Corporate mistakes are bad for business, but great for media. From BP’s 2010 environmental disaster to Uber exec Emil Michael’s recent desire to dig up dirt on critics, much ink and many pixels have been devoted to bad business screw-ups.
The normal response to issues like this is to reassure customers and investors that the situation is under control. And that’s certainly important – everyone knows how corporate scandals can affect things like revenue and stock prices. But bad press can also affect recruiting and hiring. And how your organization deals with mistakes can have a big impact on how well you can attract top talent.
Let’s take a look at how job seekers view the companies – and how companies can recover from bad press to rally recruiting and hiring.
How job seekers view companies
According to a study from Cornell University, negative information about a company has an immediate impact on whether a job seeker is likely to consider working there. In fact, negative information is much more memorable and impactful than positive information. That means it takes a great deal of good press to outweigh the effect of bad press.
The first step in dealing with the hiring fallout from a company scandal is to understand why a job candidate might be concerned about a potential employer’s reputation. There are three basic considerations:
- Will the job seeker’s own reputation be affected by the negative press an employer has received?
- Was the incident a one-time issue, or does it indicate a systemic problem in how the company is run?
- Is the company one the job seeker can rely on and respect as an employer?
Dealing with recruitment fallout
The best way to address job candidates’ concerns is to approach them directly. If there’s an elephant in the room, it’s ideal to deal with it right away so you can proceed with the hiring process and find an employee that’s a great fit.
1. Be honest
Be up front about any recent troubles, and be prepared to have an honest discussion about what it means to someone considering a position at your company.
2. Understand the narrative
Often, the story of a corporate screw-up is controlled by the media. This makes it hard to get ahead of the situation. When that happens, deal with it by understanding the difference between the reality of what happened and the spin imposed by blogs and news outlets. Be prepared to explain the facts, and to outline what the company is doing to handle the situation.
3. Stay in the loop
Keep informed on the steps other departments are making to correct the problem. Be ready to share as much information as you can with potential recruits. Demonstrate that your company is flexible enough to find and fix mistakes proactively, not just reactively.
4. Make the first move
If negotiations are already underway, reach out to the candidate as soon as possible after bad news breaks. This will help keep communication open, even if the only news you can deliver is that you need time to get more information. It may be tempting to gloss over the situation, but understand that the person you want to recruit is likely fully aware of what is going on and being said.
5. Focus on the future
Once you have fully explained the situation, turn the conversation to how the company will handle trouble in the future. No one wants to embark on a sinking ship, or start work in the middle of a disaster. Job seekers needs to know your company won’t make the same mistake twice.
The bottom line
Brand management is as important to job candidates as it is to companies. When your brand takes a hit, it’s important to reassure recruits that their own brand won’t be tarnished.
When you seek out top talent, you find smart people. They deserve — and require — an honest approach when it comes to addressing corporate missteps. Anything less is just another blunder.