Employer branding: attracting talent during the lockdown

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Businesses that continue to attract top talent will have a greater ability to recover after coronavirus restrictions are loosened. But how can they ensure they have a strong brand and are engaging with candidates while most are working at home? Jasmine Yule and Angela Lewis offer some advice.

While consumer branding has always had an essential role in marketing, employer branding is arguably a relatively new concept – but it is just as important.

Consumer branding portrays an image to those who may potentially buy into or invest in your firm’s products or services, whereas employer branding focuses on the reputation of your firm as a place to work. As candidates’ exposure to your organisation during the coronavirus lockdown may be low, portraying a strong brand to consumers and job seekers is a vital part of remaining competitive in the jobs market. We spoke with some job seekers to gather their thoughts on how consumer and employer branding can work together hand in hand.

By waiting to tell potential employees about the benefits of working for your firm during an interview, you may have already lost out on applicants to competitors with a stronger image.”

The evolution of technology and social media in recruitment has given job seekers far more visibility over their options than they once had. Where their skills are in high demand, they can afford to shop around for new opportunities – much like a consumer does for goods or services. What’s more, sites such as Glassdoor give potential applicants valuable insights into what it would be like to work for a firm, long before they have even set foot in the door.

Firms with slick consumer branding can rely on their image to attract and retain talent to a certain extent, but they must also develop strong employer branding to be a key player.

Recruitment messages that stand out

It is vital that companies invest in an image that helps them stand out from the crowd. They should place equal weighting on their employer branding as they do their corporate image; your firm may have excellent values, learning and development opportunities and culture, but are these being effectively communicated to the job market?

When we asked some of our network, it would appear the answer is “not always”. By waiting to tell potential employees about the benefits of working for your firm during an interview, you may have already lost out on applicants to competitors with a stronger image.

While perks may be outlined in job advertisements, not every potential candidate is actively looking for new opportunities and may not come across these. To attract this kind of talent, your employer branding strategy must also account for “passive candidates”. The aim here is not to get these future employees to apply directly for specific roles, but to engage with your firm for the future.

There are many ways to attract high quality talent and what is effective will vary from firm to firm. However, taking a multimedia approach using engaging video content, podcasts and blog posts can cover more angles and appeal to many.

When developing your employer branding, for both remote operation and business as usual, you should ask yourself:

  • Are your company values part of day-to-day life, or are they simply “writing on the wall”? Are these clearly published to potential applicants?
  • Is your application process user-friendly and timely? Assessment centres are a great way to meet multiple candidates, but are they relevant to the particular role?
  • Could communication through the interview process be improved? Do you give feedback to all applicants who interview?
  • Do you currently make time to brief all new recruitment agency partners to allow them to best sell your brand to the market?
  • Could you consider setting up separate employer social media accounts such as Instagram accounts for graduate programmes?
  • Are the opportunities for progression within your firm clear to potential applicants and not just existing employees?
  • Do you take feedback on sites like Glassdoor seriously? Could you consider replying to each review received?
  • How do you make your employees feel valued? Could you do an employee satisfaction survey to find out what could be improved?

During the recruitment process

High application volumes can sometimes make it near impossible for busy HR teams to respond to all CVs received. However, applicants who invest their time in the process will always remember the companies who gave no feedback following interviews, or prolonged processes with little communication. The danger here is that these candidates may voice their frustrations to their network and the reputation of a firm can be quickly tarnished.

Many of our clients have integrated video interviewing into their hiring processes for all roles. These video interviews have already led to successful hires, with some recent new-starters already working from home just weeks into the lockdown. Hiring organisations do not need to wait until offices are open and restrictions on movement are lifted to utilise the skills of new employees.

Gettting these video interviews right is important. You should:

  1. Use high-quality video conferencing facilities when conducting remote interviews – make sure to have an audio backup in case the technology fails
  2. Set out an etiquette at the start of the conversation – mute when not speaking, ensure no background noise and no visual distractions
  3. Allow time for an icebreaker and introductions at the beginning of an interview – structure is even more important when interviewing remotely
  4. Ensure your questions are well prepared – the interview flow can easily become disjointed as a result of poor questioning
  5. Always include a discussion about company culture – it’s just as important when hiring remotely
  6. Send your interviewee links to any company videos or social media pages in advance so they can build an understanding of what it would be like working for your company.
  7. Build an extra 10 minutes into your calendar for when the interview concludes, so you can discuss next steps with colleagues and move forwards with hiring decisions.

Applicants who invest their time in the process will always remember the companies who gave no feedback following interviews, or prolonged processes with little communication.”

You should also think about the type of hire you want to make while the organisation is operating remotely. Employing contract or temporary staff removes some of the risk where a face-to-face interview is not possible. If the candidate is open to it and you want a permanent hire, offer a paid remote work trial to let them prove their capability of working remotely.

During uncertain times like these, branding matters more than ever. The businesses that will bounce back will need top industry talent, and the only way to secure this workforce is to get your name out there.

Jasmine Yule and Angela Lewis

About Jasmine Yule and Angela Lewis

Jasmine Yule is a consultant and Angela Lewis is client engagement lead at professional services recruitment firm Morgan McKinley
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