Why employer branding matters - and what to do about it?

March 24, 2021
Kristjan Kristjansson
5 minute read

Employers with strong reputations receive more job applications from qualified applicants and are better at retaining first-rate employees.

As an employer, you have a brand. If people have heard about you, they have preconceived notions about who you are, and what you do.

People who hear about you might get interested in you as a potential future employer. They will not only look at your products and services but everything else related to your workplace. If they were to work there, they will wonder what kind of other people they would be working with.

Questions that might come up:

  • Would I fit in here?
  • What kind of projects do people work on?
  • Do I want to be part of those projects?
  • What kind of tools and methods do they apply and use?
  • Will I learn something useful?
  • Is this a place where I can picture myself working for months, years, or even longer?
  • How much is the pay?
  • What kind of benefits are available?
  • (And in many cases, especially for minority groups) - is this a diverse and inclusive workplace

For you, as an employer, it is important to realize what the actual answer is to all these questions and others that apply to your industry and geographical location. But even with the answers ready, are applicants able to gather the right information about you when they research your company and or during the hiring process?

What people do after seeing a job-post?

A good way to start is to think about your current process today. You are looking to hire. Great. You have a job-post ready, you post it on your career site, social media, and perhaps a few selected job-boards. You might ask your employees to share the news in case they know talented people, and even request services from recruiters or agencies that specialize in helping you find talent. This might be how you get your message out that you are looking for talent. What happens next?

Prospects will research you

Whatever hiring method you are using, anyone who is serious about the opportunity, will at some point during the hiring process do her/his research on you as an employer. They could among other things, search for things such as:

  • People who work for you
  • What they are saying and sharing online
  • Who they are connected with on social media, and if they have any mutual connections
  • Reach out to mutual connections to inquire what they are like
  • Search review websites, such as Glassdoor, and research what former employees have to say about the workplace - and what their estimated salaries were

Go to professional networks such as TeamBlind, and ask existing verified current and previous employees about the pros and cons of working for you as an employer — or even conduct detailed 1-on-1 meetings about the interview process, benefits, and salaries.

Example quotes from TeamBlind.

How to get your employer branding right?

The best way to get your employer branding right is to portray a true and honest image of yourself in the right mediums. Where and how do you think people who are the right fit for your company will research your brand? Are you satisfied with how that looks like today?

Below is a list of a few items that can benefit employers who want to improve their employer brand:

A) Manage your employer brand towards existing and potential new employees the same way you manage your brand towards your customers

This means deciding who is responsible for it, what your objectives are, deciding what work needs to be done, and how you are going to measure output, outcomes, and if you are progressing forward.

B) Gather honest information about who you are as an employer

Gather and share information about all the things that make you as an employer interesting. These could be things ranging from the benefits, salaries, locations, projects you are working on, and most importantly the people that work in your office.

C) Build and promote marketing material based on your strenghts

Build the right type of content that fits your audience of people you think you want to hire. This could be a blog series, videos, how your team solved (or solves) certain tasks. It could be to kickstart an open community in your industry via events or an online slack, Facebook, or go-to-meeting channel. Here are some examples:

Meniga, a leader in Fintech services, had their design team write about how they rebranded the company logo and assets. They explained the process step-by-step, showcasing and signalling existing and future designers about some of their work processes.

Images from Meniga's rebranding examples

Hubspot, a leading CRM solution, published their HubSpot Culture Code 128 page slide-deck. The deck explains how Hubspot values transparency and is a center point in their employer branding practices — linking readers to their company culture, benefits, and job openings. More than 25 revisions have been made on the Hubspot Culture Code to date, and they encourage readers to bring questions, and suggested updates to their founder publicly on Twitter.

Shopify, with accolades such as Glassdoor’s #1 Best Place to Work, has put tremendous effort into its pre-apply career site.Readers can watch a branded video about the work-place, read about how employees can work from anywhere, how their hiring process and decisions take place, what teams work within their organization, and a career page that shows openings within each team.

