“Under promise and over deliver” is an often stated and widely believed expression in business. However, when it comes to hiring practices this bit of wisdom is overlooked all too frequently. In the race to acquire talent, organizations understandably try to sell candidates on the strengths of their workplace. But overemphasizing the positives can lead new hires to be disappointed when they experience the reality of the job. When discovering that their expectations for a position within a company are not being met, new employees may feel frustrated and even misled. This negatively impacts morale and engagement, and often results in turnover.
Opening Prospective Employees’ Eyes
The solution to this issue is surprisingly easy: during the interview, share some of the less attractive aspects of the position and the organization. It may seem counterproductive, but research has long established the benefits of providing a more realistic portrayal of the role to increase job satisfaction, performance, and retention (Premack & Wanous, 1985). The term for this recruiting measure is the Realistic Job Preview (RJP).
Realistic job previews balance out the promotional aspects of a role by highlighting some of the challenges new hires may face after onboarding. Being upfront and candid about potential roadblocks prepares new employees for the kinds of challenges to expect. It is a fine line to walk, of course, and leaders need to be careful not to overdo it. After all, the objective is to hire top talent.
Below are some tips to consider when creating an RJP:
- Research the job role before beginning the hiring process. Speak with current employees and the department manager to get a solid sense of the job requirements and analyze employee survey results.
- List both positive and negative aspects of the job and select which points to cover with candidates.
- Decide how to convey the RJP to potential employees, whether through written materials, online or verbally. Prepare the materials as needed.
- Balance the potential challenges with rewards. Keep in mind that every negative job point should be followed by a positive one.
Gaining and Retaining Employees without Inflated Expectations
While it is important to “sell” your organization, be cautious about portraying any opportunity as unrealistically perfect. Discuss the positives along with some real obstacles that others in the position have faced. Top recruits in particular understand challenge and will look for work that provides such complexities. Offering insight into what new employees will encounter when stepping into a role builds trust in the company’s leadership. It also increases the odds that they will become dedicated, long-term additions to the team, working toward your organization’s success.
Premack, Steven L.; Wanous, John P., A meta-analysis of realistic job preview experiments. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 70(4), Nov 1985, 706-719.