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How a leading biotech company transformed its employer brand language

When John Graham Jr. joined Amgen in 2018, he had no idea that just a year and half later, the entire world would be facing an unprecedented pandemic. For a company whose mission is to serve patients and save lives by addressing the most pressing global health challenges, their work has an even more profound meaning during these times.

As the Senior Manager of Global Employer Brand, Graham was not surprised by how the company has pulled together in these trying times, showcasing extraordinary collaboration and a commitment to patients. It was the same spirit that he has always seen at Amgen but wasn’t being shared with the world when he first joined the company.

“We do amazing work,” Graham explained, “but we weren’t telling the world about it very well. We weren’t doing a lot to share or showcase the culture everyone loved. We needed to present it in a way where you could see yourself and your colleagues and daily life inside and outside the company.”

For Graham, this meant transforming the way the company was talking about its employee experience—including engaging with Textio to change how their culture was being communicated in job posts and recruiting emails. He knows job descriptions and recruiting emails are some of the first and most visible ways prospective talent interacts with Amgen, and the language in them should reflect the candidate story as much as the company brand.

Building an employer brand to draw top talent

Amgen, as one of the largest biotech companies in the world, doesn’t just compete against other pharma companies for talent, but also companies in tech and other industries. When it comes to attracting candidates, Graham explains, “the thing that differentiates you is how strong your employer brand is and your ability to authentically connect with your target audiences.” When success in hiring means potentially impacting millions of lives, Amgen wants to ensure their recruiting materials send the message they want.

Armed with Textio’s language insights and hiring outcomes from over a half-billion hiring documents, Amgen evaluated how their job ads were likely to perform in comparison to their competition.

The results confirmed Graham’s suspicions. “When you put an existing job description in Textio and it comes back with a Textio Score of 25 or 30—you think, is this really what we’re putting out there?” Textio showed how more intentional language choices over can positively influence the effectiveness of their job posts. “Seeing the contrast of what we’ve done as business as usual versus where we could be when you put in a little time and leverage Textio’s data-driven insights and natural language processing—it’s been tremendous.”

Choosing the right words for your culture

As part of changing the perception of Amgen’s brand, Graham and his team created an employee value proposition (EVP). An EVP is an expression of the collective value, including compensation, benefits, and culture, that a company commits to its employees as well as providing the expectations from its employees. “It’s all about the give and the get.” Textio identified what language they use to describe their culture that could have a positive impact if included in their job descriptions. It highlights the culture and qualities that have allowed Amgen to thrive even during tough times.

Amgen brand language example with highlighted phrases showing faster time to fill and gender bias phrases

While typing, Textio prompts writers to use data-backed phrases that align with Amgen’s EVP and reflect their collaborative culture and commit to their mission. Over the last year of using Textio, phrases like inclusive work environment and encourage are being used more frequently by Amgen writers and hiring managers. Using these phrases results in a more diverse and qualified candidate pool, but also builds their employer brand by emphasizing the qualities they value.

Chart showing increase in "building," "collaborative," "our team," and "encourages" from January 2018-October 2019

“Textio works because of the ease of use,” Graham added. “It’s very intuitive with the color-coding prompts showing you exactly what language is having an impact, how the language will appeal to prospective talent, and what changes you can make to increase the score and performance.”

Textio also helped identify specific phrases unique to Amgen that influence their applicant pools and emphasize their EVP. Job descriptions which included the phrases robust, collaborative, or leader were, on average, likely to fill more quickly. Including phrases like complex, cross-functional, or oversee slowed hiring.

Diagram showing words slowing down hiring at Amgen ("complex," "cross-functional," and "oversee") and speeding up ("robust," "collaborative," and "leader")

Intentional language helps Amgen highlight their culture in a crisis and beyond

During this crisis, the work that biomedical companies are doing to mitigate the effects of this virus has been elevated in the public’s mind. However, the importance of this work will continue even after this pandemic. And while we all are having to be more collaborative, companies that make this part of their brand are more likely to be successful. This begins with the language we use.

With Textio, Amgen brought its employer brand into focus in their recruiting materials through more consistent, intentional language choices. According to Graham, choosing the right words to reflect their unique culture, impactful work, and brand has also had an impact on who is applying to Amgen.

“In a COVID-19 world it’s more important than ever that companies meet candidates where they are. We have to express our culture in an authentic voice that goes beyond the champagne and roses and reveals the harsh realities as well as the rewards for those who run towards them. This is the power and potential that your employer brand possesses and should shine through in one of the most important points in the candidate journey - the job description."

By sounding more like themselves, Amgen is ensuring they have the right talent coming into the organization to continue their incredible work serving patients and saving lives- in this moment and beyond.

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