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20 Ways To Destroy Your Employer Brand

I remember walking into my first day in a new job many years ago and nobody knew who I was. My manager wasn’t there and hadn’t even told anybody I was starting.

Less than three months later I was gone. (This company doesn’t even appear on my resume).

I still tell this story nearly 25 years later (usually including the company name!).

A few years later I walked into my first day at another company and everyone in the office welcomed me by name. My desk, computer, phone, stationery etc had all been set up and my new business cards were already waiting for me. Oh and a team welcome lunch had also been arranged.

I stayed with that company for nearly 7 years.

I continue to promote that company (by name) and personally refer people to them regularly even though I haven’t worked there in over 15 years.

A business can’t just rely on its product brand to succeed. Your role as an employer (of choice) is to ensure that the experience and feedback of employees past and present is just as powerful as the message you promote through your product or service.

Your employees (and potential employees) can be your best sales and marketing channel. But they can also kill your brand quite literally at the push of a button, whether through social media or sites like InsideTrack or Glassdoor. It can take years to build brand credibility and just seconds to destroy it.

So in case you were wondering, here are 20 simple ways to completely destroy your employer brand:

1. Write sloppy job ads.

When you’re advertising a new role, write the job ad really quickly just before you leave the office. Don’t bother proof reading it, or running a spell check. For bonus points, be completely vague about the role, or how you’ll make the selection. Ignore all the advice in this guide on how to write better job ads.

Lazy job ads


2. Use language that discriminates carelessly.

There’s no better way to turn large numbers of applicants away at the gate, than carelessly discriminating against gender, age or race. If you’re lucky, you might even end up breaking the law! If you can only do one thing to destroy your employer brand, make it this one.

3. Build a 12-step application process.

Every step you add in an application process is another opportunity to lose candidates. Clunky, outdated recruitment systems (not naming names) can also help. Alternatively, a one-click apply process (eg via LinkedIn) probably has the opposite effect. Your call.

4. Be deliberately vague about how to apply.

Ask candidates to ‘call for a confidential discussion or to learn more about this exciting opportunity’. They’ll probably think you’re a recruiter just fishing for names to add to a database. But if they do call to speak to you, make sure the gatekeeper tells them to apply online. You’ll take another good hit on your employer brand.

Employer branding


5. Ignore responses from some candidates.

All candidates expect a response. Needy huh!? And it’s not only GenYs. It turns out anyone who applies has an interest in where they’re up to in the process. So, ignoring applicants and leaving them in limbo is a great way to get them offside.

6. Engage a recruiter who doesn’t understand your business.

Traditional recruiters generally work across dozens of employers. They also have strict KPIs and big targets. Many are spread too thin, and will do anything to meet their numbers to make commission. Whether it’s deliberate or just an oversight, they can destroy your employer brand on your behalf! Now that’s efficient outsourcing.

7. Keep candidates waiting at least 10 minutes for their interview.

Nothing screams ‘I’m in control’ like keeping people waiting for meetings. It’s the perfect way to stamp your authority, while avoiding any direct conflict. Strangely, this also applies for candidates, who’ve taken time out to come to your office. Keep them waiting long enough, and they might just walk straight out the door to a different job offer – perhaps even with a competitor. Nice work!

8. Create a chaotic first impression.

This one’s actually surprisingly easy. Candidates come in to meet you, and your receptionist looks totally disinterested, or is on a personal call. The front desk is a mess, and your office isn’t much better. It’s amazing how much a fresh set of eyes from the outside will read into all this. Besides, who wants to appear professional to potential future employees anyway?

Your receptionist looks totally disinterested


9. Run unstructured, inconsistent interviews.

Adopt a casual, chatty style to show them what a laid back, fun boss you are. Avoid any structure or process altogether, and make sure you completely confuse your candidate while you’re at it. Ignore this framework and template, if you want to hurt your employer brand with unstructured interviews.

10. Exploit candidates for free strategic advice.

This one’s a tradeoff. You can hurt your employer brand, but get free strategic advice at the same time.  The trick is to ask candidates to solve real business problems, masked as ‘case study questions’. It’s like a free consulting session! Then implement their answers, without offering them a job. A perfect way to destroy your employer brand. What are you waiting for?

11. Provide a vague job description. Or better yet, nothing at all.

Our favourite approach here is to avoid a giving candidates a specific job description, and tell them that you’ll ‘tailor the role around the best candidate’. While this seems smart and flexible (qualities that might help your employer brand), the lack of clarity actually has the opposite effect.

12. Tell white lies to candidates to get them over the line.

Coffee is for closers, so do anything to get candidates over the line. If this includes telling little white lies, then go for it! You could fib about the salary, culture, management style or working hours. After all, it’s only your employer brand on the line.

