All stories

How to build an authentic employer brand

By now you’ve probably seen the supercut of all the clichés in coronavirus-era commercials. From dull platitudes to somber piano riffs, the same signifiers show up in every ad produced during the pandemic—and consumers are getting tired of them.

But while corporate advertising’s lack of creativity is all over primetime, you may not have noticed that a similar problem exists in the world of recruitment marketing. Compare talent content across companies, though, and you’ll likely find that your employer brand isn’t all that different from your competitor’s. It’s no surprise that the same YouTuber who parodied COVID-19 commercials also put together a supercut of tech startups all touting the same company values and benefits.

If you’re not differentiating your recruitment marketing efforts, you’re just blending in with the noise. And at a time when “brand speak” rings especially hollow, it’s even more important to use an authentic voice that cuts through the clichés and feels real.

In this piece, we’ll outline ways to develop an employer brand that is uniquely yours and speaks to the shifting values and concerns of today’s audiences.

Say something different

If you want an employer brand that stands out, you can’t use the same language as everyone else. The words that define your organization should be genuine and true to your unique company culture.

Directly compare your company’s talent content with your competitors’. Do your and their job ads, careers pages, etc. follow the same format or use the same phrases? Are there areas where you can positively differentiate yourself?

In a recent analysis for a well-known automative brand, Textio found that while much of its employer brand language was positive, very little of it was unique. Among the words used most commonly in their job posts (at least 1 in 3), 70% were also used at similar rates among their closest competitors. Only two phrases were truly distinctive to them. While this company’s consumer brand was very strong, its employer brand was bland. Textio revealed how to incorporate the overall organization’s unique values and characteristics into its employer brand content.

Another thing to consider: Adding a thoughtful EEO statement at the end of your job posts will give you a proven advantage over companies that don’t include a statement at all. You might also think about rewriting your talent content to slash buzzwords and jargon. Sometimes only a minor adjustment is needed to make your message feel a bit fresher. For example, Textio data has shown that using the cliché team player in recruiting mail lowers the likelihood of a positive response. However, there’s no downside to using the word teammate in its place.

Speak to your company’s genuine values

For your employer brand to be authentically unique, it can’t just be different from your talent competitors—it needs to be true to your company’s specific culture and values.

Write or reexamine your employee value proposition (EVP) to establish what it is your company offers and expects from employees. If you’re not sure, you may need to send out a survey asking what it is about your culture, values, and benefits that folks most appreciate—especially now.

The ultimate goal is to articulate a genuine and compelling EVP that reflects and informs your employer brand. Once it’s finalized, start incorporating that language into your talent content.

When the British grocery chain Co-op wanted to attract a more diverse and qualified candidate pool, they decided to draw on their core values: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. Using Textio’s augmented writing platform, Co-op was able to change the language of their job posts to better reflect these values.

The company increased the number of value-specific words like support, together, and committed in their job ads. Not only did the new language speak more directly to their principles, but also the words were statistically shown to bring in more qualified applicants and reduce time to fill. Co-op also stepped up the use of value-based phrases like inclusive environment and make a difference, which further distinguished them from talent competitors who were 40 times less likely to use that language. By communicating core values specific to their company, Co-op was able to establish a more authentic, unique, and effective employer brand.

Be sensitive to people’s needs

Even if you’re not actively hiring, it’s important to keep in mind that what you do now will influence how future employees perceive your organization.

Now and after the pandemic, employers should exhibit transparency and empathy like never before. Companies should clearly communicate to employees the whats and whys of tough decisions they’re making, and most importantly, their priority of putting people first.

As Textio was working through our organization’s response and plans in the wake of COVID-19, leadership did everything they could to give folks insight into real-time thinking, information as far out as possible, and support through a challenging process.

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky’s recent announcement about downsizing provides another example of an employer handling a difficult situation with sensitivity. In the message, he outlined programs for let-go employees while also expressing great empathy for those affected. Chesky’s language was clear about the decision-making process, emotional about the impact, and rooted in company values like “belonging” and “connection.”

Think of what your own company can do to help employees weather trying times. For example, proactively informing employees of how to access available mental health resources makes them more likely to feel that their company cares about their well-being. By communicating and acting compassionately, even some of the hardest-hit companies are strengthening their employer brand at this time.

Your employer brand should be uniquely you but broadly appealing

If you don’t make a conscious effort to infuse your talent content with values-based language, you’re likely to fall back on the old adages we’re all familiar with. And at a time when folks are losing their patience for disingenuous brands, simply parroting empty clichés will strike people as tone deaf (if they bother to listen at all).

Creating a more defined employer brand may sound limiting, but it shouldn’t make your company’s appeal any more niche. It’s not about limiting what you have to offer current and prospective employees, but about zeroing in on the authentic company values that your target talent pools will find the most resonant. And right now, what’s really resonating is sincerity.

All stories
Get stories like these delivered right to your inbox.