Real and True Online: Why Authenticity on the Web Can Help Your Business Attract High- Quality Candidates

In our increasingly digital lives, private web users are becoming more aware of inauthentic web personae.  Scams, bots, deep fakes, and hackers are just some of the risks we open ourselves up to on the web. And in the era of Big Data, users are critical of companies that profit off of their web presence.  In the recruiting world, these cautious web users will often also be potential candidates. Being authentic online can help your company appear trustworthy, which is especially important because of the financial high-stakes of the Land Title Insurance, Settlement, and Appraisal industries. As more and more top-tier professionals are conducting their job searches virtually, online authenticity may just be what attracts the best candidates to you and away from your competitors.

To get a sense of why online authenticity is so important, consider this: In August, Disney launched a coordinated Twitter thread to market the unveiling of its streaming service, DisneyPlus. The thread—featuring icons like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic—could have been a charming conversation between beloved franchises. Except, for a significant part of Disney’s online audience, it backfired horribly. Instead of a natural chat, the thread struck many users as a grossly-scripted corporate stunt. The point of the thread—to advertise DisneyPlus—wasn’t the problem. The problem was the phony sense of community Disney forced onto its branded assets, and thousands of Twitter users criticized Disney for patting itself on the back.

Disney’s thread is a case example of a lapse in authenticity. On the one hand, Disney has near-infinite resources and is perhaps the premier group of creatives for our time. But in August, their storytelling expertise fell a bit short.

So what does this have to do with finding high-quality talent in the Land Title Insurance, Settlement, and Appraisal industries?

The short answer: Everything.

This mishap just goes to show that no company is too big or too creative to misread its audience. And that audience will call out plain-old fake web personalities.

So what is authenticity, why does it matter, and how do you cultivate it online?

Let’s leave the internet and turn to the traditional interview. How many qualified candidates have you turned down because they felt like they were putting on a show or forcing their personality in-person? How often have you brought people onto your team mostly because you felt something genuine about them?

Often, this one interaction decides the direction of this person’s life with your company. Your gut-feelings about a candidate can also shape the entire future of the role, the team, or even the company.

The age-old adage stands: First impressions are everything, and you only get one.

It’s easier to see how first impressions work face-to-face; we sense when people are performing in front of us, even if we can’t explain how or what feels “off” about them. Users also rely on first impressions online. As both companies and candidates conduct online research for a potential position, the distance that your devices create between you can make candidates more skeptical of your business and its online personality.

Authenticity Defined

There are many interpretations of authenticity and even more ideas about how to be authentic. But this first-impression, gut-feeling reaction is a pretty good place to start.

According to leading researchers at Robert Morris University, authenticity is “a presentation of the self in a truthful way.” To be authentic online is to act in a way that feels real to your visitors and true to your business’ mission.

We can see in Disney’s Twitter thread what happens when you miss one of these pieces. Disney’s thread was certainly true to its creative and collaborative missions. However, the execution felt fake to its viewers, and that was enough to unravel the entire post.

Authenticity Matters

You might be thinking right now: “But my business exists in the real world, off the internet, too! If candidates really want to know who we are and what we’re about, they should just call or wait for their in-person interviews!”

That’s all well and good, but let’s look at some quick facts:

  1. 93% of businesses use social media to fill jobs (SHRM)
  2. 90% of recent job seekers relied on the internet to find or research a position (Pew Research)
  3. Visitors average 2 minutes, 17 seconds on a webpage (Brafton)

As both candidates and companies increasingly conduct job searches online, research suggests that businesses are becoming inseparable from their online lives. Your recruiting strategy must involve a healthy web and social media presence.

Much like the in-person interview, your potential candidates are making instantaneous judgements about your business’ credibility. And much like the in-person interview, you may only be given one chance to make a good impression. More often than not, the initial contact a candidate will have with your business will happen online. The impressions that your company makes in the first online encounter help establish its reputation.

Because it directly relates to trust, your authenticity online is a critical point for attracting high-quality candidates. We often think about using social media to check-in on current and potential employees. We use it to confirm that their online lives complement company values; things like suggestive images or controversial posts are red flags. But this basic practice works the other way around:

In the two minutes they spend on your website, candidates make snap decisions about the quality, appeal, reputation, and values of your organization.

The bottom line is, your candidates may never interact with your business in the real world if you fail to earn their trust online. And the best way to do that is to have an authentic online presence.

Being Authentic Online

The catch is that there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to be authentic online. In fact, a quick internet search on just that question sends back over 250 million results. But there are some common building blocks to work with:

  1. Be Visible on Social Media. By one count, there are 65 social media sites out there right now. It’s not realistic or useful to be on all of them. But you should find a handful of meaningful outlets to highlight your business and give visitors a better idea of its personality.
  2. Practice Social Consciousness. Social consciousness can take many forms, from meaningful involvement in a local organization to a broad stance on global social issues. Being active in your company’s various communities makes you more personable, authentic, and trustworthy. Done tactfully and honestly, social consciousness can demonstrate a real, true connection between your brand and the public.
  3. Share Quality Content. Know your audience and what they value about your company. Invest in fact-checking, design, and copyediting. Most importantly, create content that enhances your business’ mission.

Technology is changing every day, and so is how we recruit through the web. Just as we sift through a high volume of applicants to find the best possible hire, candidates use a similar process to find the best possible work environment. You can attract more first-rate candidates in Land Title Insurance, Settlement, and Appraisal by cultivating an authentic, credible persona online. Overall, if it feels like a real representation of you and your company, it probably is.