There are too many definitions of marketing to count, but one of our favorites comes from Dr. Philip Kotler, who says, “Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires." 86% of HR professionals think that recruitment is becoming more like marketing, and given Dr. Kotler’s definition, it’s easy to see why. While in earlier eras recruiters might have gotten away with targeting only the 20% of candidates who are actively job-seeking at any given time, it’s become crucial in the modern era of recruitment to go after the other 80%, many of whom would gladly switch jobs if the right offer came around. For those people, the first thing you need to do as a recruitment marketer is to help them see a need that they don’t realize they have: the need to change jobs.
This is part of what makes employer branding so powerful. Yes, it gives you the chance to tell a story about your company, but it also lets you tell each candidate a story about herself—about the kind of difference she could be making in her field, or the kind of life she could be leading at company that better respects her time. Perhaps this is why more than 90% of people would consider leaving their current job if they were offered a position at a company with a stellar reputation.
Culture, Mission, Values
What makes for a vital and engaging employer brand? What kind of story should your employer brand tell potential applicants? To begin with, your employer brand should communicate as much information as possible about your company’s culture, mission, and values. Especially among younger job seekers, culture can be just as important as salary or perks when choosing where to work, and their first encounter with that culture will often be whatever piece of employer branding collateral they first happen upon.
When crafting your brand messaging, you should make absolutely certain your job ad, blog post, whitepaper, etc. answers these three questions:
- Who are we?
- Why do we do what we do?
- How do we go about doing it?
In this way, potential applicants can begin to form a mental picture of what it would be like to work at your company (which, not coincidentally, is the number one hurdle that job seekers experience when deciding whether or not to accept an offer). If your company is trying to change the world with a new healthcare app, that should be immediately apparent to everyone who encounters your brand. Likewise, if your company makes work-life balance a priority, or prides itself on a highly diverse team, that should be obvious as well. Balancing all of these elements within your branding can be tricky, but it’s the best we to get otherwise-passive job seekers to begin imagining themselves in a new role at a new company. Not everyone will take the leap from their imagination to your application process, but those who do will do so with confidence that they’re choosing a company that fits with their values and work-style.
By contrast, if you fail to craft a brand that communicates these things, the rest of the internet will fill in the gaps. Candidates will wind up crafting their own brands for you in their heads based on Glassdoor reviews, word of mouth, and traditional marketing—potentially one that diverges greatly from how you see your company and how you would like to see it portrayed. Things like Glassdoor reviews will make up a part of how candidates see you regardless of how strong your brand is (meaning that you should work to make sure you’re earning positive reviews even in spaces that you don’t control), but if there is a branding vacuum you risk losing control of how applicants see you, which can have a deleterious effect on your talent pipeline.
Let’s take a second to recall some elementary school geometry: every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square. This is how you should think of your corporate culture/values and your employee value proposition (EVP). As a refresher, EVP comprises all the non-monetary ways that your company provides value to your employees. Your mission and your culture will be a significant part of this equation, but far from the only part. It will also include things like flexible work hours, the opportunity to work with talented mentors, continuing education programs, swanky office spaces, etc. Not every piece of branding will include every detail about your EVP, but, broadly speaking, your EVP should be a major component of your employer brand. Why? Because broadening the scope of your messaging to include some smaller, more specific details will help prospective hires gain a sense of what their day-to-day life would look like as an employee of your company.
by contrast, communicating only about your culture and values will give candidates the big picture about your company, but leave a bit of a mystery about what the everyday experience would look like. Not only can you erase this mystery by incorporating your EVP into your employer brand, you can demonstrate your commitment to being open and forthright with your information right off the bat. Candidates will trust you more as a result, and it will increase the likelihood that they’ll eventually accept a job offer.
Starting the Conversation
We’ve gotten into the nitty-gritty of what an employer brand can and should say to attract new candidates, but if we take a step back we’ll find that there is a much more general point about employer brand that ought to be made: employer branding isn’t a one-way street. Rather, it’s a dialog between businesses, their employees, and the passive and active job seekers that they attempt to reach. Ads and job listings are just a small part of the what comprises your brand—and most of the other parts are much more collaborative. Turning employees into brand ambassadors, fine-tuning your entire applicant experience, having candid discussions on social media: all of these are ways to create an open and trustworthy image as a business. They help you to build up an even stronger employer brand. And what should a strong employer brand say? It should start a real conversation with potential hires. It should say: “Let’s talk! Let’s learn about who we are and how we can help one another.”