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How Much Does a Company's Reputation Matter in Recruiting?

Recently, the idea has emerged that a key to winning the talent war through recruitment is to place greater emphasis on an organization's reputation for social responsibility, not just the company's overall reputation or its reputation as a good employer. But few studies validly examine the degree to which a company's social reputation or other aspects of its reputation are more or less important than other, more utilitarian job choice factors. When a survey task simply asks people to rate the importance of a laundry list of job attributes such as corporate social responsibility, it hides the marginal value of each attribute to the potential employee.

This article reports on three job-choice studies — one with a sample of MBA students, the second with white-collar office workers and the third with workers from a mixture of occupations (legal, medical, government/public service and manual labor). The results reveal that for potential employers of MBA students, neither a corporate reputation for social responsibility nor a reputation as a good place to work is as important as those facets of the job contract that are more directly material to MBAs' careers — salary, compensation structure, time demands and promotion opportunities. These talented employees want to work for good employers, but their employers do not have to be leaders in corporate social responsibility.

Across job categories, the studies showed a degree of heterogeneity that implies that overly simplistic prescriptions could lead managers astray. For example, manual workers appear to be less concerned about a company's reputation, while those in the legal profession are clearly paying attention to the social and workplace dimensions of an organization's reputation. When it comes to reputation and the war for talent, there is every indication it is not a case of one size fits all.

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