He's shirtless and painted head-to-toe in school colors. He's booing the opponent and roaring after every yard gained. It's freezing. After every chant he leads, a dragon-like puff of white air follows. His enthusiasm is undeniable.
He is a wildly devoted college football fan—but I see him as a brand advocate. He possesses the kind of blood-sweat-and-tears passion you want on your staff. So how do you find diehard "fans" for your company?
Grow Your Fandom
Hiring the right candidate can be a major struggle for small businesses just taking off. Forming your initial team will set the playing field for what's to come, whether it's a supportive team environment or a lackluster group only concerned about payday.
In today's job market, you may receive hundreds of applicants for every vacancy you post online, making it easy to feel overwhelmed. In fact, many business leaders do end up going astray when searching for top-tier candidates. A 2016 Monster.com study of 639 small business owners in the U.S. who have 1 to 50 full-time employees found that 62 percent of business leaders admit to choosing a wrong applicant at some point in their careers.
I run an experiential marketing agency and I constantly find myself needing to hire brand advocates to represent our clients. We can come up with the most innovative, attention-grabbing marketing event possible, but if we hire “meh" employees to staff it, the event fizzles.
The same logic applies to any industry. The life of a brand is like a football game, and your employees are the fans. They can make elaborate signs and cheer on the team until they lose their voices—or they can stay mute and roll their eyes at bad plays while eating an overpriced hot dog.
Here are tips to help find the tailgating-all-day brand advocates that your business needs:
1. Say what you mean.
Don't be lazy with job postings. Glazing over specifics to attract a large group of candidates is tempting but counterintuitive. Put thorough expectations in job postings so applicants know upfront what you expect—this includes the nitty-gritty details of the role and your company's values. Tell applicants who you are, because applicants may look to their future CEO as living proof of how the company lives up to its values. It's better to let applicants know right away what your team is about in order to avoid iffy candidates jumping on the bandwagon.
2. Ask for specifics.
Use the interviewing process to your advantage, and don't be shy to ask questions that dig deep into candidates' strengths and weaknesses. Stir up discussions that pertain to characteristics you expect from brand advocates. For example, in my business, punctuality affects profits, so I inquire about candidates' time management. I might ask them to tell me about a time they were late and how they handled the situation. Then, I listen for honesty, humility and alignment with our values. I enjoy a blush-worthy story of late arrival, but what's most important is when candidates express what they learned from an experience and what steps they plan to take for continued improvement.
3. Seek out pre-existing passion.
Hiring a future brand advocate is easy when the applicant already has knowledge of your company's product. Think twice about letting business rivalries fence out future brand advocates. An applicant might have worn a rival's jersey for a while, but imagine how great he or she will look in your home colors.
In the end, sometimes your gut tells you when you've got the right candidate. Remember, you were your brand's first advocate, so you know whether a candidate's pre-snap chatter grooves with your future business plays. Always trust your gut.
A brand advocate's passion is contagious. Just like how the diehard football fan's passion inspires others around him to jump to their feet, with more brand advocates supporting your business, your brand's identity has the potential to become as loud as thousands of screaming fans after a game-winning touchdown.