Moving further into 2018, it is still a strong candidates’ market, with the most exceptional people in extremely high demand. Elite candidates in technology, engineering and design are being inundated with calls and messages about new roles, often multiple times a day. With all this competition, employers are having to work harder than ever to make a case for top candidates to pay attention to them.
“…[Branding] has to be centered around the organizational purpose for being and it has to be a rallying cry for employees to come to work every day.”
– Beth Miller
The Shoe is on the Other Foot
Just a few years ago, freshly out of the recession and when the situation was reversed, advice for eager job seekers was to do anything to stand out of a stack of résumés, and to perfect their elevator pitches – the soundbite story that would demonstrate why they were different and how that made them the best fit for the role. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, employer branding has become a hot topic in careers and recruiting.
There is a lot of information bubbling up about how to stand out, with much of it suggesting that recruitment-focused social media and compelling visuals equal good employer branding. However, they are only a piece of puzzle. A truly branded experience should start much sooner.
For early stage companies especially, you have a huge opportunity in front of you. While your Series A (or B, or C) may be your number one focus, your “Series T” AKA talent strategy deserves as much attention. So develop your narrative (or elevator pitch) at the same time as your sales/investor deck. Implement and adopt it before you make a single hire, or you will struggle to get the right people in the door. Or if you’re an established company, it’s never too late to get your story straight or recraft your narrative if the vision has changed.
Watch The Keyboard Warriors
While Millennials and Gen Z may not be the bulk of the U.S. workforce, they are shaping the cultural zeitgeist. This generation of screenagers and weconomists have come of age in a peer-to-peer, corporate social responsibility era, and they should be considered strongly when planning an employment pitch. Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see meme after meme about meeting someone once and then unleashing your friends on the Internet to find out everything there is to know about that person. They will do the same to you as a potential employer, and for good reason.
Employment attorney Mirande Valbrune pointed out that “…strong evidence exists that employees who work for poorly branded companies may become poorly branded themselves, and may ultimately pay a penalty on the job market, even if they clearly had nothing to do with any scandal. Candidates recognize this when making decisions about whether to join a company.”
Essence and Experience Are Everything
Thankfully many companies get it. Beth Miller, CMO of Magid, a research-based consultancy said, “people often think of branding as the visuals of a brand alone, but it’s so much more. Branding is the articulation of an organization’s essence. It has to be centered around the organizational purpose for being and it has to be a rallying cry for employees to come to work every day.”
Valbrune agreed. She said, “employees, understandably, want to be associated with strong company brands. This not only brings a more rewarding employee experience, but it also brings bragging rights that translate into stronger career opportunities in the future.”
Doing It Right
Now, before you go wild on social media, here is a flash guide to what a successful employer story has to be in order to prevent it from appearing on the wrong side of a keyboard warrior:
- Purposeful: the objective of the company is meaningful and focused. It needs to make sense for today even if it has a vision for the future.
- Specific: you clearly outline the problem the company is addressing and how it plans to solve it. Bonus points for a 3-5-year plan.
- Compelling: it distinctly draws in the type of people you are looking for. Casting a wide net isn’t a great talent strategy. It looks desperate.
- True: the company must be walking the walk. Avoid selling a bill of goods at all costs and don’t *just* sell futures. Make sure you can stand behind your statements in the court of public opinion and law.
Make Me A Believer
If you are on the receiving end of an employer elevator pitch, here is how to tell if what you are hearing is legit. The pitch needs to have:
- Continuity: no matter who delivers the pitch, from the security guard to the CEO, you are hearing the same key points and getting the right vibe.
- Authenticity: interviewers and current employees offer genuine retellings of the employer’s story, but in their own words. They really believe it. Each interviewer should also be able to share the “why” they joined the company with ease and sincerity.
- Visibility: You see it demonstrated in more places than just in the words of people you talk to, from the walls to the water they offer you while you wait.
- Gravity: It makes you feel something. If you need help sussing out FOMO from real opportunities, read This Is How To Differentiate FOMO From A Great Career Opportunity. Take stock in what is really important to you now and look forward a few years.
If employer branding is truly done successfully, starting with a well-baked story, even candidates who are not selected should – and likely will – turn into brand ambassadors. In the most competitive industries, competition for talent is high and word-of-mouth, whether online or off, goes a long way in improving your chances to snag the top candidates and the elite, elusive “halo hires”. More on them in a future post.
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