Employer Branding

Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Your Job Website

We had a chance to ask Dr. John Sullivan—author, corporate speaker, professor, and advisor—about employment branding during a recent webinar. Today we’ll hear how he addressed the topics of alumni programs and external versus internal brand development.

Q: Could you share some best practices for maintaining a pipeline or candidate pool of potential recruits?

A: First I would mention [that] even though [we] keep applicant data, we call it the black hole. The odds of … revisiting a candidate at most firms is essentially zero. So you need to be proactive … the best practice in this area is what’s called a “silver medalist.” Like the Olympics, you win the gold, but silver came in second. So if [candidates] who applied for the job went [to] the interview and came in second, or turned you down … they’d become silver medalist candidates. Then you put them in something like an alumni program [or] a talent pool where you constantly talk to them. Then … proactively send them openings … so that they’re continually kept onboard. They know that you like them, [and] you know they’re qualified. Then when you bring them back in [to your firm], you shorten the process and say, “OK, let’s see if we can hire you.”

Next, [create] an applicant community, which is people who someday want to work [at your firm]. You encourage people to join that [community]. They say, “OK, I would like to work [at your firm] someday, so keep my name … send me company information, [and] keep me informed, so when I decide to change job[s], then I’ll know.” That’s an applicant pool—we already know you [and] we’ve already assessed you.

The last [best practice] is really effective, but [is] more difficult—the most-wanted list. Firms like EA [Games] or Red 5 Studios have put together this approach. In January they … make a list of people they want to hire who are game-changers—significant people in the industry. They spend that entire year recruiting [these candidates and] building relationships. Try [such practices as] starting early, building relationships, not being in a rush, and then … say to these top people—sometimes it’s a hundred people— “Someday when you’re ready to leave your firm, call us—we have a position for you.” So [the candidate] … get[s] a promise of an instant hire because it’s a LeBron [James] or a Colby, or someone who is really exceptional.

There are some practices in this area and … when you have sudden openings … a talent pipeline allows you to have someone who is already pre-assessed, already presold in your company. [This candidate] can make a decision fast, and they’ve already decided they want to work for you—it’s just a great program.


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Q: How important is the jobs website or the jobs page in the branding program?

A: Well, unfortunately, it’s less important. One of the things we recommend is when you hire someone, you say “Steve, you said yes. Why?” By asking [the candidate] specifically what factor caused [him or her] to say yes, what force or what information source made a difference, we find that very seldom is it the website. The reason for that is … most websites are written by PR people [or] by lawyers [with] corporate speak. They say “We have great benefits,” but they don’t list them. And there’s no negatives [included], so the messages are not considered authentic.

By surveying people, it turns out it’s not the message, it’s the authenticity. In other words, is it believable? Is it credible? It turns out [candidates] don’t view corporate websites as being credible, because [they’re] obviously written by the corporation. [Candidates] can go to Glassdoor.com or Indeed [or] … other sites that evaluate companies and get a different opinion—to them, a more authentic opinion. [Candidates] care about their peers, and when their peers say it’s a bad company on Glassdoor.com, then no matter what it says on your website, [candidates] don’t believe you.

It’s unfortunate, but … [only] 20 percent of the information [candidates] find about your company comes from you, [and] 80 percent comes from some other place. So if you rely exclusively on website [branding], you’re certainly not going to get web-savvy [or] social media-savvy people, because they just don’t trust it. And, you might not like to hear that … but there are so many ways to find out from a Google search … about a company that the [company] website is becoming … less important. And, many websites are not available via the mobile phone, including [some] career site[s]. As a result, [candidates] just won’t visit it.

Six times a year, the HR Daily Advisor Research Team conducts detailed research into contemporary HR challenges to highlight best practices and common policies and procedures. For our latest report, we examined how employment branding is being used in the real world of HR.

How important is developing a distinct employment brand to your company? How difficult is it? What makes people want to work at a specific company? Our respondents shed some light on the state of contemporary employment branding. We polled 391 people across numerous industries and disparate parts of the country to find out. See the results of our national survey as well as demographic breakdowns for each question.

Available in both print and downloadable PDF versions.


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  • Full results of our national survey addressing employment branding
  • Survey results broken down by key demographics such as HR department size and business type
  • Executive summary and highlights
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Thanks to the ever expanding field of social media and the general digitization of our lives, companies have never been so transparent. This is true whether they want to be or not, and even whether they realize it or not. As a result, there has never been such a focus on employment branding as there is today. With the information in this report, you will get insight into the many ways HR departments around the country make use of employment branding, perhaps even your competitors’ HR departments.

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