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland has a custom pre-apply career site, with videos showcasing benefits, the workplace, commute options from Reykjavik, equal pay policy; but most importantly how they employ a diverse range of people from all backgrounds, nationalities, and professional qualifications in harmony.

D) Career site - get your job-posts right

At some point in the pre-apply-process, some prospects will inevitably reach your career site. If they see a job-post that they like, this is your opportunity to pitch-to-them why they should apply.

  1. Highlight your EVP: Why should people want to join your organization?
    What are the unique policies, programs, rewards, benefits, and other things they should know about?
  2. Provide Credibility
    How can prospects read about employer stories, testimonials, and videos to understand more about your workplace?
  3. Clear job descriptions
    What exactly is the job description? Have you listed the duties, and what you would define as a top performer? Have you defined a process for hiring managers in how they define the job at hand - or are they copying “Marketing Manager Job Descriptions” from a Google search and editing them? 72% of hiring managers say they provide clear job descriptions, but only 36% of applicants say the same.
  4. Don’t add requirements that will only screen out qualified applicants
    You’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. So why add requirements that might screen out your ideal next hire, when it’s not an actual requirement.
  5. Using impact descriptions rather than job-descriptions
    In most cases, you are hiring someone to do a certain job, not someone that has a certain degree, skills, or background. If you write a clear impact description, on what you want people to achieve in your workplace in one, three, six, and 12 months in a clear form, people with different backgrounds might bring different ideas on how to achieve the desired results. See examples of impact descriptions.

E) Embrace Review sites, don't fight it

Employees can and will write reviews of their experience within your organization online. Some are happy, others are not so happy. But what can employers do to embrace this transparency and how can they ensure they are using these reviews as constructive feedback? Here are a few tips for your Glassdoor account that mostly apply to other review sites as well:

  1. Create an account. This will allow you to publish a mission statement and provide employer branding information such as benefits, perks, culture, videos, photos, and more on their website.
  2. Respond to reviews. Most reviews will be negative, but responding to them with an understanding, and especially working on solving them is much better than ignoring them.
  3. Learn from them. Some of the reviews are true and coming from an anonymous source. Current or previous employee. It can contain extremely valuable information that you and your management team can learn from to improve your organizations health.
  4. Encourage reviews. Get new hires to post about their onboarding process. Ask existing employees to write posts about the workplace. What they like. What projects they enjoy, have them tell stories. This doesn’t mean you should urge dishonest positive reviews. Not only is it unethical, but most prospective employees using Glassdoor can see through such tactics, and it might end up hurting your brand more than it will help. (Here is a great article on faking good reviews gone wrong)

Goals for your employer brand

It’s important to think about what you want to achieve with your employer branding strategy. We recommend splitting these into output and outcome goals.

Output goals are things that you can control and measure. They are direct measurements of the work you’re doing on a daily or weekly basis. Put simply, they measure your output. These are things such as the number of blog posts aimed at employer branding you publish in a year.

  • Outcome goals however measure the impact of your outputs. These are the things that most stakeholders obsess over. Here are some outcome goals for employer branding:
  • Number of job applicants applying
  • Number of high-quality applicants
  • Amount of online engagement from applicants
  • Results when measuring your employer brand awareness
  • Career site visitors
  • Applicants applying from social media
  • Number of applicants through referral rates
  • Offer letter acceptance rate

Identify a persona for your applicants

Realizing who you are trying to target is crucial for your employer branding success. This will help you streamline your marketing and output efforts towards the right channels.

There are multiple tools out there that can help you build a persona for your employer branding. Here are a few examples:

Miro: Easy online white-board drag and drop tool that helps you create target user profiles to better understand how to build your employer branding profile for them:

Hubspot: Simple Persona Generator from Hubspot

To summarise

Employer branding matters. Layout your overall goals, gather information about where you stand today, and where you want to be. Decide on what output efforts you are going to focus and how you are going to measure the outcomes of those outputs.

Employer branding accomplices so much more than vanity metrics. When done well, it helps employers to achieve real goals for their success.