Being a recruiter in the residential building products industry has big perks for me. I get to meet interesting people, it fills my natural curiosity and I really do love helping companies hire better. Sometimes, though, it isn't all sunshine and roses.
I highly respect my clients and idealize them a bit. I have to in order to show everything in the best light to candidates. Occasionally a client's reputation gets tarnished. And then I have to awkwardly explain how candidates are perceiving the company.
Layoffs, reorganizations, acquisitions, bankruptcies, and scandals are just a few things that can damage your reputation. The good news is, you probably aren't alone. Most residential building products companies have had one of these happen since 2008. It is kind of a fact of business right now.
How To Deal With Reputation Issues
I use the term sell-through a lot as a recruiter. Occasionally, I have a great candidate with a little spot or big red X in their past. Overall, they are fantastic but I have to address these issues head-on. I have to downplay the negative while hopefully selling the upside well enough to overcome.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I can't always shine up a candidate enough to make a company look past their past. The same thing is true for your company. While a great recruiter can certainly talk about your issues and try to put them in the best light, it won't always be enough.
However, there a few things I can tell you that do work or at least give you better odds.
You or your business are doing what everyone does – the best you can with the information you have. Really difficult decisions suck for every person involved, so accept you did what you had to or the best you could at the time and move forward. Hopefully, your company comes out stronger and better for it.
Don't Be Ashamed Or Defensive
If candidates can sense shame or a defensive reaction, they probably will feel that things aren't as OK as you portray. If you aren't able to talk about the problems objectively without becoming defensive, re-think if it is the right time to hire.
No matter how bad it is, dealing with it honestly is always better than not. Don't lie, don't fib and don't exaggerate if you want to keep great employees and find new amazing ones. The clients I have worked with that are open about their struggles are the ones that seem to come out better in these situations.
Talk About It First
If you get a chance to speak with a candidate, don't beat around the bush and wait to see if they address your struggles. It is going to be awkward for everyone, but you can make it better by ripping the bandage off quickly. I sometimes say: “You've probably heard about the recent ABC at XYZ company. While the reports are true, they are still committed to DEF and are repairing the issues by doing UVW.” Obviously, fill in the blanks for whatever your situation is.
Sometimes this is off-putting or scary to candidates, you can't help that. But again, getting it out of the way either reassures them or helps them opt-out.
A recent financial downturn might make a top salesperson nervous about their security. You can't fault them for having the assumption. But you can address their questions & concerns with understanding. Don't go into the nitty-gritty, but be open and as positive as you can.
Look Forward, Not Back
Whenever something unpleasant happens, you can stay stuck in the negative past or you can look towards the future. So, talk about how what happened has positioned you for the future. Talk about your new growth capacity or innovations that have come out of it. Talk about how your structure has lightened or what promotions might be available.
If you can weather the storm and focus on what can improve at the end of it, you'll be much more able to continue to attract great candidates.
Delivering Bad News
This is a general tip, but if your business needs to reorganize or layoff employees make sure you prepare how to deliver bad news to your employees. If you can work with a PR firm or HR consultant, that would be even better. They can help you figure out how to position your message to your employees and develop a solid plan.
Yes, you'll probably pay a decent fee for the help, but it will be worth it in the long run. It can help you keep a decent reputation in a difficult time. And it can help employees who remain deal with the outcome.
Every company stumbles from time to time. Using these easy tips, you can move towards a better reputation and continue making candidates desire working with you.