Deepti Jethanandani, Client Partner, Bangalore, India
Building Your Employer Brand Through the Hiring Process
“’Brand’ is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. ‘Branding’ is about shaping that perception.” - Ashley Friedlein, CEO and Founder of Guild (a professional messaging app) and Founder of Econsultancy (a digital strategy and resources platform).
Current, former and future employees are powerful influencers of your company’s reputation and brand. The hiring process is a valuable opportunity to forge a lasting impression with the latter group, but companies often overlook this.
Defining Company Brand
Your company spends significant energy and resources building a brand which is communicated through its products, services, customer touchpoints, culture, and marketing activities (such as advertisements and website messaging). Ideally, this inspires positive emotional, instinctive, and intellectual perceptions of your brand amongst your organization’s target market.
But there is also a secondary brand which is imperative for your company: your Employer Brand. This is how each company is viewed as an employer, based on first-hand experience from former, current, and future employees. Your Employer Brand is made up of every touchpoint you have with job candidates and staff, from the first outreach messages to individuals you are trying to recruit, right through to your exit interview process for those leaving.
The vast majority of medium and large companies use recruitment marketing to build awareness and visibility around their company’s culture to attract top talent to the organization. The cultural component of what a company can offer a potential recruit has become much more important in recent years.
It’s important to keep in mind that recruitment marketing extends far beyond sourcing talent—in fact, it applies to the entire hiring life cycle, from attracting to engaging and nurturing potential talent.
We are currently in a strong employee job market, meaning the war for talent is fierce, and the vast majority of job seekers are passive, although many are open to new roles or opportunities. Recruiters need to build a savvy and captivating brand pitch to stimulate interest and engagement with targeted potential employees, particularly when recruiting for senior leaders and executives.
At this senior level, even if the mission, vision and values are a perfect fit for a potential candidate, and the compensation, company revenue and growth numbers are ideal as well, having a standout Employer Brand will make the ultimate difference in attracting an ideal set of potential candidates.
A potential candidate is extremely unlikely to simply rely on what you say about your company or accept at face value what you highlight as the positive aspects of your workplace. They will use their professional network to have independent conversations about your company’s reputation, and do their own research online, for which a plethora of websites specialize in anonymous user-generated employee reviews. Glassdoor is the most commonly used globally, but there are a wide variety of specialist sites, such as Kununu (for the German speaking market), Rate My Employer (for Canada) and The Job Crowd (for the UK).
When you have an impeccable product or service on offer that’s received favorably by its target audience, your customers become loyal brand ambassadors who effectively end up doing some of your advertising for you, without costing you a dime. The same applies to employment branding, whereby a positive, far-reaching reputation as an employer generally translates into reduced recruitment costs.
What Can Hiring Professionals Do?
Talent acquisition executives can play a role in enhancing their organization’s Employer Brand by undertaking a ‘candidate centric’ analysis of their hiring process. Stop and reflect on each step that job applicants take. Ask yourself whether each element communicates that you’re a well-run and managed company; an organization successful hires could feel proud to be part of.
Job applicants report a surprising frequency of managers showing up late or not at all for interviews, and not apologizing when they do so. Another all too frequent occurrence is candidates not being communicated with in a timely manner (or at all) after an interview has taken place, or having a very slow and long interview process. When these types of incidents occur, they are more than a strong discourtesy – they are massively disadvantageous to your Employer Brand.
Talent acquisition should work with leadership to set up a range of goals or standards that you believe your company should adhere to, as a minimum, in order to maintain an excellent Employer Brand identity. Seed this up the organizational chain so that it becomes a strategic priority for your organization.
Surveys are also a good idea. Ask candidates what they thought of the hiring process that your firm conducted, both to those that did and did not get the job. Unpack any weak points in the process or negative aspects. Why did they occur? How often are they occurring, and how severe are they?
Fortunately, most shortfalls in the hiring process can be relatively easy to fix, and largely stem from a simple lack of communication or organization.
Just as consumers talk about both their favorite and most hated products, so do people talk about good and bad employers. A great Employer Brand, reinforced by a strong online portfolio of great reviews, will lead to an increase in referrals, greater job satisfaction, and better talent acquisition and retention. On the flip side, word spreads just as quickly if your company develops a negative image in the eyes of would-be employees.
It is important to communicate what you want to build for customers, employees and prospective talent alike but also build a culture to deliver what you communicate within the organization.
In his book Brand Engagement: How Employees Make or Break Brands, Ian Buckingham sums up the opportunity perfectly when he says: “Brands are built from within…[they] have very little to do with promises made through advertising. They’re all about promises met by employees.”