What is employer branding? Tips to master the art
It should come as no surprise that employer branding plays a huge role in attracting the best talent on the market. Just last year, Glassdoor found that 74% of job seekers are more likely to apply to a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand. No recruiter likes to feel like their vacancies are being ignored by qualified candidates due to an unclear or sparse employer brand. But with so much information floating around on employer branding, you could be left wondering: “what is employer branding, really?”
Here we’ll try to break down the fundamental components of employer branding, shed light on why it matters (and who cares), and provide an overview on where you can communicate it.
So, what is employer branding?
You know employer branding is important, but when you first start diving into it, it can be overwhelming. It can sometimes feel as if employer branding is everything and nothing all at once. It’s your career’s page, it’s your social media, it’s your people… it seems like the overall experience you offer as a company. The truth is that it kind of is.
In short, your employer brand is the company identity that you communicate across mediums and channels to connect and engage employees, candidates, and customers.
But to make it a bit more digestible, we’ve broken employer brand, particularly the company identity part, into five categories: personality, voice and tone, mission, values, and experience. With these categories, you will be able to identify where your employer brand needs development to attract the right talent for your company.
Rather than ask what is employer branding, ask who is your employer brand. Character is core to an employer brand. People like to connect with people, which is why business to business (B2B) sales can be so challenging. It’s hard to get decision-makers to connect and buy from a company rather than an individual. Your recruiting team is effectively representing your business and also trying to connect with decision-makers… your candidates! This can be difficult if your company doesn’t have a unified personality (or any at all).
Imagine your company as a person. What kind of personality traits would they exhibit? Are they fun or playful? Insightful and dedicated? These qualities will help you connect with candidates and attract candidates who associate with this personality, possibly earning you better cultural fits.
Voice and tone
Every company will have a voice and tone already. You just might not know it and it might not always be consistent. Often a company’s voice and tone will be that of the person writing the job description, website, blog post, or social media update. If that’s the same person, you’re in luck- at least it’s consistent. For many companies, this is not the case.
Voice and tone should be a reflection of the personality of the company, as this is one of the most direct ways you can communicate personality. Using the same voice and tone can help push the personality of your organization, build connections with candidates and establish a solid employer brand. Consistency is critical: different voices and tones can give the impression of multiple personalities (or none at all). Help your candidates recognize your company and connect with one personality, rather than straining for multiple.
For the same reasons we might ask someone what they do for a living, candidates also want to know about your mission. A purpose is a core component of adding depth to your company’s employer brand and identity. We’re not suggesting that you put up your internal mission statement on all of your job descriptions. What we are suggesting is that you find a way of consistently communicating your mission to your audience.
Like people, companies also have values. These should be the fundamental driving forces of your business. They can also help your candidates identify with your organization and understand what you’re all about. While they may not always be visible, all of your interactions with your audience should reflect these values. Candidates who apply to your vacancies should undoubtedly be familiar with them.
A company’s identity or employer brand can be broken down, but don’t forget to look at it holistically. The experience is the last element of employer branding. It’s a cumulation of personality, voice and tone, mission, and values. How are these perceived and experienced by your audience?
Think of the relationship these elements generate with your employees, candidates and customers and whether or not they coherently represent your brand. Experiences are valuable because this is what your audience will be talking about with their network. You’ll learn more below about how this can be a powerful communication channel for employer branding.
Who cares about employer branding?
You’ve answered the what is employer branding question. You might begin to understand why you need to care about it (or at least you probably should). But that’s not enough to invest time and money into it. The real reason why companies care about it is that two central groups look very carefully at employer brands: candidates and employees.
75% of candidates consider a company’s employer brand before even applying. You’re probably competing with other similar companies for the same candidate pools. This is an opportunity to stand out from your competitors. Connect with your prospective candidates and potential hires with your employer brand.
