Brand Aid: How to get your employer branding right in recruitment advertising

In today’s cut-throat job marketplace with employment at an all-time high, employers are competing with one another to attract the best candidates for their vacancies. The unimaginative identikit recruitment adverts that once dominated the job pages for years are being replaced by skilfully crafted and well designed formats aimed at maximising employer branding in the quest to be an ‘employer of choice.’

Matthew Jeffrey, global director of talent brand for Electronic Arts (EA), addressed members of The FIRM [Forum for In-house Recruitment Managers] at an event in London recently. He argued that brand was essentially linked to emotions – particularly when recruitment is concerned. Echoing findings  from the CIPD which have revealed that companies are still struggling to attract, recruit, engage and retain talent for their organisations. Yet, despite the success of employer branding as a concept, many companies are failing to measure its effectiveness and demonstrate a return-on-investment. So, how can you ensure that your recruitment advertising is communicating the right message to attract the candidates that you need?

The job for life culture has long passed and most employees today will find themselves changing jobs around 7 or 8 times throughout their career. This means that employers need to focus on their unique selling points, the key attributes that they have in their locker that will attract the best candidates to apply for their vacancies. But this is easier said than done, right? Actually no, it is relatively straight forward – if you get your branding right.

There are four key elements that prospective applicants are looking for in a recruitment advert:

1. Job role – is this a job that I can and want to do
2. Salary – does this job meet my salary expectations, is it enough to tempt me away from my current employer?
3. Location – is it where I want to work or will I need to commute?
4. Company – do I want to work for this organisation?

The first three are the basic ‘hygiene’ factors common to all recruitment adverts. Ho9wever, a job being advertised by a company with a strong brand will invariably attract more candidates than a lesser known company. And that’s because they have the “X” factor – the crucial element of attraction that people buy into.

“A brand is a person’s gut feelings towards an organisation,” said Jeffrey. Accordingly, employer branding must be used to “emotionally engage with employees,” adding that “Recruitment through attraction can make or break a business.” And he has a point.Take innocent, the fruit smoothie makers, for example.

innocent has been awarded the Best Workplace in the UK by The Guardian and The National Business Awards because of the enviable reputation that they have for offering people something different. Their offices, Fruit Towers, have astroturf for carpet and the reception area is furnished with park benches.

This quirkiness is also reflected in their advertising. Indeed, both their recruitment and product advertising complement each other and feature the same animated branding that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1970s children’s TV programme. Even the way they describe their business is simplistic yet impactful:

Hello, we make lovely natural fruit drinks like pure fruit smoothies and fresh
yoghurt thickies. Everything we produce tastes good and does you good.

Similarly, Yell, publishers of the Yellow Pages directories, and 118 247 directory enquiries, has long been a mainstay of UK ‘Superbrands’. Winners of the European Quality Award twice- the only company ever to achieve this – Yell has gained a reputation for developing the best sales people in the business. And this reputation is enhanced in their recruitment advertising.

Recruitment for top-end media sales professionals is a highly competitive field. Yet Yell sets itself apart from the competition by resisting the stereotypical temptation to seduce applicants with the lure of material gains such as mobile phones, fully expensed company cars, laptops or share schemes that dominate the majority of media sales recruitment adverts.

Indeed, these benefits are almost deliberately excluded from their advertising. Instead, their recruitment adverts make no secret of the fact that although they offer arguably the highest salaries in the business, it comes at a cost:

We carry no passengers, and make no mistake, we’ll ask an exceptional amount
of you. But then, nothing less exceptional truly appeals to you.

Yell use a mix of online and print media to attract prospective employees and spare no expense in ensuring that their brand and values are communicated in the most effective way. With a strong use of colour, choice imagery and clever taglines such as “The People behind the Numbers”, Yell wants its employees to buy into the organisation’s work ethic – the promise that if you work hard the rewards will present themselves.

The point being made is that employers need to view their recruitment and brand advertising as two sides of the same coin. Recruitment is not simply about placing a job advert in the local paper, it is more scientific, strategic and deliberate than that. At a time when the UK economy is struggling to loosen the grip of recession that has bounded us all for the last 2 or more years and hiring activity remains sluggish at best, employers need to take the same approach that they would take when planning any sales and marketing campaign for the main business to maintain their competitive advantage.

For instance:

• Which publications or websites do my ideal candidates read?
• Does the advert sell our company effectively?
• Does the advert give strong, powerful reasons for candidate’s to apply?
• Have I secured the best position for m y advert in the publication – top right hand page?
• Is our corporate brand reproduced in the advert – full colour logo, image? Will people connect with it?

Remember that this advert has to sell your company to a potential applicant. Don’t be afraid to ask an experienced copywriter, designer or marketer to write the advert for you – with a mix of creativity and some brand application your seemingly uninspiring packing or administration job might become your “Priceless” recruitment advert.

As for me, whilst I cannot say that the world of eye-liner’s and mascara’s would entice me to apply, I may be tempted to become the Marketing Director of the world’s biggest cosmetics company. Why? Because “I’m worth it”!

About yourcareermatters
CareerMatters was founded as part of MacKenzie-Cummins Communications in 2006 by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins MICG (Member Institute of Careers Guidance), regarded as one of the UK's leading career's advice and guidance writers and specialist PR consultant for the UK recruitment industry. Since 2006 Paul has been the leading advice writer for and - the two biggest careers website in the world -tackling all aspects of workplace and management issues, job seeking, career change and hiring trends. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 his writing contributed to Monster winning the Best Employment Advice on the Internet Award for an unprecedented three times beating the likes of The Guardian, Learn Direct and Personnel Today on each occasion. And his work was a runner-up for the same award in 2009. In 2009 Paul was a nominee in the prestigious HR Journalist of the Year Award and Recruitment, Retention & Motivation Journalist of the Year Award. Paul has been commissioned to write more than 500 careers advice and guidance articles for a number of lpublications, from regional and national newspapers to industry publications and various career-specific websites in the UK and USA. Recently, Paul was the Technical Editor for career psychologist Dr Rob Yeung's Job Hunting & Career Change for Dummies (John Wiley & Son, 2007). Dr Yeung is better known as the TV psychologist for Channel 4's Big Brother and the BBC's Who Would Hire You? series. Clients include: MSN Careers (Europe) TheLadders TotalJobs IntaPeople Recruitment Lifetracks/YouthNET MediaSalesJobs The Press Gazette

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