As great as any product, service, or business plan looks like from the outside, no business could grow and flourish without great talent on the inside. What this means for you, as a company leader or person who’s involved in getting the right talent into your organization, is that attracting and retaining great people on your team ought to be a constant top priority. And while there are a variety of different things that matter in your talent attraction strategy, one fact is constant: today’s job applicants care about a company’s employer brand and will often use it as a basis for whether they’ll even apply.
So, to make sure there aren’t any blind spots in your your employer brand turning candidates off and preventing you from attracting and retaining great talent, here are 5 solid ways to ensure your employer brand is actually helping your hiring process rather than hurting it:
1. Audit (and Address) Your Online Reputation
Three out of four job seekers do their own research on a company online before applying, which means it would be crazy for you NOT to be 100% in the know about what others are saying about your company online.
Audit your company’s online reputation by, first, Googling your company (including your company’s job openings) to see what pops up. And then, browse through the top online review sites that feature your company to get a full perspective on what your current and former employees have said about you as an employer to the online world. If/when you run into negative press or reviews, don’t get defensive; instead, consider ways to turn the tide around:
1. To counteract negative press, write a blog post on your company’s website that highlights something inspiring about your internal culture or something positive that your company is doing in your community or industry
2. For those negative reviews, go ahead and publicly respond to those without placing blame and while outwardly showing a commitment to improving; this demonstrates that you care about your employees and it also reflects well on your employer brand.
Job seekers might form their entire opinion about your company based on your online reputation so, at the very least, get to know what kind of reputation you’re working with and take the first steps to openly addressing it where needed.
2. Experience Your Own Candidate Journey
When hiring a new employee there are certain things that can either make or break the hiring experience. Suzanne Kelly a Chief Talent Advisor shares her opinion saying,
"Business owners are not even thinking about the ripple effect hiring mistakes have, let alone measuring the costs/losses because they lack awareness. The fundamental issue in my opinion is this lack of awareness around hiring and it puts start-ups and business owners at a huge disadvantage… They cannot distinguish an awesome recruiter from an awful recruiter because they don’t know. Their success is hinged on the talent they are able to source. Most hiring managers hire out of a sense of urgency to get a seat filled. This can leave them selecting the best of the worst candidates, opening the doors to costly and destructive hiring mistakes."
In order to overcome this hiring mistake, you have to fully understand your own candidate journey. And in order to understand your candidate journey, you’ve really got to experience it yourself.
Start from the very beginning: choose a job opening, envision yourself as an interested candidate for that role and go through a mock candidate experience.
This includes interacting with your company’s career page as if you were a job seeker who has yet to learn about your company, Googling your company to understand your company’s online reputation from an outsider’s perspective, digging into third-party information like awards and employee reviews, and then actually applying to the job and experiencing the follow-up process that a typical candidate would experience.
From there, assess your typical interview process. Figure out:
Is there a phone interview first, or just an in-person interview?
How many interviews are required in the whole process in total?
Who from the company will be your point person during the interview process?
What’s the tone, timeliness and content of the communications before, during and after the interview(s)?
Is the interview reasonable and are you provided an appropriate amount of information throughout?
Your ultimate goal when experiencing your own candidate journey from beginning to end like this is to try to spot any aspects of the experience that feel awkward, inconvenient or inauthentic, that present unnecessary hurdles or are otherwise off-putting. If you spot these negative characteristics of your candidate experience as a mock candidate, then real candidates will likely see them too…and they’ll go on to use these signals to shape their perception of your employer brand.
3. Ask Candidates For Feedback
When top candidates choose not to join your organization (or even worse, ghost you in the middle of the hiring process), do your best to keep the conversation open with them where possible and ask them if they’d be willing share their perspective on your company, your hiring process and what impacted their decision. Their honest feedback can help you improve your overall employer brand and make immediate updates to your candidate experience so that you’ll have better luck with the next candidates that come through your hiring funnel in the future.
Also, if you didn’t already know, prospective employees are four times more likely to work for you in the future if they have a positive candidate experience. So, a few minutes of your HR team’s time in gathering candidates’ feedback can make a big difference in generating goodwill for your employer brand AND growing your candidate pool.
4. Use Social Media To Your Benefit
Many companies consider social media as merely one of the many checklist items that a job candidate might potentially take a peek at while doing company research during their job search and, otherwise, an area that should simply be left for marketing to handle.
However, there’s evidence that your social media presence isn’t something to only give a passing thought when it comes to recruiting talent, as it actually plays quite a significant role in today’s hiring market: 73% of Millennial applicants said they found their last position through social media, and 29% of job seekers consider social media their primary tool to find a job.
And in a more general sense, the majority of people across all working-age generations use social media in some way in their day-to-day lives: 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds use any form of social media, the same goes for 78% among those ages 30 to 49, and 64% among those ages 50 to 64.
What that all means is that companies who don’t use social media in their recruiting activities in some way are missing a huge opportunity to connect with potential candidates.
Your goal for your company’s social media presence is, first of all, don’t ignore it. Be as active on as many channels as possible. And then, strive to maintain a distinct tone and style that reflects how you want people outside of your company to perceive your internal company culture and employer brand. And finally, remember that the most engaging content is highly visual, so authentic and compelling photographs and / or video content is what brings your organization to life and, in turn, can boost your recruitment efforts.
5. Learn From Current Employee Opinions
Whether you recognize it or not, your current employees are one of the most valuable pieces of your employer brand for two huge reasons:
1. It’s them, not anyone else, that really shape your internal company culture and who are therefore best able to speak about working at your company honestly to the outside world. And if your own current employees are not happy about working for you, don’t expect to be getting much positive word-of-mouth or pleasant reviews on online review sites
2. Understanding what your current employees feel is the key to unlocking what you can do better as an organization so that you can make the improvements you need to make as an employer, which then helps you present an employer brand to prospective candidates that’s both more effective and authentic.
A great way to learn from current employees is by giving them a quick, lightweight survey to find out what’s working and what’s not in your organization. While you’re at it, make sure that they know that your goal is to find ways your company can improve, rather than punishing those employees who have negative criticism about the company. Also, be sure to ask targeted questions about your strengths and weaknesses as an employer and to also include specific questions about salary, benefits, workplace culture, corporate mission, and professional development opportunities that both candidates and current employees care about. Then, use all of the information you’ve gathered to guide the development and improvement of your employer brand.
6. Own Your Flaws, Be Transparent About Them
Every organization makes mistakes from time to time. And while some mistakes are small and stay within your office walls, some mistakes are bigger than others and happen to make their way into public news.
Whatever the situation, it will always be in your company’s best interest to admit to and own up to the mistakes you make - rather than hide from them - and communicate transparently about 1) why it happened and 2) what you’re going to do about it to make things better.A perfect example: check out tech giant Google who (as of the time of this article’s publishing) was recently embroiled in controversy over how poorly they’ve handled sexual harassment in their organization. Thousands of Google employees staged a walkout on Nov 1, 2018 in protest of their employer’s actions on the matter.
As a well-known and largely beloved company that’s landed #1 on Fortune's 100 Best List and in the top ten on hundreds of other lists from LinkedIn to Forbes just a year prior to the controversy, you would think Google would be the last company likely to be at the center of this type of hugely public, negative news… but as you can see, the truth always comes out.
Take this as your key lesson for handling your company’s flaws and mistakes in a way that will actually help your employer brand: when hard truths eventually do come out, expect prospective employees to be watching your every move to see what values you’ll uphold as an organization, and for your current employees to also be watching to see if their employer will act with integrity and honesty.
Linda Le Phan is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better attract and engage talent.