By Nathan Laurie

How user-generated content will drive applicant decision-making and recruitment spending patterns well into the future

After 20 years in the Canadian recruitment market, I thought I knew it all – that is until the world changed under me.

In 1994, my brother, Mark, and I launched our first business fresh out of university called, Target Student Marketing. We started off by making dry-erasable calendars, bordered with local advertisers who wanted to reach students. Then we launched a national career lifestyle publication, Jobpostings Magazine (that is, back when people still loved print). We also launched two websites: (for student jobs) and ApplyToEducation (an applicant tracking system and national job board for the education sector).

During those early years at Jobpostings Magazine, reader involvement was almost an afterthought for us. Communication and influence flowed from the top down. The content was the beautiful display ads letting students know there were opportunities for them when they graduated.

Unfortunately, what worked from 1998 to 2014, no longer works in today’s recruitment media landscape. Gone are the days when new grads happily apply to all top employers accepting work wherever it’s first offered. Today’s grads are way more thorough with their research on where they want to launch their careers. Now, thanks to the abundance of information online and the cost of getting a post-secondary education, young applicants are online looking up a company’s culture, social responsibility and graduate programs before they get anywhere close to sending off a resume.

The more information available online for students, the better! That’s why I’m focusing this piece on exploring how online user-generated content will drive applicant decision-making and recruitment spending patterns well into the future.

Rise of user-generated content

The way that I like to explain user-generated content is that it’s traditional word-of-mouth advertising that’s migrated into the digital world. This user-generated content can come in the form of customer-produced articles or pictures published on their blog; YouTube videos that share customer brand experiences; or even a social media, forum or comment post complaining about a company’s customer service.

And then there’s the review. We’ve all used Yelp to pick restaurants to eat at. We’ve all read movie reviews too before heading to the theatre or a review on TripAdvisor before booking a vacation. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

So, given this shift in consumer behaviour, is it a surprise that people are beginning to ask for advice about their career options, a choice that can have a massive impact on both their finances and their future?

Is it a surprise then that Glassdoor has been making major inroads into the Canadian market? That LinkedIn is gaining in awareness and popularity among university and college students? That Indeed added reviews to their network and that the new Google for Jobs platform is scheduled to do the same?

According to a 2016 Glassdoor study, 61% of users report that they seek company reviews and ratings before making a decision to apply for a job. And the majority of jobseekers read at least six reviews before forming an opinion of a company.

What this means is that employer brands are being redefined not by their internal communications or marketing department, but by the collective comments written about them online.

What this also means is that future HR and marketing departments are destined to merge (or work much more closely together than they already doing).

Toxic company culture hurting the bottom line

I know, these two departments merging sounds crazy now, but consider what we’ve been seeing over the past two years. We’ve seen tech giants like Uber forced to clean house at the executive level because of a culture of sexual harassment in the workplace. Likewise, the US bank, Wells Fargo, saw its share price tank after it was revealed that the they promoted, encouraged the creation of fake accounts that ended up defrauding over three million of its customers.

As a result, each of these companies are not only facing serious financial repercussions (in various forms) for their poor behaviour, but their tarnished brand image means they are also finding it increasingly difficult to attract a diverse base of qualified applicants to apply for their current and future openings.

This means these companies will have to invest more money into their HR departments to repair their employer brand and recruit qualified candidates.

In our current media landscape, and the socially aware culture that’s now emerging, companies are finding it harder than ever to cover up their employees’ bad behaviour. And in many of these cases, especially those involving sexual harassment charges, this bad behaviour was first reported via user-generated content published on social media and employer review websites that was then picked up by the traditional press.

HR and marketing departments to merge

As you can see, while it’s the job of the marketing and communications department to protect and promote their companies’ brand, they can’t do their job when the company culture permits immoral and predatory behaviour toward its customers and its employees – a culture that HR departments are supposed to defend against. Likewise, the HR department can’t hire the quality people needed to lead company operations without significant support from marketing to build an attractive employer brand that applicants actively want to apply to.

At the end of the day, HR plays an indirect but increasingly significant role in a company’s overall branding and profitability, a fact that marketing and communications departments can no longer ignore. And as this realization grows within the corporate world, we’ll see a greater representation of HR needs at strategic marketing meetings and a greater representation of marketing needs at strategic HR meetings.

Marketing tactics for the HR professional

Ultimately, what this all boils down to is reputation. HR directly and indirectly builds brand reputation. And reputation builds company profits.

That’s why when it comes to the user-generated content directed at your brand, it’s vital to start managing it early. Below are a few tips on what to consider when planning your user-generated content management strategy:

  • Create an inventory of all the online platforms where your brand is being discussed in a manner that can impact future recruitment activities.
  • Create a schedule, and online alerts, to monitor what is said about your company at regular intervals.
  • Create branded accounts on these online platforms and proactively publish employment data that people are actively looking for, including: basic company information, details on benefits packages, compensation packages, perks, and the company’s mission, vision and values.
  • Encourage your high-performing, current and past employees to write reviews about your organization on those online platforms that discuss your employer brand the most. Note that 78% of jobseekers say that ratings and reviews from those on the inside are influential when deciding where to work (Glassdoor).
  • And begin responding to comments in a constructive manner. Note that 62% of users agree their perception of a company improves after seeing an employer respond to a review (Glassdoor).

Again, user-generated content will drive applicant decision-making and recruitment spending patterns well into the future. The earlier an organization takes control and markets the employer brand with user-generated content, the greater the long-term advantage over other employers competing for the same future applicants.


Nathan Laurie is the President of and is a review website where students and graduates can publish their recent internship and co-op experiences, as well as research the internship or co-op reviews of others.


Barron’s, “Wells Fargo Talent Drain Since Scandal.” (August 16, 2017) Retrieved from:

Vanity Fair, “How Wells Fargo’s Cutthroat Corporate Culture Allegedly Drove Bankers to Fraud.” (May 31, 2017) Retrieved from:

Search Engine Land, “88% Of Consumers Trust Online Reviews As Much As Personal Recommendations”. (July 7, 2014) Retrieved from: