Recruiting’s New Challenges. Plural.

“If you haven’t heard of us—if you’re not using our products—we have to work a little harder [to recruit you]… We are competing for talent with some extremely sexy consumer brands.”

This is how Jennifer Johnston, Head of Global Employer Branding & Recruitment Marketing at Salesforce (B2B juggernaut, Silicon Valley heavyweight, tech media darling Salesforce), explained how today’s noisy brand-heavy media translates into more work for recruiters at lesser brands. LinkedIn recently quantified how much more work is required on the back end, too: the additional effort needed adds up to about US $5,000 more per head, making this one of today’s critical recruiting challenges.

A second critical hiring challenge that today’s companies face has an even bigger impact: attracting employees who will be engaged with their work. The impact here quickly gets staggering: Bersin has calculated the cost of voluntary turnover to be $427 million annually for a 30,000 person company (seriously!).

Solving the Challenges with an Employer Brand.

The key to solving both challenges—getting seen, and getting seen by people who will want to work for you—lies in having a strong employer brand. An employer brand can do for recruiting what marketing does for sales: make it easier to attract prospects, and specifically, the right prospects. And having the right people matters: Glassdoor found that the financial performance of companies on their Best Places to Work list outperformed the S&P 500 by 115%… put another way, Glassdoor showed that if your employees aren’t so happy that they’re not genuinely sharing good news about work with the world, you’re operating at less than half your potential.

An anecdote often shared by Jennifer Newbill, Head of Candidate Attraction and Engagement at technology behemoth (and sexy consumer brand) Dell highlights where some of this financial impact comes from: a few years ago, a candidate had such a terrible time applying for a job at Dell that he swore to never buy another Dell product… and subsequently got hired to manage procurement for an organization with a US$2B technology budget. Stories like this are commonplace and show how the impact of negative experiences can drive such a massive negative financial impact.

Why Didn’t We Need an Employer Brand Before?

In two words, social media.

The very tool that promised to make it easier than ever to get a company’s message out is also why employer brands have become so necessary. Social media has increased the noise-to-signal ratio to deafening levels, drowning out companies’ recruiting messages under a deluge of unrelated content from across the globe. Second, it’s given candidates and employees a way to connect with one another, making it almost impossible for companies to tell any story other than the truth.

The idea of an employer brand has been 20+ years in the making, but as a function it is just now beginning to normalize, as early adopters repeat their wins and the financial impact of successful employer brands become measurable.

Employer Branding: A Simple Explanation

If a job at your company were a product, your employer brand would be the sum total of all the things you communicated to prospects to get them to “buy” it. An employer brand is a strategic framework that ties a company’s recruiting communications together to ensure that the right picture forms in the minds of the right candidates. About a year ago, I compiled a list of definitions from around the web. It’s still relevant today.

Every company has an employer brand, but whether the company is in control of it is a different matter entirely. The impact of having an effective brand is that a company can more easily solve the challenges described above—it’s easier to get heard above the noise, and it’s easier to set candidate expectations in a way that reduces the risk of bad talk amongst candidates.

What Goes into an Employer Brand

A purposeful employer brand communicates three things: why people choose to work at your company (your mission or values), how they do it (your culture), and what the nuts and bolts of employment are (compensation, work conditions, and the like). Universum takes things one step further, using the acronym STACD to describe the ideal employer brand, which, in addition to showing off the why/how/what of working at a company, is also sustainable, true, appealing, credible, and distinct from your competition.

Developing Your Employer Brand

While each company has their own process and timeline (ranging from a few months to many years), the structure for developing an employer brand is fairly consistent:

  1. Get senior leadership to sponsor it. Do not skip this step. Do not skip this step. Do not skip this step! At Salesforce, even with CEO sponsorship, nothing changed until Jennifer won over the hiring managers who’s support she needed. Getting leadership to buy in is job number one.
  2. Research fast.Each of these companies took time to understand who they were from the perspective of employees. To do this, some used surveys, focus groups, or some combination of the two; Lever used my company’s software to collect and analyze employee stories; and all looked at external data from Glassdoor and elsewhere to make sure they knew the truth. The best companies use real-time tools for reliable and current data.
  3. Develop.Branding is hard; no one gets it perfect in one shot. The brand journey starts with a step—maybe a blog, or a decision to send every new employee a small gift—but always with a clear idea of where it will lead, so in time, as confidence grows, initiatives can get bigger and more inclusive without people losing sight of the goal. For example, Dell trains employees on social media best practices and invests further in its advocates.
  4. Activate.Measure impact. Adjust. Repeat. Successful companies are ruthless in measuring impact so they can focus. And they think creatively about metrics, too: for instance, Jennifer at Salesforce pulled demographic data to show hiring managers that there were simply not enough people alive for them to fill open slots using their current strategies. Pretty clever!


A strong, purposeful employer brand can help you overcome modern recruiting obstacles such as difficulty being heard or overcoming negative experiences shared by candidates and employees. It is a strategic framework that will let you create leverage and consistency in your messaging, on social media and elsewhere.

About the author :

Jason Seiden, CEO Brand Amper

Jason co-founded Brand Amper, an employer branding platform that builds brand equity quickly and sustainably by putting employees—the most trusted source of information about a company—at the center of brand creation. For 20 years, Jason has been making professional communication more genuine and productive.