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  • Writer's pictureMichael Soderling

Employer branding - how not to go about it

– A month after I completed the tests I received a simple message informing me I hadn’t been chosen.

My friend John was talking to me about the recruitment process he had just been through. What he said sounded so strange that I felt I needed to ask just to be sure: "So you weren't invited to sit down with someone to discuss the test results and put them into context"?

The answer was no. The only thing John had been sent were some automatically generated reports after completing the tests. His experience is an example of the trend in which more and more recruitment and selection processes involve automation.

I understand the efficiency argument, especially when there are a lot of applicants for a junior position. But is it sensible to use the same processes for junior positions that attract a lot of applicants, for high-level recruitments, as in John's case? And I ask myself at what point the increase in efficiency transforms into suboptimization and affect the employer brand.

John's attitude towards this potential employer indeed became significantly more negative following his experience. Note the word significantly, which John asked me to add after he was asked to read this text before my publishing it. Perhaps I should mention at this point that my perception of John is that he is not one to be offended easily and would have no problem dealing with rejection. His problem is how this decision was conveyed.

Aside from my perspective as someone who works with personal assessments, I used to be a partner in a consultancy firm where I was involved with recruiting consultants. The process John went through would have been unthinkable at our company, given how we as owners wanted our employer brand to be perceived.

The hiring managers and HR professionals I work with are equally mindful of offering a great candidate experience. Given this, I feel compelled to ask myself another question. To what extent are the management of organisations that have adopted these streamlining processes aware of the way the processes are perceived by candidates? Within these companies there must have been discussions about strategic choices concerning recruitment processes – and I only wish I had been allowed to be a fly on the wall. Did the discussions stop at the concepts of streamlining and efficiency? Did they buy the test provider's pitch outright, without ever reflecting on the implications for their employer brand?

This is a complex discussion that also begs the question as to whether an algorithm or a human should conduct personal assessments. Consider this: To what extent is the result of a personality questionnaire objectively true? My experience is that the vast majority of managerial candidates, when completing a Big Five-questionnaire, get high scores on conscientiousness and extraversion and low scores on neuroticism. If the distribution of scores is small, it becomes harder to make a meaningful ranking of candidates based on the test results alone. Furthermore, we need to ask why the candidates' profiles are similar in all three characteristics. Could it be because it is easy to figure out the desired answers in order to appear like the ideal candidate?


The clients who reach out to me are managing directors, management teams, and executives who want to realise the potential in their organisations and accomplish extraordinary results. They reach out to me because of my ability to transform individuals, teams, and organisations.

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