An Exploration of Corporate Recruitment Descriptions on Monster.Com
Backhaus, Kristin B., The Journal of Business Communication
This article explores the ways in which corporations describe themselves in recruitment materials. Specifically, the study examines corporate descriptions provided to job seekers by firms advertising on the Internet site, Monstercom. The study also explores elements of corporate image presented in the descriptions and the way in which firms market their employer brands. The findings demonstrate how analysis of corporate descriptions reveals interesting insights into organizational recruitment tactics. Results suggest that firms focus predominantly on firm attributes and secondarily on employee advancement. Various industries approach recruitment advertising differently, with significant differences emerging between high-tech organizations, service organizations, and consumer product firms in the emphases of their corporate descriptions. Few firms present a distinct employer brand but tend to cluster together in brand types.
Keywords: recruitment; Internet; employer branding; content analysis; communication
The first step in developing competitive human capital in a firm is attracting the appropriate applicants. Unfortunately, applicant attraction is an inexact science, despite numerous studies examining the process by which job seekers choose an employer, and employers seek to attract viable candidates (e.g., Barber, 1998; Breaugh & Starke, 2000; Schneider, 1987). Attention to the issue of effective and appropriate applicant attraction is justified for a number of reasons. First, an appropriate match between the parties is critical to the well-being and productivity of individuals and organizations (Wanous, 1977, 1980, 1992). Second, organizations spend a great deal of money in the recruitment process and, without the right applicants, cannot hope to develop the level of competitive advantage necessary to compete in a volatile economy.
Recruitment advertising is one way in which organizations attempt to attract the right people for the applicant pool. For some firms, the right applicants may be those who fit the job in terms of a match between their particular skills, abilities, and values and those desired by the organization. For other firms, the right applicants may be the best and brightest from the labor market, regardless of specific person-organization fit issues. Either way, the task of business communicators is to find the appropriate words to pique the curiosity of the desired potential workers and encourage them to continue through the application process. Although we know that recruitment advertising content is vitally important in establishing the first link to appropriate potential employees, little, if any, systematic research has been focused on the nature of "real world" recruitment advertising content in the attraction process. This knowledge is important to the recruitment function in the same way an understanding of product attribute attractiveness is important to marketers. However, before meaningful research can examine the relationship between recruitment message content and intent to apply, there must be an accepted way of analyzing recruitment message content. Presently, there is no widely accepted method to classify or quantify the language used in recruitment documents. A search for studies in the areas of human resources and communication relating to recruitment messages yields only a handful of studies that have touched on the classification of recruitment messages (see Barber, 1998).
Assessing the effectiveness of recruitment messages is difficult in the absence of reliable methods by which to measure the presence (or absence) of particular messages. Thus, it is important to first have the tools to classify the recruitment information, and second, to then seek relationships between the classified content and recruitment outcomes. This article fills the gap in recruitment and business communication literature by creating and testing a recruitment message content analysis methodology and developing an initial taxonomy that will lay the groundwork for further study and application. In particular, this article focuses on Internet recruiting, another relatively unexplored aspect of recruitment (Weare & Lin, 2000). The Internet has developed into one of the most popular sources of job information for job seekers. One market research study states that the market for online recruiting services worldwide will be worth more than $15 billion by 2006 ("Dot.coma," 2002). Monster.com is the leading Internet recruitment site, listing more than 80,000 jobs on any given day. One independent auditor estimates that Monster has more than 44 million hits per month ("Job Searching," 2002). Clearly, Monster and sites like it play a strong role in the recruitment process.
Monster is the industry standard for online recruiting, and hence was used as the data source for the present investigation. Specifically, the study examines the corporate descriptions that appear on Monster. These descriptions are the only pieces of information directly describing the firms using Monster as a recruitment venue. They are separate from the job postings and can be accessed by job seekers either by alphabetical lists, geographical lists, or links from job postings. Corporate descriptions are designed to provide the job seeker with information necessary to understand the organization as an employer. In addition, the present investigation uses an exploratory research design to content analyze the corporate descriptions of more than 200 corporations within 10 different industries. (1) Content analysis of the corporate descriptions led to the development and presentation of an initial taxonomy. The study also looks at the elements of corporate image presented in the descriptions. By examining how firms market themselves as employers, their particular "employer brand" may be revealed. Employer branding, a relatively new practice in recruiting, is the promotion of a unique and attractive image of the firm as an employer--a distinct employer identity.
Business communication and staffing researchers have investigated the means of attracting qualified job applicants (e.g., Ralston & Brady, 1994). Recruitment of applicants by firms influences attitudes about the firm and its reputation (Rynes & Barber, 1990). Information conveyed in written recruitment materials is important in attracting potential applicants. Herriot and Rothwell (1981) found that recruitment brochures influenced applicants' decisions to apply to an organization but did not indicate which characteristics were relevant. Breaugh and Starke's (2000) review of recruitment research describes studies that deal with recruitment messages at a micro level. Their review indicates that textual recruitment messages are more attractive when they are vividly written and include language that is concrete rather than abstract (Tybout & Artz, 1994). Messages that convey unexpected information (Kulik & Ambrose, 1993) or personally relevant information (Chaiken & Stangor, 1987) are also more attractive. Breaugh and Billings (1988) found that the recruitment message must be understandable and credible, whereas Jablin, Putnam, Roberts, and Porter (1987) suggested that it is important for the message to be written using the appropriate level of expression and correct language. Finally, Barber and Roehling (1993) noted that when organizations do not supply sufficient information, applicants are likely to regard the organization as having sloppy recruitment practices. Their findings show that applicants pay more attention to specific rather than general information.
The intent of written recruitment advertisements is to generate the desired reader response--a reinforcement or change in attitudes or beliefs (Hilton, Motes, & Fielden, 1989). Despite the research that has been conducted, Barber (1998) calls for further research to improve our understanding of the objective factors that influence potential applicants' attraction to an organization. This article posits that part of this clarification includes the establishment of a method to catalogue the information regularly presented in initial attraction materials, a methodology that currently does not exist. The present article seeks to fill that gap. The conceptual framework for this exploratory study rests in four areas: recruitment materials studies as described above, the psychology of initial attraction, corporate image, and the new area of employer branding. The next sections continue to describe the relevance of each of these areas to this investigation.
Studies of attraction suggest that human attraction often begins with the experience of similarity. The greater the sense of similarity between self and other, the greater the sense of attraction becomes (Byrne & Neuman, 1992). The notion of similarity drives much of what we know about initial attraction to employers and job choice. The job search/recruitment process is a matching game. Schneider's (1987) attraction-selection-attrition model suggests that the prospective employee and the prospective employer make decisions about each other based on perceived similarity in values and personality. Written information is one of the first ways in which prospective applicants learn about the values of the organization.
Person-organization fit literature further develops the concept of attraction based on similarity. Studies suggest that employees select organizations on the basis of their perception of "fit" …
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Publication information: Article title: An Exploration of Corporate Recruitment Descriptions on Monster.Com. Contributors: Backhaus, Kristin B. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Business Communication. Volume: 41. Issue: 2 Publication date: April 2004. Page number: 115+. © 2008 Association for Business Communication. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.