Think Like a Candidate: Why a Strong Employer Brand Is a Must to Win Top Talent

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The past year shifted the way we think about work. From where we physically work to our relationships with work, there are increased expectations on companies to put their employees first. Despite the current macroeconomic environment, those expectations are here to stay.

This includes understanding what resonates with top candidates and employees. Creating a compelling employer brand and answering “what’s in it for candidates” is now critical to attract and retain top talent.

But how do you build a compelling employer brand?

Step 1: Understand your ideal candidate

Leaders need to understand what factors are most important to candidates and current employees to build an employer brand that is impactful and authentic. To do this, companies must: 

  • Examine broader market trends to ensure their messaging will land with the current talent market. For example, historically, office perks such as free lunch were effective tools to “sell” your brand. However, recent market data indicates that perks like this are less important, whereas flexibility and/or purposeful work are huge drivers.
  • Survey current employees to identify what they love most about your company, what makes them stay, and what challenges they face. This helps ensure that the messaging accurately reflects the employee experience. 
  • Audit existing channels to assess how you are currently viewed externally and how you are positioning yourself to potential talent. This includes analyzing your company website, career page, social channels, Glassdoor, and job descriptions. Key considerations include: Do your assets effectively spotlight your culture and employee experience? Do they answer what candidates “get” from joining your organization?  

Step 2: Define your employee value proposition (EVP)

An effective EVP clearly establishes why talent should work for you. It’s about answering 'what’s in it for me' versus 'what’s in it for the company' and is a great way to differentiate your organization from competitors. 

An effective EVP touches on two or more of the following: 

  • Work: The nature of the actual tasks and responsibilities (e.g., challenging, fulfilling, important, engaging, dynamic, consistent, groundbreaking) 
  • Rewards: The material and intangible benefits offered (e.g., compensation, insurance, paid leave, flexibility, training, and skills development) 
  • Culture: The work environment (e.g., collaborative, fun, supportive, fast-paced, relaxed) 
  • People: The qualities of the people at your org (e.g., creative, focused, driven, friendly, inquisitive, open-minded, independent, or another characteristic) 
  • Opportunities: The opportunities your company offers for career advancement, personal development, education, etc. 

Once you’ve developed your EVP, the next step is sharing with employees to solicit feedback. Ask them whether the EVP effectively articulates what first drew them to the company and reflects why they remain with it.

By leveraging market and employee insights, you ensure that your EVP has appeal (aligns with labor market preferences), is authentic (aligns with your true company strengths), and is relevant (aligns with your organizational strategy).  

Step 3: Develop a strategic communication plan

Once you’ve aligned on what you say, the next step is determining where, who, and how you say it. 

WHERE: You want to take a multi-channel approach to ensure consistency in messaging across all your assets. This includes your company website and career page, social and traditional media, recruiter and hiring manager scripts, and job descriptions.

WHO: Leaders, recruiters, investors, current employees, and alumni all communicate your brand. In fact, brand messages often have a greater impact when shared by real employees since candidates tend to trust people more than they trust brands.

HOW: There are several tactical ways you can bring your employer brand to life:

  • Build a strong corporate social presence with an appropriate cadence (2-5x/day for Twitter and 1x/weekday for LinkedIn) and dynamic content mix (1/3 company news, 1/3 open roles & employee stories, and 1/3 insightful commentary – i.e., thought leadership). 
  • Ensure your leaders – and particularly your CEO – have a strong social presence with an appropriate cadence (e.g., at least 2x/week on LinkedIn) and a dynamic content mix. 
  • Co-create or curate content featuring employees (e.g., videos, blogs), so they are more inclined to share on their own channels. 
  • Tell authentic employee stories and real employee photos to connect with potential talent. 

Step 4: Measure your brand impact

Proving the value of your employer brand is a must to get continued buy-in from leadership and to ensure that your message is effective in the market. 

What metrics should you be tracking and why?

  • Talent Acquisition Metrics: To see if you are moving the needle on the number of overall candidates & qualified candidates in the pipeline. 
  • Attrition & Retention Metrics: To track whether what you are promoting externally matches the employee experience. High attrition rates may show a gap in a company’s say/do ratio. 
  • Channel Conversion (Attribution) Metrics: To understand what channels deliver the highest quality & volume of applicants, so you can make sure you’re investing in those channels. 
  • Review Websites (e.g., Glassdoor, Comparably): To keep a pulse on whether employee sentiment is shifting.  
  • Media (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter): To understand how your company is perceived externally. If positive, media – social and traditional – can help drive candidates back to your site.  

Employer branding can’t be an afterthought. Much like companies invest in their corporate brand to differentiate and sell to customers, companies must similarly invest in their employer brand to differentiate and sell to top candidates. By investing in your employer brand and rallying your teams around that brand, you can effectively differentiate your organization and better attract (and retain) high-performing talent.

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  • Hattie Young, Senior Manager, Talent COE

    Hattie joined Insight in 2020 as a Senior Manager, driving the development of content, programming, and communications for the Onsite Talent Center of Excellence. Hattie joins Insight with nearly a decade of experience in corporate communications and marketing. Her focus has been on thought leadership, executive visibility, and branding.  Prior…