The New Shift of Employer Branding
“If you build it, they will come,” said no effective recruitment marketer, ever.
We use this saying in RM to convey how critical the strategy and activation work is beyond the build.
And, with baseball starting up, we thought it apropos (albeit cheeky) to kick off this blog with that infamous whisper from Field of Dreams. While Kevin Costner’s build miraculously summons his target audience (the ghosts of baseball legends like Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago Black Sox), the miraculous appearance of target audiences, critical talent, does not happen in any capacity in our industry.
This is what Sara Elkins, VP, Digital, shared on Phenom’s recent podcast, Talent Experience Live. She emphasizes, however, the importance of beginning with a deep analysis of your current data story and what is already built (messaging, brand, content, and tools) before wrapping budget around an “attraction strategy” to drive candidates to your career site.
Coincidentally, Costner’s recent role in “Yellowstone” finds him once again babying a plot of land, this time to fight off the interested parties rather than entice them – an unpopular concept for any recruitment marketer.
A sincere thank you to our friends at Phenom for the insightful discussion and the thoughtful write-up of the program below.
For ongoing insights regarding all things recruitment marketing, employer branding, and candidate experience, follow Shaker Recruitment Marketing here on LinkedIn.
But according to Sara Elkins, VP of Digital at Shaker Recruitment Marketing, focusing on your own data and career site experience is what’s really key to building a talent strategy that works.
Elkins joined us last week on Talent Experience Live to explore the ins and outs of building a holistic strategy that attracts and engages best-fit talent.
Check out the highlights below, or watch the full episode right here.
As a former English teacher, Elkins knows the power of storytelling. It’s been a common thread throughout her 24 years in the recruitment and TA marketing field. Now, in her role at Shaker, she helps clients weave their employer story into digital recruitment strategies.
But recently, Elkins noticed an uptick in brands getting distracted by the latest trends in attracting candidates rather than focusing on creating cohesive experiences that engage candidates.
“I think everyone is in a little bit of a panic mode,” she said, related to sustained employee resignations feeding fears and reactive recruiting decisions. But it’s important to “take a step back, a deep breath,” she said. When searching for answers, “look at what’s going on in your own world, and not the bright shiny thing hanging out there.”
Before building a budget around an “attraction strategy” to drive potential candidates to your career site, Elkins suggests taking stock of your current messaging, brand, content, and tools. Assess what’s working and what may need to be re-visited, she said, “and then try to put together more of a holistic strategy rather than a band-aid fix.”
Here’s what she suggests:
1. Evaluate Your Own Career Site Experience
Elkins believes the best place to start is actually the place where your new marketing strategies are funneling potential job candidates: your career site.
Capturing attention with a witty social media post might net you those coveted clicks from job seekers, but what happens once they arrive at the destination? What kind of user experience (UX) are they encountering on your career site? How intuitive is the apply process? Is information easy to find? Ideally, it’s a seamless, cohesive experience that conveys your story and showcases your brand.
Think of it this way: when you invest in that shiny new tool to attract candidates, you’re paying to direct eyeballs to your career site. What happens if that experience is broken? “The eyeballs you paid for are going to leave. They’re not going to convert, they’re not going to give you any data, they’re not going to apply for your job, or join your talent community,” Elkins said.
2. Create a Cohesive Candidate Experience
Any piece of content on any given channel could be the first experience someone has with your organization. So, the transition from a specific piece of content (like a clever TikTok campaign) to the career site should be cohesive and faithful to your brand. As Elkins pointed out, developing great content is one thing, but organizing and distributing it in a way that makes sense and doesn’t confuse candidates is another.
In addition, the content on your career site and landing pages have to work in tandem to signal to the candidate that they’re in the right place, seamlessly directing them to the information they’re looking for. To illustrate this point, Elkins used an example from Amazon, which offers similar or related products based on a customer’s purchase, along with reviews. It’s a cohesive experience that draws the user in and keeps them engaged with personalized content.
Employers can do that for job candidates, too. Think of recruitment as a “job buying experience,” she said. Tailor recommendations for open positions based on search history and offer job seekers employee-generated video testimonials of what it’s like to work for your company.
3. Use Data to Guide New Recruiting Strategies
When it comes to recruitment marketing (or any marketing), simply launching a campaign or pushing a rebranded website live isn’t enough. According to Elkins, tracking and measuring the effectiveness of your recruitment marketing efforts is the only way to make strategic business decisions and determine what’s working.
Elkins’ clients often want to know how other employers in the market are approaching this. “Start with your own data,” Elkins said. “The best data is going to be your own,” because so many variables are in play: current brand perception, budget, company size, location, hiring goals, and other employer-specific factors that determine the best benchmarks to work against.
Look at what you’re already tracking and how you’re currently making business decisions — maybe you’ve been tracking increases in career site visitors, or time-to-hire metrics. And if you don’t track anything right now? An AI-powered talent experience platform with intelligent talent analytics can give you insight into the job seekers’ behavior on your career site, help you understand where those visitors are coming from, and measure the engagement of your different marketing strategies.
“Look at some basic things you make business decisions on and start tracking those, and then you can make really good decisions for your own recruitment hiring, your own marketing, your own brand based on those numbers.”
So what happens after you’ve walked through the candidate experience and you realize it needs an overhaul before investing in that shiny new recruitment marketing strategy?
In Elkins’ experience, the most successful reinventions happen when companies approach the process with three principles in mind:
Research. Your brand isn’t what you think it is — it’s what the market thinks it is. Start by researching current perceptions of your brand in places like focus groups. Use your findings to inform the development of powerful content. Elkins found that often the consumer brand and the employer brand are out of balance, with one being stronger than the other.
Time. There’s no quick fix when it comes to re-setting brand and strategy. In general, we’ve become conditioned to expect lightning-fast results in our daily lives. But before investing heavily in a solution — whether that’s new media, a new channel, or a new web page — pause to consider the right strategy that puts the candidate experience first.
Communication. Involve all internal stakeholders in the very beginning, laying out the entire plan. This can prevent unexpected hurdles that stall execution. “Get everybody to the table who could tell you ‘no’ in the very beginning (e.g. PR, legal, IT), so everyone knows the direction and where you want to go.” Elkins pointed out that in her experience, clear communication through the internal team has been key to a successful marketing strategy execution.
Once your career site offers the best possible candidate experience, and you have a tool helping you track the data needed to make good business decisions, you can start investing in out-of-the-box marketing campaigns that will attract visitors to your job listings.
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