Corporate Eye

Places I want to work (Surprise #2)


Actually, example #2 turns out to be less surprising than #1 (Home Depot), since I have quite a bit more experience in communications than in home improvement. But I was in the publishing industry for several years at the beginning of my career, and wouldn’t intentionally look for an opportunity to return.

So the appeal of Pearson’s site actually was unexpected.  And the site is certainly a complete 180 from the sturdy look-and-feel of Home Depot, with an “employer brand” character that might best be described as beguiling. The tone is direct and sincere, the design is casual (even artless), and the information is simply but adequately presented.

There isn’t a great deal of practical detail, because Pearson is made up of several different components (Pearson Education, Financial Times Group, and Penguin Group) that hire independently. So the parent site focuses on a basic presentation of the company philosophy—and there it has great success.

The key message is stated on the landing page: “We have a simple but ambitious goal: to be the best company to work for in the world, so that our people have the skills to leave, but choose to stay.” Variants of this message are repeated frequently, and are backed up with a sort of detail that is frequently missing in recruitment rhetoric: qualities of the company, and the qualities they are seeking.

Pearson uses words that are not typically found in company self-description. Example: “At the heart of everything we do are three core values: bravery, decency and imagination. These define the culture of our organisation and have always underpinned the way we do business.” Although there are sections on the site that cover the usual matters (benefits, diversity, training, etc.) what comes across most powerfully is the sense that “core values” is not just a bit of jargon, but a real description of their operating philosophy.

Here’s one more quote from a section titled “What we look for in Pearson people.” That’s a very helpful topic to present, I think, and the first item on the list is: “We are in the information business so we expect people to be forward-looking and creative in their thinking. We also assume that they will have a genuine passion for our business.”

And that last sentence actually forms a bridge for my own thinking. One of the strengths I pointed to on the Home Depot site was an image placed squarely in the middle of the Careers landing page—a blackboard with the phrase “What’s your Passion?” written across it in a bold hand.

Not that every Careers site needs to sneak in the word “passion” somewhere! But in both these cases, the idea of passionate engagement is integrated into the messaging (visually in one, verbally in the other), and strengthens an overall impression that the company really cares about making a match that works for both employer and employee.

Delivering a meaningful message won’t overcome lack of functionality or nonsense navigation. But it will make a good site much better.

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.