Is your employer brand strategy inside out?

I spend a lot of my time reviewing and auditing employer brand activity and I’m often struck by how generic much of the content is in its nature. Career sites often give us a few pages of content around company culture, strategy, business ownership and operations. There is usually some detail around the benefits package and perhaps a handful of employee testimonials.

Outside of the career site, we’ll often see social media activity showing the latest charity endeavours or celebrating the team’s Halloween costumes or Christmas jumpers.

It’s so common, but when I see it I can’t help asking the question “Who is this actually aimed at?” and I usually come to the conclusion that the companies in question don’t really know. It feels as though they’re creating employer brand content because they feel they should, hoping that it will somehow find its way to the right audience. The content has been developed purely from the inside without any thought or insight given to the specific audience it is trying to speak to on the outside, so it essentially becomes a shot in the dark.

The root of this problem lies in a lack of target audience knowledge and insight. A lack of understanding of the people they are trying to attract, how they behave and what matters to them.

In Consumer Marketing we call them “Customers” and in Recruitment we call them “Candidates”, but they are essentially one and the same – people who we are trying to move towards feeling positive towards our brand and move into action to commit to our offer. But can you imagine a Consumer Marketer developing a new product proposition, creating marketing collateral describing the features and benefits, then hoping that it will find its way to the right audience?

Of course not.

Before committing to any action, they will have gone through a process of understanding who the potential customers might be and what gap in their life the product is going to fill. They will know their target audience intimately before committing to any kind of creative development or marketing communications. They will have gone through a process of carefully profiling and segmenting their audiences and will have matched their product USPs to the needs of those individual groups. They will start on the outside and work their way in, whereas in employer brand we have a tendency to start with content and then think about the audience – inside to out, which for me is the wrong way round.

As we move into an age where organisations are increasingly looking to hire talent based on cultural fit and potential rather than just an ability to “do the job”, Recruiters are increasingly hungry to reach out to passive audiences as much as active job seekers. But cutting through the mass of digital noise they are subjected to every day with career messages isn’t easy.  This is why target audience behaviour and preferences insight is becomes increasingly vital. If you are going to make an impact with someone who isn’t even looking for a new job, you’d better make sure your message is tailored to catch their attention and create an emotional reaction. The easiest way to do this is to create content that speaks directly to their needs and desires.

Once you understand your individual audiences, you can begin to tailor your content and media activity to ensure that the right people are getting the right messages on the right platforms. It allows you to pick the facets of your EVP that will be most appealing to individual audiences and really “amp them up” to ensure you are creating the strongest possible emotional connection. It’ll make your employer branding efforts more streamlined, purposeful, focused, engaging, efficient and effective and give a much better return on investment as opposed to a “scattergun” approach which attempts to appeal to all but ends up appealing to no-one.

So my advice to any Resourcing team looking to build their employer brand is to start with an audience profiling and segmentation exercise. Think about the profiles of the people your business needs. What are their backgrounds? Personalities? Where do you think they work now? What stage of life are they at? What’s important to them? How do they consume media? What do they think of you as an employer at the moment? What have you got in your EVP that’s going to make you a great choice for them as individuals? You can bring this all together by creating micro-audience personas which help to focus thinking and bring your ideal target candidates to life.

I’ve heard the phrase “Recruiters need to think more like Marketers” used a lot recently. Most successful marketing begins with good market insight and audience understanding. Increasingly, employer branding and recruitment marketing will be no different. So, to succeed, think outside-in not inside-out.

If you’d like to find out more about how audience research and profiling can help to improve your employer branding activity, drop me a line at

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