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Five Great Recruiting Brands

July 18, 2003
Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Featured Article, Staffing Management

You’ve heard of great consumer brands--those products that have become almost synonymous with their intended purpose--like Gatorade and thirst-quenching.

There also are great "recruiting brands"--companies that may or may not be great places to work, but nevertheless are perceived as having a special allure. Here, some experts offer up their favorite recruiting brands.

Alison E. Barber, senior associate dean, Broad College of Business, Michigan State University

Favorite recruiting brand: McKinsey

"When you think McKinsey, you think "The War for Talent"--and there’s little doubt that they’re winning.

McKinsey is known for offering high-paying, extremely demanding jobs to only the best and the brightest applicants. They’re famously selective. They’re not for everyone, but then they make no pretense of being for everyone. In fact, that’s one of the aspects of the brand that I like: it encourages self-selection rather than mass application.

I also like the way the McKinsey message is spread. You don’t see mass-marketing efforts promoting the advantages of being employed by McKinsey. The company has a mystique that makes it an interesting subject for the media. Thus, the press tells the McKinsey story for them, allowing the company to focus its time on intensive, individualized recruitment tactics.

High-profile hires certainly haven’t hurt the brand. For instance, Chelsea Clinton’s recent acceptance of a position with McKinsey was covered widely in the press, reinforcing the notion that McKinsey is where the cream of the crop goes to work. Even the 'fallen stars' among their alumni have helped promote the brand; there is usually a sense of incredulity that someone from McKinsey could have gone astray."

Sue Nixon, president and CEO, branding company Leonhardt:Fitch

Favorite recruiting brand: Apple

"I tried to restrain myself from choosing Apple since it is so predictable within the design industry…but the more I tried to pull away from it, the more certain I became that it was the perfect choice. It is truly a magnetic brand.

Apple connects with individuals. It brings out that part in all of us that needs to feel like we are part of a tribe of folks we relate to. The brand focuses on the often-neglected qualities of simple, friendly and fun, combined with a refreshing sense of sophistication and thoughtful design. This combination resonates especially with the loyal Macintosh users.

It never fails: once I pull out my PowerBook on the airplane, fellow Mac users reinforce my loyalty as they smile and acknowledge theirs. Testimonies reinforce brand loyalty. A sculptor who lost patience with her Dell, a German lawyer who’s now working from home, a vacationing musician who wrote a musical score on a train--these are the stories Apple fans tell to celebrate their choice to upgrade from PC to Mac.

Apple has created a brand that is magnetic to those who fancy themselves creative and free-thinking individuals who are drawn to interesting things and want to positively impact their world. From educators to artisans, Apple attracts a passionate tribe."

David Gebler, president, Working Values, a business-ethics consulting firm (Gebler did some consulting for PwC in 1999)

Favorite recruiting brand: PricewaterhouseCoopers

"It’s not easy to be an auditor these days. The fall of Andersen has tarnished the reputation of both auditors and auditing firms at a time when auditors need to play a critical role in building public trust.

While some public-relations experts might have cautioned the Big Four firms to lie low, I’ve been impressed with how aggressively PricewaterhouseCoopers has tackled the integrity message. Following a new trend in contrition advertising (see GM’s 'Road to Redemption' advertising series it has been running, admitting it hasn’t always delivered in the past), PwC recognizes that it must be 'out there' in asserting integrity if it’s going to attract not only new employees, but customers as well.

A series of advertorials in the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers takes a bold step in urging the business community to heed the integrity message of Sarbanes-Oxley and the other new post-Enron regulations. A new 'Building Trust' commercial exposes a cheating golfer and the damage his actions have on his personal integrity. PwC’s statement of its commitment to integrity serves it well as a benchmark for the level to which it wants itself to be held accountable. It’s a far cry from the advertising of the Big Five not that long ago that emphasized creativity and innovative approaches.

