Category Archives: Employer Branding

Truth in Recruiting

9269948_sWhat exactly is truth in recruiting? It’s a phrase I have heard no less than 6 times in the last two weeks. And, I’ve heard it from both recruiters and candidates.

Recruiters want candidates to be honest with them about their skills and backgrounds. Frankly, I think this is obvious, and doesn’t need a blog post.

Candidates want recruiters to be honest with them about why they’re not getting jobs. Also fairly obvious…

I’m not here to argue whether or not it’s OK for a recruiter to tell a job seeker why they aren’t a fit. That’s up to the recruiter. It’s a personal (or professional) choice. I understand completely that candidates want to be the right fit, and when they’re not, they want to know why. If there is something they can fix, change, or learn, often I choose to tell them, and give them that opportunity. But that’s me.

The fact is that recruiters work for companies, not job seekers. Companies pay us. They pay us to keep their reputations intact as we search to find them that purple squirrel or flying unicorn. So, if you’re a purple unicorn… sorry… you’re not a fit unless you can fly. I just might not be “allowed” to tell you that.

But I think truth in recruiting is more than that. Candidates want recruiters to tell them the truth about the companies and the jobs in the first place. The real truth, not some sales pitch being used to pique their interest.

Candidates have a right to know details about the actual corporate culture, not just the aspirational one. They have a right to understand the real responsibilities of the role, not just the ones in the well-crafted job ad.

Perhaps the flying purple unicorn lives on both sides of the fence. Recruiters want companies to tell us the truth, too. Without it we add substantially less value. We want to find you your perfect candidate. And, we want to find you one who will be just as happy that they’re working for you as you are.

So, what exactly is truth in recruiting? Perhaps it’s as simple as transparency. Insight. Honesty. Access to hiring managers and their teams.

Real stories by real people doing real jobs for real companies.

Every job may not be the right fit for every person… but there is a person who is the right fit for every job.

So I ask you – all of you – on both sides of the fence – Help us help you find your fit. That’s why we’re here.

I am a Culture Addict. Even at the Grocery Store.

11-19-2014 9-43-28 AMHow often do you smile upon the thought of going to the grocery store? How often do you feel better leaving the store than you did going in? Until recently, I could have counted on one hand the number of times I had experienced this.

Enter Sprouts.

I happened to be dropping my son off for a program across town so decided to check out Sprouts, which was very nearby. I had never been in. I guess it was my lucky day.

I am not a secret shopper.

I am not getting paid to promote their stores.

I am a self-diagnosed Culture addict, and I’m inspired to share this with every CEO, Founder, Senior Executive, HR Leader and Manager I can. (Sharing is caring, after all.)

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

I’m a skeptic. Actually, I like to say that I’m sufficiently jaded. I’ve seen too many mission, vision and values statements that hang on walls in hallways and conference rooms that have no effect on actual policies and behaviors.

So, when I first saw the Core Values statement at Sprouts, I pretty much ignored it. I went about shopping, checking expiration dates on packages, scrutinizing the selection, and squeezing the produce. (Yes, I’m picky.)

There was someone already being helped at the deli counter. As I waited, not once, but twice, the deli associate made eye contact with me and smiled. Huh. I wasn’t being ignored. I liked that. It felt good.

I didn’t see what I was looking for in the produce area. A very friendly team-member not only helped me (within seconds of my looking confused) but also gave me a tip on how to re-invigorate a root vegetable if it seemed wilted after sitting in my fridge too long. Huh. Good to know. Thanks.

Upon check-out the cashier was so nice to me, asking if I had found everything I was looking for, and all that. Expected, I guess. But still, she seemed so genuine. When I told her that it was my first time in the store, she truly seemed delighted. I got a big welcome, and she went out of her way to offer tips for future trips. I felt like I was getting insider information about deals and coupons. Huh. Nice.

Maybe there is something to that core values statement.

I decided to test it out.

Although I had to drive past three other grocery stores to get there, I went back to Sprouts on my next trip.

