Let’s get visual: how to bridge the gap between applicant expectations and office reality

Visual representation is everything, especially online. Nobody’s clicking on YouTube videos without seeing a thumbnail. Nobody’s booking a room on Airbnb without first scrutinising every photo. And it’s highly unlikely that a picture-less Tinder profile will generate any likes. We base our decision-making on visual impressions, in almost all aspects of our life.

There’s one decision, however, which we tend to not base on visual impressions. Though part and parcel of our life, we don’t look at our future office as if it were a hotel room. Even though we may spend five days per week in the first, compared to only a single night in the latter. 

The problem with vacancy texts

More often than not, our impression of our future job is induced by vacancy texts. Every employer is looking for “enthusiastic, ambitious and flexible employees”. Nobody’s looking for a nine-to-five mentality, even though the effort put in the vacancy text is often the first and foremost indicator of precisely that mentality. Standard sentences in the average job description achieve the opposite of the desired effect. 

Truth be told, it is difficult to convey your company culture through vacancy texts. You could try to spice things up with a pinch of flair and a teaspoon of humour, yet you don’t want your company’s image to be a comedy show either. 

Photo of Dynata company culture and office
Photo of Dynata office

On top of this issue, applicants generally have little a priori knowledge about your (and their future) colleagues. Whereas an HR team will select candidates based on their vision of a company fit, the candidate itself often has little feeling for the group of people that he or she will surround him- or herself with for an extensive period of time. There’s a large information gap between applicant expectation and office reality. 

So how do we bridge this gap? 

First, and most obviously, one should have clear company photos. Not of your products or projects, but of you, your office, and your people. Show applicants the environment in which they will work. Second, particularly video makes a major contribution to this end, as it allows for a lively impression. One could think for example about a virtual reality tour of the office. Video is an often overlooked medium on company pages. Though, employers should keep in mind that the millennial looking at their company page will always prefer to play a video over reading a text.

Photo of De Buurtboer company culture and office
Photo of De Buurtbuur office

Third, have your employees generate their own content. Nothing says ‘I like my job’ like posting fun stuff about it on social media. If they do so, your employees see their work as something worth sharing with others. Moreover, this content has a major strength. It’s authentic. Employee experience is best portrayed by employees. 

On Magnet.me, the Netherlands’ largest career network for students and young professionals, company culture is at the centre of attention. The platform allows for clear and snappy company information using photos, video’s, and employee testimonials. Upon encountering opportunities and company profiles, applicants can ‘like’ an opportunity, after which the employer can chat with the candidate. It’s often explained as a “Tinder for jobs, but better”.  

Research within our database shows that employers who have a profile with clear photos get an average eight (!) times as many likes per opportunity. Employers that make their profiles insightful through video get more than ten times that amount. 

Concluding that employers will benefit from branding themselves through photos and video’s is no rocket science. Still, most employers use the vacancy text as the main medium for transferring information about their company and opportunities.

So if you want to get ahead of the competition, lift your emphasis on vacancy texts and focus on visual representation. Candidates are not looking for jobs like it’s 1997, so stop hiring like they are.

Video of the McKinsey & Company office