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Why Sugar is Bad for the Candidate’s Diet

I’ve heard it and you’ve heard it. When in the midst of recruiting a candidate, lots of HR folks and recruiters are quite fond of saying “I need to ‘sell’ them on this opportunity!” And I think we can all agree that the ability to close the deal is a critical competency for HR professionals and recruiters.

Sometimes, though, in order to make that hire — close that deal, get that req filled — the process gets just a tad too sugary sweet. It goes something like this:

  • “Oh yes, we most definitely are a family-friendly environment and promote work/flex initiatives. We even have a telework program!” (Reality: “We have the program but no one really gets to participate. And your manager is one who is vehemently opposed to any work/flex; there’s no way she’ll let you leave midday to attend your kids’ school events.”)
  • “Most employees work a 40- to 45-hour week.” (Reality: “Well, except at crunch time — each quarter — when you’ll be here 12 hours a day for two weeks. But don’t worry, your manager will order in some pizza.”)
  • “You’ll have all the tools you need to do your job; we’re definitely proponents of the latest technology!” (Reality: “You’ll have a laptop from 2002, a tenuous internet connection at the regional office at which you’ll be working, and we block all social media sites. But you can still get your job done … although that might have to be once you get home where you have better technology.”)
  • “Your potential new manager is great at coaching and developing staff!” (Reality: “Of course, he usually does that through fear, intimidation and cursing, but his people develop excellent coping skills!”)

Then, when the new hire adds to the organization’s turnover statistics within six months, the hiring manager and the HR rep/recruiter give each other the side-eye, commiserate for a few moments and then sing the familiar song “She Was Just a Bad Fit for Our Culture.”

Yeah. Not so fast, Bucky.


I’ve had to find people for some god-awful jobs, from physically demanding 60-hours-per-week low-paying gigs in 110-degree heat to internal sales positions in a company where every employee had lost their will to live. Not exactly like recruiting people to work at Google or Apple, know what I mean?

But the bad, as well as the good, is all part of the employment brand and the culture, and it’s important to share the whole picture with candidates during the process so they can make a fully informed decision. “You’re looking for promotions and growth opportunity? It may take several years.” “Our expectation is that you arrive 10 minutes before your start time and be logged in and working at 8 a.m. on the dot; we’re sticklers for that.” “Here’s a look at our break room (dirty), here’s the work station you’ll be at (outdated), and you’re going to have to park four blocks away and walk over here from our parking lot.” “We don’t have a compensation program that pays for performance; we pay based on seniority.”

Those are the kinds of things that define your culture and those are the kinds of things that candidates need to hear. Sour, perhaps, and just a little bitter. But you know what? Somewhere … somehow … there are people who will like your culture and will fit in your work environment — it may just be a matter of digging a bit deeper to find them.So share the message in all its bland, flavorless glory — don’t add sugar to try to sweeten it up.

author: Robin Schooling