Competition for the top talent is where it all starts. And today’s talent is being bombarded by messages. How can employers build connections with candidates that separate them from the pack and position their company in advance as an employer of choice when a position opens up? The answer is Employer Branding.
To understand how branding affects competition for today’s candidates, ManpowerGroup Solutions Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), surveyed more than 200 job seekers about their current employment, job search preferences and motivators.
Overall, the job seekers surveyed represented a cross-section of age, income, employment status career level and industry. 58 percent of them were full-time employees, 12 percent part-time employees, 7 percent independent contractors and 16 percent unemployed.
With respect to the career level, experienced non-managers accounted for the largest group at 37 percent, followed by managers (26 percent), senior-level managers (6 percent), entry-level employees (6 percent) and senior executives (5 percent). Respondents were broadly spread across industries including banking, hospitality, retail, telecommunications, construction, manufacturing, energy, aerospace, computer hardware and software, healthcare and education.
After a thorough analysis of the data collected, what emerged was a clear picture depicting the importance of brand and company reputation among candidates – along with insights about best practices for building an employer brand that will motivate top talent to seek out a company and top performers to stay with an organization.
The data revealed the importance of brand and company reputation as a motivating factor in career decision making and identified candidate experience preferences that can be shaped by employer value propositions. Recollecting the following factors affecting brand value, employers can devise strategic business solutions to develop an effective Employer Value Proposition:
Time in the workforce is positively correlated with the importance of brand reputation. The Manpower Candidate Preferences Survey revealed that more experienced candidates will contact recruiters based on brand reputation. Survey respondents with more experience also indicated that company brand reputation was among the top three factors in their career decision-making. It is likely that as individuals advance in their career, compensation versus culture may, respectively, decline and increase in relative importance.
Recruiters are seeing an increasing significance placed on employer branding. Companies should place special emphasis on building their brand and investing in a strong Employer Value Proposition (EVP). This is especially critical for industries experiencing the “aging out” of their workforce, in markets where the employer has low brand recognition or in a competitive market where the employer may be struggling to build a robust talent pipeline of candidates to fill open positions. Although the connection between brand reputation and passive candidates (those applying to two or fewer jobs during the last six months) requires more research, brand reputation may be a motivating factor for this important group as well.
Candidates who previously applied for a job they were under-qualified for were positively correlated with the importance of brand reputation. Such candidates appear to be “stretching” their skills and qualifications to fit a posted job description as a gateway into the organization.
Individuals who are attracted to a company’s brand may be proactively (and prematurely) seeking jobs with their preferred employers. This not only points to the usefulness of screening and assessment in recruiting among companies with strong brands but towards the opportunity to cultivate talent communities. Moreover, it speaks to the importance of creating a positive candidate experience for all applicants – regardless of their chances to be hired. Communicating with such applicants openly, honestly and quickly about their qualifications ensures a positive experience and reduces the potential for negative repercussions and feedback by applicants on job search sites and in social media.
When it comes to evaluating factors affecting brand value, company websites overwhelmingly summit the list. Nearly nine out of ten candidates (86 percent) use company websites as a primary source of information about a company. This includes the company website overall as well as human resources sections of the site. Search engine results (52 percent) and peers (45 percent) ranked second and third, respectively. The practice appears to be even more important for candidates who consider brand a top three factor in making career decisions. Nine out of 10 of such candidates identified company websites as an important source of information about companies.
Company websites are a critical component of brand development and represent an organization’s best opportunity to set the tone for the candidate experience. Employers should approach the organization and nature of their content strategy and from a candidate’s perspective. Job seekers want to know more about an organization, its culture and available roles before deciding to apply. Job descriptions are of special interest: 36 percent of survey respondents cited more detailed information about the organization, the job opportunity and compensation as the most valuable information to them.
Nearly one-third of candidates (30 percent) used social media networking to gather information about an organization or open position. The most popular websites for this activity included Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Instagram also emerged as a new tool among job searchers – especially among those respondents who were most comfortable with video technology. Among candidates who listed brand as a top three motivating factor in career decisions, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ ranked number one, two and three respectively among social media sites used.
Savvy marketers have long recognized the value of social media in brand building. Similarly, today’s Employer Value Proposition is strongly influenced by social and professional networking sites. Employers should develop strategies for monitoring and building their brand reputations in authentic ways on social media sites such as relevant content in the form of blogs and social posts and targeted SEO optimization of that content.
Employer review sites such as Glassdoor were also used by candidates. Based on the survey, Glassdoor was preferred by younger candidates and candidates that would be motivated to apply to a job opportunity based on the industry.
Technology has enabled new platforms that are influencers of brand and company reputation: the job review site. These anonymous qualitative commentaries (positive and negative) live in perpetuity on the Internet and result in a new type of rating system that goes far beyond annual ranking lists such as Fortune’s “The 100 Best Companies to Work For.” Organizations need to monitor postings about their company and proactively use the sites as an opportunity for engaging employees in a dialogue about the organization and as a means for building brand equity with prospective candidates.
The overwhelming majority of job seekers expressed a preference for in-person and telephone interviews. Of the respondents surveyed, 72 percent prefer an in-person interview with a hiring manager. In contrast, only 2 percent preferred a video-conference or Skype interview. Although candidates’ comfort level for the video interview was an acceptable 3.3 on a scale of 5.0, with 1 being “not at all comfortable” and 5 being “completely comfortable,” an in-person interview with a hiring manager rated 4.4.
With talk in today’s HR departments about the efficiency of video conferencing as an interview tool, in the short term, candidates’ preferences are for in-person interactions. Regardless of its form, however, the interview is an important aspect of the candidate experience. Job review sites such as Glassdoor, allocate considerable space, content and importance to users’ interview experiences. Companies should seek to align their interview process and technologies with the essence of their overall brands and their EVPs. Interviewers should be acknowledged and trained for their roles as brand ambassadors and key influencers in building a talent community.
Employer brand is an increasingly powerful tool for creating competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. HR professionals who build and reinforce a compelling, candidate-centric dialogue with employees and potential employees will find that top recruits will come to them – creating a robust talent pipeline for filling present and future positions within the organization.
Forward-thinking companies are leveraging their strong brands to attract and retain top talent. These companies are positioning their brand promise specifically for employees. For those companies who have not looked at their brand from a talent recruitment and retention lens, this requires new strategies and practices to deliberately enhance the brand promise and its potential to inspire talent to engage with the company’s mission.
Employers can position themselves to attract and retain the best talent by making employer brand a priority within the organization. To developing a cohesive strategy for execution, consult our recruitment experts at Manpower today.