As an experienced executive recruiter who also has over 20 years of marketing experience, I have been exploring ways that marketing can help amplify the hiring process for companies of all sizes. This second post in my series offers tips for creating an employer brand that sets you apart from the competition for talent, just like your company brand differentiates you from the competition for customers. If you haven't, check out the first post, How to DIY Your Recruiting #1: Know Your Audience to first define your ideal candidate.
What does it mean to “differentiate?”
In the marketing world, differentiating your brand or product is about defining what makes it special to the audience you are trying to attract. Take socks, for example. On the surface, socks all serve the same purpose…to cover your feet. But there are an infinite number of sock brands, all offering different attributes, creating different emotional connections or serving different price points. Bombas, one of my favorites, sets themselves apart by donating a pair of socks for every pair you buy. Sock It to Me offers a variety of interesting prints and designs. Smartwool socks have great technical features to keep you the right amount of warm depending on your activity. The bottom line is that socks are not just socks. The brand of sock you choose allows you to give back, express yourself or stay toasty on the slopes.
Creating an Employer Brand
As an employer, you have an opportunity to stand out from others as well by differentiating your employment brand based on your ideal candidate (see #1 Know Your Audience to learn how to identify your target). To do this, you need to think beyond offering a “great culture” or “caring about employees” and get specific about what this means in your organization. Plenty of companies have career pages that talk generically about collaboration, diversity and being a great place to work. Those things are all great, but to truly differentiate, you need to think about what that specifically looks like in your organization.
A good place to start is your company’s mission, vision and values. Listing these on your career page make sense, but to truly differentiate, you need to connect the dots. Your company might value transparent communication, but what does that really mean? Does transparency mean that you are willing to have tough conversations or that all employees have access to open books…or both? Your values might include innovation. Let prospective employees know what that looks like; maybe it means that 10% of employees time can be spent on skunkworks projects, or maybe it just means that you like to brainstorm in the weekly meeting. The point is that a list of values gives candidates a peek into your organization, but true differentiation means more explicitly bringing these to life.
The same is true with your culture. Most companies aspire to have a great culture, but what specifically does that mean to you. How does “great culture” manifest in your daily interactions, in your celebrations and, perhaps more importantly, in your setbacks. You might define your culture as highly collaborative. Does that mean that all decisions are made by consensus or that you like to eat lunch together? Are all projects run by cross-functional teams, or do you collaborate by having each department reporting out in the Monday meeting? Differentiating your culture to prospective employees helps in attracting people to whom that type of culture sounds appealing. By generically calling your culture “collaborative,” you miss the opportunity to truly target the best fit.
PSA on “culture fit”
If you are looking for diversity in your organization, culture “fit” is not the best lens for assessing prospective candidates. To encourage diversity of perspective and thought, looking at “culture contribution” or “culture add” is a better way to evaluate candidates. There may be non-negotiable values employees must align with - like integrity or passion - but exercise caution when defining culture fit based on past experiences, hobbies or personal chemistry.
Overall, taking the extra time to clearly define your employer brand allows you to stand out from your competition and for prospective candidates to understand whether your organization is potentially a good fit. Stay tuned for my next blog in the series: #3 Tell Your Story, where I offer tips on generating awareness for your employer brand with your target audience and engaging an ongoing pipeline of potential candidates.
Interested in learning more? Check out my post 3 Ways Recruiting is Like Marketing. And 3 Ways it’s Not.
Click here for more details on my training, Steal These 5 Marketing Fundamentals to Make the Best Hire