My buddy likes to tell the story about the candidate that showed up for an interview wearing a droopy fishnet sleeveless t-shirt, a pair of well worn running shorts and dusty sandals. Not bad attire for a beach volleyball game, but not so much for a software engineer interview. Somehow, some way, the candidate came to believe this was acceptable haute couture to his potential new employer.
In many minds corporate culture extends only to things like core business hours and casual dress. The reality is corporate culture is hard to truly define and encompasses shared values, traditions, customs, beliefs and policies. As a foundation these work to cultivate and grow what we call corporate culture. Word of our culture creeps into the street with every e-mail we write to a prospective candidate, every phone screen we perform to ascertain qualifications, every face-to-face interview, every reference check and every follow-up thereafter. What we say, when we say it, what we do, how we do it all reflects that culture back to the world outside and to those unfound gems we will someday seek to hire. Their impressions become the word on the street. Their treatment and candidate experience spreads the cultural lore, good or bad and builds our recruiting brand.
Recruiter contact often creates that first impression – the first peek into corporate culture – that a candidate will have of a company, especially for a start-up or little known business. It’s easy to leverage the name Starbucks or Microsoft to reach a passive candidate, those companies have defined goods and legendary cultures, but it’s another to try and entice somebody to talk to a new company with little track record. Long before any overture is made to bring somebody into an organization, clear thought and planning needs to be put into candidate communication and how to properly present the company. Anybody involved in the recruiting process needs to understand the importance of this messaging. The theme and thread of corporate culture needs to be woven in each aspect of the recruiting cycle.
Mr. Fishnet may very well have been the gem in the rough, the genius the company had been looking for to solve a major issue or build the next big thing. A clarification from the recruiter beforehand about corporate expectations on interview days – part of communicating the culture – could have easily prevented this awkward yet memorable moment.