Why do so many companies think their own employees are ugly?

RJ Morris Communication, Recruiting, RJ Morris

I spend almost my entire professional (and, sadly, some of my personal) life trying to figure out how to best identify, attract, screen, select and onboard talented people.  If you take away all of the fluff, that’s about what our team does.  All the time.  And I am always looking for a better way to do it.

Part of that effort is trying to figure out how to accurately represent our company and the employment opportunities we have available.  Call it attraction, advertising, marketing, branding, whatever…how do we represent ourselves to potential talent?  And so part of thinking about that is looking around to see what other people are doing.  And, as I look at other firms’ recruiting sites and materials, I often ask myself:

Why do so many companies think their own employees are ugly? 

They do, apparently.  They must think that they have hideous, awful, fell-off-the-top-of-the-ugly-tree-and-hit-every-ugly-stick-on-the-way-down ugly employees. Why do I say that?  Because so few of them ever use pictures of them on their career sites or on their recruiting materials.  Take a look around…there are not many.

When you think about creating imagery that supports your talent acquisition efforts, it should:

  • Accurately represent your company and your employees
  • Show a realistic representation of what employees at your company do
  • Reinforce whatever messaging runs through your overall recruitment process (teamwork, ownership, exciting projects, challenge, etc.)

Instead, most materials say, “Look at this overly staged, obviously fake, somewhat spooky picture of some models in awkward poses, smiling creepily at each other.”

I admit, as I said above, I’m a TA guy, not a marketing expert.  It’s not my area of expertise, and most of my knowledge of recruiting messaging is home grown. Still, it seems that companies can basically choose from one of the following options:

  • Stock photography—inexpensive, generic shots of eerily similar people.  For the absolutely best series analyzing bad HR stock photography, check out Frank Roche, awesome author at KnowHR and partner at IFRACTAL.
  • Custom models—expensive, but still fake.  It screams, “we have so much money we can hire pretty people to impersonate our real people.”
  • Real employees, high end—think the GE commercial that ran during the Super Bowl.  Pretty awesome, but most of us have 1/1,000,000 of GE’s recruiting ad budget.
  • Real employees, mid-range—your employees, a marketing guy, a recruiting lady, and maybe a pro photographer touring work sites for 2 days.
  • Real employees-low dollar—a few folks, no scripts, maybe a nice Canon SLR or a digital camcorder.  As genuine as it gets, this often leads to some of the best material you can find.

Why does this matter?  Here’s why:  When that talented pro in your industry gets ticked off at work one day and starts surfing websites that night, maybe thinking about her next move, don’t let her find your sorry website with a picture of some generic model smiling at some other creepy generic model.  Show your company, your people, your business.  Be authentic.  Fake is never compelling.

Frank ran a post in 2010 called When You Use Bad Stock Photography You Make Baby Jesus Cry.  I send the post to anyone I know who uses bad art for their recruiting work.  The title is so great it makes you think before you make a really bad decision.   Don’t make baby Jesus cry.