Candidates prefer to apply to an organization that:
- communicates their vision and mission;
- has clear and consistent visual branding;
- openly showcases their employees;
- has positive reviews on third-party sites;
- and is active on social media.
These candidate considerations all come down to elements of a company’s employer brand. The battle for the best talent won’t be fought over better salaries or perks, but rather through employer brand.
Often overlooked, but employees definitely care about and are impacted by your employer brand. Who doesn’t want to be part of a brand that is viewed positively in their industry? But again, the importance circles back to the secure connection generated by a strong employer brand. New hires are 40% less likely to leave within six months if the organization has a strong employer brand.
Improved retention rates are not the only positive side-effect on employees of a good employer brand. Employees are also more engaged with a brand that shares its mission frequently and consistently. There’s even more engagement to be gained through employees who relate and connect with your company values.
How can you communicate your employer branding?
Developing an excellent employer brand requires dedicated time, effort, and thought. Even if your company decides on your company’s personality, tone and voice, mission, values, and experience, it doesn’t help to keep it to yourself. Your candidates won’t know who you are unless you tell them about it and let them experience it. Strong employer brands are communicated frequently and consistently across channels: careers site and website, email, social media, employees, and candidates.
Bonus: don’t forget about different mediums. Make sure you have a clear and consistent employer brand across social media posts, blog posts, images, videos and even podcasts. This will help make your company recognizable to candidates in your field wherever and however they might find you.
Careers site & website
Your careers page and website are probably one of the first touch points when it comes to employer branding. These online resources should provide all the information a candidate would want to know about your team, your company, and what it would be like to work there.
Beyond posting pictures of your team or explaining what your company does, consider the candidate experience. Do your careers site and website accurately reflect your employer brand? Great careers sites and websites will give an almost immersive experience to candidates.
Top tips for maximizing your employer brand:
- Curate your job descriptions. Do they reflect your company voice and tone? Can they communicate your values and mission better? Are they connecting with your target candidate?
- Establish a visual identity that reflects your brand. Using a set color scheme, mascot, or design theme can boost your brand recognition on your own website or careers page. If it’s used in conjunction with your other communication channels, this can help solidify your employer brand with a visual component.
- Assess your application process. Does your application reflect the experience working with your company or team? If you’re a lean and modern tech company, why would your candidate portal look like an early 2000’s landing page designed only to upload files? If your team works in a fast-paced environment, why does your application process take over an hour for most candidates to complete?
- Consider an employer branding or recruitment video to help your prospective candidates immerse themselves into your company, simply by visiting your careers page. Imagine that the number one concern of candidates when applying is that they don’t know what it’s like to work with you. Address that concern by video, give them a sneak peek into their potential work life.
Often forgotten as it’s used so routinely, but email is a potent tool that can be used to communicate your employer brand. This applies to cold outreach, scheduling, and any communication sent externally to candidates. Accuracy, consistency, and timeliness are essential here to provide a great candidate experience that reflects positively on your employer brand.
Top tips for effectively communicating your employer brand:
- Make sure always to follow up with candidates, even its no news at all. We all know that this is every candidate’s number one complaint. Poor response rates could also lead disgruntled candidates to leave nasty comments on social media or reviews online (see below). Agree on timeframes to follow up with candidates and stick to them, even if that means following up with no news at all. If you’re struggling with volume, you may want to consider automating your responses for some hiring stages.
- Create consistent signatures and sign-offs across your team. These will help reinforce a visual identity for your team when they interact with candidates.
- Tailor your communication to your employer brand. If you’re a startup, you may be more informal and select emojis could be appropriate for your candidates (may even generate stronger connections). If you’re a Fortune 500 or blue chip company, you may want to frame your emails a little more professionally. Find your balance and align with your team to make sure your messaging is consistent.
Social media platforms can be your most significant opportunity and challenge when it comes to communicating your employer brand. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are platforms that you can own, but very rarely entirely control. Since they are open platforms, candidates and employees can freely comment on them.
