Your candidate experience is a vital part of the recruiting and talent attraction process. It gives your talent audience and candidates a taste of what it’s like to be a part of your company. Because of this, it’s so important to infuse your candidate experience with your employer brand. The candidate experience should validate the tone set by all your other employer branding work and materials.
Recently, I presented this methodology for merging your employer brand throughout your candidate experience at the 2023 Talent Board CandEs Virtual Conference. In this blog post, I’ve summarized the key points to help you improve your candidate experience.
I’m going to show you:
- Why a great candidate experience needs your employer brand
- A simple and quick way to create your strategy
- How to map your candidate experience to the candidate journey
- Ways to audit your employer brand across key candidate experience touchpoints
So let’s do this!
Why a great candidate experience needs your employer brand
I like to think about an employer brand as the street lighting along the winding road of a candidate’s journey. At every turn, the lights illuminate the path, so that candidates can clearly see where they are, and can confirm the direction they should go in order to move forward.
This is my view of the candidate experience today, but when I started out in this space in 2014, I was taught a number of things about candidate experience and candidate journey that over time I realized was wrong. This is important because a disconnect between your employer brand and your candidate experience might be a bigger contributing factor to your recruiting challenges than you realize.
Do these sound familiar to you?
Misconception #1: The candidate experience is about technology
No, the candidate experience is about communications!
Technology is critical, but the purpose of it is to deliver the communications experience that we want candidates to have with our company.
The valuable research of the Talent Board shows that when people complain that they’ve had a negative candidate experience, it’s primarily because they didn’t feel they were communicated with in a timely manner and in a respectful way.
Misconception #2: The candidate journey is about touchpoints
Wrong! The candidate journey is really an information journey.
While candidates do have many touchpoints along their journey, don’t overlook why they’re needed. The reason why candidates are visiting all those touchpoints is because they’re seeking information for themselves as a job seeker and about you as a potential employer.
In the 2022 Candidate Experience Benchmark Research Report published by the Talent Board, one particular section caught my attention. The research found that the Recruitment Marketing content rated highest by women, people of color and younger candidates included content about a company’s values, diversity and inclusion, employee testimonials, and learning why people want to work there.
If you need a business case for why you should invest the time and effort to infuse your employer brand throughout your candidate experience, then this research proves it. The Talent Board found that content about company values is the most important type of content during the research stage, with 48% of all candidates citing it as the #1 type of information they’re looking for about employers.
A simple and quick way to create your strategy
My methodology for infusing your employer brand into your candidate experience is not focused on the design of an employer brand (the look and feel, the graphics and visuals). Rather, the focus is on what content you should create to convey what your employer brand represents, and how to communicate and deliver that content to job seekers during their candidate experience.
Let’s start with “what” you’re going to communicate: what is it about your employer brand that you should communicate during the candidate experience.
Remember, your employer brand is the value proposition that you offer employees and candidates. In other words, it’s what you say about yourself versus what others say about you (which is your reputation as an employer).
Defining your employer brand
If you already haven’t yet defined your employer brand and your employee value proposition, here’s a simple and quick way that you can get started (I’m a big believer of simple and quick here since most of us don’t have the time or budget for a year-long employer brand project). You can also do this as a refresh of something you did 3 years ago. The point is, you need to make an impact now, so there are 4 questions that you need to answer. The first 2 are “what” questions:
- What do you say about yourself as an employer?
- What do others say about you as an employer?
The next two questions are “where” questions:
- Where do you say it?
- Where do people talk about you, therefore where do candidates search for and find information about what it’s like to work for you?
Once you’ve decided how you should communicate your employee value proposition, you’ll represent it in a graphic like this:
What is your overarching positioning statement, or one sentence that describes what you offer as an employer? Below that you should summarize each of the values (known as pillars) that hold up that positioning statement. Finally, document what are the proof points that demonstrate each of these values in action.
How to map your candidate experience to the candidate journey
Now, let’s move forward and marry the what and where. In other words, let’s see how we can infuse the employer brand throughout the candidate experience, both in what we say and how we say it through our interactions with candidates.
To start, think about your candidates’ journey, and where your employer brand content can make the biggest impact.
These are the stages that I use when looking at the candidate journey:
Stage 1: “Open to change”
If a candidate is researching leading companies in their field, or the best employers in their city, or they’re searching for career advice, this is happening when the candidate is at, what I call, “open to change.” At this stage, candidates will use Google to search for information, or they may see content on social media, either by your brand or the people who work at your company.
