Recruiting is hard especially in highly competitive areas like the Bay Area and Boston where bright and talented people are in high demand. First you have to find the right talent, then sell them on your vision and culture to give them a persuasive reason to join your company.
If you aren’t a proven founder or have a highly acclaimed executive team with reputations and networks to attract talent, you need leverage other resources to help build a compelling message. Developing a rich employer brand that radiates energy, tells the story of your company and is authentic is the most overlooked areas we see with the majority of companies. Just look at any new company and go to their website and checkout the career page. Career pages aren’t where you post jobs, it’s where you help potential candidates get a glimpse of what it means on an individual basis to work for your company.
Yet the power of employer branding is often undervalued.
Employer branding starts by focusing on what candidates need and want from you— it’s not about giving them a job, it’s about them picking a company. Potential candidates want more than basic company information. While having a great name and logo is important, brand development extends far beyond these elements. You need to showcase what it means to work for your company.
The very first thing a prospect does when we reach out to them is to look at our client’s web site. They need to pull the curtain back and get a look inside the company, see the team in action, get an overall feel for the work environment and connect with something. Next, they go to LinkedIn – do they know anyone that works there? Can they piece what the culture might be like based on who is involved? Do they know anyone that they can ask about through their network?
Why make it a guessing game? Chances are that your competitors are paying attention to their own employer value statement and using that to their advantage in the talent market. Starting the process doesn’t have to be complicated:
Show yourself. Stand out in a competitive market. Share your company’s personality, culture and the traits that your employees and ideal candidate represent. Present vivid narrative that speaks directly to your target candidates. Use examples – if you use innovation as a core value – as many startups do – show examples of that value in action. The companies who get this right are really clear on what their culture is and what it isn’t. Rapid7 is a great example of employer branding at its best. “We identified pretty early on that in a competitive market we not only needed to stand out, but do it in a way that was both genuine and compelling” says Ed Nathanson, Senior Director Global Talent Acquisition. “We cannot be everything to everybody, and we need to focus on authenticity”
Figure out what makes you different. What do you offer a candidate that no one else can? What makes you different? That’s what candidates need to hear, especially when it comes to startups. Take those themes and strengths and sell them. Be candid about who you are and who you are not. Branding is about attracting the “right” talent and eliminating the noise of candidates who won’t fit in. A significant element of Rapid7’s success attracting and retaining talent was that candor. Ed and his team “wanted to be as honest as possible about who we are and what it is like to work here… people who do relate to our messaging even more excited about us.”
Talk to your employees. No one knows your company better than the team that already works there. This is the best representation of your employment brand. Engage them in the process of creating your brand, it will be more authentic and provide the on-the-ground view that candidates want to see.
Encourage “employee ambassadorship”. Your employer brand is as strong as its voice. Take an integrated approach to leveraging social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Ask your employees to share not just open positions, but news, blogs and photos of company events. Pictures are an amazing branding opportunity because they drive high levels of traffic and interaction. However, your brand can’t be forced on your team, it must be embedded into your culture and lived and breathed by everyone Including the executive team.
Every picture tells a story and perception is reality when it comes to your brand. If you don’t create it, someone else will. Why take that risk? The process of developing your brand doesn’t have to be a science project but it does take a strong plan and support from the top down to create, launch and communicate your message.
Employer branding is not just a superficial initiative or nice-to-have; it can have a tangible impact on the bottom line, especially for start-ups in competitive markets like Boston and the Silicon Valley.
Creating your employer brand doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Download BostonHCP’s Employer Branding for Start-up’s deck and see how you can get started.