Don’t let your employee brand disappoint new hires

My job for the last 20+ years has been to help companies identify, attract, evaluate, hire and retain professionals. The retention part of my role is less obvious – I will discuss this later in the article. For now, I would like to talk about the “attracting candidates” part of my job.

Everyone understands there is tremendous pressure on the labor market for the right type of talent. Organizations have worked hard to create strategies in response to this great challenge. The most common strategy undertaken has been the creation of an employee brand. The hope of the brand is to create an employer of choice perception in the broader candidate marketplace and an employer of choice reality for all current employees. Overall, the idea of an employee brand is good, however, the means by which the brand is used in recruiting has gotten completely upside down.

How it is currently upside down

Employers have become more interested in selling their brand to candidates than revealing who they actually are. Employee brands do little to reveal what it would be like to work at your company. Please know, your ping-pong tables, holistic health programs, and community outreach opportunities do little, if anything, to reveal who you are as an organization. The number of candidates I have interviewed over the years that have been sold one thing about an employer and then experienced something very different is significant. The chasm between the brand and the reality of your employee environment becomes a pit in which many employees are lost to disengagement and turnover. This is the direct result of disappointing your candidates with the wrong information during the recruiting process. Overselling and underdelivering.


I envision online dating carries this same problem. Participants can create an online dating persona that does not match the reality of the person. Does this sound familiar?

  • I am 6’2” (actually 5’10”)
  • Funny (sarcastic & demeaning)
  • Smart (I got A’s & B’s in Middle School)
  • Athletic Build (with a massive beer belly)
  • Fitness Fanatic (I like to bench press)
  • Work at Harvard (In the mail room)
  • Debt Free and Financially Secure (I live in my parent’s 600 sq. ft. unfinished basement and pay for nothing)

All dating profile photos posted are from the chest up in Harvard Square with poor lighting. Do you think his date may be disappointed? Maybe he hopes if his date gets a chance to get to know him personally, they will be able to build a long-term relationship. He may get the date, but 99 times out of 100 the relationship will not move forward. And even if it does, it will always have underlying trust issues.

How to make it upside right

First, share your brand as a high ideal for which you are striving. Next, share exactly who you are, not who the brand says you want to be. Let candidates clearly see the void between the ideal and your current reality before you hire them. We know ideals are the perfections for which we strive and are worthy of our best efforts despite their unattainability. Football coaches strive to have 11 players perform every play perfectly during a football game. Despite the unattainability, the coach runs players tirelessly through practice striving for that perfection. This effort is fruitful.

With a clear picture of who you are and who you want to be, candidates that are interested in the job will internalize ways they can help you achieve your employee brand goals if/when they take the job. This candidate will NOT be disappointed, in fact, they will most likely go to great lengths to help build your ideal employee brand. I think they call this a win/win.


Retention of top candidates is intimately tied to how you attract candidates. If first impressions are foundational, then attracting hard-to-find talent needs to be rooted in the realities of where you are as an organization and the realities of the journey you hope to take with the candidate. This will build a solid foundation, one built for long-term success. Yes, some candidates will shy away from your reality, but better now than after you hire them. If you want to retain great employees, build your foundation on trust, authenticity & transparency (I knew I could get these searchable buzzwords in my article). This process stands to draw great candidates into your story where they will see themselves as a vital character in your great business adventure – one which strives for high ideals.

In the end, hiring is a relationship formation process and needs to be handled as such. If you would like to learn more about how Hansen Back is able to deliver retained search results that statistically dominate our industry, please check us out at

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HansenBack is an Executive Recruiting firm based in Minneapolis. We have a 30+ year track record of helping our Clients hire and retain excellent executive leaders.

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