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Aug 30, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

All sourcers, on the agency or corporate side, encounter a bad employer brand throughout their sourcing career. Although this common concern of recruiters is often discussed, in my view it is rarely constructively addressed. I hope after reading the following five tips, sourcers will learn to resist the urge to engage in avoidance behavior when trying to overcome a poor employer brand of their company or client.


1. Poor Employer Brand Is An Excuse For Lack Of Sourcing Success. Not A Reason.

Poor employer brand is certainly a difficult challenge for sourcers to overcome. That is beyond dispute. Oftentimes many sourcers treat it as an insurmountable challenge and an excuse to avoid developing a full and proper pipeline on every search. A good sourcer can and should use poor employer brand as a reason to adjust tactics and as a motivation to work harder. The foundation of good recruiting begins with having the right attitude and approach. If you begin with a negative attitude as to why you can’t succeed, you make it increasingly unlikely that you will succeed. That is not to say you, as a sourcer, are never set up for failure. In fact, often times, sourcers are not set up for success. However, if you are in a situation, in which you truly are set-up for failure, then the solution is for you to change employers, not recruiting tactics.

Nevertheless, if you are a sourcer facing a challenging situation, rather than an impossible situation, you must remember to keep a positive attitude, maintain a commitment to success, and always be looking for new tactics and approaches to achieve sourcing success for your hiring managers. Therefore,

Instead of: focusing on the negative and going through the motions and/or remaining devoted nominally to your company’s sourcing process and metrics to show nominal effort on your part,

You can try to: commit yourself to positive outcomes by adopting changes in your normal methodology and in order to achieve success. This takes away your focus on excuses and provides you reasons for optimism that your efforts will result in success.


2. Play Guerrilla War In The War For Talent. Turn Your Liabilities Into Assets

In my previous posts, I have repeatedly advocated for sourcers to play guerrilla warfare in the war for talent. Continuing with the war metaphor, in guerrilla warfare, a belligerent turns her opponents’ strengths into weakness and conversely turns her own liabilities into assets. Consequently, when playing guerrilla warfare in the war for talent, a good sourcer can turn a poor employer brand into a positive asset. As the cliché goes, every problem is an opportunity in disguise. The problem of poor employer brand for recruiters is no different. A poor employer brand is an opportunity, for the right candidates working with the right hiring managers and talent acquisition teams, to be an exclusive part of a great turnaround operation. The trick is to find candidates who view themselves as “turnaround artists” and embrace the challenge of improving situations that are less than ideal. I know many readers may be saying to themselves “how is this a selling point?”, but I assure you for many candidates, for the right type of candidates, the opportunity to “fix things,” “improve things,” be a “difference maker” within a team of like-minded peers is very much a selling point. Therefore:

Instead of: providing a generic pitch to candidates of what a great employer you are, what great benefits you have, how much people enjoy working there, when you know you can’t do so with any real enthusiasm,

You may try to: accentuate the positive aspects by speaking glowingly of the hiring manager and how dedicated he is to mentoring his direct reports. Also, you may try to highlight how much the specific division the job sits in has been outperforming the rest of the company, the unique culture of this particular team, division, and office, and how much this specific position, with this specific hiring manager, in this specific division, in this specific office, presents an exclusive opportunity for the right candidate to advance his career.


3. Do Not Play The Blame Game. Honesty & Candor Is Always Best

I am always amazed how many recruiters, in the age of online transparency and social networking, try to sell their candidates a lemon. If you, as a sourcer, try to avoid entirely the obvious (or easily discoverable), and pretend that you or your client do not have a poor employer brand, you will lose all trust, rapport, and credibility you have with your candidates.

I have said it repeatedly and I will continue to say it – our entire profession (recruiting)- suffers from poor branding due to the majority of recruiters’ stubborn refusal to simply be honest and candid. It is our responsibility as recruiters and sourcers simply to “shoot it straight” with our colleagues, hiring managers, and candidates so as to properly manage expectations and build the foundation for sourcing success. When speaking with candidates it is important to not shift the blame for poor employer brand onto a “few disgruntled ex-employees,” Glassdoor, Indeed, etc.

Instead of shifting blame accept the blame. Take responsibility and own your poor employer brand. Never throw anyone under the bus. There is never a winner when employers and sourcers play the blame game, only losers. If your candidates see you online or in your own private conversations throwing your own current or former employees under the bus, your candidates will, no matter what you say or do, brand you as a “throw people under the bus culture” and will be wondering if they too will be thrown under the bus if they join your company. Therefore,

Instead of: trying to defuse a bomb that has already gone off (poor employer brand) by trying to deny the obvious and/or speaking negatively about current and former employees who wrote negative reviews.

You can try to: embrace and admit your reputation to prospective candidates. They will appreciate your honesty. From the foundation of trust and rapport, you can then speak candidly about how your poor reputation and the poor reviews are not really applicable for the specific opening the candidate is considering.


4. Emphasize the hiring manager, the team, the division, and the office

When your employer brand is poor, it is important to emphasize the truth, especially if you are a large employer. The way someone experiences your company is within their own little platoon, not within the entire company overall. The most important factor in regards to someone’s employer experience is their direct manager, followed by the individual team, division and/or office where he works. In other words, what really matters for candidates is not your company’s overall employer brand, but that of the hiring manager, team, division, and office where he works. You, as a sourcer, should work with your hiring managers and team members, to develop their own employer brand, separate and apart from the employer brand, to counteract any negative perceptions of your company. Therefore,

Instead of: trying to source using a path filled with steep hills and obstacles,

You may try to: take the road less traveled from the beginning. Bypass your poor employer brand and value proposition entirely from the beginning and simply start with emphasizing the value proposition of joining the specific team, hiring manager, office, division, etc. of the job.


5. Make Sure The Hiring Manager Is On Board The Talent Train You Are Driving

It takes two to tango. It also takes two (or more) to source successfully. It makes no difference for you to develop great sourcing plans, tactics, and candidates if your hiring managers are not aligned with you and educated on the approach you are advising to counteract a poor employer brand. This tip is a combination & culmination of all of the above four tips.

Sourcing plans, strategies, and approaches are like a train in which you are the driver. If your hiring managers and business partners are not right there alongside you on your sourcing train, then it is a runaway train to which you have lost ability to control your own destination.

To avoid this scenario, simply apply the same four tips mentioned above that you are using with your candidates into your conversations with your hiring managers.

  1. Provide reasons you face a challenge, not excuses for failure.
  2. Highlight how the sourcing problems you face is also an opportunity for positive change.
  3. Do not shift blame or be negative in any way.
  4. Just be honest and candid so as to manage expectations and they understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish.

Instead of: being a simple order taker from the hiring manager.

You may try to: become a partner and consultant to hiring managers by managing their expectations, educating them on the recruiter experience of filling their reqs, and developing comprehensive sourcing plans based on the anticipated challenges on every single search.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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