First impressions count. For businesses, the first time candidates meet an organisation is often through the hiring process. A less than stellar encounter can hurt the organisation’s employer brand, putting people off a job opening. It can even alienate candidates from the company as a customer, impacting on its reputation and long-term sales.
An employer brand is a company’s reputation as an employer. It includes everything from recruitment advertising, to content about its employer value proposition (EVP), to employee advocacy on social networks. Developing an employer brand means capturing the heart of an organisation’s culture and using this to promote the business as a great place to work, in order to attract the best talent. As the availability of key skills worsens around the world, employer branding is becoming increasingly critical.
Whether or not any time or intention has gone into articulating your employer brand, your business has one just as it has a company culture. Your hiring process itself is a key visible component of your employer brand and can profoundly affect what people think and say about your company.
Where things go wrong
The biggest risk to an employer brand is a disjointed, poorly planned online job application experience that doesn’t show a real interest in or consideration for candidates. In a world where top talent is scarce, job seekers have to be won over, or they’ll simply go elsewhere.
Every part of the experience matters as candidates see it as a reflection of what life would be like if they were to work at the company. A confusing and frustrating candidate experience can leave a horrible impression of the business as a disorganised, second-rate company.
4 Ways to fine-tune the process
Here are four ways in which the online job application process can be optimised to boost your employer brand:
- Present your employer value proposition
The recruitment process is the ideal place to show candidates your unique values and offerings as an employer and give them a reason to work for you. Your employer value proposition is a critical aspect of your talent brand and captures the essence of your employer brand message.
But many companies still don’t know what their competitive edge is as an employer, or how to communicate this message well. Without an idea of how people fit into the bigger picture of the organisation, it’s very hard for candidates to judge their potential fit.
With a clear understanding of the benefits and rewards you offer, use the company website and careers sites to build content around what it’s like to work at your company. This will offer those looking at jobs direct insight into why they might want to work for your firm. For example, a video where staff members talk about their passion projects, if your company fosters innovation by giving them a portion of their work-time to focus on their own creations.
- Respond to all applications, and do it faster
A job application is a very personal undertaking. Candidates pour a lot of energy into the process, hoping that it could lead to something better, that they’re suitable for the role, and will be judged to be a good fit. Scarce skills talent might send a speculative application to test the waters if they have itchy feet.
Often candidates will receive no response at all, an impersonal canned message, or a reply only several weeks later, leaving them feeling shunned. By this time top talent has long since been snapped up by a competing organisation. A speedy, personalised response to applications is vital, preferably within a week of the job closing. If the selection process is particularly lengthy, keep applicants involved and in the loop with regular updates.
- Be consistent across all channels
Consistency across all the hiring channels is central to any branding effort to engender trust and give applicants an idea of how the employer brand fits in with the corporate brand.
When using a separate corporate careers website for the application process, make sure it’s properly aligned to the company’s consumer brand website. It should carry the same look, style, and tone of communication. Broker the marketing team’s input, as well as training for the HR and recruitment teams on the company’s official communication guidelines.
- Perfect the experience
The ease of the process itself, and communication through the entire candidate experience is critical. When the application process is too difficult, friction is created and skilled candidates will quickly lose interest. Applicants should be asked only for the minimum amount of information required to effectively assess them, rather than being bombarded with questions that may not even be relevant for the role.
Once an organisation has taken a candidate’s details, recruiters and hiring managers need to effectively manage and use the data. For example, a candidate’s perception of an employer’s competency and employer brand can be decimated by an interviewer who isn’t aware of information the candidate has previously provided in their application.
How technology can help
Recruitment technology, like graylink’s software, can provide you with a recruitment website that’s aligned to your brand guide and offer you tools to communicate quickly with candidates, personalise messages with candidates’ names, and set up templates to be approved by the communication department. Scarce-skills candidates are presented with too many opportunities to entertain companies who make the recruitment process difficult or don’t reply quickly enough.
Beyond the online job application, employer branding also needs to be reflected in personal interactions. When the candidate comes for the interview, what are the people like, what impression do they give, and how does this make the candidate feel?
Employer branding is a growing concern for organisations, as the shortage of key skills raises the bar to find and keep the talent needed to achieve their growth targets. Organisations are increasingly looking inwards to assess and improve their working environments, benefits and culture to become more attractive employers and articulate these benefits as part of their employer brands. Looking forward, it’s safe to say that CEOs and marketing will start working more closely with HR on the employer brand, as they start to realise its strategic value.