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Bob Corlett, President and Founder of Staffing Advisors and HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Member

Do you think the recruiting function belongs in the HR department? Or do you think it belongs in the Marketing department?

Trick question.

Maybe recruiting belongs in Communications, more specifically in Public Relations, and even more precisely, in Reputation Management. Admittedly, I don’t believe anyone will be moving their recruiting team in with their folks who handle reputation management anytime soon. But I do think those teams should get to know each other better now, before the crisis hits.

It’s just not wise to continue thinking of recruiting as an HR or even a marketing function. It goes deeper now.

When hiring managers tell HR to “Post a job ad, get some resumes, and then I’ll start interviewing,” they are likely heading down a path that will end up requiring some reputation repair work. 

So what changed?

Public accountability.

In two decades of work with hundreds of organizations, we now know that recruiting, performance management, and employee retention can no longer be handled separately from reputation management. Treating each component separately ignores how inextricably intertwined they have become.

But before looking at how things, changed, consider what has not changed about recruiting (yet).

What has always been true about recruiting

Effective recruiting has always been integrally tied to effective performance management and retention. That has not changed. Here’s what I mean:

  • During the recruiting process, smart employers set performance management expectations, and rigorously evaluate whether each candidate can deliver those results. With the expectations set, a new hire either meets those expectations…or doesn’t.
  • If a performance problem emerges once someone is hired, sometimes the manager will address this performance issue courageously – coaching the person to improve. Sometimes a manager will just let low performance slide, resulting in some mutual irritation between manager and new hire. Sometimes the manager fires the poor performer, and sometimes the work relationship becomes uncomfortable enough that the new hire quits. But no matter the outcome, your recruiting process directly ties into your performance management process. And both processes are key to good employee retention.
  • Great recruiting primarily impacts the frequency of performance issues and the speed in which they are handled. Not only does great recruiting make performance problems less frequent, but with more trust in the recruiting process, managers are more courageous in addressing performance issues. (If you have confidence in your recruiting process’s ability to replace a poor performer, you’re more likely to be aggressive with performance expectations – not only to give an underperforming employee a chance to succeed, but also aggressive enough to push them out when necessary.) Counterintuitively, this willingness to let people go when necessary actually improves your retention rate – you hold onto fewer underperformers, thereby improving the quality of your team, thereby leading to more people wanting to stay around.

Great recruiting has always been a driver for performance management and employee retention. Historically, these factors are considered part of the overall HR function, which shouldn’t necessarily change.

What is now true about recruiting

The advent of employer reputation sites like Glassdoor added an entirely new dimension to the recruiting function: personal risk to an executive’s career and board relationships (if you have a board or investors). This new development does not fit neatly into HR’s scope or skillset.

Your recruiting process is now a prime driver of your organizational reputation. It has the potential to significantly impact your relationship with your board members, investors, and other external stakeholders.

When your reputation as an employer is made public, your perceived management failures are also public. Anonymous employees’ opinions of management make up a significant component of Glassdoor reviews. And the reviews can be both biting and personal.

Your reputation has always affected your ability to hire. Smaller organizations rarely had a “reputation” – only had a handful of external people were ever aware of what was happening internally. But now, with comments out in public, all that formerly private information is available to anyone with an internet connection. This affects your ability to achieve your organizational goals.

How does public reputation intersect with recruiting?

It’s mathematically simple:

  • Grumpy people (who don’t work out) give you a bad reputation on Glassdoor.
  • Happy people (who succeed and thrive) enhance your reputation on Glassdoor … if they post something.

Your reputation comes from the ratio of grumpy commenters to happy commenters.

Smaller organizations are more susceptible to lower scores, because disgruntled people are more motivated to comment, and there are fewer employees to help balance scores out. Larger organizations often have higher Glassdoor scores not because they are better places to work, but because more people can comment, averaging the scores out. Is this unfair? Sure it is, but it cannot be ignored.

But it does not matter whether your organization is large or small. You could try to temporarily boost your Glassdoor scores by asking happy employees to post reviews. But those who hire poorly or have a subpar performance management approach will still tend to have a bad reputation – one that will consistently disappoint new employees.

And Glassdoor puts management in the hot seat. Once your organization has a bad reputation, not only does it affect your ability to hire new top performers, it affects your own career. Your management struggles are now publicly visible. This can create a downward spiral of increased negative attention from the board/investors/etc., more difficulty hiring top performers, lower morale and a lower capacity to meet your strategic goals.

The key to enhancing your personal reputation and your relationship with your board is to improve your reputation as an employer by creating fewer grumpy people in your recruiting process.

Typical hiring practices still don’t pay any attention to this. That is why your HR team needs to spend some quality time with those reputation management and PR types in the communications department.

The Fastest Way to Spot Reputation Damaging vs. Reputation Enhancing Recruiting

As a hiring manager, how can you spot the difference between a recruiting process that creates grumpy people and a recruiting process that creates happy people? Listen to the first questions a recruiter asks you before they begin recruiting:

  • Thinking about yourself: When someone asks first about the factors you see on a resume, that’s the old way of recruiting. If they first ask about number of years of experience, or what kind of degree, or what kind of job title, or the kinds of employers you want to see people come from, or the salary you want to pay, or the benefits, that’s heading down the wrong path. (Those factors are helpful and should not be ignored. But they should be asked at the end of the recruiting intake process.) The risk of this typical, old-school way of hiring is that it pays no attention to the candidate experience. It doesn’t consider why someone would realistically want the job.
  • Thinking about the candidate experience: To find people who will become happy in your work environment (and leave happy comments online), the recruiter should ask first about what business impact you are trying to achieve, what competencies drive results, and what everyday challenges are involved with the work. The recruiter should ask about your strategic plan and how the new hire’s performance will fit into that larger strategic plan. Recruiters should be learning about the intrinsic satisfactions of the job and be realistic about the challenges. The key to great hiring and achieving your goals is to consider who would find your open job to be attractive.

Recruiters should think of ways to add rigor to the hiring process, and reduce the risk of making a hiring mistake. Great recruiters work very hard to avoid hiring someone who might fail in the job, or someone who simply might be disappointed.

Research shows that almost every employee starts a new job with high hopes. But within 6 months, more than 90% are disappointed.* Successful management of your reputation as an employer means taking that risk seriously. It means setting expectations carefully, and finding the kind of person who will enjoy the everyday reality of the job.

Your public reputation as a manager, the ability to meet your performance targets, and ultimately your relationship with the board or investors all stem from hiring people who fit in and get results in your environment.

*David Sirota, The Enthusiastic Employee

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