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5 Keys for Building an Employer Brand to Attract and Retain Quality Candidates

Jack Hill
by 
Jack Hill
on September 13, 2018

Attracting the newest generation of talent is inciting some serious competition.

As the mix of our multigenerational workforce evolves and the scale continues to tip toward a younger cohort majority—hello, Gen Z—employers are likely to find that previously successful recruiting strategies are becoming irrelevant.

So it is with workforce trends, too. Because they’re constantly in flux, talent acquisition managers must readjust recruitment processes appropriately if they hope to keep pace.

Next-generation candidates gravitate toward career opportunities that strike a strong work-life balance and offer a sense of purpose. While experienced employees—Gen X and older—share that value, they’re also drawn to organizations that embrace professional freedom, innovation, and flexibility.

So how do you focus on attracting and retaining quality candidates in ways that appeal to the habits and expectations of both fresh and seasoned job seekers?

It starts with building a strong employer brand—the backbone of your recruiting strategy—that’s defined by your organizational culture and employee experience.

What Makes a Strong Employer Brand?

Your employer brand is, essentially, the face of your company. It’s what candidates believe to be true of you as an employer, and it underpins the outcome of your talent acquisition strategy.

It’s tempting to compare your employer brand with those of companies with whom you compete for talent. To spend time asking yourself, What makes their recruiting strategies so successful?

But as in life, the first rule of employer branding is, Don’t compare yourself to others.

So build one that’s unique—and true—to your organization.

Your employer brand is the face of your company and what candidates believe to be true of you as an employer.
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Historically low unemployment means that confusion about employer branding can hinder an organization’s recruiting efforts. If your brand isn’t rising above the fray, attracting candidates will be much more challenging.

In other words, if you aren't honing your employment brand, you're casting in a pond that’s overfished. So apply the following keys to build an employer brand that will resonate with job candidates and ignite your recruitment strategy.

1. Focus on Your Employees

Shaping your organization’s core values around your employees forms the basis of an employer brand that’s equipped for successful talent acquisition.

The following actions will help your brand convey those values accurately—to ensure a positive candidate experience, and ultimately, elevate employee retention.

  • Reflect on your company’s preconceptions – Some leaders may believe that if matters aren’t immediately relevant (i.e., what employees can do for the organization), it’s time to move on. A major gap exists between that notion and modern recruiting—a trend now swayed largely by candidate goals. So leaders should anticipate and prepare to adapt regularly.
  • Answer the “so what?” question – Your employer brand should speak directly to candidates’ needs and desires and show why they should choose to work at your company. Making this connection is a sure way to attract job seekers whose hard skills suit the position and soft skills complement your culture.
  • Define your employee value proposition (EVP) – Although different from your employer brand, an EVP works parallel to and reinforces it. It’s targeted specifically toward your current employees and potential candidates. And put simply, it communicates mutual offers and needs of the individual and your organization.

In addition to bolstering your employer brand generally, an employee-centric culture will also inspire referrals, making attracting candidates that much easier.

2. Set Overarching Goals for Your Employer Brand

Documenting measurable goals for your employer brand—like leaders at Hootsuite did—will help guide its development.

So arrange time for leaders, stakeholders, and hiring managers to reflect on the bigger picture. For example, how can your overall business strategy inform your employer brand? In what ways can that help align your leaders’ goals with those of potential candidates?

From there, formulate focused questions to create a framework for your employer brand, such as

  • How do we differentiate ourselves?
  • What are strengths and weaknesses in our recruitment marketing? Is there a clear call to action?
  • Who is our target audience?
  • How do we define and measure the candidate and employee experience?

3. Determine Your Ideal Candidate and Invest in Programs That Meet Their Expectations

Do you know what your target candidates are seeking professionally and personally in their next job?

Coordinate applicants’ goals and visions for their candidate experience with your ideal candidate profile to inform your employer brand.

4. Survey Current Employees and Draw from Their Experience

Your stories are best told through the perspectives of your employees. So capture the spirit of your employee experience in a way that conveys authenticity.

  • Engage employees organically – Nothing will turn off a candidate more than a cliché testimonial.
  • Capture candid employee moments – These can be woven together to tell the story of one person’s experience and journey at your organization.
  • Ask questions that distinguish your company – Job seekers will have a better understanding of your competitive differentiation and how your organization aligns with their own values and goals.

Informing your employer brand using employee case studies gives your organization credibility. And it frames your brand as transparent and genuine.

5. Encourage Employees to Share Their Narratives

Even before they walk in for an interview, candidates can—and do—get a pulse on your organization.

Career sites like Glassdoor show employee testimonials alongside job search results. Keep tabs on adverse reviews, which may indicate disparities between how you view your employer brand and what employees and candidates perceive.

Initiate a dialogue by engaging with evaluations using recruiting best practices, which Glassdoor includes in a list of handy tips. Transform both the positive and negative feedback into a strategic plan for promoting your brand.

  • Monitor employee reviews – Is the employer brand you want reflected in reviews posted externally? If so, this will boost credibility and make your requisitions all the more attractive to potential talent. If not, use this insight to develop a roadmap to building or refining your brand.
  • Turn your employees into brand ambassadors – Invite employees to amplify their experience by including them in onboarding processes and other talent development opportunities, such as online learning programs and employee training. And encourage them to share their stories on Glassdoor and similar sites.
  • Feature employee stories on your company profiles – Use your organization’s online presence and employee narratives to increase brand awareness and educate candidates about your employee value proposition (EVP), the model that answers the “so what?” question.

In the long run, the success of your employer brand rests on candidates’ confidence in your organization.

Fill Your Talent Pipeline with a Winning Employer Brand

Your organization’s employer brand can’t be an afterthought. HR and business leaders must situate it at the heart of their talent acquisition strategy—and ensure it’s in lock step with the company’s mission.

With a solid foundation using these 5 keys, your employer brand will inspire employees and captivate job seekers, making life easier for your recruiters as they search for top-quality candidates.

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