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What is an employer brand audit and how do you conduct one?

Do you ever find it difficult to keep track of what your organization is saying to candidates daily? Put differently, what your candidates see, read, and hear about you when deciding if they want to apply for a position? 

If you’re finding it difficult to keep up, and have an uneasy feeling about how your company is viewed in your industry, it might be time for an employer brand audit

In this article, we’ll explain what an employer brand audit is, why you should conduct one, and share a detailed brand audit framework. 

Let’s get started! 

What is an employer brand audit?

Employer brand audits provide an in-depth review of all recruitment and marketing channels, to establish a benchmark for where you are currently relative to your strategic goals. 

Variables reviewed in an employer brand audit might include:

  • Employer messaging
  • Social media presence
  • Candidate experience
  • Application process
  • Follow-ups and communication
  • Chatter about your brand

The scope of an employer brand audit can vary dramatically, depending on the size and complexity of your recruitment activities. In general, brand audits aim to answer the following questions: 

  • What message are we sending to the candidate?
  • How are we sending it?
  • Is that message working?
  • What are people saying about us?
  • What are our competitors doing?
  • Is that working?
  • What should we start, stop, and continue doing? 

The answers to these questions come by executing a structured brand audit framework that carefully reviews all of your existing properties, and rates their effectiveness. 

You can then pair the above process with a competitive employer brand audit to gain a full picture of how you fit into the market and compare it to other similar employers.

In the end – with a combination of internal and competitive employer brand audits – you should be able to identify gaps in your current strategy and identify opportunities for improvement. 

Why conduct an employer brand audit

There are many reasons why an employer brand audit might be helpful for your organization. As mentioned earlier, if you feel that there’s a lot of content about your company flying around on the web that is not in your control, then taking stock and establishing an action plan is a good idea. 

Likewise, if you’ve noticed that your hiring process has become less efficient or effective over time, or that candidates have started to have a higher drop off rate, you should pause to evaluate why that might be. 

In both of these cases, an employer brand audit can help you identify all potential variables, giving you a holistic view of what type of messaging and experience you’re presenting to candidates. 

More specifically, employer brand audits can: 

  • Help identify where and how you should be allocating your resources. 
  • Give deeper insight into what your competitors are doing, what’s working, and how you can be different. 
  • Help to improve and refine your overall employer brand image, which is an important talent acquisition strategy. 
  • Identify issues in your hiring strategy and messaging, and develop a roadmap for how to fix them. 
  • Help you prioritize what you should stop doing and what activities need more attention. 

Above all else, employer brand audits provide clarity. They remove the feeling that you’re not in control of your own processes and messaging, and give you the power to control how candidates view and interact with your company. 

But how do you do a brand audit? How much time and effort is involved, and what does the process look like? In the next section, we’ll dive into a sample employer brand audit template that you can follow. 

Sample employer brand audit template

The following employer brand audit template can serve as a guide for structuring your review, and what to look for during the process. Add, revise, or remove any step you like to create a customized brand audit template. 

Step 1. Establish what you hope to learn 

In other words, what are you hoping to get out of your employer brand audit? Make a wish list of potential outcomes and learnings that you’re looking to achieve, and use that as the roadmap for what you’ll focus on during the audit. 

Some example of this might include:

  • Where are our content gaps compared to our competitors?
  • What are some opportunities we can pursue to position ourselves in a particular niche?
  • How can we use more video or multimedia content to tell our employer’s story?
  • How are other companies using social media to interact with candidates?
  • What are candidates and employees saying about us online?

Create a list of your questions you’d like to investigate. Then, consult with the rest of your team and, if necessary, your key hiring managers and executive team. Get as much insight as possible from around the organization to help focus your brand audit priorities. 

Step 2. Set up your file storage and tracking template 

Once you’ve established what you hope to learn, and your focus will be, ensure that your audit team is organized and set up for seamless collaboration.

Create a centralized location to store and organize your audit files. This is where you’ll keep any screenshots, documents, links, and images you come across to illustrate your audit findings. Make sure that all audit team members can access and contribute to these files. 

Organize your folders in a way that makes sense to your audit. This might include folders for your website, social media, recruitment process, and candidate experience, as an example. 

You should also take the time to create an audit tracking template. This might be a spreadsheet, a Word document, or any other platform that lets you record and analyze findings. 

Step 3. Identify competitors 

Before you launch into the audit, you should identify some key competitors that you’ll be measuring yourself against. For larger industries, your competitor list might be between 10 and 20 companies.

Try to identify a broad cross-section of competition. Not all competitors are created equal, nor will they have all of the same business and strategic goals as you. Because of that, they have a larger sample size will give you a better benchmark to work from. 

