What to Do When Company Controversy is Making it Hard to Recruit


Even the most solid companies can encounter events that scuff their employer brand. The good news is, you don’t need to be a brand manager in order to use some of their tactics to your benefit. As they say, the best defense is a strong offense.

Knowing where the potential threats are, and how to proactively restore your brand, can help you avoid candidates losing interest after seeing a bad review or feeling turned off by controversy in the media. Here are a few tactics the pros in reputation management and PR use to minimize the effects of events that make their markets cold to their engagement efforts.

#1: Understand what you’re dealing with

What are the specific ways that the controversy affects your ability to recruit? Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes to anticipate where and when a PR storm might hit your employer brand.

  • What will prompt a negative review or reaction to you as a recruiter?
  • Where are the conversations about the controversy happening?
  • What would cause a candidate to drop their interest after reading a poor review?

If your company is getting reviewed on sites like Glassdoor, you should be monitoring and responding to that feedback. This is your chance to control your reputation. If you ignore concerns or leave canned responses, then you’re missing a big opportunity to set the record straight.

Don't let your candidates opt out of the recruitment process before they’ve even started. Here are some examples and best practices for responding to reviews on Glassdoor.

#2: Give Google something good

Google loves fresh content and tends to give more power to the user-generated content or content reserves on the media outlet.” Stay First Rank

From a technical perspective, Google’s algorithm wants this content more than the news that features the controversy. One tactic brand managers use to fight negative press and poor online reviews is to suppress the negative press with their own original content.

Encourage your team to recruit from the center of their individual recruitment profiles. Put a face to the opportunity and your brand advocates, not the controversy. Ask yourself these helpful questions:

  • Do your recruiters publish articles on LinkedIn Pulse?
  • Do you have a company blog that shares positive stories about your company?
  • How can you use your own communication channels to join the discussion?

Get your team involved. Highlight employee success stories and educational content that will help your candidates understand why your organization is a great place to work.

When a member of your team publishes a new article on LinkedIn Pulse or contributes to a local cause, share that news through your corporate channels, and encourage employees to do the same.

#3: Find community influencers

“PR success for companies hinges on healthy, respectful, give-and-take relationships with reporters and editors. That means an open and mutual understanding of each other's goals, and of what makes a good story.” – Wojtek Dabrowski

A candidate might feel ambivalent about returning your call if they are part of the community that a controversy offends. Look for opportunities to partner with and sponsor the communities that your company needs to rebuild trust with.

Ask yourself:

  • Who are the people reporting news to that community?
  • What are the values that drive their action?
  • Who are the people in charge of curating content to share through social media that the community follows?

Use the answers to those questions to help this community achieve their goals, given the resources and insight you have to offer as a recruiter.

#4: Keep your eye on the ball

“Determine what your customers expect as a solution not what you want to provide. Is their request unreasonable. Is it financially feasible?” – Barbra Breslauer

As a recruiter, the best thing you can do in this situation is to focus on your existing relationships with candidates, connectors, and potential talent.

Nurture these relationships, and you will be the stabilizing influence your company needs. When in doubt, ask candidates how you can help them before assuming what they need.

#5: Fight the urge to run

“Real-time communication is important when dealing with a PR disaster. You need to get out in front quickly and not ‘go dark.’ Too many organizations clam up and don’t say anything.” – Taral Patel

As a recruiter, you have control over your interactions with candidates and how you present yourself to the world. When it comes to your individual brand, you are the only cook in the kitchen.

If a candidate asks you for information that you would usually answer with a link, take the time to summarize the answer in your own words. If a prospective applicant calls you to check up on their application, return the call.

Make these things a priority. If you are nervous about your recruitment results, these are the type of proactive measures you can take as an individual to reduce your risk.

#6: Set up early warning systems

Set up Google Alerts that will help you monitor your reputation as news updates are published. Stay up to date with what is going on so you can understand the reactions you’re facing.

There are tools you can use to reduce your risk from a recruitment advertising standpoint. Textio is a great tool for checking the language bias in job ads and recruitment messaging.

If someone shares a blog post that one of your recruiters published, you should know about it so you can follow up with a thank you. (Take a look at their profile while you’re there.)

Final Thoughts

In light of company controversy, your goal shouldn’t be to fix the situation (unless you’re in a position to do so) or convince others that the problem doesn’t exist. Taking that approach could result in more criticism.

As a recruiter, your focus should be on the effect it has on your ability to recruit and build rapport with candidates. Understanding the conversation that is happening will help you anticipate how your approach will be received.

By focusing on the one-to-one relationship that you and your recruiters have with candidates, you can minimize the effects of controversy and put the spotlight back on your company’s best attributes.

Topics: Recruiting Strategies

Updated April 24, 2018