For candidates who are in the discovery and research stage, think how you can infuse your employer brand into the content they’ll consume during their candidate journey and ensure they get this information about your values. For the proof points of the values you’re highlighting:
- Consistently reference them in your company description across job sites and social platforms
- Submitting your company for awards around them (that type of PR will help your company get found)
- Create a specific page about the values on your careers site, as well as a specific section discussing them on your LinkedIn Life page.
- Proactively ask employees to write reviews on Glassdoor that focus on these values
Finally, leverage search engine optimization (SEO) so content about these values get found by people searching. Create blog posts featuring each specific value, highlighting stories (and using real photos) of employees that have experienced or are living the value. Make sure these blog posts have the right keywords and the right HTML tags so that your content can be found when candidates are searching.
Stage 2: Applying for jobs
The next stage in the candidate experience is applying for your jobs. Typical touchpoints here are seeing your jobs on job boards and applying for them (through your careers site or at a hiring event or job fair).
How can you infuse your employer brand values when candidates are ready to apply?
- Ensure that your job ads are reaching candidates interested in those values (for example, to reach diverse candidates, post your jobs on niche job sites or specific talent communities)
- Thoroughly review your job descriptions to include information that reflects the value. Sometimes this may mean excluding something (if diversity is the value your focused on, you’ll want to remove unconscious bias from the language)
- If a candidate is applying at a hiring event or career fair, look at the images in your handouts or the video playing on a monitor at your table. Do all these things share the values you’re trying to convey?
Stage 3: Screening and interviewing
The next stage in the candidate experience is screening and interviewing.
Here are ways that you can incorporate your employer brand value in this stage:
- Educate and instruct your team on how to incorporate key values during the screening process
- Remember that, before candidates have an interview, many will research who they’ll be meeting with. Encourage your team members who are included in screenings and interviews to have LinkedIn profiles that reflect the values your company is promoting. This can be in how they talk about themselves and their role as well as the content they share on the platform
- Make sure to continue talking about the value throughout content in your talent newsletter and your company’s social channels. At this stage, candidates are likely following your company and really paying attention to what you’re saying
- Proactively educate candidates, preparing them for the interview, with information about your values and culture. Point them to places where they can see your proof points so they know what your company stands for and also how to prepare themselves for the interview
Stage 4: Offer and onboarding
Finally, at the bottom of the funnel is the offer stage and the onboarding stage.
There are many ways that your employer brand can show up here:
- Add the company description and value proof points (the same that you made sure were consistent across all your public company profiles) as a second page to your offer letter
- Highlight the benefits you offer that fit with the value
- You can show the value by asking the hiring manager to record a short video to go with your offer or to welcome the candidate to the team. Make sure this is a personalized message that communicates you are excited about the contribution they’ll be making to the department and make them feel included from the start
- During onboarding, tell candidates about the ERGs they can join, company events and other opportunities that showcase the values of the company
- Take an audit of your intranet – does it reflect the values you’re focusing on throughout the candidate journey? Look at both the language and the images used. The worst is when your careers site shows one thing, but then your intranet shows something else. It will immediately call into question everything the candidate has learned about you to this point.
Thoughtful and targeted Recruitment Marketing content is key
I’ve shared ways that you can bring out your employer brand values in the content that you are sharing with candidates and how you are communicating with them throughout the candidate experience. One of the most effective types of content you can create is content about your people. These can be Day in the Life videos of happy employees in their environments, a special social media series like Team Member Tuesday, employee spotlights (either as blog posts or videos) featuring how the company’s values have impacted them and employee appreciation and recognition content.
Work to purposefully create content that supports your employer brand pillars and when you promote jobs, promote them at the team level (like all sales careers opposed to a specific sales job) and infused with stories and information about the culture of that team.
Rally Note: Rally® Inside™, our Recruitment Marketing tool measuring candidate engagement with recruiting content, has proven that people-based content outperforms almost all other types of recruiting content. Get your free Rally Inside account today to measure the engagement with all of your touchpoints throughout the candidate journey.
This methodology can be applied to whatever your employer brand stands for. For example, if one of your values is around innovation, then make sure you have a very modern Apply process and reach out to your Corporate Marketing team for content you can borrow about how innovative you are.
Whatever it is your candidate experience focuses on, make sure you’re including it at every stage of the journey (from the very early stages all the way through accepting or even being rejected for a role) to ensure that you’re living up to the values you claim to have.
I hope this helps you create a strategy to infuse your employer brand at key moments throughout the candidate experience and keep these two ideas intertwined throughout your talent attraction strategy.