This can be a massive asset when it comes to your employees sharing brand-consistent photos. Or when they leave candid testimonials on their experience working with you. But it can also be damaging when a disgruntled candidate posts a scathing comment. Or worse yet they leave an incriminating (and permanent) review on your company page.
Navigating employer branding for social media doesn’t have to be a minefield.
Top recommendations for employer branding on social media platforms:
- Be consistent but tailored. What does this mean? You have a consistent messaging across channels- you talk about the same mission, values- but you alter your approach to best connect with your audience on that particular channel. For example, you may post your opportunities openly on you Linkedin. LinkedIn is a hyper-relevant channel for jobs as it’s a professional network. However, you may want to limit how often you post opportunities on your Instagram account. As it’s a visual platform, you may want to focus Instagram on your team photos and socials.
- You can’t control the interactions, but you can control the response. Make sure to keep an eye on all of your social media channels to respond to any comments (both negative and positive) in a timely way. Annoyed candidate? Write a public response looking hear more about the problem and seek a solution on a more private channel (email, phone).
- Audit your team’s profiles. This is especially important on LinkedIn for recruiters as this is often the first point of contact that candidates might have with your organization. Keep an eye out for consistency across company descriptions (these should reflect your values and mission) and any less than professional profile photos…
Whether they know it or not, your employees are a great resource for spreading the word about your employer brand. Think of them as your brand ambassadors or micro influencers. Your employees will most likely have a social group of similar people, equally qualified people. Get your employees to speak positively about your brand to this group, as they could be an excellent source of talent. Additionally, your employees are often trusted more by candidates than your company’s recruiters, HR managers or even CEOs.
- Encourage referrals. Referrals can result in some of the most relevant and cost-effective hires for your business. Additionally, employee retention rates and engagement soars with office friendships. Why not get some of your employee’s existing friends onboard through a referral scheme?
- Record employee testimonials. One of applicants biggest concern is that they don’t know what it’s like to work at your company. Ask your employees to share their favorite experiences working with your team. Through testimonials, they can share insights into the day-to-day. Share these on your careers site or social media channels.
- Make sure your team knows about your values and mission. Work this into your onboarding process and even into the application process. Host sessions revisiting your values and mission with your employees to make sure they’re always aligned with any changes.
- Seek engagement with your brand. This won’t be for every company, but employee engagement can help fill out your social media channels. Work with individual employees and internal stakeholders to fill out your social media channels with on-brand content that is employee-generated and led.
Your candidates experience and impact your employer brand. They are your target audience, the group you seek to connect with and attract. But they also have the potential to shape your employer brand through online reviews, word of mouth, and feedback. Make sure you’re addressing any concerns that arise through this channel.
Top tips for managing your employer brand through your candidates:
- Conduct regular feedback surveys. Questionnaires and surveys are a great way of collecting feedback from candidates at various stages of the hiring process. Take input onboard and optimize your processes to reflect a more favorable candidate experience.
- Check your review sites. No matter how hard you try, it will probably happen: you’ll get your first negative Glassdoor review. While you may not be able to delete, alter or even respond to the reviews. It’s important to recognize them as valuable feedback on your candidate experience. Minimize poor reviews by conducting feedback surveys (see above) and addressing any issues before they come to an external review site.
- Optimize your candidate experience. Thoroughly assess your candidate experience, the application process included, and make sure it aligns with your employer brand. Are you highlighting your best features as an employer? Are you fostering a process that allows candidates to really get to know your company rather than have them jumping through hoops?
Employer branding is hard work and creating a good one will require constant feedback loops to get it right. First, eliminate the what is employer branding question in your team. Make sure everyone knows your company’s personality, tone and voice, mission, values, and experience. Then you can start assessing your communication channels: careers and website, emails, social media, employees, and candidates.
Remember: great employer brands aren’t built overnight, and they’re definitely not made alone. Engage and include both your employees and candidates in the process.