Catfishing and Careers: Why Employer Branding is Like Dating Online

We used to say “first impressions matter.” And they still do. But now the first impression is actually more of a pre-impression. Whether we’re looking for a car, a spouse, a job, or a new pair of shoes, we go online to learn as much as possible about, well … everything, long before ever expressing interest or making a commitment.

Smart businesses know that they’re being checked out online, not only from prospective customers, but from prospective employees as well. And in the race for top talent, having a reputation as a great place to work can make all the difference. Your company might make a wonderful product and have every earmark of success, but what the star candidates are looking at is your employer branding — your reputation and image as a workplace.

This concept is pretty similar to dating, when you think about it. Many of us have dated people who looked fantastic on paper, but who just didn’t click with us. Your mom thought they were great, while you were ready to stab yourself in the eyeball with a rusty spork (editor’s note: please don’t do that) if you had to spend one more minute in their company.

So how can you apply the hard-earned lessons from online dating to your employer branding?

Booooooorrrringggg:
So you enjoy travelling, long walks on the beach, and are a dynamic company looking for a team player? Let’s just go all the way and advertise that you breathe air and offer flush toilets in your employee washrooms. Too many people and companies go for quantity over quality, so they put out a bland and generic dating profile or careers page, thinking it’ll attract a broad range of interest. The problem is that it’s not attracting anybody, because it’s about as exciting as unflavored oatmeal.


I also like music and sporting events, fellow human

Let Your Freak Flag Fly:
Generic is for medications, not attracting dates or job seekers. By sharing what makes you different and interesting, you improve the odds of finding someone who really likes what you’re into. And yes, some other people may turn away as a result. But do you really WANT dates who don’t appreciate your love of B-movies, or your habit of dancing in elevators, or candidates who would loathe your “Weird Sock Wednesday”?

Don’t Be a Lying Liarpants:
We all want to look like the coolest, most amazing person (or company) out there. But falsely representing yourself as some “ideal” is a recipe for heartache. Your date is going to notice when you show up and don’t look like the stock photo you used in your profile picture (“I said I wanted ages 24 to 35 in my profile, not 24 plus 35!”). And if you promote your company as being family-friendly, but you expect everybody to hang out together for hours after work and don’t offer personal days, you’ll soon wind up with a staff full of pissed-off parents who are updating their resumes.


We have a pretty flat organizational structure. Your opinions are just as important as mine

Playing the Long Game:
By being honest and representing who you REALLY are, you leave a good impression, even if you don’t get a second date or a job application. Perhaps your date just isn’t at the point in their life where they want to settle down with someone who has their house, their dog, and their five-year plan in place. But they might be in another year, and they’ll remember how cool you were. Or, maybe your future star employee is content at their current workplace and isn’t ready to apply. Getting your name out there with some great employer branding will put you on their radar and get them intrigued. When they do decide to start looking, you could very well be where they look first.

Somebody’s Watching Meeeee:
Not only do you need to be truthful about who you are and highlight the cool stuff that makes you unique, but you might want to take a look at your social media to make sure it reflects the real you as well. You’re not going to do a good job convincing a date that you’re even-keeled and mature (even if you are in real life) if three-quarters of your Twitter feed consists of condescending Wonka memes making fun of people for having actual emotions. And you may have a company full of warm and awesome people who are great at their job and support each other, but if their presence is completely absent on your LinkedIn or Facebook page, and all you’ve got is pre-approved, canned “key messages”, you’re not taking advantage of the incredible reach that social media can bring.

New Phone, Who Dis?:
So you’re in your early twenties, looking for a fellow twenty-something who shares your love for craft beer, bluegrass, and Joan Cusack. You get to chatting with someone, and then ask if you can call them. On their phone. Like, an actual phone call with talking and everything. What madness is this? Are you some sort of serial killer, or are you just 60 and pretending to be 20? Knowing your employer brand and knowing the people who will fit well at your company also requires knowing how best to communicate with them. Engineers and other tech people tend to prefer email, so that they don’t have to actually talk to we lesser humans. A candidate for a social media manager is probably easiest to reach via DM on Twitter or Instagram, or through texting.

Whether you’re dating or looking for the best talent, branding yourself is your best way to attract the people you want and keep them by your side, helping you avoid heartache, frustration, and the odd prescription for antibiotics (don’t judge, it was a dangerous workplace). By building a strong and clear employer brand, you’ll attract the candidates who will fit in well, stay at your company longer, and actually enjoy your annual greased-pig catching competition. Oh, and let them know that they can bring their dates.

Looking for a robust platform to build your brand? Check out NextWave Hire’s employer branding solution.

Krista Elliott

Krista Elliott

Krista Elliott is a freelance content creator based in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Krista Elliott