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4 steps to building a strong employer brand

Karen Henke
Editor of the Shortlist
May 13, 2021

Why should you care about employer brand? Because it helps your company find, attract and hire the best employees. In this case, “best” means candidates who go beyond having the right set of skills and experience. They’re people who’ll add to your culture, stay with the organization for years and make valuable contributions while they’re there.

Another reason to care: Companies with strong employer brands spend less money on talent acquisition and need less time to move a candidate from job posting to onboarding.  

What is employer brand?

Employer branding is shorthand for what it’s like to work at a particular company and how the organization treats its workforce. It helps you stand apart when the labor market is competitive and candidates with the right skills are hard to find.

Although recruiters usually think about it in the context of talent acquisition, employer branding actually drives how your organization is perceived by both candidates and current employees. That means you have to be clear about your message and how it will be received by the people you’re trying to reach. “Candidates are so much more informed about companies,” says Alvin Lam, vice president of employee success at RingCentral, global talent acquisition. “It used to be employers asked, ‘do you fit us?’ Now, it’s the other way around.”

To recruit the best candidates in today’s market, employers need every advantage they can get. Here’s four ways to build a strong employer brand.

1. Define an employee value proposition

At the core of employer branding is something called the “employee value proposition.” Essentially, it defines what employees receive in return for their skills, capabilities and experience. Its calculation goes beyond the obvious wages and benefits. A company’s brand encompasses intangible aspects of a job, like flexible scheduling, job satisfaction or the thrill of working with the newest of new technologies. Even regular check-ins between managers and employees can be an important part of the EVP, because they speak to how the organization treats its workforce.

2. Consider all types of communications branded

Every facet of your company either burnishes or dulls its reputation as an employer. Having a style guide that spells out the tone and voice of your employer brand helps guide creation of communications. From marketing campaigns to one-on-one conversations, executive behavior and the way employees are encouraged to do their jobs, candidates form an impression of the organization and whether it’s the type of place where they want to work.

What’s this have to do with communications? A lot. Everything that happens inside your facilities contributes to your company’s overall message.  

3. Socialize and digitize your employer brand

Start with your careers page. Are you putting your best foot forward? How does it compare with these these best careers pages? Then there’s the more commonly recognized channels of communication: talent marketing campaigns, advertising, email, phone calls, texts.

To communicate successfully, cast a wide net. As you’re planning outreach, research where and how your target candidates prefer to receive messages. For example, 73% of American college graduates use Facebook, while 51% use LinkedIn. About 24% of Millennials are on LinkedIn, but more than 75% regularly connect to Facebook. Those demographics suggest that employers filling a junior manager’s role establish a brand on Facebook.

Or, consider the tech community GitHub. Seventy percent of its 40 million users live outside the U.S., making it a better place to seek developers in Europe than in, say, Chicago.

Finally, once you’ve determined how to best reach your prospective candidates, it’s important to customize your approach to each individual. Attracting candidates today requires an unprecedented level of personalization, so one-size-fits-all messaging will only take you so far.

4. Be responsive

Of course, communications are a two-way street. It’s not enough to share your brand through email or social messaging. You also have to listen to what candidates–and the broader talent pool–have to say about you.

Seek feedback about your hiring process, and be ready to act on what you hear. Comments from candidates–the ones you’ve hired and those you haven’t–will help you identify areas that can be streamlined or otherwise improved.

Also, respond to comments on social media and career sites like Glassdoor. When someone posts negative feedback, take it as an opportunity to correct misperceptions and provide details about the company’s inner workings.

While you write these replies, be aware of your tone of voice. Don’t seem overly “corporate” or oversensitive. Rather, make clear you’re honestly listening to constructive feedback.  

5. Handling layoffs

How you handle layoffs, hiring freezes, and even outreach to people at companies where layoffs have occurred is critical to your long-term employee brand. You want to make sure people feel taken care of and supported during these uncertain times. With remote and hybrid offices, feeling part of the team is a challenge. It’s something recruiters need to have in mind.

Strengthen your employer brand

Four simple steps: create a value proposition for candidates, consider what is communicated in everything you do, leverage the right channels for your audience, and be responsive. These will help you develop the brand you need to attract the best candidates to your open roles.