From the Chairman: Building your brand

Jul 11, 2014

Recruiting may not be immediately seen as a great branding tool, but it is.

I’ll bet you never imagined your recruiting process could be an important brand-building tool for your firm. How can that be? Here’s how I see it: If you’re recruiting opportunistically (i.e., I need to hire someone to fulfill a role… right now!), the quality of candidates available will be quite limited. If you’re under time pressure, your options for selectivity will also be limited. So, what to do? My strategy is to build a “pipeline,” identifying people whom you think would fit well with your firm and gauging their skill sets and talents over time. By staying in touch on a collegial basis, you can reach out to prospective candidates that you know and have already vetted when an opening arises. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:
  • Encourage members of your firm to participate in industry forums, professional society committees and other places where colleagues in your discipline gather. It’s a great way to see others in action, to become a friend, to talk up what you’re doing, and to gauge how satisfied (or not) they are in their present situations.
  • Develop a well-thought-out and rigorous internship program for students. If you have a strong relationship with a university from which you recruit, especially if you do some teaching or advising there, the dean or the professors will help you identify the brightest and best. I’ve been surprised and pleased by the number of students I’ve come to know over the years that have ended up at Gensler. Even more impressive are those that show up for an interview years after graduating, never having participated as an intern. When asked how they found their way to us, the answer is, “I had a really good friend in graduate school who did an internship with you and raved about the experience. I always wanted to see what the firm was all about.”
  • Spend time with vendors who call on you. Don’t treat them as a nuisance. Remember, they’re calling on other firms, too. They know who’s good and who might be unhappy where they are. Often, a word from them can send you a wonderful candidate.
  • Encourage your own staff to stay close to their friends in other firms. Make sure, of course, that your folks are really happy in your firm and proud to be a part of it, or this can backfire. Your own people should be an important part of your pipeline when it’s time to hire someone new.
  • Have a clear and written statement of your Mission, Vision and Values – what you stand for, where you’re going and what’s important in the way you work together as a firm. Make it visible. Leave a copy behind at university career day interviews. Give it to clients. It helps remind you to live up to what you declare, and clients may be working with other firms. It helps if they’re talking up what a great firm you are.
Since your brand is what other people say about you, not what you declare it to be, these are great strategies to get your stakeholders speaking positively about your firm. Further, having a robust pipeline helps you attract and hire people who are both talented and aligned with your values. Your brand is formed by the impressions your people leave with those with whom you interact, by the quality and character of the work they do, and by their ability to do it well through collaboration with their colleagues. Shouldn’t your recruiting process – how you do it and who you’re able to bring on board – have a stronger impact on your brand than any other single thing you can do? Edward Friedrichs, FAIA, FIIDA, is a consultant with ZweigWhite and the former CEO and president of Gensler. Contact him at This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1063, originally published 7/14/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.