5 Keys to a Successful Employer Branding Strategy

By Elizabeth Harr, Partner, Hinge | August 28, 2019

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of employer branding and discussed several best practices. In my concluding post in this series, I’ll describe the process your firm can use to build its own powerful employer brand.

The process of employer branding closely parallels the process you would take to rebrand your whole firm. In fact, if you are contemplating a firm-wide rebranding effort, the two objectives can be accomplished simultaneously.

Following are some thoughts on the five keys that comprise a successful employer branding process:

1. Use Your Firm’s Overall Growth Strategy as a Guide

Make sure your employer branding strategy aligns with your firm’s overall growth strategy. Otherwise, you could be headed for problems. For instance, if you’ve designed your employer brand to attract the highest level of talent, but your business has grown by offering low prices, there will be a credibility gap that even the most well-planned branding cannot bridge. The solution is to ensure that your employer brand promise makes sense when seen alongside your overall branding strategy. 

2. Do Your Research

Where should you focus your branding strategy, and what should your messaging say? The best source of the insight you need for creating an engaging employer brand is your own marketplace. To access this insight, talk with job seekers, new hires at your firm, and the influencers who refer candidates to a firm like yours. This information will provide the critical “raw materials” from which you can shape your strategy and marketing language.

Our experience is that the best vehicles for this type of research are phone interviews, because they provide ample opportunities to probe for more detail. If asked, many interviewees will volunteer a wealth of the type of information and insights you need to develop a credible employer brand.

Here are a few interview questions you could use:

  • What are employees seeking in a firm?
  • Which firms are you competing against for talent?
  • How do potential employees in your market view your firm?
  • What distinguishes you from competing firms?
  • How do job candidates first hear about your firm?
  • Which criteria are most important in their decision-making?
  • What characteristics “tip the scales” when job seekers choose one firm over another?
  • What is it like to be a new employee at your firm?
  • What is your culture like today?
  • What factors drive turnover?

To ensure confidentiality and the most honest answers to these questions, I recommend hiring an experienced third party to conduct the interviews.

3. Fine-Tune Your Employer Brand Strategy

Prospective employees are similar, in certain ways, to the clients who buy your services. They, too, must choose from a group of similar-looking options, and then hope they have made the right selection. Knowing this, you can design your employer brand strategy to help make job candidates’ choices easier, and also give them assurance that have chosen wisely.

Your employer brand strategy should consist of these three elements:

  • Differentiators — The 2 to 5 specific qualities or features of working at your firm that are different or better than the competition.
  • Positioning statement — A short paragraph describing how your firm positions itself against other employers in your industry. Sometimes referred to as an employee value proposition, this statement should include some or all of your differentiators. 
  • Employer brand promotional plan — Your plan should tie it all together, by describing the tactics and tools you will need and a specific timeline you will follow to not only attract potential new hires, but also retain current employees.

It’s important to document your strategy — and then refer to it often as you execute it. It will be your roadmap for achieving a higher level of visibility and appeal in the hiring marketplace.

4. Create the Employer Branding Tools You Need

You will need a variety of tools to support your employer branding program — and which specific tools will depend on the details of your plan. There is one tool, however, that every firm needs in their search for talent: a well-designed recruitment section on their website.

Many firms’ websites provide only the basics: a list of employee benefits and a brief summary of the company culture. Fortunately, employer branding gives you an opportunity to really set yourself apart from such competitors. Job candidates want to feel excited about working at your firm — so the better you can convey that experience, the better candidates will feel about your firm. To really sell your workplace, use pictures, testimonials and video.

Of course, the rest of your website matters as well. Prospective hires will comb through it, looking for signs about your firm’s status in the marketplace and the quality of the work it produces.

In addition to your own site, pay attention to your firm’s reputation on such employer review sites as Glassdoor and Great Place to Work.

5. Launch Your New Brand

Introducing your new employer brand goes beyond communicating with external audiences. Your existing staff are also a key constituency — which means your launch should be a firm-wide effort supported by recruiting, human resources, marketing, and senior management. It also means much more than just promoting an idealized version of your firm, but actually living the brand and, in the process, finding opportunities to transform your firm.

Want more insight about employer branding? My firm, Hinge, released an employer brand study of over 800 employers and job seekers. This free-to-download report reveals the findings of our research on many aspects of today’s complex recruiting environment.


About the Author

Elizabeth Harr, Partner at Hinge, is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, branding and growth for professional services. Elizabeth co-founded a Microsoft solutions provider company and grew it into a thriving organization that became known for its expertise in Microsoft customer relationship management. In her role as Partner at Hinge, she leads the advisory provided to technology consulting and government services firms.