Reputation Recruits, but Reality Retains

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Reputation Recruits, but Reality Retains

In the last few weeks, US universities have disgorged nearly 2 million new graduates into the job market, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. American companies have been working hard (and spending a fortune) to recruit these new graduates, as well as others. They may want to also consider putting more effort into managing their employer reputation.

On a recent trip to New York City, a junior from a prestigious university struck up a conversation with me during a seemingly interminable wait for a hotel elevator. He was on his way to a recruiting event for one of the big accounting firms. He was well dressed, and apprehensive. “I’m going to go and see what they have to say, but to be honest, I’ve heard this place grinds people up. I don’t know if I need to do that.”

“I’ve heard…” he said. Today, there’s no shortage of information (credible and otherwise) on what it’s like to work for your outfit, whether you’re big and famous, or small and local. There’s simply no hiding from your reputation, good or bad, deserved or not.

The generation that wouldn’t dream of signing up for a college class without first checking out the professor on, is unlikely to show up for an interview without having done due diligence on you. Frankly, if they haven’t done that kind of digging, that would be one strike against them in my book.

Their first stop will likely be Then Many will check things out on LinkedIn, and If you’re a large(ish) employer, they’ll see if you’ve made the cut in Fortune’s annual ranking of 100 Best Places to Work.

While we’re on the subject of ratings, bear in mind that they don’t just apply at the organizational level. You’re being rated too, as a boss and leader, and those ratings are being published, in much the same fashion that Uber drivers rate your ‘rideability’. If your rep is suffering, it’s a little like having bad breath. In all likelihood, nobody will say anything to you about it. They’ll just keep their distance. One thing is for sure, the richness and availability of individual manager ratings will only grow over the foreseeable future.

And believe it or not, prospective applicants are also going to resort to an ancient, time-honored, and peculiarly un-sexy method of research: talking to friends. And as everyone knows, friends don’t let friends work for jerks, or in crappy places.

As has nearly always been the case, salary is often the most visible and quantifiable factor that piques applicants’ interest. But the fine print in these reviews often tells a more illuminating story. A few quotes from actual employer review sites:

  • “The money was great, but after a while, I said screw it. There’s not enough money in the world to keep me in a place where I’m miserable.”
  • “To be honest, the starting salary got my attention. Now that I’ve been there a year, you couldn’t pry me away from here for any amount. I love my boss and my team, and I feel like I’m going somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love the money, too, but even apart from that, the job has been a dream.”

What can you do?

  • Build a great workplace reputation by first paying lots of attention to what it’s really like to work on your team. Remember, while reputation recruits, reality retains.
  • Nothing, repeat, nothing beats having competent, caring leadership, when it comes to building Employee Engagement. It’s funny, but when we look at employers with outstanding leaders at every level, we don’t hear a lot of complaining about money. When compensation keeps rearing its ugly head, there’s almost always an underlying problem with how people are treated by their bosses.
  • Monitor – frequently – your company’s reviews on the aforementioned review sites, and others. What they say doesn’t even have to be true to do you irreparable damage. Survey your workers regularly for indicators of satisfaction and engagement, and DO something with the results. Make them part of the metrics by which you run the business.

You want to fill your applicant pipeline, and your organization, with the best of the best. You’re looking for people who have lots of options, not those who are looking at you as a last resort. The lots-of-options group will look carefully at workplace reputation to decide where they want to spend their time and grow their career.

Build, groom, manage, and protect that reputation by making sure you get people Committed to your organization; Enable them to do their best work; and show them that you Care about them. It’s not complicated. Get to it!

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