Posted by Paul Sparrow


If you, like me, are of a certain age, it’s easy to reflect on how different it was to get a job back in the day. Many jobs required an application and a resume, not to mention a one-on-one interview with the hiring manager. Shake his hand firmly, swallow your pride, spit out the answers – and hope that this interaction leads to a job with decent pay, health insurance, and a chance to sit at the big kid’s table someday.

Working from home? Well, that was a one-way trip to the unemployment line. And culture? “Keep your mouth shut, listen to the boss, do what you’re told, don’t complain, and you’ll get a check every Friday. That’s our culture.”

Today, hiring is anything but straightforward – and the game has shifted in favor of the talent. It’s now incumbent upon companies to adjust the proverbial tie, put on the polish and charm – and make the best possible case as to why their vision and environment is a match for a generation of choosy job seekers.

It’s why the big “M” marketing – the capital letter representing strategic as opposed to tactical marketing – deserves consideration for your recruitment aspirations today. It’s as important that your brand is effective at winning prospective employees’ hearts as it as at winning consumers’ wallets.

I recently sat down with Paulo Simoes of Brios Media, which helps companies by providing top-shelf video services. Brios also helps companies win at the talent game. Paulo, too, has had a front seat for the generational shift: “I got my first job at Columbia Pictures (now Sony) in 1994, and at the time, I cared about three things – salary, benefits, and career growth. That was it,” he said. “Nobody talked about culture back then. There was no Internet. No way to gauge the culture, what the boss was like, and so on.”

“Fast forward a few decades, and now, people are really picky about who they work for – what the company stands for, what their mission is, their values, and whether they will feel accepted. It is a make-or-break proposition for many companies.”

Fueled by the “Great Resignation,” people of all generational vintages are leaving companies due to intangibles like culture and mission – or bypassing them while on the unemployment lines. Employees are looking for a host of considerations that would have been alien concepts to hiring managers just 10 years ago: Freedom to thrive, a lively work atmosphere, and the flexibility to have true life-work balance.

To find that information, prospective employees are looking beyond job descriptions and whitewashed LinkedIn profiles to get to the core. They’ll go to your website and Glassdoor. They’ll look at what people are saying about your products, your services – your commitment to ESG principles. If these details aren’t front and center, that staffing hole might turn into a full-blown chasm.

“HR professionals are having a significant struggle with recruiting,” Paulo told me. “I spoke to several HR pros just this past week, and they were 100 percent aligned on that point. They agreed that culture had become the No. 1 talking point with candidates but weren’t sure what to do about it.”

Most successful companies in my view have this down pat. One client I worked with was so good at culture messaging — they had their principles painted on the walls; they espoused a “do-no-harm” philosophy among its workers and clients; they regularly engaged in community good works. But the difference was they LIVED it. Each and every worker (and they have a remarkable retention record) could attest that they walked the walk, and not just talked the talk.

The best companies at marketing their worthiness actually do these things well, said Paulo:

Video content: It’s become the best way to reflect the reality inside the walls. Whether it’s testimonial videos from employees or footage of work in progress, the best videos are unscripted and convey a genuine sense of what it feels like to collaborate, and what the opportunities are for those who would work in that environment. “Showing culture (in this way) can make the difference about whether a candidate even comes in for an interview,” Paulo said.

Employees-as-ambassadors: There’s nothing better than asking people to promote the company on your behalf – it comes across as more believable, particularly when they can look someone in their eyes, gauge their tone, and decide whether they’re being truthful. Even better – to prep these employees by letting them know what candidates are asking during interviews, so they can answer with authority about the company’s culture and working environment.

Have a clear call to action: Whether it’s in video content or a live, walking testimonial, make sure there’s a clear call to action – do we want them to immediately click a link to apply? Do we want to reward ambassadors for making sure their prospects actually submit a resume, and follow through with an interview?

Leave the boss at home: Believe it or not, recruiters – and not the boss in charge – are the best way to layer a video testimonial with shades of culture. “I’ve seen terrible video interviews happen because the boss was in the room,” Paulo said. “The employee feels like they’re under the gun, that they’re going to be judged by what they’re saying. So I tell the bosses, stay out of the room. We, as marketing professionals, will make your company look great, and we’ll create interest with quality candidates.”

Fun is in, stiff is out: The last notion is so simple: Convey a sense that the company can see the lighter side of life. That can be difficult to do with more professional communications like press releases, but nothing is stopping the company from posting photos of happy employees, or the occasional humorous quote, on their social media channels.

There’s no question that prospective employees are as moved by a company’s brand as potential buyers. The latter certainly has an impact on the former. The information age – like it or not – has arrived, and if you don’t do a credible job at telling your story, I guarantee you – someone else will. The life and growth of your company depend on how attractive you are to your buyers but equally important is the lens of your potential employees.