Break down your competitors by: 

  • Local competition
  • International competition
  • Industry competition 
  • Direct competition 

Local and international competition could be companies who may not compete with you for business, but who might share the same candidate pool as you. Industry and direct competition are companies that share a similar business model to yours and are in close competition with for revenue and candidates. 

This exercise aims to create diversity in the businesses and brand marketing efforts that you’re comparing yourself against. But, while larger sample size is usually better, make sure that you have the necessary resources to tackle the job. 

Step 4. Pick what you’re going to audit

Now that you have your goals, template, and competitors in place, the next step is to make a laundry list of items that you’re going to analyze in your employer brand audit. 

Think through all of the potential touchpoints that a candidate will have with your company. Break down all of the different spots on the web where your employer brand is present. List each of these properties and processes, and include them as audit items in your tracking template. 

When going through this activity, try to keep these two questions in mind: 

  • What influences how applicants see you as an employer?
  • What influences how applicants see your competitor as an employer?

Here’s a sample list of properties that you might focus on, and some key questions to ask yourself for each: 

  • Careers site. How good is a job your careers site doing at showcasing your company and employer brand? Does it include engaging visuals? A strong user experience? Is it optimized to be found on search engines? Is it mobile friendly?
  • Employer content. What types of content are you using to showcase your employer brand? How are you using it? What is that content saying? Are the message and tone consistent across all content? Are you missing opportunities to be creative or innovative with your content?
  • Job boards. What job boards are you using? Do you have a profile on each site? What does your profile say? Are your recruitment ads on brand?
  • Candidate experience. What are all the touchpoints a candidate has with your brand once they land on your website or job posting? How smooth and quick is the application process? How often are you communicating with new candidates? Are you having candidate drop off issues? If so, wherein the process? What are the current candidates and new hires saying about your candidate experience?
  • Sourcing channels. Create a list of all of the sourcing channels you use. What types of sourcing are they? Are they passive sourcing, or do they involve active outreach? Which of the two techniques are you focussing on? What are you saying to candidates in each channel? What are your candidates saying back to you?
  • Testimonials. How are you using employee testimonials and employee-generated content? Where are you showcasing that content? Is there an opportunity to generate more?
  • Perks, rewards, and compensation. What perks, rewards, and compensation are you talking about in your employer content? How does that compare to the competition? Do those offerings match the wants and needs of your target candidate personas?
  • Social media presence. How are you using social media to share employer messaging? How are you using it to interact with candidates? What are candidates saying about you on social media? How much interaction is your company having on social media?
  • Online review sites. What employer review sites are you mentioned? What’s your rating? What are candidates and employees saying about you? Is it positive or negative? Are there opportunities to respond to comments and start a conversation?

This list should get you thinking about the types of employer branding content you should be focussing on and what questions you should be asking. Customize this list to your own priorities, and record the results in your employer brand audit template.

Step 5. Conduct the audit 

Now that you have a solid plan in place, and a list of questions, you’re looking to answer, you can start to conduct your employer branding audit. Work with your team to systematically go through the audit process, and record findings in a central location. 

It’s likely that you’ll make interesting discoveries along the way that will add scope to your initial plan. In these cases, adapt your template to include these changes and incorporate them into your findings. 

Step 6. Review audit findings and trends 

Once you’ve completed the leg work for your employer brand audit, it’s time to review the results. 

If you’ve taken a quantitative approach to parts of your audit (i.e., tracking the number of employee reviews), then try to identify interesting trends in your data, and write down your interpretations of the results. 

For the qualitative portions of your audit, you should take the time to analyze how the results relate back to your original goals for the audit. Remember those key learning questions that you wrote down at the start of the process? Look back at those, and identify what you’ve learned as a result of the audit. 

Ideally, between these two analyses, you should give you a clear picture of where your gaps and opportunities lie.

Step 7. Set priorities 

Now that you’ve identified a list of gaps and priorities in your employer branding, you can create a work back schedule for tackling these items. Create a list that ranks to-dos from highest to lowest priority, and establish a plan of attack for each project. 

It might be helpful to look at the historic ROI and recruitment metrics for certain activities to validate whether or not it’s worth doing. If, for example, your employer brand audit identifies a sourcing gap compared to your competitors, you might want to look back to see if you’ve already used that tactic before, and what the results were. 

Step 8. Take action

The last step in the brand audit process is to action your priority list. Suppose you’ve completed a thorough audit, and set a logical (and attainable) list of priorities. In that case, you should be in a position to rapidly refine and improve your employer brand messaging, candidate experience, and talent acquisition strategies. 

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