Authenticity: Assessing Whether Your Recruiting Messages Are Effective (Part 2 of 2)

There can be no doubt that the phenomenal growth of social media is forcing recruiters and organizations’ recruiting to become more authentic in their communications; however, the growth of social media isn’t the only driver behind the need to be more authentic. Like the boy who cried wolf one too many times, many organizations have relied on making generic claims for years with little program specifics to back them up, resulting in a candidate population that suspects and dismisses nearly all corporate produced communication.

The assessment checklist introduced in the last installment of this series can not only help you assess your current effort, but also serve as a blueprint for developing a better online career site in the future.

In this installment, the focus shifts away from the corporate career site to measuring the authenticity of social media initiatives and structured interviews.

Assessing Your Social Media Initiatives

Corporations can’t control what people post on social media sites, even though they may try! Many companies today use social media profiles, much like they use their corporate website: just another place to blast generic corporate messages using one-way communications! They turn off the ability of profile visitors to comment, and in many cases, even limit the ability to submit messages to the profile administrator. These practices are so anti-authentic that if your organization is guilty of them, you should start this assessment with a negative 20 points.

Examine your social media initiatives using the following checklist. Tally your points to determine how authentic your efforts are.

  1. Corporate profile page (4 points) — your organization should have a profile page on each of the major social networking sites that service your target audience, including but not limited to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Qzone, and MySpace. If you set up such profiles, award yourself one point. If you do not restrict comments and wall posts, award yourself another point. If non-recruiting related employees, managers, and page visitors routinely comment on profile wall postings, award one point. If you assess your profile page using the checklist in part one of this article and score 16 or better, award yourself another point.
  2. Function/Group profiles (2 points) — if your organization has set up profile pages for each of the major functions/groups within the organization to “dialogue” with customers, applicants, and other stakeholders, award your effort one point. If you have dedicated individuals throughout the organization who post and respond to posts daily on each of the function/group pages, award your effort another point.
  3. Employee profiles (2 points) — if your organization actively encourages employees to establish profiles on social media sites and identify their company affiliation, award yourself one point. If you actively author social media posts designed for your employees to voluntarily share, add another point.
  4. Blog development (2 points) — if your organization actively encourages decision makers, managers, and employees to blog about their work experience and learning, award yourself one point. If your organization actively publicizes employee blogs by linking to them via social media posts, award an additional point.
  5. Driving visibility of social media (2 points) — does your organization drive visibility of social media efforts by linking to them from corporate maintained websites? If yes, award your efforts one point. If your organization also links to social media efforts in print via business cards, brochures, etc., award an additional point.
  6. Using groups to engage (2 point) — Even a Facebook page established for the finance function of an organization can become overwhelming if too many conversations occur at once. To ensure adequate focus and better interaction, add two points if your organization uses social media groups in addition to profiles to support specific audiences.
  7. Employee referral content/application (1 point) — if your organization has established content to support employee referral via social media or installed one of the applications available to support employee referral, award yourself one point.
  8. Use of video (1 point) — more videos are viewed online each day than searches conducted on Google. If your organization acknowledges the popularity of video and makes non-scripted communication available via video hosted externally on sites like YouTube, award yourself one point.
  9. Twitter (1 point) — while twitter can be a distraction, research shows that users sharing links among friends to other web-based content results in a significant increase in traffic to said content. If your organization uses Twitter (preferably via multiple accounts targeting specific audiences) to drive visibility of content, award yourself one point. If your organization uses Twitter as a market research tool to discover what people are chatting about, and actively seeks out talent to follow, award yourself two bonus points.
  10. LinkedIn (1 point) — having employees visible on LinkedIn can be a curse, as LinkedIn has become the defacto phonebook for recruiters, but it also provides individuals interested in learning more about the organization with opportunities to dialogue directly with those individuals most likely to be able to answer questions share stories about life at your organization. If your organization routinely supports individuals publishing and maintaining their LinkedIn profiles award yourself one point.

How authentic are your social media initiatives? If you scored:

14-18 You are a social media best practice firm, congrats!

9-13 You’ve got a solid foundation, but probably need more focus on supporting specific populations.

1-8 You are not there yet, chances are those profiles you have created are rather dusty!

Assessing Your Structured Interview Process

Finally we come to what is quite possibly the most important communications channel, although not everyone recognizes it as one. The assessment and offer stages of the hiring process provide organizations with an opportunity to engage in two-way communications and build a thorough perception about what life will be like in the organization for those who join. Managing this perception is critical, as failure to deliver might not only result in short-term turnover; it could result in great talent leaving the organization disgruntled and happy to talk about it.

Examine your interview process using the following checklist. Tally your points to determine how authentic your efforts are.

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  1. Realistic preview (2 points) — do the interviewers provide a realistic job preview of both the positive and potentially negative aspects of the company, the region, and the job? If yes, award your efforts two points.
  2. Opportunity to ask questions (2 points) — does your interview structure allocate at least 25% of the time to be spent with a candidate exploring topics of interest to them, i.e. responding to their questions and concerns? If yes, award your efforts two points.
  3. Opportunities to meet others (2 points) — are interviewees for professional and managerial jobs asked “who they need to talk to” by title in order to make their job-acceptance decision, and then provided an opportunity to do so? If yes, award your efforts two points.
  4. Review performance expectations (2 point) — does your interview structure allocate time to explain how your organization measures job performance, to walk through the instruments used, and to provide a detailed overview of near-term and long-term performance expectations? If yes, award your efforts two points.
  5. An opportunity to meet peers (1 point) — are interviewees provided the opportunity to meet their future coworkers and to ask questions without a manager or recruiter present? If yes, award yourself one point.
  6. Explore their workspace (1 point) — are candidates given an opportunity to explore the office space they may someday occupy? If yes, award yourself one point.

How authentic is the perception established by your interview process? If you scored:

8-10 You are doing an awesome job!

5-7 You’ve got a solid foundation, but going all the way wouldn’t require much more effort.

1-4 You are not there yet, chances are your managers still administer interviews as if it were 1960.

Validate Your Assessment

In addition to your authenticity self-assessment, it’s equally important to get a second opinion from others, namely those you need to influence. Consider:

  • Testing your assessment with prospects — survey or conduct a focus group at industry events with targeted individuals who have not yet applied to your organization. Find out what they are interested in learning more about, what’s believable, what’s not, and where they are apt to go to learn more.
  • Testing your messaging with candidates — survey a sample of your job applicants and interview candidates in order to determine which messages they consider the most and the least authentic.
  • Test messages with new hires — during onboarding, ask each new hire specifically which messages were effective and authentic and which messages and communication approaches had no impact or made them think twice about saying yes.
  • Compare with talent competitors — compare the authenticity of each message on your website (and in your recruiting materials) with the same topic on your competitor’s website. When the competitor looks better, investigate. Either your messaging or your practice may need revision.

Final Thoughts

Accepting a new job is such an important decision, one that many candidates consider life altering. Serving up generic information and failing to invest heavily in being both differentiated and authentic is a legacy practice that in today’s hyper-connected society can render your organization more than unattractive. In a homogenous society, it might be okay to assume that the author of a particular message can accurately determine if it’s authentic and credible, but we don’t live in a homogenous society. Recruiting organizations and their agency partners need to be much more adept at admitting they are not always right, and start testing messages before they go live. Like it or not, social media is quickly becoming a foundational element of society and your organization will need to master communicating via social media in an authentic way or continue to look foolish when you approach your profile as yet another static, dusty, webpage.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.