Human Resources Today

Anytime I get in my car or hop on a plane, I’m bound to see a job advertisement. Maybe it’s because I work in the industry of employer branding and my eyes are magnets for recruitment marketing. Regardless of mode of transportation, the job ads are all the same. “Now Hiring,” “We’re Hiring,” and “Join Our Team” are plastered on the back of trucks and billboards, and displayed across flyers, store windows, sidewalk signs, and social media. If I’m bored by these vanilla messages—and I love this stuff—what chance does it have to attract the right candidates?

The reality is this: one hiring sign and the same calls to action as everyone else won’t cut it anymore. (<--Click to tweet this!)

According to Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed, there are 0.91 unemployed workers for each available job, the lowest on record. That was in July 2018. In September, the unemployment rate in the United States fell to 3.7%, the lowest level since December 1969. If your industry isn’t already experiencing a talent shortage, it may very well start to if unemployment continues to decline. In this extremely competitive talent market you need to captivate candidates with a message that stands out.

A generic “Now Hiring” message won’t solve your hiring challenges. And it certainly isn’t captivating to passive candidates. So, how do you stand out when everyone sounds the same and is hiring for the same talent you need? Here at exaqueo, we believe it comes down to understanding your company and your people, as well as time, budget, resources and a healthy dose of creativity.

Before you start launching an employer brand, here are four employer brand tips to help you overcome hiring challenges in this economy:

TIP #1: Identify Your Challenges   

Our team believes successful employer brands start with and are built from research. It’s critical that you make the effort to understand the challenges within the organization when it comes to hiring. You may think you know what your employees are thinking, but do you really? You may believe there is a “work-life balance” or “pay and schedule” or “engagement” challenge in your organization, but what does it really mean? Is it truly an organizational challenge or is it the employment experience of one department? If you dig a little deeper, you may discover  it’s something unexpected, such as a commuting issue or lack of staff.

Identifying your challenges also means prioritizing and educating stakeholders about them. There is a lot of confusion in the industry around what employer brand, culture, and employee value proposition (EVP) mean and how they can address your talent challenges. Shannon Smedstad, Engagement Director and Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo explains, “Employer brand is who you are and what you stand for as an employer—both internally to your employees and externally to candidates. It's the promise you make about what it's like to work there. It's a holistic strategy behind how you attract, recruit, retain, and influence people.” (<--Click to tweet this!) Having a deep understanding and knowledge of your organization’s challenges, and how employer brand can help overcome those challenges, will set you up for success.

TIP #2: Listen to Your Employees

When identifying your challenges, your research must start with your employees. We often say on our team, “successful employer brands are not built in boardrooms.” That’s because we firmly believe they are built from stepping into the shoes of employees. Feedback and engagement surveys are good starting points, but they won’t help you understand the why.

For candidates to buy-in to your recruitment marketing and how you are selling of the employment experience, you need to discover what’s inside the hearts and minds of employees. This requires speaking with employees all across your organizations—not just executives, one department, or one level. Regardless of tenure or title, all employees have a story to tell about what it’s truly like to work at your organization. Together, these stories makeup the patchwork that tells your employment experience.  

TIP #3: Get an Outsider’s Perspective

When trying to overcome talent challenges within your organization, an outside perspective is very helpful. This isn’t just because you need someone to see help you see the forest for the trees. It’s mostly because you want your workforce research to be unbiased and given confidentially. Trust us when we say, employees won’t be completely open and honest with you. No matter how anonymous your employee engagement survey claims to be. It’s human nature to protect ourselves. Only when to employees feel there are in a safe space and they can share in complete confidentiality do you get the real, authentic truths about your employment experience. (<--Click to tweet this!)

Here at exaqueo, we’ve seen it time and time again. Employees just trust and feel comfortable when it’s an unbiased, third-party and the emotions coming flooding out—happiness, sadness, frustration, pride, excitement, disappointment—we’ve seen it all. If working with an outside partner is not an option, tap into outside perspectives by surveying candidates who declined your offers. Understanding why people don’t want to work at your organization is just as important as understanding why they do!

TIP #4: Be Authentic

We live in a world of skepticism. Most millennials have been digitally marketed to the majority of their adult lives. Generation z, their entire lives. The emotion needed to connect with these audiences through advertising requires authenticity. The decision to take a job is a very personal one and the truly attract someone to your organization, you need to make it personal and authentic. The word “authentic” comes from the Greek word “authentikos” which means ‘principal,’ ‘original,’ or ‘genuine.’ For companies, being authentic often translates back to your organization’s mission and/or purpose.

A Deloitte study found that purpose and authenticity matter to employees, that 81% of respondents who reported working for a company with a strong sense of purpose were confident their company would grow within the coming year. In being authentic about your company’s employment experience and how it connects with your purpose, you’ll inevitably attract the people who will thrive in that work environment and culture. You’ll also allows those who would not thrive self-select out of the process.

To do this you must share not only the good things about your company, the attractors, but also the realities (good or bad) of what it is like to work at your organization. You may have things about your organization that are driving people away from (or even out of) your company, the detractors, that you’d like to fix or are actively working to improve. Tell candidates and employees about them! The more transparent you can be about all aspects of your employment experience, the better. (<--Click to tweet!)

Hiring challenges won’t disappear overnight. However, if you get started now thinking about how your organization’s employer brand stacks up against your competition, you may be able to lessen the impact this economy will have on your organization. Here at exaqueo, we always say “If you are authentic, you have no competition.” Stand out by standing up for who you are as an organization and authentically describing your employment experience. Only then will you be able to attract candidates and retain employees who will thrive inside your organization.


If you liked this post, you should check out this one: Employer Branding 2.0: Stop Trying To Attract Everyone.


Emily Fritz (@social_em) is an Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting, and creative and digital execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research, and recruiting strategy offerings.


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