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Why Are We Still Using Stock Photos on Our Careers Sites?

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 03/14/2017 in Recruiting articles |

I pretty consistently read the articles on ERE and have done so for years.  Many of the articles are geared towards showing innovation in recruiting and how we could all be doing things better.  Other times, you get articles that tell you things that are obvious but so many companies still are behind the ball on.

Last week, there was an article called “‘No Stock Photos Were Harmed’ in the Making of Cisco’s New Career Site.”  This is such an example of one of those “well, duh” type of articles for me…but a quick search of career sites still show it appears to be not so obvious to others.

The article said, “Cisco, like some other companies, tried to use its employees as much as possible in the site. In fact, all the photos were either of employees, or taken by employees. “No stock photography was harmed in the making of our career website,” Andrews jokes. “Our employees represent our company, not marketing, not PR.””

Why is this news?

Anyone looking for a new job opportunity wants to learn about the companies they are interested in.  They want to see what it is like to work there and the kind of people that work there.  Ideally, they want to hear from current employees what it is like or at least see current employees in their environments.

This is obvious…isn’t it?

And yet so many career sites show stock photography.  Diverse groups of happy people in business attire (of some level) around conference tables and computers.  How does this give insight into our company, our employees, or culture?

It is like those commercials you see on TV where the person is supposed to be an “off the street” kind of person and the conversation is spur of the moment/candid…and yet reeks of a production.  The falseness and contrived nature always makes me feel uneasy.

And yet here we have all these employees in the actual environment.  All we would need is an iPhone.  A few candid shots and a few signed photo model release forms later, and you could freely use actual photos of the environment and employees instead of stock photography.

At a purely financial level, we should get sign on by executives and finance.  Stock photography costs money…and often more than you would think.  I once had a job board that the site builders had put a photo in that was not paid for.  The site had only been around for 6 months and had not been making much money…and the single stock photo’s owners sent me a bill for $1,500.  They dropped it a bit when I proved I only used it for 6 months, but this was their annual fee to continue to use the photo based on the kind of traffic my website received.

Thank you to Liren Chen
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

For the want of $1,500, you would finance a really fun photo contest for employees to take photos of the people and the environment…with the top three winning cash awards.  You would get more than a single photography out of the deal.

With model release forms and a thorough review of the photographs to be used on the web site by legal, the lawyers would be appeased.  You can even layout the rules of the contest to make the photographers aware to leave out shots with Coke bottles and such that are trademarked or copyrighted work.

There is a major resource of photography that is being passed up here.  Also, these would be real employees in the actual business environment…so these would actually be of interest to job seekers and not just decoration that is mistrusted.

So my question is, why are we still using stock photos on our careers sites?

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