When I was in school studying for my bachelor’s degree I had to write a paper dealing with organizational culture and branding. The premise was that organizations create a group identity that almost becomes a personality. The personality is usually relevant to the primary product or services the company sells.
So an organization that sells sporting goods develops a personality, an image, a brand, that is athletic, outgoing, competitive, think Nike for instance, or Sports Authority. Public sector government agencies, law enforcement, and private security tend to brand themselves as no-nonsense, conservative, military, and professional personalities.
If an organization offers other organizations various corporate services such as legal, accounting, fraud and anti-money laundering, investment, human resources, information technology and cybersecurity, their personality is likely to be very urban, sophisticated, modern, and professional.
This kind of branding also helps organizations identify themselves to their customer markets, and attract potential customers from specific demographic groups to their products and services. Organizations spend exorbitant amounts of money on marketing and not just on the advertising side. Organizations study their customer markets deeply.
The idea behind the assignment was to help people identify an organization’s persona, its brand, and take notice of how it plays out in the organization’s culture. This helps identify how an organization markets itself. It is also is a useful method of identifying potential employer organizations that would make a good “culture fit” for job seekers.
All of this makes sense; it is efficiency in marketing. You want organizations to know who their customers are, and you want customers to know which organizations have made a specialty out of the products and services they want to buy. It also helps organizations and customers if the employees fit well within this dynamic system.
One result of all of this is a veritable boom in the human resource recruitment and career search industry. There is literature on how to find a job everywhere. There are a gazillion websites and blogs dedicated to giving job seekers advice on everything from what to wear to a job interview, to what to say and not to say during the hiring process.
There are resume building sites, there are career search coaches, there are agencies that hunt for qualified job candidates and match them to organizations in specific industries. There are organizations that will even find workers with specific skill sets and recruit them for competing organizations. There are sites that post jobs, and offer skill training.
This industry was an important one to study in Organizational Behavior because of its relevance to and impact on human resource management, and the general psychology of people operating in groups and as individuals. Likewise the industry is important because most people have a powerful need to work, to eat, and pay bills.
Individuals may be unskilled or skilled, experienced or inexperienced, educated or uneducated; they may have an entrepreneurial drive, a desire to be self-employed, or a desire to work as part of an established small, mid-size, large or global organization. Some may just want to invest in an organization as a stock holder.
Therefore as a student I was pointed to LinkedIn for many different reasons but not the least of which was what I could learn about the career search industry, human resources and recruitment best practices, the many organizations actively seeking qualified job candidates that match their organizational persona, culture, products and services.
Since then I have read countless articles offering all kinds of advice to job seekers; as well as advice offered to organizational hiring departments and managers. It is well-intentioned, much of it is practical, pragmatic, and sensible. Some of it can be contradictory, and after a while, all of it can make a job seeker feel frazzled.
In an earlier post I commented that a good analogy for this industry is that there are three metallurgical elements that could be used to describe job candidates. Gold, pyrite, and lead. This particular industry focuses its literature on the gold and the pyrite, because everybody wants to hire the gold, or at least what looks like gold, hence pyrite.
Lead is the most common, it’s the workhorse of the metallurgical world, and our social order could not function, therefore would not exist in its present form without lead. Pyrite is also pretty common and if you are not discerning enough to be able to spot real gold, you might mistake pyrite for it; pyrite’s nickname has been and is, “fool’s gold“.
The gist of that earlier post was that the career search industry is not talking to the lead. It’s talking to the gold and the pyrite and trying to help the pyrite do a better job of masquerading as gold because there simply is not enough real gold to go around. Lead just gets to read everything meant for gold and pyrite and suffer existential angst.
Something else I noticed about the career search and recruitment industry is a tendency to generalize organizations as large, omnipresent, omniscient, amalgamation. This is not the same thing as Nike the Athlete or Ernst & Young the saviors of all things corporate finance. This is a generalization of organizations as huge, nameless, faceless God-like beings with death panels of judges at their service.
Suddenly, hiring managers and whole human resource departments are indirectly being transmuted into (time for a new analogy) Westminster Kennel Club Judges. The career search and recruitment industry spokespeople instantly change into professional dog trainers for grossly expensive dogs with longer pedigrees than my arm.
Now the pyrite starts getting groomed to within an inch of its collective life; not just flea baths and pretty collars, we are talking the whole kit and caboodle here. Suddenly pyrite is getting schooled like old gold, trained to sit, speak, roll over, hold its head at a certain proper angle, and prance around the room displaying an exactly measured gait.
The gold and pyrite, now Poodles, Schnauzer, Shar Pei, Dalmatian, must look, feel, sound, behave, with an exactness that is utterly terrifying, in front of this death panel of experts on all things canine product, and be found “Best in Show”. They must be First Place; or at least Second Place. The trainers think of their commissions if their “dog” wins.
But we aren’t pedigreed show dogs. We aren’t gold, pyrite, or lead either; but the analogies do make sense (at least to me, hopefully to you as well), of that strange undercurrent of pressure and anxiety that makes up the atmosphere of places that are native to the career search and recruitment industry, online and offline alike.
Reality check: Organizations are not omnipresent, omniscient amalgamation; they may or may not be huge, but they are not nameless, God-like beings with flanking minions tasked with the duty to decide who is “Best in Class” or “Best in Show”. Employment candidates are not grossly expensive show dogs, or rare to common metals either.
Hiring managers and human resource department personnel are not Westminster Kennel Club judges. Hiring managers are people with their own anxieties to face just like everyone else on this planet. Career search and recruitment industry spokespeople, can you all take a breath for a minute, step back, and consider the information overload?
Is it really necessary to completely terrorize employment candidates to the point where the mere sight of an organizational hiring manager is enough to cause them to hyperventilate, break out in hives, and run screaming from a lobby? Should they really have to consider taking anti-anxiety medication before interviews so they act normal?
I actually saw a LinkedIn “Influencer” just last week make a post about people who get so obsessive about the quality of the format and content of their resume that they were having real trouble submitting it to potential employers. Separation anxiety for resumes… let that sink in for a good minute.
Peruse a few “Do’s and Don’t’s” for interviewing or negotiating pay raises or salaries. I will give you a hint, one I read the other day on negotiating salaries and pay raises involved full paragraph scripts. SCRIPTS so you don’t make a mistake! Hiring managers, don’t encourage the career search spokespeople; just stop it right now, seriously.
It is one thing to want candidates to be able to look the part and demonstrate the behaviors needed on the job. It is quite another to have them in your offices having anxiety attacks, weeping uncontrollably, and peeing on your rugs. If you are seeing this sort of thing already, well, now you know why.
My completely unsolicited advice to the job seekers, first, take my advice with a grain of salt, my own anxiety is now through the roof at the mere mention of a resume or an interview. Pick your potential employer out based on a common ground, common interest, a good fit, and the job description on job knowledge, skills and abilities.
Then network, network, network. Talk to your family, talk to your friends; networking seems to be the best way to find and make a connection to a potential employer and a hiring manager in a way that makes them human. Organizations are not their own person; not really; they are people. Regular ole human beings.
We have to get back to a point where we know this; without question. Where we are not allowing an industry that exists to help us find worthwhile employment turn potential employers into monstrous bogeymen.
Thanks for reading and cheers!