Top talent vets potential employers. Be prepared.
By Mike Zammuto
When recruiting new talent, an HR department is not just selling a job description and a set of benefits; the department is selling the company itself, its identity and its corporate reputation. Top-shelf talents, especially executive-level talents, take this very seriously, as evidenced by the perpetual lists of “best companies to work for.” These would-be employees are all too willing to check out potential employers on the Web, and as such, an adverse online reputation can sink a company’s prospects of landing those most desirable employees. Anything from consumer complaints to corporate PR breakdowns can cause a corporation to lose its luster—and thus, lose its ability to bring in stellar new talents—which is why HR departments must take online reputation management seriously.

By establishing a company’s Web presence as authoritative and positive, an online reputation management (ORM) campaign can dramatically boost any company’s ability to obtain top-tier talents.

ORM has risen, in recent years, to be a primary concern for those seeking employment—and it is not difficult to understand why. Many job-seekers are competing with dozens, even hundreds of other applicants for a single open position, which means recruiters and HR teams need as many tools as they can get for separating the red-flag applicants from the promising ones. A simple Google search is often sufficient for determining whether an applicant has a checkered past or a generally unprofessional demeanor.

What many HR departments are just now starting to understand, however, is that the inverse scenario is also true. An A-list executive or best-in-class sales representative likely has multiple bids from different companies, which provides him or her with the luxury of scoping out these potential employers and ensuring that they seem steady and stable. Here again, Google emerges as the natural and obvious tool for conducting a bit of informal online research.

Talent Cares

If you don’t believe that top-level talents care deeply about
a company’s reputation, consider the results of a 2008 study
from public relations consultants Hill & Knowlton. According to Reputation and the War for Talent, an astonishing 96 percent of top talent in the United States, Europe, and Asia say that a company’s reputation is a key factor as they try to decide on accepting an offer. What’s more, a majority of respondents expressed the importance of corporate culture, financial performance, and the quality of a company’s products and services; information about all of these elements is easily gleaned from the Internet, underscoring the dire need for corporate ORM.

For recruiters and HR teams, then, it is important to simply acknowledge that the best talents really are conducting research and using the information they find to assess whether or not they care to work for a particular organization. This raises a pertinent and penetrating question: When someone Googles the name of your brand, what does he or she find?

There are plenty of unfortunate and unflattering search results listings that could sink a company’s chances of bringing in the
best and brightest team members. An online reputation beset by negative and disparaging consumer reviews—be they reviews or online Better Business Buream complaints—certainly lends the impression that the company is plagued with quality control issues, or at the very least ineffective PR procedures. Online headlines about disappointing earnings, diminished sales, or corporate discontent can also cause a company to come across as a sinking ship—one best avoided by those talented enough to find employment elsewhere.

Brand Enhancement Key

All of this suggests the reason why more and more HR departments are seeing the need for ORM. Reputation management is a discipline that provides the resources necessary for subduing and suppressing all of these unwelcome online listings, but it goes a step further. ORM also helps companies to tell their own stories— to establish a public perception that their business is successful, socially responsible, financially thriving, and offering a healthy work environment.

The time to enact an online reputation management campaign
is now. A study published by Corporate Responsibility Magazine and recruiting company Allegis Talent2 brings the urgency of all of this into stark relief: When asked whether they would be willing to work for a company with a bad online reputation, even if they were currently unemployed, a staggering 75 percent of survey respondents said no.

As such, an adverse online image is not just a major PR problem, but an HR one, as well. Online reputation management can help restore a company’s strong public image, and it can attract new, A-list talents.

Mike Zammuto is president of Reputation Changer.

Tags: Contributors, Enabling Technology

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