13. Conduct every interview outside the office.

Never invite candidates into the office. Instead, only conduct interviews in cafés, hotel lobbies or even bars. It’s a great chance to show off your great taste in venues (coffee or wine!), and that you’ve probably got something to hide back in the office.

14. Create a sweatshop culture, promoted as ‘work hard and play hard’.

Asking your team to do a bit of overtime every now and then is one thing. But to really harm your employer brand, keep them back every night or on weekends. Provide pizzas and cabs, and promote it as a ‘work hard and play hard’ culture.

Work hard play hard

15. Build a public profile of your company that’s totally different to the real story.

Forget about the reality of daily life in your company. Build a public profile that matches what you want, rather than what actually happens. This is a surefire way to destroy your employer brand, both with current and prospective employees.

16. Become a remote manager and hide behind email.

Keep the door to your office closed, or work from home. Don’t walk the floor with your team, and rely on email for all communication. Be as invisible as possible, and you’ll harm not only your employer brand, but your personal one.

17. Pay your staff late.

Cash flow is king. If that means you need to pay bonuses, commissions or even salaries late, then so be it! And while you’re at it, don’t bother paying any statutory entitlements either! After all, surely you’d rather keep some cash in the bank to survive than keep your employer brand intact.

18. Talk trash about past employees.

They don’t work for you any more, so just say whatever you think about them (focusing on the negative!). For real impact on the employer brand, bag them out in team meetings, public forums or even to clients who may have dealt with them previously.

19. Avoid giving any feedback, or conducting any performance reviews.

Employees crave feedback. But delivering it properly is painful and time consuming. Why not just save all the hassle by avoiding the topic altogether? At the end of year, ignore this advice to conduct regular performance reviews. If anything, just give them a few bits of feedback in the back of a cab after a meeting or down at the pub.

20. Make public commitments you never plan to follow through.

The final step is a bit like lying to candidates to get them over the line. Make loud, public statements about actions or initiatives you plan to take based on staff feedback. Then do nothing about them. Most people forget quickly anyway, right?

In isolation, use any of these steps to destroy your employer brand. But for a wholesale, ‘smash and burn’ program, follow them one-by-one. Your employer brand will never recover!

PS, take all of these steps with a grain of salt.

After all, what idiot would really want to destroy their employer brand!?

Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.

  • Great post! These are all great ways for employers to destroy their brand and ensure they stop attracting the employees they need in the office. The interview is especially important, whether it’s in person or through online video. If you make candidates wait for a long time, lie about your company culture, and perform a chaotic interview, it’s unlikely you’ll end up with the top-tier talent you need.

    • Paul Slezak

      Thanks for the feedback. You’re so right that whether an interview is face to face or via video, or whether you’re meeting a candidate for a entry level role or for the role of General Manager, you have to treat the candidate well so they walk away with a positive experience of your business.

    • Paul Slezak

      Thanks for the feedback. You’re so right – whether an interview is face to face or via video, or if you are interviewing a candidate for an entry level role or for the position of General Manager, the candidate has to walk away with a positive experience of your organisation.

  • GregM

    I remember a tedious interview process by Hayes (yes…I name, names)! First interview, 1hr & 45 mins with a tired sales director! Apparently not able to make a decision, ref checks done, then…invitation to a 3 hour group interview with a bunch of kids who looked like they had borrowed their dad’s ties and jacket for it! During the 1st break, a tour of what seemed to me, to be a boiler room culture! During said tour, to be told, bluntly, by the same disheveled sales director; “at Hayes we don’t believe in any of this work/life balance stuff – you’ll be here at 8am till it’s time to go home and if you’re behind on your numbers, I wanna see you here at 7pm! And we have a high staff turnover!” Needless to say, I walked after that oratory to misery! Hayes, strictly for the young neophyte! I was approached for a role in their newly created ‘Hayes Age Advantage’ project – which, ultimately went to an institutionalised consultant, etc, etc.

    • Paul Slezak

      Nothing like a bit of ‘boiler room action’ or a disheveled sales director to put a bit of a dampener on the candidate interview experience. And confessing to high staff turnover during an interview or office tour is just the icing on the cake.

  • Linda Williams

    This is gold! I’m sure we have all experienced this as an applicant and been a bit close for comfort on some of the cringe moments in your article.

    This stresses the importance of do unto others. Recruitment is not just placing people, we are representing the organisation so its important to create a lasting impression and be responsible for the experience the candidate or client has in the process.

    • Paul Slezak

      You’re so right, Linda. Recruiters have to realise that they are representatives of all their clients’ employer brands. And often the first impression a candidate will have of a potential new employer will be from you – the recruiter. So you need to make it a good one.

  • Beatriz Marson

    This is really invaluable information. Thanks for sharing!

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