It's been well established in recent years that company culture can be a major boon to recruiting efforts given the right circumstances. Stories about the eccentric and light-hearted atmosphere of tech startups like Google helped draw in some of the talented young prospects who were disillusioned with the restrictive culture of Corporate America.
At the same time, corporate culture can be a challenge for recruiters, especially without some serious support from upper management. In particular, it can be difficult balancing the idea of using culture as a recruiting tool against finding candidates who specifically fit within a company's ethos.
Wearing your culture on your sleeve
Chris Brablc from SmashFly Technologies points to events at a colleague's company where the entire office will go out for crazy games like trampoline dodgeball, or any number of other ways for employees to work together and be competitive.
These kinds of events can give people a break from the normal office routine, but they can also help clarify what a business values in its employees. A company playing dodgeball is probably looking for some youthful enthusiasm and competitiveness, while a business that holds big family barbecues are probably looking to foster a welcoming environment.
Either of these can draw in quality candidates if presented in the right way. Brablc notes that recruiters can use a variety of different means to portray their company's culture to prospects, from the website and advertisements to early discussions during the interview.
Some reasons not to advertise
As effective as culture can be in drawing interest, though, ERE.net's Jim Roddy notes there are reasons not to put it front and center in your recruiting strategy. It's not so much that culture shouldn't play a role and, in fact, it has to play a role.
But recruiters have to remember that as important as company culture is to employee satisfaction, employees themselves are an integral component of a company's culture. When a business sets about creating a positive working environment, executives need to be just as concerned with maintaining it as using it for self promotion.
To that end, Roddy actually suggests not advertising the company's culture from the outset, but rather gauging a candidate's previous experiences - what kinds of cultures they have worked within and how they have responded to these environments.
He notes that he actually prefers to hire people who have had some (legitimately) negative experiences, since these people will be more inclined to view the normal ups and downs of office life with some perspective. That's not to say recruiters should search for the whiniest candidates, but rather that they should look for people who can explain why a corporate culture was not ideal for them and how they were able to deal with it constructively.
Once a recruiter has found a potential candidate, they should lay out in explicit detail how their company is trying to shape itself. Roddy suggests that, while this can sound a lot like reading off rules of behavior, it can just as easily be presented as a promise for how the company intends to treat its employees.
By essentially addressing corporate culture backwards, recruiters can be sure that candidates are not simply tailoring their answers to what they think they are expected to say and the applicants get a firm sense of what they should be expecting up front, without any concerns that the perks have been played up just to grab their interest.