Corporate Eye

Recruiting in the Headlights

AIG Headlines

Few companies have received more negative notoriety in recent months than AIG. Yet on their Careers site, it looks as if nothing in the world has ever happened to disturb the company, or the happy futures of its prospective employees.

Since it’s been reported out loud in many places that AIG has four PR firms at work, in addition to their in-house resources, it seems obvious they are concerned with making the right impression.  And the corporate home page strikes just the right note, with a simple but effective acknowledgement that problems exist and efforts are at work:

AIG home pageThe look is clean and friendly, and the large “Moving Forward” link takes the visitor to a well-spun news page that focuses attention on restructuring.

But click on over to Careers, and it’s like landing in an Oz of flashy graphics and enthusiastic copy:

AIG Careers
The lead line is: “Wherever you are looking for opportunity, AIG is there.” And in view of the recent publicity about AIG (and financial institutions in general), it is difficult not to regard this statement with a certain irony.

Of course it is absolutely right to continue recruiting, even if a company is experiencing difficulties. And it might even be reasonable to try and keep the Careers section in a bubble, if that were possible. But such could only be accomplished with careful attention—which doesn’t appear to have been paid at AIG. If a natural curiosity were to lead the job-seeker to click on the “Our Organization” tab, and then choose “News,” here’s what they would find:

AIG Careers News
The lead line is: “We celebrate the accomplishments of our employees around the globe. Check back frequently to read updated reports of achievements in the office and in the community.”

But the corporate news feed inserted beneath this caption creates a bit of a disconnect, since it’s generally a stream of financial and legal items that are certainly not celebratory, and bear no relationship to employee accomplishments. On the date I checked (3-12-09), the first item was “AIG Issues Series C Preferred to Trust for the Sole Benefit of the U.S. Treasury.”

It’s hard to say what a company should do in AIG’s circumstances.  But I thought it might be worthwhile to look at another approach, so I traveled over to Citigroup, which has been similarly in the headlights.  They may have been in a better position fundamentally, since their Careers site is much more serious (one would even say sober) in design and execution.

Citigroup Careers

Very little copy on the landing page–and nothing that moves! The presentation remains restrained throughout the site, which has considerable depth, and includes a lengthy, realistic-yet-encouraging message from Citi CEO Vikram Pandit. If visitors access “News” from the Careers site, they are taken to the Press Room, where stories are presented completely, and in context—which plays much better than the bad-news headline scroll at AIG.

It’s understandable that revamping the Careers site may not be a top priority at AIG. But some small changes could have made the presentation seem more appropriate. Here again, perception means a lot . . .

And attention is important. A footer on the Careers landing page announces: “Last Updated Date 10/30/2008 9:58:53 AM.” And that just seems too long under the circumstances.

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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.