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Abercrombie & Fitch vs Jersey Shore: Building Your Employer Brand

August 23, 2011

Abercrombie and Fitch and Jersey Shore made the news last week.  One may not be as surprising as the other, but when they were in the same headline…I had to look.  For the first time in the better part of 10 years, A&F made major news headlines this week when they issued a public offer to Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino to pay him and his Jersey Shore cast mates to stop wearing A&F’s brand name clothes.

Wait…what?  Clothing brands usually pay millions in endorsements to famous people to don their respective frocks, because in today’s media hungry society…no press is bad press….right?  Not for A&F – “We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”

This takes me back to what I often heard as a Greek in college, “When you put on our letters, realize you are representing not just yourself, but all of us.”  Assuming this isn’t a media stunt (which I suspect it might be given the above shirt sold by A&F), A&F is seemingly concerned that it will have trouble continuing to encourage their key market of teens and young adults to buy their clothing.

I bet you’re waiting for why this is relevant…

Every hire you bring into your organization has this same effect, albeit on a smaller magnitude.  People don’t exist in a vacuum.  They interact with people outside your organization in a multitude of ways.  One of the most basic concepts in recruitment is that organizations attract and retain individuals most like its current workforce and tend not to attract individuals unlike its current workforce.  A worst case outcome here: “What is wrong with that organization, why would they hire him/her?  I don’t want to work there.”

Let’s take this “situation” to its logical anti-pole.  Showcase your dynamic individuals in public forums.  These don’t even need to be work related achievements.  In fact, don’t highlight their work achievements at all (it’d give your competitors reason to seek your employee out).  “Tom Worker volunteered x time to help run a charity 5k, 35% of the company participated in it.”  Social media is cheap, and you can use it to show your organization’s depth and the character of a potential new hire’s coworkers.

I suspect nobody would want to work in an organization with the cast of Jersey Shore.  All the same, bad apple hires happen.  It’s all about branding, and how publicly visible those individuals are.  Ensure you’re hiring employees to build your brand, not work against it.  This key is a building block to becoming your region’s employer of choice.

The Ultimate Hiring Manager’s Guide

Adam Hilliard