Career Site Branding on a Budget

A brand is a promise. An employment brand, then, is a promise about what job seekers can expect from your company when they apply and if they become employees.

As recently as five years ago, many of the companies I worked with (primarily small- to mid-size privately held businesses) assumed that employment branding was only for large, publicly held companies with high-volume staffing needs and an even larger budget.

For whatever reason, they often dealt with the step-child issues (i.e., thinking that people don’t usually “choose” to come to a privately held company but do if they don’t get hired by their first choice). Now, we know that with competition for good candidates on everyone’s mind, small- and mid-sized companies have finally begun to create or refine their employment brands. Even search firms need to create a strong employment brand to ensure the right type of candidates are coming their way.

One thing remains true for branding: if you want to spend a million dollars on it, you can. But you no longer have to.

In addition to the big-dollar recruitment marketing firms we all know about, niche advertising agencies have popped up across the country with a focus on employment branding. Even our employer’s association has added on yours truly to help our member companies improve its branding strategies. However, if you are still on too tight a budget, here are some ways to check out your current strategies and do a little legwork on your own, saving you both time and money.

To start, enlist the help of some of your employees of various generations. If you hire one particular group (like recent grads or accountants) more than others, have your test group skewed to match your hiring practice. Try not to have a bunch of people from HR doing it, but actual employees who don’t realize what you are doing. Ask them to visit your company’s website as though they were looking for a new job. Ask them to tell you everything they hate and love from the moment they get on as a “job seeker” to the moment they apply for a job.

If you really want some outside perspective, enlist a temp agency and hire a couple of temps for one hour each (average $15 per hour) for a total cost of $30 to $45. This simple exercise will generally give you the same responses that you would pay thousands of dollars for at an agency. What impressions would you have of your company? What makes your company memorable and a place you want to work?

Next, think about how all those pieces of company information are being viewed by different candidate groups through their individual lenses. For example, if I’m a new college grad, I might be looking for clues that speak to career progression and growth. If I’m the parent of small children, I might be looking for clues that speak to flexibility or work/life balance.

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Of course, you can’t make 10 different websites or ads or booths, but you can recognize that there are differences in what people are looking for and that can affect what you lead with and how you present information.

Do you have a separate page that talks about what it is like to work there from an employee’s point of view? What about your benefits or career progression?

These are all areas that can be easily updated through the use of a blog on your careers site. A blog shares a new stream of ideas from various staff members with little or no cost. In fact, you can add a link off your site to a free blog site if you wanted no cost at all.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose sight of what the small details say about your company and what it’s like to work there. A great source of information is your recent hires. How well have their initial impressions matched up with their experiences?

Remember, what you don’t say about your organization is as important as what you do say. Often, you will find that you are under-representing the great things about your company and culture in your branding efforts.

Creating and improving your employment brand is a simple, cost-effective, and important step in your recruiting process. Ultimately, it saves you time and money by providing an appealing and accurate picture of what your company represents and by attracting top candidates to compete today.

Sarah White (sarahw@mranet.org) has spent her career aligning talent strategies with business strategies. As the Recruiting Solutions Group Director at MRA (www.mranet.org), the second largest employer's association in the nation, she works with companies of all sizes on recruitment strategy design, recruitment process optimization, online recruiting, employment branding, college recruitment and internship program development, and applicant tracking software selection. In addition, she runs more than 20 training events each year and has served as keynote speaker and guest lecturer for business groups and university classes on topics related to recruitment and selection, applicant tracking systems and professional development. She is frequently interviewed as a recruiting expert, recently by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News.

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