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Why should I want to work for you?

August 10, 2016

The importance of employer and talent branding alignment in recruiting

Author: Dan Van Slambrook, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

An interview question commonly posed to job applicants is, “Why do you want to work here?”  In a labor market where qualified talent is in short supply, that question’s point of view could easily be reversed, with the candidate being the one to ask, “Why should I want to work here?”  Often, applicants answer this for themselves, before even submitting a resume (or deciding not to).  It’s important to realize the difference between employer brand and talent brand, and how it can affect employee recruitment.

The awareness that a job seeker has of a firm as a potential employer, and the perception he or she has about what it would be like to work for that firm are key factors in the ability to attract talent to the organization.  Employer and talent branding are well-used descriptors that are often referred to interchangeably, yet both are distinct in nature.  It’s important to recognize the difference between the two, and at the same time how they relate to one another.    

The employer brand, as the name implies, is employer driven.  It is the way a firm goes about establishing itself as a provider of employment opportunities, the products/services it offers, its culture, its vision, and what it is like—or aspires to be like—to work for.  It can be thought of as a unique beacon broadcasting its existence as a provider of employment opportunities to candidates and setting itself apart from competing employers.    

While the employer brand is most easily controlled by the employer, the talent brand is not.  It is the perception formulated by job seekers, job incumbents and former employees about what it’s like to work for the organization.  The rise of social media and sites like Glassdoor have provided a powerful platform from which talent can anonymously sound off about an employer to a vast audience—either positively or negatively.   Like product purchase decisions made by consumers, employer ratings can have a significant impact on an applicant’s decision to pursue employment with a particular firm.  

The employer brand is the “official” portrayal of an organization, while the talent brand is essentially the “reality check” that backs it up.  As the later serves to validate the former, alignment of the two is critical.  Having an employer brand that communicates a corporate commitment to professional development, for example, combined with a talent brand where the employer is praised by former employees for its great training program, can create a powerful force of talent attraction.  On the other hand, an employer that proclaims its development commitment but receives low marks from previous workers in this area may likely be treated suspiciously or even repel potential applicants.  

Neglecting the employer brand, and ignoring a firm’s talent brand, can have expensive consequences.  Recent LinkedIn research estimates that a negative brand can cost a firm over $4,700 per employee hired, in addition to other costs such as lowered morale and turnover.   

What are some keys to positive, well-aligned employer and talent brands?  Consider doing the following:

  • Develop an employer branding strategy that includes things like what, where, how and to whom information will be marketed and communicated.  
  • Be positive, but accurate in developing the employer brand.  There’s nothing wrong with accentuating the positive, even aspirational points of an organization, but blatant overstatements will serve to misalign employee expectations with the reality they find on the job.
  • Maintain awareness of the organization’s talent brand. Monitor sites like Glassdoor and Google, analyzing what is being communicated about the company.  
  • Focus on improvement and alignment.  If the employer brand advertises “X” but is perceived as delivering “Y”, commit to getting to the root cause and evaluating what improvements are appropriate. 
  • Finally, involve employees in the process.  They can be help surface issues that need to be addressed and also be great ambassadors for the organization in either the employer or talent branding process. 
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