Why Job Branding Is More Important Than Employer Branding

What’s all the fuss? Hiring top people isn’t as tough as most recruiters and hiring managers make it out to be. Job branding is the key. But before you start job branding, you must first stop doing dumb things that prevent you from hiring top people. No hiring initiative will work effectively unless you stop doing these things first:

  • Stop using traditional job descriptions (TJD). I’m tired of writing about this. For more on the subject, read my recent article on how to prepare a performance profile if you want to know why traditional job descriptions prevent you from hiring top people. I’m personally aware of over 500 placements (entry, staff, mid- to senior management) where “A” candidates were hired just because a performance profile was used to describe the job instead of a TJD. The first-year turnover of these 500 placements was less than 5%. This is unbelievable. I have not found any comparable consistency in hiring top people when a TJD was used.
  • Stop writing traditional boring ads (TBA). Top people will not consistently respond to boring ads unless they are desperate. Since top people are rarely desperate, you won’t see many top people using TBAs. Here’s a fact you can checkout yourself: 90% of ads online (job boards and company websites) are TBAs. (Writing compelling ads is actually a part of job branding, but it’s good to reinforce the point that with boring ads you attract mostly boring candidates.)
  • Stop demeaning candidates. Ask your top people to work their way through your company’s current application process. Ask them if they would respond to your ads. This will give you a clue as to whether your hiring process is designed to keep the worst people from applying or designed to attract the best. If you don’t consciously and proactively consider the needs of top people when designing your hiring processes, everything will turn out backwards. Technology can now filter out weak candidates without the applicant doing anything but submitting a resume in a few minutes. Another example of how not to eliminate good candidates: Don’t ever ask if a person is willing to relocate or travel 50% of the time. Instead, ask if the person would be interested in considering a long-term international assignment to lead the implementation of a worldwide forecasting system. The key is to design recruiting processes to attract the best, not eliminate the worst.
  • Don’t assume managers and recruiters know how to assess competency. If hiring people is so important, shouldn’t all managers and recruiters be required to pass some type of qualifying test? In no other business function is someone permitted to do something without demonstrating competency (consider CPAs for accountants, training for sales and customer service reps, etc.). When you use TJDs and untrained interviewers, you tend to hire people who are competent but not motivated. This is what happens when you hire more on presentation than on performance. You also tend not to hire the best person, since you were assessing the wrong stuff.
  • Don’t be turned on or off by first impressions and presentation skills. This is the #1 hiring mistake of all time, especially for sales positions. I’ve met many top salespeople who make average first impressions. I’ve met even more bad salespeople who make great first impressions. The only common trait of top salespeople is that they work hard and prepare thoroughly for every call. The problem with first impressions is that they push the interviewer down a fateful path to the wrong decision. If you like someone, you tend to look for facts to prove the person is strong and ignore non-positive information. For candidates they don’t like, interviewers tend to look for facts to prove the person is incompetent while minimizing positive information. Here’s one technique you’ll find useful: don’t measure first impressions until the end of the interview. It will help you stop hiring people you shouldn’t and hire more of those you should.

Doing the above will allow you to eliminate 50% to 75% of all potential hiring mistakes. Job branding will allow you see and hire more top people than you’ve ever imagined. Job branding is based on the idea that top people accept jobs for five primary reasons:

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  1. The quality of the job based on what the person will learn, do, and become. Non-entry top people (those with a few years of experience) want jobs that match their interests and tap into their unique skills as the most important decision criteria. That’s why the performance profile is so important. For the best people, the new job is an important step in their career, so their evaluation processes focuses on this. For non-top people, decision making emphasizes security issues like the quality of the company and the comp package.
  2. The quality of the hiring manager. This assessment is based on the professionalism of the interview and the hiring manager’s knowledge of the job. It’s very difficult to attract top people if the hiring manager doesn’t know how to interview, over-talks, under-listens, and doesn’t provide examples of how he or she developed a strong team.
  3. The compensation package. This is less important if the job offers more opportunity for learning, doing, and becoming ó and if the hiring manager is a strong leader. You never have enough money to attract the best, but with great jobs and great managers this becomes less of an issue. To attract top people, you must offer a 25% improvement in the form of job growth and compensation increase. Good recruiters balance these two factors during the interviewing and offer-presenting process.
  4. The quality of the company. Employer branding is more effective for people beginning their careers, and for those valuing job security over opportunity. For top people the company name helps get their attention but is less important as a decision variable, except when the company strategy and vision are tied directly to the actual job. This is an important piece of the job branding process.
  5. The quality of the recruiter and recruiting process. Recruiters play an important role in influencing a top person’s decision to consider different opportunities and ultimately accept an offer. Much of this involves overcoming concerns, providing additional information, and putting together the best career package. This recruiting can be done by the recruiter, the hiring manager, or some combination. The collateral material ó company website, online job descriptions, career information ó is an important aid in the recruiting process. All top people seek counsel from their personal advisors and much of this information will be seen by them. This material is even more important if the recruiter or hiring manager is not personally strong, since it can help offset some of that weakness.

Job branding incorporates the decision-making criteria of top people into a seamless hiring process. Here’s how to tie it all together:

  • Make sure your ads stands out. Use clever titles that appeal to top people who look infrequently. For example, “Director IT” will be viewed less often than one with a sub-title like this: “Director IT ? Back to the Future.”
  • Write compelling copy. Emphasize opportunities over requirements. Top people will give your ad 10 seconds of their time. Make sure it describes what the person will do, learn, or become in the first two sentences. You’ll earn another minute of reading time if you do.
  • Incorporate your company strategy into the ad. This is the heart of job branding. Make sure the job itself is seen as an important part of the company mission. Here’s an idea for attracting top sales reps: “Become the focal point of our new product line launch and multi-million dollar ad campaign. Add your heart and enthusiasm to our resources and watch your sales effectiveness soar.”
  • Provide finalists a copy of the performance profile. These job profiles clarify expectations by clearly describing the top six to eight performance objectives. Top candidates share this with their personal advisors and use it to balance the compensation package with the opportunity, and to compare to other competing positions. Make sure that the performance objectives tie to the company strategy to elevate the importance of the job.
  • Use the interview to create an opportunity gap. Ask candidates to describe their major accomplishments in detail. Listen to their answers. Compare these accomplishments to the performance objectives in the job. The difference represents the opportunity gap. You can demonstrate this difference in a number of ways. One way is to state a concern: “I’m not sure you have enough background. Please describe this more fully.” Or you could be positive with reservations: “This will be a stretch, but tell me how you learn new technologies.” In a properly-conducted interview, candidates learn for themselves why the job offers a clear career opportunity. This is much better than over-talking, under-listening, or over-selling.

To hire more top people you only need to offer more great jobs. Job branding will help you get the word out. But first you must stop doing self-defeating things, especially the use of traditional job descriptions to define jobs. If you don’t stop doing this, it won’t matter what you do. You’ll never be able to consistently hire top people. [Note: Don’t forget our upcoming free online semi-sourcing course on August 6, 2004. Asking to attend is not enough ó the course is too special for that. We only want top recruiters involved, so some pre-work is required to gain admittance. As of today, all invitees have been notified. However, there is still room. If you’d like to find more top performers, you can read the admittance instructions (see last week’s article) or submit a job branding idea. The effort itself will be worthwhile. As you’ll discover at the semi-sourcing course, ads don’t have to be ads at all. In fact, they shouldn’t be if you want to attract more top people. They can even be contests.]

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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