Nike's decision to hire Colin Kaepernick for its latest ad campaign has triggered plenty of strong feelings: While some consumers have boycotted the company's products, the move has also induced an outpouring of support from other athletes and renewed adoration from fans. 

In other words, the arguably risky hiring bet worked.

Nike selected Kaepernick for the 30th anniversary campaign of its "Just Do It" slogan, not only because of his impressive career in the National Football League, but also because Nike wanted to embrace Kaepernick's moral and ethical values. The campaign's slogan--"Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything"--highlights Kaepernick's kneeling during the singing of the national anthem before NFL games to protest police brutality, an act that cost him his job as an NFL player. Nike was already the subject of an ongoing controversy involving former female employees who have sued the company over pay discrimination and a lack of promotion opportunities for women.

Sharing moral and ethical values with employers is increasingly on the minds of job candidates today, experts say. The U.S. unemployment rate is at a historic low--it stood at 3.9 percent in August. The shortage of available talent in the job market means candidates can be pickier than ever, giving them even more reason to hold out for an opportunity at a company that both offers competitive salaries and benefits and aligns with their views. 

"There is no question that in today's market--a candidates' market--alignment with corporate values is an important attribute that candidates are increasingly considering," says Bob Melk, the chief commercial officer of hiring site Monster. A recent company survey of more than 220,000 job-seekers found that 20 percent of candidates based their decision of whether to apply for a job partly on company values, beating other factors like industry (19 percent), training and development (18 percent), and compensation (15 percent).

Hiring candidates who will feel aligned with your company's moral and ethical values begins with clearly and loudly defining these concepts. Then, Melk suggests using personality tests or profile assessments during the interview process to ensure a candidate's values match those of the business. 

Paul Hardart, the director of the entertainment, media, and technology program at the NYU Stern School of Business, says CEOs look for traits like enthusiasm in an employee more than job experience, because enthusiasm can't be taught. 

"If you believe in your work, you're going to be working harder," Hardart says. "You don't want to be a vegan working in a sausage company."

Sample questions Hardart recommends include:

  • "What do you think of our products?"
  • "What are we doing right and wrong?" 
  • "How would you change the product line?"

He adds that a thoughtful answer and excitement are hard to fake, and businesses can glean whether that candidate has a commitment to the brand. "You will take the enthusiastic person over the person who went to a great school."

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Published on: Sep 7, 2018