How to Destroy Your Employer Brand in 20 Simple Steps

This post was originally featured on the RecruitLoop Blog.

I remember walking into my first day in a new job many years ago and nobody knew who I was. My manager wasn’t there and hadn’t even told anybody I was starting.

Less than three months later I was gone.

I still tell this story nearly 20 years later (usually including the company name!).

A few years later I walked into my first day at another company and everyone in the office welcomed me by name. My desk, computer, phone, stationery etc had all been set up and my new business cards were already waiting for me. Oh and a team welcome lunch had also been arranged.

I stayed with that company for nearly seven years.

I continue to promote that company (by name) and personally refer people to them regularly even though I haven’t worked there since 2000.

A business can’t just rely on its product brand to succeed. Your role as employer (of choice) is to ensure that the experience and feedback of employees past and present is just as powerful as the message you promote through your product or service.

Your employees (and potential employees) can be your best sales and marketing channel. But they can also kill your brand quite literally at the push of a button, whether through social media or sites like InsideTrackGlassdoor or Grindstone.

It can take years to build brand credibility and just seconds to destroy it.

So in case you were wondering, here are 20 simple ways to completely destroy your employer brand:

1. Write sloppy job ads.

When you’re advertising a new role, write the job ad really quickly just before you leave the office. Don’t bother proof reading it, or running a spell check. For bonus points, be completely vague about the role, or how you’ll make the selection. Ignore all the advice in this guide on how to write better job ads.

2. Use language that discriminates carelessly.

There’s no better way to turn large numbers of applicants away at the gate, than carelessly discriminating against gender, age or race. If you’re lucky, you might even end up breaking the law! If you can only do one thing to destroy your employer brand, make it this one.

3. Build a 12-step application process.

Every step you add in an application process is another opportunity to lose candidates. Clunky, outdated recruitment systems (not naming names) can also help. Alternatively, a one-click apply process (eg via LinkedIn) probably has the opposite effect. Your call.

4. Be deliberately vague about how to apply.

Ask candidates to ‘call for a confidential discussion or to learn more about this exciting opportunity’. They’ll probably think you’re a recruiter just fishing for names to add to a database. But if they do call to speak to you, make sure the gatekeeper tells them to apply online. You’ll take another good hit on your employer brand.

5. Ignore responses from some candidates.

All candidates expect a response. Needy huh!? And it’s not only GenYs. It turns out anyone who applies has an interest in where they’re up to in the process. So, ignoring applicants and leaving them in limbo is a great way to get them offside.

6. Engage a recruiter who doesn’t understand your business.

Traditional recruiters generally work across dozens of employers. They also have strict KPIs and big targets. Many are spread too thin, and will do anything to meet their numbers to make commission. Whether it’s deliberate or just an oversight, they can destroy your employer brand on your behalf! Now that’s efficient outsourcing.

7. Keep candidates waiting at least 10 minutes for their interview.

Nothing screams ‘I’m the boss’ like keeping people waiting for meetings. It’s the perfect way to stamp your authority, while avoiding any direct conflict. Strangely, this also applies for candidates, who’ve taken time out to come to your office. Keep them waiting long enough, and they might just walk straight out the door to a different job offer – perhaps even with a competitor. Nice work!

8. Create a chaotic first impression.

This one’s actually surprisingly easy. Candidates come in to meet you, and your receptionist looks totally disinterested, or is on a personal call. The front desk is a mess, and your office isn’t much better. It’s amazing how much a fresh set of eyes from the outside will read into all this. Besides, who wants to appear professional to potential future employees anyway?

9. Run unstructured, inconsistent interviews.

Adopt a casual, chatty style to show them what a laid back, fun boss you are. Avoid any structure or process altogether, and make sure you completely confuse your candidate while you’re at it. Ignore this framework and template, if you want to hurt your employer brand with unstructured interviews.

10. Exploit candidates for free strategic advice.

This one’s a tradeoff. You can hurt your employer brand, but get free strategic advice at the same time.  The trick is to ask candidates to solve real business problems, masked as ‘case study questions’. It’s like a free consulting session! Then implement their answers, without offering them a job. A perfect way to destroy your employer brand. What are you waiting for?

11. Provide a vague job description. Or better yet, nothing at all.

Our favourite approach here is to avoid a giving candidates a specific job description, and tell them that you’ll ‘tailor the role around the best candidate’. While this seems smart and flexible (qualities that might help your employer brand), the lack of clarity actually has the opposite effect.

12. Tell white lies to candidates to get them over the line.

Coffee is for closers, so do anything to get candidates over the line. If this includes telling little white lies, then go for it! You could fib about the salary, culture, management style or working hours. After all, it’s only your employer brand on the line.

13. Conduct every interview outside the office.

Never invite candidates into the office. Instead, only conduct interviews in cafés, hotel lobbies or even bars. It’s a great chance to show off your great taste in venues, and that you’ve probably got something to hide back in the office.

14. Create a sweatshop culture, promoted as ‘work hard and play hard’.

Asking your team to do a bit of overtime every now and then is one thing. But to really harm your employer brand, keep them back every night or on weekends. Provide pizzas and cabs, and promote it as a ‘work hard and play hard’ culture.

15. Build a public profile of your company that’s totally different to the real story.

Forget about the reality of daily life in your company. Build a public profile that matches what you want, rather than what actually happens. This is a surefire way to destroy your employer brand, both with current and prospective employees.

16. Become a remote manager and hide behind email.

Keep the door to your office closed, or work from home. Don’t walk the floor with your team, and rely on email for all communication. Be as invisible as possible, and you’ll harm not only your employer brand, but your personal one.

17. Pay your staff late.

Cash flow is king. If that means you need to pay bonuses, commissions or even salaries late, then so be it! And while you’re at it, don’t bother paying any statutory entitlements either! After all, surely you’d rather keep some cash in the bank to survive than keep your employer brand intact.

18. Talk trash about past employees.

They don’t work for you any more, so just say whatever you think about them (focusing on the negative!). For real impact on the employer brand, bag them out in team meetings, public forums or even to clients who may have dealt with them previously.

19. Avoid giving any feedback, or conducting any performance reviews.

Employees crave feedback. But delivering it properly is painful and time consuming. Why not just save all the hassle by avoiding the topic altogether? At the end of year, ignore this advice toconduct regular performance reviews. If anything, just give them a few bits of feedback in the back of a cab after a meeting or down at the pub.

20. Make public commitments you never plan to follow through.

The final step is a bit like lying to candidates to get them over the line. Make loud, public statements about actions or initiatives you plan to take based on staff feedback. Then do nothing about them. Most people forget quickly anyway, right?

In isolation, use any of these steps to destroy your employer brand. But for a wholesale, ‘smash and burn’ program, follow them one-by-one. Your employer brand will never recover!

PS, take all of these steps with a grain of salt.

After all, what idiot would really want to destroy their employer brand!?

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