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The explosion of the internet, the growth of social media and the associated rise of online dating has transformed the way we find love in modern Britain with dating apps, match filters and swiping left the new norm. But with nearly 50 per cent of people admitting to lying on their online dating profiles, it’s unsurprising that, despite a positive online exchange, many real life relationships end in disappointment.

The relationship between a company and a candidate is a lot like the dating industry, with the way in which we share information with potential recruits critical to not only attracting the best talent to our company but ensuring a fruitful, long-term relationship for everyone. All companies want the best candidates, however today’s strongest candidates have both the wherewithal, and the tools, to critically analyse organisations before they even get through the door.  This can be both a gift and a curse.

No-one wants to start a new relationship trying to match up to a photo from a decade earlier when they were slimmer, more youthful and had more hair. Well, organisations are no different. If we create an inaccurate image of our company, the most savvy candidates are going to work out the reality very quickly once they’re through the door (if not before!), resulting in wasted time, cost and big frustration all round (not to mention a negative review from that short-lived employee on

So what should we be focusing on in our recruitment strategies to attract the best talent, but in a way that creates the conditions for a long and happy marriage?

The mask versus the reality
How much of what we say about our company is the mask we’d like to wear versus the current reality that people will see? In other words, what do we say that is truer of where we’d like to be as opposed to where we are now. We all saw the Virgin Atlantic ads with the glamorous pilots and stewardesses sauntering through the airport. It was fun but it actually caused a significant internal backlash. If your organisation looks at what you’re saying about yourself externally and says ‘that’s not us’, something needs to change. One police force I worked with advertised to join the force with a very diverse people shot – it drove lots of applications from ethnic groups, which was fantastic, only when they joined they realised the workforce didn’t represent that reality at all and felt they’d been lied to. Stress the positive things that are true, not that you’d like to be true.

The best candidates have the highest expectations
High performers, we call them investors, want to invest in an organisation that fits with both their ambition and their values.  Returning to our dating analogy, no-one wants to fall in love with an organisation, a set of beliefs and a way of working, only to discover what we said is not really the way we are. If you say your company believes in something, you set the expectation you will deliver on that – and the strongest candidates will take you to task on it. We’ve seen the banking industry experience some real pain points in this area being repeatedly shamed for negative behaviours against the backdrop of very public ‘lip service’ to good intentions.  Describing your organisation honestly when it comes to beliefs and values is crucial to long term success with incoming recruits.

 The tougher the process is, the higher the perceived prize
We all know that if we work hard at something, we like it more and it increases in value to us. The best talent wants to be stress tested – they want to feel the process has been a challenge. For a highly motivated candidate, if they don’t feel special, the role won’t have enough perceived value. Think about how you can apply this to your recruitment process whilst reflecting the sort of company you are. Flilckr hide their job ads in the code at the back of their site – it helps them recruit the ultimate techies. The FBI (as well as MI5 a few years back) released their job ads in code – if you could crack it, they were interested in you. Consider how you can creatively attract the right high potential candidates for you and ensure your process is rigorous.

Technology has made it much easier for candidates to find us and for us to find them. The best talent out there has both the appetite and the access to be able to dig deeper into your company, look in the shadowing corners, find the truth beyond the information you’re sharing.

The resulting informed candidates are lucrative human capital to any organisation but they are a group that have to be managed carefully. You can’t just woo them in with an aspiration, drop them into the organisation and then expect them to change it. Engage them honestly, brief them on the reality, empower them to drive the aspiration, support them all the way – and they will be powerful in driving high performance workforce.

Chris Preston is a culture expert and one of the founding partners of The Culture Builders


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