Setting a standard externally is a great tool for employees to hold the company accountable internally. It’s an unintended recruiting strategy that may work."

Jeff Schwartzman, senior recruiter, CyberScientific

Favorite recruiting brand: Los Angeles Lakers

"Karl Malone and Gary Payton are future NBA Hall of Fame players and top free agents on the market this off-season. With 29 teams in the NBA and outrageous player salaries increasing yearly, these top free agents will be taking pay cuts to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Both players are able to command top dollar elsewhere but decided to take lower salaries and possibly the league minimum for a chance to win an NBA championship and play with the Lakers.

How do the Lakers consistently sign and retain top talent while maintaining their status as the premier franchise in the National Basketball League? Aside from winning three championships in the last four years, the Lakers have a rich history of famous alumni. Six of the greatest NBA players of all time--Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy--have worn the purple and gold. Owner Jerry Buss is committed to winning, not managing the team by the bottom line, and has built an all-star front office and coaching staff.

Former GM and Laker legend Jerry West successfully groomed current GM Mitch Kupchak, made exceptional trades to sign top players Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and put together a top coaching staff consisting of nine-time championship winner Phil Jackson, offensive architect Tex Winter, Jim Cleamons and former Laker Kurt Rambis.

The Lakers also boast the intangibles that lead to championship seasons. The team consists of professionals who work hard, have the desire to win and stay out of trouble. The news is full of stories of athletes involved in drugs, assaults, domestic violence and unsportsmanlike conduct. Worthy, Abdul-Jabbar and now Bryant have had their share of negative headlines, but the Lakers have a core unit of team players and role models, including Shaquille O'Neal, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Mark Madsen, whom other players want to play with.

The Lakers are able to recruit talent that other teams have to obtain through large contracts. Top players see an opportunity not only to win championships with the Lakers, but also to be associated with a franchise with a history of greatness."

Patrick Goodness, president, The Goodness Company, an advertising/marketing agency

Favorite recruiting brand: Microsoft (Goodness consulted for Microsoft in 2000 on a disability/diversity initiative)

"Tales of secretaries and janitors who retired with millions in their Microsoft 401(k)s still echo throughout the halls of this recruitment legend. It would seem that the world belongs to Microsoft, and the rest of us just live here…increasingly bound both in work and in play to the products Microsoft continues to develop.

Clearly, Microsoft has had its share of ups and downs, a visionary yet controversial founder, and an abundance of not so flattering press. So what makes the Microsoft brand a winner in the recruitment arena, despite considerable bad publicity? Quite simply, size and focus.

For starters, Microsoft is everywhere. Aside from the staggering number of Microsoft products, it’s downright difficult to find a sphere in our modern culture where Microsoft hasn’t left its bold imprint. For job-seekers in today’s uncertain job market, the name Microsoft is synonymous with security and stability. And considering that Microsoft employs more than 50,000 people and has 40-plus locations throughout the United States, the opportunities for employment are vast.

It’s also impressive that no matter what predicament Microsoft finds itself embroiled in, the company always manages to come out on top. Through an ingenious use of PR, Microsoft manages to convincingly transform itself from a corporate behemoth to an underdog. This appeals to the American psyche, which relishes the underdog that emerges victorious. And who wouldn’t want to work for a company that manages to turn every loss into a remarkable corporate advantage?

Additionally, while many Fortune 500 companies have dramatically cut back on recruitment and diversity advertising, Microsoft remains committed to promoting its brand in recruitment media and reinforcing the company’s strong diversity positioning. While many companies are under the impression that the recruitment-branding referee has called a 'time-out' due to the poor economy, Microsoft continues to play the game, intent only on winning.

Despite its current uninspiring recruitment-and-diversity creative campaign, Microsoft’s level of focus--reinforcing the company brand through consistent advertising efforts while many others retreat--continues to earn it a coveted title as an 'icon' of recruitment and diversity branding."

Workforce Online, July 2003 --Register Now!

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