They didn’t have what I was hoping to find at the meat counter. The butcher told me exactly when he was going to place his next order, and when it would be delivered to the store. He suggested I call him directly the morning of said delivery. He told me he would prepare and he’ll hold my order, so I wouldn’t have to wait in line when I came to pick it up. Huh. Well, that made me feel special. Important, even. Exceptional customer service in a grocery store? Cool.

Even on my latest trip in I had two different managers, the cashier and another team member absolutely go above and beyond. And, not just for me. I watched. They just DO that. Huh. (Hat Tip to Dennis and Israel in Frisco, TX if you happen to read this!)

True. Their product selection is great, but that’s not the reason I keep going back.

So I stopped to take a closer look at those core values hanging on the wall.



And, I stayed to talk with Dennis about hiring and training. They actually LIVE those values. They actually talk about them regularly. They actually USE them.

I decided to dig around on the website. I found great statements on their career page. I found the code of conduct and ethics, right there for every candidate to see. Before they apply. Before they interview. It’s a good career page. They walk the talk. And, it shows.

So, if you think you can’t influence your rate of happy customers, think again. If you think you have to be Zappos or Google to have happy employees, think again.

Your culture exists whether you pay attention to it or not. So, why not be intentional about it? It will be worth the effort. Just ask Sprouts.

Determining Company Culture

Last week I published my favorite interview questions for determining culture fit. There were some really great comments on LinkedIn (THANK YOU for those, by the way!), which sparked some further conversation. Many of the discussions centered around ways to hire for a culture that had yet to be articulated.

Image Credit: Copyright: nikkytok / 123RF Stock Photo

Image Credit: Copyright: nikkytok / 123RF Stock Photo

Let’s face it; there is no crystal ball.

It is really hard to hire for culture fit if you don’t know what your company’s culture is. And, yes, you have one. Your culture exists. Whether it’s intentional or not is another issue altogether.

After multiple requests, I thought I’d share my favorite way to determine your company’s culture. This may be opening a huge can of worms. But… here goes.



To start, I need to define some terms. I believe that there are three culture realities; Perceived, Actual and Aspirational, and each of these realities play an equally important role in hiring for culture fit.

  1. When I talk about Perceived Culture, I’m referring to how the culture is perceived by the CEO/Owner/Founder. This may be how the CEO wants the culture to be perceived by the public, and this may be how the CEO believes the culture really is perceived by all. When an entrepreneur starts a business, he/she has a certain way of doing things. There’s a certain personality that can be sensed throughout the organization. People tend to hire people like them and people who they like, and as a result, the culture is defined. Often, though, when the business grows, the culture changes as new people are responsible for hiring and adding to their teams. The CEO may still perceive the culture as it was, which is not always reflected in what I am calling “Actual” culture.
  2. Actual Culture, then, is the people’s reality. This is how the average employee feels that “things are” in the organization. Sometimes, I like to measure actual culture for different subsets of people; senior managers, supervisors, or functional lines of business (by department).
  3. Aspirational Culture is the intentional culture that the company would like to create. It’s how the group wants things to be. In companies like Zappos, Southwest, REI, or Salesforce the Aspirational Culture is also the Actual Culture, and perhaps even more importantly, it is also the Perceived Culture.

OK. So now that we’re all on the same page, at least for the sake of this post, let’s talk about how to determine culture. Ready??

Yep, that’s it. Ask. Seriously. We know what they say about the word “assume”, right? So don’t. Just ask.

Typically, I start with the CEO. I ask him/her to give me the words that he/she believes describes the company culture. They can be words like, “collaborative” or “innovative” or “customer-focused”. They can be words like, “participative” or “proud” or quality-focused”.

In larger organizations I may also ask the same of the senior leadership team – the people who report directly to the CEO.

Then, I ask the employees. My method of asking varies. Sometimes it’s by survey incorporating the CEO’s words into a long list from which employees can choose. Sometimes it’s done in small, facilitated focus groups. Usually it’s done anonymously.

Then, analyze the results. As I mentioned above, I may dice the data in any number of ways, depending on the specific goals of my engagement and how the data was collected, but at the end of the day what we now know is how the CEO perceives the culture, and how the employees feel the culture actually is.

