December 30, 2019

Recruiting Is Storytelling: To Attract Top Talent, Invest in Your PR Strategy


In the digital age, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. It’s common — and even encouraged — for job seekers to scour the internet for as much insight as they can glean about a company and its employees before they click “apply.”

It’d be foolish for candidates not to consult Google — and it would be just as foolish for employers to ignore how job seekers behave today.

As a CEO who started his company inside of the past decade, I am fully aware of what people will do when they hear about SquareFoot and want to learn more about my business. You can’t control everything that people write about you or discover about you online, but I encourage my team to be kind in all of their interactions. Even if we don’t land a person as a client, I want them to leave with a good impression of my team’s prowess and polish. That way, if they’re ever in a position to recommend us to a friend or colleague, they won’t hesitate.

I don’t simply espouse this core principle to my team members; I also follow it myself. I know people — candidates, clients, potential investors — will be reading about us before we ever meet. So, I try to stay a step ahead and make sure that, when they do their individual searches, they learn the right things about me and my company. Accordingly, I’ve placed additional emphasis this year on telling my story on my terms, before people ask me — and in spaces where they might not have direct access to me.

Recruiting Through the Op-Ed Section

We know that company culture is a key element of what today’s job seekers are looking for, so I want potential candidates to know what I’m like and what it’s like to work for me. Toward that end, I wrote an op-ed for USA Today this summer outlining my leadership philosophy and practice. In particular, the op-ed discusses how I strive to give my staffers direct access to me when they have questions. To actively encourage employees to reach out to me, I placed my desk in the middle of the office.

This op-ed now ranks relatively high in search results for my company — and that has had some interesting benefits for us. Over the recent months, some of the candidates who have walked through our door have told us they read the op-ed when researching our company, and that it influenced their decisions to apply. These candidates figure I’m the kind of CEO they’d want to work for — before even having met me.

For more expert recruiting insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

But I also know not everyone reads every article I post (or every article posted about us). So, in addition to the external PR work we’ve been doing, I also outline my vision for management on our company blog. This way, as people click around our website, they’ll see this post — and hopefully find its ideas refreshing and revolutionary.

You must, in my opinion, champion your ideas — and then repeat them over and over again, whenever possible, to make sure that people clearly understand what you stand for. Our results so far suggest I am right about this: Both candidates and current employees have told us they appreciate the efforts we make to telegraph my hopes for myself and the company.

Press Is Power in a Tight Talent Market

It can be challenging to clearly and cohesively express and reinforce a company’s mission — but that’s exactly what candidates are looking for. And I’ve discovered this year that giving voice to your organizational identity doesn’t hinge solely on your recruiting materials. Rather, you must take a more holistic approach to your messaging. You have to consider the press you pitch and produce a vital means of getting in front of the right people at the right times.

Pushing your core values and company culture is easy when a candidate is familiar with you and interested in what you do. What really counts is when a candidate (or client, or investor) is on the fence, when they’re not reaching out directly to you to find out more. That’s when you really need to showcase what you’re made of and what you represent.

So get that external messaging right, and get it in front of the right people. Recruiting, in my experience, ultimately boils down to where and how you tell your unique story.

Jonathan Wasserstrum is founder and CEO of SquareFoot.

Read more in Employer Branding

SquareFoot Founder and CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum has worked for more than a decade in commercial real estate.