2015 was a big year for employer branding.  Because the job market right now is candidate driven, it seemed like every company was seeking an edge in the war for top talent. Employer branding was thought to be that edge. According to LinkedIn, 56% of recruiters made employer branding a priority in 2015. However, 91% of candidates were already evaluating employers based upon their employer branding.  This statistic created a sense of urgency in Talent Acquisition circles. In the rush to adopt new employer branding strategies,many overlooked the fundamentals- what existing employees had to say.  LinkedIn called this an employer's talent brand and it exposed critical gaps between what employers preached and what they practiced. Surveys such as Novo Group's 2015 Middle Market Report cited that 50% of candidates turned down jobs because of a lack of strong employer brand. In contrast, LinkedIn found that employers with strong employer branding attracted twice the candidates their competitors did. To avoid losing the war for top talent in 2016, it's time employers committed to realigning their employer branding.

How Do You Realign Employer Branding, Where Do You Start?

2016 is a new opportunity for employers to start fresh with their employer branding.  As the job market continues to grow, more hires will be done in 2016.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the unemployment rate is at 5% nationally right now and expects this to continue to decrease. As more people feel comfortable getting back into the job market, it will become increasingly difficult for employers to attract and hire the best talent. Novo Group cites 79% of middle market employers will look to their employer branding to provide the difference that candidates seek.  If your employer branding is not in alignment, it's critical to start looking at the following elements of your employer brand:


  • Employee participation.  Are your employees a part of your employer branding? Employers with poor employer branding often miss this critical step- incorporating your team into the brand. Employees can serve multiple functions as a part of a strong employer brand.  They can be brand ambassadors that help communicate their excitement to candidates, they can provide visual cues on a careers page to show candidates what life is like at the company, or they can be a strong deterrent from applying in the first place with negative reviews online.  By making employees a part of employer branding, employers have the opportunity to create positive experiences for both existing employees and candidates.
  • Job postings.  Do your job postings read like a laundry list of skills? Do they communicate a vibrant company culture, or offer insight into the company? The job posting is often a candidate's first introduction to a company. If it is anonymous, or not branded, it's easy for candidates to say pass and keep searching.  It's important to make job postings come alive. These days, video postings have become very popular.  According to Talent Puzzle, job postings with video attract 34% more applications than text job postings alone. This critical part of your employer branding should seek to attract candidates with engaging content and accurate information. If job postings are lacking, this can represent a missed opportunity for employers.
  • Career page. Employers' career pages are an opportunity to communicate directly with candidates about what they value, what life inside the company is like, and what sets the employer apart from their competition.  Here is where candidates look for information on benefits, company culture, and work/ life balance.  It's also a common point of entry into the candidate experience.  Career pages that aren't optimized for mobile or that lack depth may actively deter candidates from applying. According to Kelton Research, 55% of candidates want to apply from their mobile devices when they're on a career page. Sites that aren't optimized for mobile could deter candidates and present a digitally immature view of the employer. It's important that employers' career pages represent an accurate view of what candidates may be able to expect as an employee in order to ensure aligned employer branding.
  • Online reviews.  Do you know what your talent brand is? Many employers think they're great places to work only to find online reviews on sites like Glassdoor which make it sound like they've been working inside of a prison. Online reviews are a great way for employers to evaluate whether their company culture needs work and whether their Talent Acquisition team is communicating that culture to candidates effectively. It can be a great starting point for HR and Talent Acquisition to work on employer branding or employee engagement issues.
  • Social media presence. Approximately 94% of recruiters use social media.  Among those that do, 49% found it improved their quality of hire overall.  Social media is an important piece of employer branding because it's a participatory environment. Engaged employees have an opportunity to become brand ambassadors, presenting the positives associated with working for the company.  This can communicate volumes to not only candidates, but vendors and clients who do business with the employer. Is your social media a vibrant space or is it really only a board you rarely update? An employer's social media can become their vehicle for thought leadership and celebration of team successes. It's worth investing time into this important employer branding tool to enhance these communications.
  • Employee referrals.  Employee referrals are a critical piece of employer branding because they are personal communications with members of an employee's network.  Referral candidates often get an unbiased view of life inside the company and it can be tainted with a poor talent brand. If the talent brand is out of alignment with employer branding, employee referrals may be nonexistent. Proud employees are often very willing to bring members of their network on board, but disgruntled employees are not. HR and Talent Acquisition have an opportunity to put their heads together to create a thriving employee referral program that drives employer branding.

Strong employer branding can be the game changer employers need to attract and hire top candidates. It's worth a review to find out if it's not in alignment with what your Talent Acquisition team may be presenting. Taking the time to assess these elements of employer branding with an eye towards alignment can help your company beat the competition in 2016!

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Comment by Katrina Kibben on December 30, 2015 at 10:15am

Catherine, again - awesome post. 

You definitely got me thinking with the 50% of candidates turning down jobs because of the employer brand. The thing that's interesting about that stat to me is that most candidates don't actually know what an employer brand even is, they just know what they don't like. So one thing I'd add to this list- have a test group of top performing employees look at your website and job postings to tell you what they like/don't like. Making changes based on our "gut instincts" doesn't always play out.

Realistically, we can't make everyone happy but if we can adjust our site to appease top performers, we're more likely to attract more of them. 

Great post! Happy New Year! 


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