Jan 30, 2013
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

AllysonOne time, at cheerleading camp in Texas, one of the camp counselors asked us, “What do you do if your football team is the worst in the district?” The answer was to cheer anyway, because that is your responsibility. In fact, you have to cheer louder and bigger to motivate the team, the spectators, the alumni, and the students.

A recruiter is a cheerleader for the company. You are looking for the best team, and encouraging them to join because you know that this position at this company is a possibility of a lifetime. So how do you recruit for a company that has the reputation of being as “The 11 Worst Companies to Work for in America!

My suggestions and thoughts:

Stop Recruiting Bad Candidates

Part of the reason people think the company you work for sucks is because you keep hiring bad candidates. Your job as a recruiter is to find the perfect candidate for your company. Skills are 25%. The other 75% falls under soft skills, personality, work ethic, environment, and whether or not the candidate would be a good cultural fit. Stop trying to force square pegs into round holes. Once you hire enough candidates who actually fit in with your company culture, the attitudes of employees and the external perception will change.

You Lied to Me!

Be honest. The odds are the reputation of your company is no big secret. When you are an agency recruiter, you can tell them what you have heard on the streets.  When you are a corporate recruiter, you hear about it (and take it) every day. Let candidates know that you know what the reputation is, and if possible, let them know why you think it exists. The worst thing you can do is sweep it under the rug only to have the employee you just hired leave with contempt toward the company.

Let candidates know the situation as best one can, and allow them to make their choice with their eyes wide open. The candidate who did not get the all of the information necessary to make an educated discussion before joining your organization could very well prevent you from getting your next opportunity. Hell has no fury like an employee scorned!

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”

Look for candidates with a consulting background. Most consultants cannot stand being in an overly structured environment. Consultants go from company to company fixing what internal employees could not achieve on their own. They are used to going into crazy environments who are crying out for help. Companies with bad reputations are looking for a hero! Get a candidate with the right fit and you are both heroes!

Cheat on the Test

During the discovery process, candidates will give you the answers to the test. When during your screenings, are you noting the red flags? Did you check references?  While there are always exceptions, here are things that candidates bring up that in my experience has always turned out in disaster for companies with poor reps:

  • Asking about vacation and benefits before asking about the company or the position. (Don’t get me wrong: benefits, especially health, are extremely important, and should be discussed early, but not earlier than the company and the job.)
  • Candidates who have not heard of your company or have not done any research on the company culture or employees
  • Candidates who come in with a plan to revamp the entire company before starting.
  • Desperate, I-will-do-anything candidates.
  • Candidates who want work/life balance. In crappy companies, there is either no balance or their policies are too lax (aka no one seems to be working.)

How Come You Never See a Headline Like “Psychic Wins Lottery?”

How do you know that potential candidates will not want to work there? I learned early in my recruiting career not to try to be a psychic. Who am I decide that you won’t like the position being offered. They could love the company! There are people who thrive on stress and chaos. Make sure they have the information but if they say they would love it, let them.

At the end of the day make sure that when someone leaves the company, it isn’t because of something you tried to hide. We are dealing with people’s livelihoods here. If the candidate who you find only has the skill set, but none of the other important factors needed to succeed, keep recruiting. Recruiting is a verb. Keep recruiting until you find the ideal candidate for your company.

Moving Forward

  • Make sure you have an environment that invites employees to share their opinions, both positive and negative. If possible, have the CEO or other top executive address the concern in the company newsletters.
  • Don’t forget retention! You should be getting updates on how employees feel while they are still engaged, not when they are walking out the door. (By then, it is too late.) Have candid conversations with top performers. Find out why people are staying and work that into your pitch. Have your story ready. If the company stinks so badly, why did you accept a position there?
  • Take a look at Glassdoor and other websites where employees review where they work, but take it with a grain of salt. See what is being said on the street about your company, but realize that these are anonymous reviews mostly done by people ask to leave the company being reviewed.

The top things that people complain about are:



The boss

Not getting a promotion


Work/life balance

Working in a cubicle

No cafeteria or nearby food options.

There is only so much you can do to change the reputation of your company. Stick to your morals and principals. Don’t sell you soul to the devil. Be honest and the truth will set you free. Just keep recruiting.

To the whiners and complainers: Really? Have you been watching the news? People who are out of work are staying out of work. Almost 50% of those unemployed will be unemployed for seven or more months! If you are lucky enough to have a job right now, suck it up buttercup.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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