First Impressions are Critical – are you using Search as a PR tool for your Corporate Brand? By Stuart Denson and David Pinney, Search Consultants

Is your recruitment process damaging or enhancing your corporate brand?

In today’s competitive market, corporate image is a key strategic element in delivering growth and success in the local market.  Have you ever considered how your recruitment process, and perhaps even more importantly, how the recruitment partner you choose to represent your company externally in the market, impacts on your corporate brand?

We all know that first impressions are critical.   When you engage an Executive Search firm to proactively headhunt senior level candidates who are currently working at your competitors, who may be suppliers to the company, or who are direct customers of yours, are you confident they are creating the right first impression of your Corporate Brand?

At Executives in Africa, we believe the way we introduce and represent an organisation to each candidate will have a significant impact on their opinion of our client and their corporate brand and we take this very seriously.  This opinion could stay with them well beyond their engagement with us or indeed with our client if they are subsequently selected for interview.

Often when we approach candidates, we are representing start-up businesses or new market entries.  This proactive search approach is sometimes viewed as a major part of the PR strategy associated with the business launch and can significantly affect how this new brand is perceived in the market.  Networking through senior influential business leaders is far more effective in sending a positive message to the market about your company’s intentions than an job advertisement and it can create quite a ripple of interest and excitement within that market.

At other times we represent businesses who are looking to bring about significant change and growth, perhaps needing to achieve a better market position.  It is essential in this situation to ensure the company is presented as being a future employer of choice and a preferred place to work, in particular where market position has previously been lost, or potentially the brand has been damaged.  This may even involve dealing with previous negative perceptions and delivering the new rebranded corporate message to the market.

So how do we do this?  At Executives in Africa we consider the initial Search Briefing for a senior level role as the most important part of the assignment.  Conducted face-to-face where possible or by Skype Video Conference, it is a critical element for us to get a full understanding of our client’s company, including future growth plans and the strategic direction of the company.  We specifically focus on the region in question, ensure we fully understand the role, how it will impact on the business, the reporting lines and key business deliverables.

Understanding how the successful candidate can develop within the organisation is often a key selling point when looking to entice candidates to consider an opportunity.  Purely from a PR point of view, we need to be able to present an exciting story about what the company is doing in the region and ensure these senior candidates understand more than they could garner from the corporate website.  They should leave every interaction with the Executives in Africa team impressed by the company we represent and with a positive impression of the brand, whether or not they decide to pursue the opportunity.  And this impression can often extend to their circle of influence.

Having taken detailed feedback from a number of candidates who recently attended a first interview with a client of ours in Uganda, the overriding feedback was that the EiA team really knew the client, to the extent that we were deemed to be an extension of their business, able to convey the strategic vision down to quite some detail.  The questions that candidates would have had at the first client interview had already been extensively covered by our Search Consultants throughout the assessment process and in briefing them before their client interview.  This enabled the first interaction with the client to focus on higher level strategic questioning and personality fit to the culture of the business.

On reflection and with all this in mind, are you confident that your Executive Search firm or recruitment company has the capacity and passion to act as an extension of your business brand?  Are you investing enough time to ensure they are fully equipped to represent your corporate image in the market and make a positive impression from the outset?  Are you giving feedback on unsuccessful individuals so they are able to walk away from your company with a positive impression even if they are not successful?  Or has this article been food for thought….?

Stuart Denson and David Pinney are Search Consultants at Executives in Africa and would be delighted to discuss this subject further with you.  Contact sd@executivesinafrica.com or dp@executivesinafrica.com

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