Personal Finance

Job seekers see companies with bad press as a big turn off

Key Points
  • 71 percent of U.S. workers won't apply to a company that has had negative publicity.
  • More than a quarter of employers who have experienced bad publicity say it has affected hiring, morale, turnover and sales.
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Job seekers have good reason to fear that old, inappropriate Facebook picture: It could derail a job offer. Bad publicity, as it turns out, also derails companies from getting the best hires.

Seventy-one percent of U.S. workers said they would not apply to a company experiencing negative publicity, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. Women were more likely than men to steer clear, at 79 percent to 61 percent.

"In today's 24/7 news cycle and social media world, earning and maintaining a good reputation can be a challenge," said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. "It's easier than ever before for job seekers to research potential employers."

The job site surveyed roughly 2,300 hiring and HR managers, as well as 3,400 full-time employees earlier this year.

A company's bad rep also affects current employees. More than a quarter of employers who have experienced negative press said it has impacted morale, turnover and sales.

The recent string of company bad news includes Uber (where a blog post by a former engineer revealed systemic sexism, leading to the CEO's resignation), United Airlines (where a passenger was dragged off an overbooked flight) and start-up Binary Capital (where a partner resigned after six businesswomen reported his inappropriate advances toward them). None of these companies responded to CNBC requests for comment.

Uber’s embattled CEO is out after a series of lawsuits and scandals

It's not always the scandal itself that turns away potential employees, said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, a global staffing firm.

"Job candidates should consider more than the specific situation and the publicity surrounding it," McDonald said. "[They] should also look at how the firm is responding to the situation. The way in which the firm handles a crisis is an important indicator of its culture and values."

Anyone considering working for a company that's in turmoil should do extensive research, McDonald said. Talk to your network and ask current and former employees about the culture and working conditions to determine if this is the right place for you.

Pay attention to your gut, too, said John Challenger of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"If your antenna is saying 'I'm not sure I'm going to fit in well here,' or 'I'm not sure I trust this boss,' that's a reason to think twice," he said.

And don't assume that you will have more leverage to negotiate salary and benefits because the company is in crisis mode. Your value always depends on demand for your skills, McDonald said.