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In an Employee’s Market, Brand is the Differentiator

Published on Sep 14, 2021

In an Employee’s Market, Brand is the Differentiator
Robin Re
Robin Re Industry Dive

In recent years, we’ve seen a massive shift in hiring dynamics. The labor market has tightened and the upper hand now belongs to the candidate, who has more options and offers than ever. 

And we’re not just talking about adding new, mid-level folks to the company to mentor and grow into future leaders. The biggest challenge today’s companies are up against is an imbalance in the demand for seasoned, senior-level candidates. 

Whether it be in marketing, sales, management, or non-management; today’s high-performers with years of experience in their field are finding companies willing to offer base salaries over six figures with ease. 

In short: we’re now in the most competitive talent market we’ve seen in recent history. If you take even a few weeks to make an offer to a star candidate, it’s likely they’ll have three other offers in hand.

As this trend is only expected to continue, what can employers do now to think ahead? Yes, compensation and speed to offer are critical factors during the hiring process. But before you can even get that far, you need to attract top candidates in the first place. 

Culture is now mission critical. And a healthy culture is nothing without a strong brand working to highlight and underscore it. 

Recruiters Turned Marketers 

Any great hiring manager will tell you: “you can’t just wait around for the best candidates. You have to go out and find them.” 

In an employee’s market, the hiring community now finds themselves having to develop value props, target their audience, drive awareness of open positions, and nurture interest into action. Sound familiar? 

Recruiters are starting to look more and more like marketing teams by the minute as they work to build and fill the candidate pipeline.

The Employee Value Prop 

In place of a customer value prop, recruiters are working to engineer the employee value prop. Just like its customer equivalent, the employee value prop needs to be persuasive and easy to understand. 

You’ll find your own employee value prop at the intersection of these questions: 

  • What does the employee really want?
  • Why would a top lead engage in conversation with us? 
  • What unique value does this position/our brand offer the candidate? 
  • Why should they choose us over our competition? 

By keeping your employee value prop at the forefront of all of your hiring communications, you help set yourself apart in a crowded landscape. 

Candidate Nurture 

Many times, the “perfect” candidate isn’t ready to leave their current role or situation (much like a potential customer who may not be ready to buy). It’s now up to recruiters to help grow a prospective candidate’s interest in your company over time, so that when the moment is right for the candidate, they choose you. 

Content marketers often espouse that a prospect engages with at least 13 pieces of branded content before making a decision to buy from that brand. In hiring, the number of interactions with candidates before offer acceptance is much, much higher. 

According to LinkedIn, “the median number of interactions a candidate will have with a brand they eventually join is a whopping 64.”

With a strong brand, hiring managers are given a wealth of opportunities to attract interest and keep the candidate warm. Think well-timed updates on your company’s new acquisitions or D,E&I initiatives, hot-off-the press thought leadership, and headlining speaking engagements at major industry events. 

If a candidate likes the brand enough, they’ll be more receptive to communications and more willing to wait for the offer to make sense. Don’t get me wrong: You’ll still need a competitive offer. But when everyone else is also meeting them with a competitive offer, it’s your brand perception that will be the swing factor. 

The fact of the matter: Brand is the only way you’re going to be able to compete in this labor market. 

And remember, the impact of your brand doesn’t end once the offer letter is signed. Each candidate you add to your company has an equal impact on the future of your brand. Not only in shaping its success, but as future brand ambassadors. Top talent goes where top talent is. 

Candidate Experience — the New CX

Most marketers think of customers when they hear CX. But where are the tenets of your customer experience derived from? They follow the cultural values of your brand. 

Candidate Experience + Employee Experience = Exceptional Customer Experience

Candidate experience and employee experience are inextricable from delivering an exceptional customer experience. 

“Implementing a remarkable CX is not a trivial matter. Done well, it represents the difference between hiring great people on a consistent company-wide basis, or working too hard one hire and one job at a time,” says Lou Adler of The Adler Group, an orginiator and lecturer on performance-based hiring. 

With a poor employee experience, word travels fast, and your ability to deliver a positive candidate experience is automatically diminished. And without a chance to deliver a great candidate experience, you won’t place people in roles that will carry the company forward. 

A bad candidate experience isn’t something to take lightly, either. Virgin Media famously calculated that they lost $5.4 million a year due to bad candidate experience. 

There’s just no way your team can deliver an exceptional, meaningful customer experience without a superb candidate experience and employee experience. 

All elements of the equation are underpinned by a strong brand. So it’s imperative that everyone from marketing and sales fully supports the improvement of your recruiting and onboarding process.

The Ripple Effect of Poor Brand Reputation

Just how much of an effect does brand reputation have on the hiring process? 

Let’s look at this through the lens of a brand scandal. Think back to 2019 and Facebook’s now infamous Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal.

According to a CNBC report that compared pre- and post-scandal data from Facebook recruiters:

  • Among top schools, Facebook’s acceptance rate for full-time positions offered to new graduates fell an average of 85% for the 2017-2018 school year to between 35% and 55% as of December.
  • The company has seen a decline in its job offer acceptance rates to software engineer candidates from nearly 90% in late 2016 to almost 50% in early 2019.
  • Facebook candidates are asking much tougher questions about the company’s approach to privacy, according to multiple former recruiters.

The effects of poor brand reputation are devastating and lasting. Companies that dedicate themselves to forming and safeguarding a superior brand perception will continue to attract and retain the market’s top talent, while those who find themselves in a perception crisis will hurt for years to come. 

This all circles back to the core tenant of studioID: balancing brand awareness with demand generation. Brand awareness campaigns are often the first on the chopping block when budgets are tight. But when budgets are tight, that usually means talent is dire.

A strong, positively perceived brand equates to a strong talent pipeline, which then contributes back to a strong brand. So the next time someone (usually outside of marketing) wants to halt all brand awareness efforts, remind them that your brand is what attracts and retains the best job applicants.