1741Getting Your Employer Branding Right

Although the economy would appear to be moving along an upwards trajectory, albeit at a slower pace than anticipated, competition between employers to attract the best available talent for their organisations remains as intense as at any point over the past five years. Smart employers will understand that candidate’s will be seeking organisations whose values and guiding principles are in sync with their own and will be assessing their value proposition throughout the application process in much the same was as employers will be scrutinising the candidate’s suitability for the role they are looking to fill.

The recruitment process is is a two-way process, with employers no longer afforded the luxury of holding all the cards or able to cherry-pick the candidates they want. Attracting the best talent both on and in the market means getting your employer branding right and ensuring it’s values and culture are perceived in the right way to the right people. Get it right, and your organisation will be positioned as an employer of choice. But get it wrong and you will struggle to compete and fade into the background in much the same way as all those unimaginative identikit recruitment adverts that once dominated the job pages for years.

So how do create a compelling employer brand? First, we look at how your employer brand is manifested to external audiences – your recruitment advertising.


There are four key elements that prospective applicants are looking for in a recruitment advert:

1. Job role: Is this a job that I can and want to do
2. Salary: Does this job meet my salary expectations, is it enough to tempt me away from my current employer?
3. Location: Is it where I want to work or will I need to commute?
4. Company: Do I want to work for this organisation?

The first three are the basic ‘hygiene’ factors common to all recruitment adverts. However, a job being advertised by a company with a strong brand will invariably attract more candidates than a lesser known company. And that’s because they have the “X” factor – the crucial element of attraction that people buy into. Take Yell, publishers of Yellow Pages, as an example.

Yell has long been a mainstay of UK ‘Superbrands’. Winners of the European Quality Award twice – the only company ever to achieve this at time of writing – Yell has gained a reputation for developing the best sales people in the business. And this reputation is enhanced in their recruitment advertising. Recruitment for top-end media sales professionals is a highly competitive field yet Yell sets itself apart from the competition by resisting the stereotypical temptation to seduce applicants with the lure of material gains such as mobile phones, fully expensed company cars, laptops or share schemes that dominate the majority of media sales recruitment adverts.

Indeed, these benefits are almost deliberately excluded from their advertising. Instead, their recruitment adverts make no secret of the fact that although they offer arguably the highest salaries in the business, it comes at a cost:

We carry no passengers, and make no mistake, we’ll ask an exceptional amount of you. But then, nothing less exceptional truly appeals to you.

Yell use a mix of online and print media to attract prospective employees and spare no expense in ensuring that their brand and values are communicated in the most effective way. With a strong use of colour, choice imagery and clever tag lines such as “The People behind the Numbers”, Yell wants its employees to buy into the organisation’s work ethic – the promise that if you work hard the rewards will present themselves.

Once an employer has the right proposition, the next step is to determine how best to plan their recruitment marketing campaign to maintain their competitive advantage. This means deciding:

• Which publications or websites do my ideal candidates read?
• Does the advert sell our company effectively?
• Does the advert give strong, powerful reasons for candidate’s to apply?
• Have I secured the best position for m y advert in the publication – top right hand page?
• Is our corporate brand reproduced in the advert – full colour logo, image? Will people connect with it?

Remember that this advert has to sell your company to a potential applicant and with a mix of creativity and some brand application your seemingly uninspiring packing or administration job might become your “Priceless” recruitment advert.


Your employer branding must be also be communicated to your internal customers, too. Staff retention is a significant consideration for employers and it is important to gain employee buy-in. Do they ‘get’ the company’s values and what it stands for? Do they know the goals of the organisation and understand how they can make a contribution to the company achieving these goals? Is there a professional development scheme in place to support your employee’s long term career aspirations? Do you offer a competitive salary and benefits package? Do they identify with your ‘brand’  and feel a sense of pride of working for the organisation? This last point can be demonstrated by the success (of failure) of your employee referral scheme.

Examples of large-scale organisations rebranding themselves in recent years are plentiful, and the reason for undertaking this process is simple: they need to remain competitive and create an identity with which their customers (internal and external) and other stakeholders can resonate with. Cancer Research UK is a prime example. Last Autumn, Cancer Research UK, one of the leading charitable organisations in the country, unveiled its new branding in a move which they described as “embodying our role and ambition” and one that was “braver, bolder and more confident” in a bid for the charity to be perceived as “warmer, transparent and appreciative”.

While we may not all have £680,000 to spend on rebranding our organisations, as Cancer Research did, the importance of taking your existing brand and driving engagement with stakeholders cannot be underestimated. But when utilising your in-house marketing team to communicate the values of your employer brand, bear in mind that their primary function is to attract customers, whereas your motivation is to ‘sell’ careers.

Recruitment and employer branding should be seen as two sides of the same coin. Recruitment is not simply about placing a job advert in the local paper, it is more scientific, strategic and deliberate than that. At a time when the UK economy is struggling to loosen the grip of recession and hiring activity remains sluggish at best, employers need to take the same approach that they would take when planning any sales and marketing campaign for the main business to maintain their competitive advantage.

Written by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins.

October 16, 2013 in Resource Centre