From here, we can then discuss aspirational culture. We can talk about the CEOs ideas around company values and attach competencies and other success factors around hiring for that aspirational culture.

It is only then that we can determine what the culture IS that we’re actually going to hire for.

Sometimes, we strive to hire for the current / actual culture, and sometimes we take strides to hire for the aspirational culture. This often depends on how wide the gap is between the two. And, yes. We certainly take precautions that we don’t hide the truth. That doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests.

Do you have other ways that have worked for you in determining your company’s culture? I’d love to hear about them! Please feel free to share them in the comments, or contact me directly to discuss this further!

And, as always, thanks for reading!




Do Unto Others – Recruiters Suck at Communication

Do you practice what you preach? 

I network. A LOT. I’m out there speaking in front of job seekers all the time. And the one thing I hear repeatedly is that “recruiters suck.” All of us. Job seekers (active AND passive) have lumped us together, our reputations forever tarnished by the few. Or, is it the many?

Maybe it’s time we took notice.

I’m not sure how many recruiters suck. I don’t have the statistics. But, when I get replies like this, in response to a simple two-line “standard” e-mail explaining that my client has filled the job, it really makes me wonder.

Dear Jennifer,

I just want to thank you very much for taking the time to send me a response, regardless of the outcome. It’s unfortunate that the position is filled; however your response is above and beyond and is much appreciated with so many candidates in the market.

I hope we can work together on future opportunities.

Job Seeker (protecting the innocent)

We expect, rather, we demand communication from our candidates. If they don’t follow up with us, if they don’t send a thank-you note, if they don’t communicate in the exact way we think they should, we blast them, or worse, remove them from consideration for our positions. If they communicate poorly, we may even blacklist them.

But, do we treat them the way we expect them to treat us and/or our clients?

I am a recruiter. I have been a recruiter since 1993. I’ve worked for non-profits, corporations, and agencies. I think I have a pretty strong background in this industry. On the flip side, I’ve also been a job seeker. You know what happened when I sent my resume to other recruiters for review and consideration? I’m sure you can guess.

And I can (still) tell you how many (and which) of those recruiters sucked.

If you throw e-mail into this poor communication/lack of communication mix, well, then you’re opening Pandora’s Box! People still write e-mails using all CAPS, don’t spell check, don’t consider tone or possible perception…the list of blunders is endless. And, I’m not talking about the job seekers! 

I recently encountered a woman who is building an entire business, and a successful one at that, around teaching executives how to communicate via e-mail. The written word has a lot of power, and that power is often abused. People, even very professional people, frequently forget to think before they speak, or more unforgiving, think before they write and hit Send. So, possibly, the only thing worse than no response, is an inappropriate one.

But, much like Pandora discovered, there is hope at the bottom of that box.

The hope is in our remembering effective communication. We need to communicate constantly and consistently. And NOT just on Twitter and Facebook.


We need to at least attempt to create shared understanding. Our candidates deserve to understand why they’re not a fit for the job. They deserve to understand what they might do to differentiate themselves in this job market. They deserve to be told if their resumes don’t do them justice, or if they’re reaching for the wrong opportunities. They deserve candor, honesty, and—most of all—communication.

As a group, we don’t suck. We know right from wrong. We know how to be ethical and practice integrity in our profession. We know how to treat our prospects, our candidates, and our clients. We know how to treat each other.

Our reputations are all we have in a market where ANYONE can be a recruiter. Cost of entry is low, job seekers are plentiful, and it seems that everyone is an expert. People who have never used a resume to initiate a hiring decision are writing resumes. People who have never used social media to find a candidate are teaching job seekers how to use social media to find a job. And, it seems that if you once had to LOOK for a job, it means you’re qualified to help others find jobs.

While it may be these people giving the rest of us this bad name, how could a job seeker know that up front? So we need to work even harder to be sure we’re doing the right thing. Those who follow me know me for offering quotes as advice to job seekers.

So, my quote for this post, “DO UNTO OTHERS!” And let’s get it done!

Image courtesy of

This post was originally published Way Back in 2009. See original post here: