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Company culture mistakes that can repel top talent


In the business world, every company knows the value of gaining a competitive edge. Your organization strives to build and sell a better product than the other companies in your industry.

That competition encompasses every facet of your business, including attracting and retaining high-quality employees who may be fielding offers from multiple suitors. When it comes to recruiting, you must ask yourself two questions:

  1. What are you doing to make good workers want to choose your business?
  2. Is there something in your company’s culture that might be repelling potential employees?

If you want to build a strong, productive team that’s committed for the long term, avoid these damaging company culture mistakes:

1. Ignoring the attraction stage

There’s a lot more to filling a job opening than placing an ad on a few popular career sites, sitting back and waiting for the dream candidate to waltz through the door.

The most talented and desirable prospective employees will ask themselves “So what’s in it for me?” If you’ve done your due diligence, that answer presents itself naturally with a culture that beckons people to join your team.

This is called the “attraction stage.”

Describe the company structure, and share your company philosophy.

In your job postings, you should explain both overtly and implicitly what type of company you are. Are you a company with a laid back atmosphere? With a sense of humor? A pace as fast as a bullet train?

The way you phrase your job ad should convey this and give candidates a comfort level that your organization is a worthy destination.

Put yourself in the job-seeker’s shoes.

Follow-up with applicants as soon as possible, and update them with specifics on where you are in your process. If you say, “I’ll get back to you next week,” then mark it on your calendar and do so.

A timely follow-up demonstrates you’re considerate of the candidate’s time and effort, and it also shows the candidate that you’re organized and can be trusted.

Learn about the applicant.

Before the interview begins, find the time to get to know your candidates. Most companies expect an applicant to research the company prior to his or her interview. Similarly, before interviewing candidates, you should do your homework on them.

Carefully read their resume and research companies they’ve worked for in the past. They’ll appreciate that you’ve taken the time to get to know them. You’ll also be able to ask specific questions about their background, experience and personality.

Said another way, a hiring manager should never read the candidate’s resume for the first time during the interview.

Consider also conducting follow-up surveys with all candidates before deciding on who gets the job. This information might be helpful down the line in enhancing your ability to attract talent in the future.

2. Failing to balance global and local talent

Think globally when it comes to bringing in the best people, but don’t let that blur your focus on the value of a strong local presence and a sense of community among your workforce.

In the recruiting stage, you don’t need to be encumbered by city, state or international borders. Remote work is a steady trend, and the gig economy is alive and well. With this, organizations should think outside the box.

You could easily select mediocre talent just to see them every day, or you could pursue superb talent with the accepted trade-off of allowing for a remote or flexible schedule. This is not the standard yet, but tides are shifting. Companies that allow people to work remotely are reaping the benefits.

One of the more outdated ways to appeal to candidates involved bragging about perks like on-campus gyms, cafeterias and daycare. Nowadays, with the advances in technology, many companies tout their flexible work arrangements and telecommuting capabilities to attract candidates. That said, allowing employees to work remotely is a perk that must make sense for your business.

3. Not defining your company’s employer brand

Your employer brand is essential to the attraction stage of finding quality employees.

Gone are the days of the employer having the upper hand. Candidates seek so many sources when deciding on their next opportunity that you should be very intentional about your online presence.

Help future talent know who you are without having to only rely on Glassdoor. Have you received any high-profile negative press, and if so, how have you addressed it?

A top-notch candidate will be aware of this but might be hesitant to bring it up. Take the air out of that balloon by talking openly with candidates about it. This can make a positive impression, establishing trust and distinguishing your organization as one that handles conflict honorably.

You can also elevate your brand by going beyond talent acquisition and getting hiring managers involved early in the process. Reflexively, a manager might often entrust the entire recruiting process to human resources, but HR’s role is to guide, support, advise and recommend.

Hiring managers can benefit from networking and attending job fairs too, and ultimately their departments will benefit as well. Employees often leave bad managers, and conversely, a good manager can make a tremendous impression when meeting prospective new hires.

4. Leadership not adopting the culture that you’re selling to candidates

Culture trickles down from the top. If you want to attract talent, then company culture must be embraced by the leadership team.

If you don’t have buy-in from your leaders, consider these short-term solutions:

  • Identify the resisters and understand why. Leadership must be aligned if culture is to change.
  • Re-evaluate the need for a culture change. What is the “why” or compelling vision. Leaders and employees must buy into this.
  • Make the vision clear. Paint a great Picasso of what the future looks like, so that everyone is moving in the same direction.

Long-term solutions require patience and commitment. You must understand that a culture change doesn’t happen in three months or a year. This is a time-intensive process, so be realistic with expectations.

Seek out change champions at all levels of the organization to help reinforce the need for this cultural shift and to provide you feedback from other teams. Your change champions should embody the culture you’re striving to establish. They must help others connect the dots to the future.

Remember, if you want to your culture to be something that makes candidates seek your company, avoid simple company culture mistakes and reinforce good practices at all levels.

Don’t let your next top candidate be the one that got away. The key to doing so is to build a company culture that engenders good will and attracts talent. If you’d like more information on how to set up a truly effective company culture, download our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to company culture.