Michael Kirsten

Senior Manager, Global B2B Content Development
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Email: Michael.Kirsten@kellyservices.com

Michael Kirsten is the B2B content strategist of Kelly Services. In his role he is responsible for developing, designing and managing Thought Leadership content at Kelly Services. He holds a masters degree in Political Science and Business Administration from the University Hamburg, Germany.

Is employer branding more gloss than substance?

New Media RecruitingIn recent years, a strong employer-branding program has come to be seen as mission-critical for global companies on the hunt for talent. Essentially, HR took a cue from marketing and applied branding principles to their employers’ reputations. With that, along came dedicated employment microsites, and plenty of “day in the life” narratives and videos, among dozens of other tactics.

While all of this was (and is) well-intentioned, many employer-branding programs are reading off a marketing playbook that’s now ten years old. As a result, employer branding efforts often come across as more gloss than substance, and more about “how we would like to be perceived” than “who we really are.”

In fact, in an effort to appear hip and exciting to prospective employees (and let’s face it, a lot of employer branding is targeted to Gen Y graduates), too many companies have done silly things to get attention. 'Day-in-the-life' videos and diaries that are usually nothing more than sugar-coated, heavily scripted marketing speak are just one example of what I mean.

While experimentation is important, employers need to understand what's changed in the recruitment landscape. Ten years ago, HR and recruiters sat in the power seat, controlling the flow of information between job candidates and hiring companies. Now, in the social-media age, your employer reputation isn’t what you say it is. Your employer reputation is what your employees, alums and competitors say it is. (Don’t believe me? Browse your company listing on Glassdoor.com, where employees, alumni and job candidates share information about what it’s like to work for your organization.)

With the advent of social media, candidates no longer have to rely on a recruitment company to find answers to their questions. Instead, they speak to your employees and alumni (not just those they know but complete strangers across the globe). They research your competitors and find out about your reputation on issues they care about most. They potentially arrive at interviews with a much deeper knowledge of what it’s like to work for your organization. Candidates have dozens of ways to find out what it’s like to work for your company - your employer microsite is just one.

Employer branding programs that try too hard to control your brand’s image - or worse, project an image that doesn’t match reality - simply aren’t effective. Instead, you should be thinking like a marketer, asking “what do we really stand for as an organization?” “What is our employee culture?” “How can we best show off these assets?”

Start putting yourself in the candidate's shoes. Ask yourself, what particular area(s) of expertise am I searching for? Where will I find people with those skills online, and what will I talk about with them? Armed with this information, you’ll be in a much better position to develop employer-branding messages and channels that make sense to the candidates you're seeking.

To do employer branding well and in an authentic way, a new kind of approach is necessary. The very best employee branding programs focus on showing rather than telling. Find out more in my latest ebook "New Media Recruiting".

Michael Kirsten