associate negative feelings toward not only the recruiters, but also the companies who choose to have those recruiters represent them.
To fix the problem, I believe that those who are conducting interviews — whether it’s an internal human resources representative, a hiring manager, or an external recruiter — need to be constantly aware of what it is like to be the person sitting on the other side of the desk. If you were in that person’s shoes, what information would you need to know about the position at hand and how would you want to be treated throughout the interview process? Show them that you know what you are talking about and that you care about them, regardless of whether or not they are going to fill the seat that needs a warm, competent body.