Is Your Business Image & Message to Job Candidates in Alignment?

Candidates at job interview

How ironic it is when the brands and images companies are trying to promote fly in the face of the messages they send to prospective job applicants. Learn more in this article by Dr. Stephen A. Laser.

May is International Business Image Awareness Month and how ironic it is when the brands and images companies are trying to promote fly in the face of the messages they send to prospective job applicants.

Organizations will be spending thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars to promote these images to the public in the hopes that these efforts will translate into more sales and greater revenues.

While companies are to be commended for promoting their brands, all of their attempts at improving their image can be negated by sending mixed message to the people who are seeking job openings at their places of employment.

There are numerous ways companies can send these mixed messages, and in many instances the companies themselves might not even be aware of the perceived conflicts. Meanwhile, many organizations have mission statements setting forth the values the company supports along with the kind of corporate culture the company is seeking to convey. But what happens when those mission statements contradict reality?

For example, how many companies speak of treating their associates — not wanting to demean them as mere “employees” – as individuals who will be treated fairly and equally, without distinctions being made between people at different levels in the organization. Yet, when the prospective job applicant pulls into the company parking lot for his or her initial job interview, what do they observe? Often, these candidates are treated to a lot with reserved parking spaces and those that are held apart for the executive team contain luxury cars far more costly and expensive than what populates the other spaces in the lot.

How about literature seeking to promote the image of a company being a warm and friendly place to work, where people are treated like “family” and individuality is prized above all. Yet the job applicant’s initial introduction to his or her potentially new place of work is a greeting by an uncaring and grumpy receptionist. Once past the corporate Godzilla, the job applicant is treated to a sterile office setting where everyone is working away in cubicles which are punctuated by their uniformity and sterility. No pictures or personal effects are visible in any of these work spaces. People look unhappy and no one goes out of their way to make the candidate feel welcome or at home; so much for a “family-like feeling” unless the job applicant was raised in a truly dysfunctional household.

Another example can be found in the common refrain that we are “customer-centric.” Cutting through the buzzwords and business-speak is the idea that companies want to promote an image of being customer service-oriented. After all, customers and clients are the lifeblood of any business. Yet, what does it say about that image of customer service when the poor job applicant is left sitting in the lobby or waiting area for an hour or more before anyone comes out to greet them for their day of on-site interviews?

Even if the candidate meets with prospective colleagues as scheduled, how many organizations touting a “passion for delighting their customers” don’t even have the common courtesy to notify the applicant about his or her job status after the person has spent valuable time meeting with representatives at the company? What does it take to send a simple email or make a quick phone call to let an applicant know where he or she stands in the hiring process? Most companies know that a dissatisfied job applicant can become a disgruntled customer.

If the term “team-oriented” were worth a dollar for every mention in many companies promotional literature, the reader might be able to retire after reviewing a business’ latest brochures and marketing pieces. Just like a strong customer service orientation, teamwork is another overused buzzword. But worse, the gulf between what an organization seeks to promote as its image and how things are actually done at the company can be quite wide.

For example, many of the team-focused organizations which value everyone’s collective input still have in place compensation systems which primarily reward individual performance with little leeway to reward the group for its overall contribution to the success of a project. In many instances, this situation is changing, but before a company touts itself as team-oriented, it might make sure it is not sending mixed messages.

There are obviously other glaring examples of these contrasts between what is promoted to the public as part of a company’s image and branding campaign and the realities of corporate life. Employee development is quite frequently pushed to potential new hires as a reason for signing on with the company. But in today’s economic environment with cost-cutting and austerity dominating boardroom discussions, tuition reimbursement programs have become a thing of the past.

Hence, it will be hard for those individuals who want to finish their college degrees or seek a master’s or advanced degree to enhance their job skills. Finally, how many organizations want to promote an image of places where people come to work and stay, and yet their employee turnover statistics are surprisingly high and frequently exceed what is the norm for the company’s industry.

During this important month for improving the awareness of a company’s business image, it will be important to pay attention to that potential for mixed messages which can cause an employer to send the wrong kinds of signals to new recruits. Although there is no doubt that high unemployment ranging just over eight percent is making it a buyer’s market to speak from an employer’s point of view, good job candidates, regardless, will always be worth pursuing.

Moreover, nothing lasts forever, and when hiring demand eventually picks up steam as the economy improves, those organizations that have their corporate image and values in alignment with their day-to-day way of doing business will be the big winners. In sum, don’t invest in an expensive branding and image awareness campaign while at the same time neglecting how things really operate in your business.

About the Author

Stephen A. Laser, PhD has over 30 years of experience as a business psychologist. He founded and manages a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in advising clients on hiring employees. Over the past 10 years, Dr. Laser has been a guest speaker to various groups of unemployed individuals, typically over the age of 40, and previously taught university courses in business psychology.

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