Employer Brand in Three Steps

We have managed, as a service economy, to make everything a brand. Success or failure is based on perception, on value propositions, on connection, on consistent touchstone experiences. And that’s true for hiring, too.

Candidates want to know who you are, what you stand for, and what you can deliver to their career. Explaining those key touchstones in the same ways conventional brands tout their messages (campaigns, word of mouth, marketing materials, copy, design, press releases) can be easier than you think.

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Quite simply, you have to

1) Figure out who your company is and tell that story

2) Discern what people think your company is and whether you need to change your story

3) Develop ways to make your story either overcome or bolster the perceptions of your company.

It takes intentional strategic work to figure out whom you’re targeting, what you want to communicate, and how to get the message out.

The overall job of becoming a successful employer brand is rooted in understanding and condensing your employee experience. Employees are the voice of your employer brand. Unhappy employees tell the world (friends, colleagues, family members, and random people on the train) that your company is not a good place to work.

Engaged and challenged employees, on the other hand, evangelize good employer brands. Workers excited about their role, their team, their work carry the excitement of being part of your company into all the corners of their lives, making others want to work for you, too.

So how do you know what your employer brand is? How do you find out whether your core benefits are common knowledge or whether you need to do damage control? Start by checking GlassDoor.

(Yes, I’m linking to a job site. Why? Because I’m not threatened that there are lots of ways for employers and candidates to find each other. I want you to find the right candidates for your jobs. And if you get the best candidate by posting on a site like GlassDoor, or on LinkedIn, or online with your local newspaper, great! I also send my associate candidates to GlassDoor and LinkedIn because they offer good information on employers, salary, and job searches, though with very different slants (GlassDoor has employee reviews of companies and LinkedIn offers the company-generated marketing about their strengths). I have no illusion that refusing to give clients or candidates useful information will get me more business. I want people in jobs that fit them and I want clients to find the right person for the job. If I don’t make a dime from the transaction, that’s fine with me. I’ll save my skills for the really fun jobs where a matchmaker is required.)

Once you find out what people are saying about your company, you can start to work. Take your brand purpose, positioning, tone, and story, and wrap them into hiring materials, job posts, ad campaigns…whatever your internal department, agency, or committee decides will be the most effective channels for getting your message to current and future hires.

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Then test with internal stakeholders. Does your story ring true to new hires? To those with you the longest? If your marketing isn’t true to your employees, it won’t work to drive your employer brand; it’ll make people unsure what you really are and whether you can be trusted. Remember that employer brand is based on perception, not on what you say. Your current staff are your bellwether. As them what they think. Does their version of your story resonate with the one you’re written?

Let Guy Kawasaki’s response to a question on Employer Brand be your guide on this one: if the story you tell rings true, it’s a boon for hiring. If it’s just window dressing in a dysfunctional store, you’re wasting your time (and likely doing your company long-term harm).

But your employees are only part of the story. Consider, too, job candidates. What they experience and share can also help or hurt your ability to hire and retain great talent.

Treat candidates respectfully. Send an email saying their resume made it to you. Communicate the what they can expect from the process. Be honest about your expectations and timeline. Answer queries in a timely manner. Follow up whether you decide to hire a particular candidate or not. Nobody likes to be left hanging.

Candidate experience can be as important as employee experience, because when that amazing candidate enters the process, you need to be sure she thinks well enough of you  to say yes when you ask her to become your newest great employee.

So there you have your three steps. Express, Listen, Revise. Write your employer story. Get it out to the people who need to hear it. And stay true to the values you set. The whole point of being a brand is letting people know what to expect. And that should be true through the whole employment process.

Good luck!

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