Don't oversell your company

Don't oversell your company

When a recruiter opens a new job, they may receive hundreds of applicants for each role. Multiply that by the number of requisitions a single recruiter manages, and it all adds up to an unmanageable morass of applicants.

It’s no wonder job applicants complain they feel pressing “send” on an application is like pressing “shred.” It's also not all that surprising to hear that 46 percent of candidates rate their job application experiences as “poor” or “very poor.” And only 37 percent have had an experience that would lead them to recommend a company.

Your recruiting efforts must communicate what it’s really like to work inside an organisation. If your company is a traditional, buttoned up financial services firm, don’t try to pretend otherwise. If you do, you will only end up attracting the wrong candidates for the role anyway.

Your job is to:

(a) Identify the actual culture of your organisation, and find reflect a true picture of what it’s like to work for your organisation. Have an entrepreneurial culture? Show it off. A culture that encourages head-down work over long hours? Be clear about that too.

(b) Find ways to enhance what you already do. For example, if your organisation supports an entrepreneurial culture, think about creating internal idea hatcheries to encourage new thinking. Or for the head-down company with long work hours, you may offer on-site massages to ease the pressure. The idea is to do more and better what you are already good at.

Ultimately you’re looking to define what your company and its employees stand for, what potential employees in high-demand fields are hunting for, and figuring out the happy overlap between the two.

Real life examples


  • Google: A culture of experimentation. Google’s famous fail fast philosophy asks employees to take risks and try out new ideas. Ever heard of Google Buzz? Google Wave? Both are failed experiments. In another organisation employees leading those projects would have been fired. At Google, those detours are just “research.”
  • Zappos: Empowering employees. The online shoe company rocketed to success by giving customer service reps broad leeway in how they satisfy customers. Zappos has won massive social media attention from customer anecdotes about Zappos’ employee awesomeness (such as the Zappos employee who sent flowers to a customer who mentioned her mom passed away1). And the company practically begs employees to leave the company if they don’t fit in; at the end of the first week of new employee training, everyone is offered $2,000 to quit.
  • GE: Celebrating hobbies. Due to GE’s work in aviation, energy, transportation, mining and industrials, the company is hyper-focused on attracting top talent in the STEM fields. GE found that both customers and employees identified strongly with the maker community— hobbyist designers, builders and tinkerers of all kinds. To enchant makers, GE created a moveable show called GE Garages where visitors can experiment with technologies like 3D printers, laser cutters and injection molders. Rather than tell potential employees how interesting work at GE can be, Garages gives them a hands-on experience unlike any other.
  • The Nerdery: Work as play. This US-based interactive production shop that provides digital and interactive know-how to big agencies. In other words, they are the developer/ tech savants that make the most interesting, novel projects work. The Nerdery needs to recruit top developer talent to St. Paul, Minnesota (not the typical tech urban centre). The company celebrates a nerd culture and ensures employees balance hard work and long hours with humour and playfulness. Says one employee, “Work never feels like work and my co-workers are all just friends. We get work done but we have a lot of fun in doing so.”



The important thing in each of these examples is that not everyone will fit in. While The Nerdery sounds like a fun place, some employees simply want to show up, put in the hours and go home ... and for them The Nerdery sounds too cultish. Some won’t be attracted to the constant camaraderie and informal work style.

For that reason, it’s critical you don’t hype your company or oversell it. Your recruiting efforts must communicate what it’s really like to work in the organisation, day in and day out—as if you’re holding up a mirror to daily life. The American Red Cross, for example, must recruit lab employees who can follow directions repeatedly, without straying from strict instructions. Employees must follow the same 48-step process each day, without deviation. Creatives and independent problem-solvers need not apply.

Ultimately you don’t want hundreds of people to apply for open positions. You really only want the perfect one.