What's in a Name: The Importance of Employer Brand

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name should smell as sweet.” –Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II

Contrary to Juliet’s belief, a name holds enormous weight. In business, a name is a brand. In today’s corporate climate, it’s what comes to mind when someone thinks or hears a company’s name. Billions of dollars have been spent on this premise—marketing a company brand—with a focus on the customer. Today, a different aspect of company brand has emerged as equally important: employer brand, the building block for team growth and subsequent customer base growth. The question on everybody’s mind: how important is employer brand, and what impacts it?

It’s important to understand the purpose of employer brand before addressing either question. According to Rob Levin, CEO of RSL Media, the goal of employer brand is finding and retaining talent.  “For some companies, the competition for talent is on par or even more so than the competition for customers….[Employer] Brand seems to be a bigger issue when it comes to millennials. Millennials have a higher propensity to be interested in working for companies where they believe in the company.” As millennials are populating the workplace, employer brand has become a serious concern.

As recruiters, we see the effects of Employer Brand (both good and bad) in action. As Rachel Fagnant-Fassler, Vice President of CFW Careers, points out, “When an employer has a strong employer brand (as candidates can figure out through Glassdoor and other sites featuring employee reviews of companies, culture, and what it’s like to work there), recruiting is so much easier. We’ve had a candidate say they’re willing to take a $30K pay CUT just to work at a company that has a stellar reputation.” Charlie Russell, Senior Executive Recruiter, agrees. “Employer brand absolutely impacts the recruiting process. Top candidates will always have more options. Millennials have the upper hand right now in terms of opportunities—they are conscious of how they pick and choose who they want to work with. Candidates who might be a perfect fit for a certain role won’t choose a company with a negative brand. Needless to say, it creates a speedbump in the process—we have to sell the position more, and advocate for or even attempt to contribute in a positive way to the employer brand.”

Photo by Ivelin Radkov/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Ivelin Radkov/iStock / Getty Images

So how does a company develop a strong employer brand? Levin lays it out clearly: “Everything starts with the CEO….The number one thing is you have to have a CEO who recognizes the importance of employer brand.” From there, Levin says that culture and communication are key. Is your culture the one you want to be known for? What do people like? What do people dislike? As a company, is communication open and honest? What’s the tone? How does information flow? These are just a few questions Levin says should be taken into account when assessing and addressing employer brand.

Fagnant-Fassler and Russell add that the interview process plays an integral role in creating (and disseminating) employer brand.  According to Russell, the interview process is a company’s chance to “show a strong, positive brand at the beginning, and woo candidates. A negative experience in hiring can turn potential future employees off at the beginning, before they even get to know the company.”

In terms of how to create a positive interview process, Russell suggests creating realistic expectations, moving desirable candidates through the process in a timely manner, and taking the interview offsite. “At some point in the process, break down the interview wall. This will give you a chance to really know who you’re hiring and how they might fit in with the team culture.”

Fagnant-Fassler has found that “it’s most meaningful when the interviewer is genuinely listening and engaging with the candidate—even if they determine that the individual is not likely to be a good fit for the job.” In terms of making (and delivering) a final decision on a candidate, she adds that when a candidate has gone through multiple rounds of interviews, it is best for the hiring manager to personally deliver the hiring decision to the candidate.  “Thoughtful feedback, and a personal touch (often 5 minutes of time), can help ensure that the candidate leaves with a positive impression of the company—a review that will likely be shared with others.”

In an age of transparency, with social media and sites like Glassdoor, companies need to take into account how they are perceived. When asked for advice on how to build and maintain a positive employer brand, everyone agreed that communication is key. Whether it’s maintaining positive, honest, and regular communication with your prospective employees throughout the hiring process, or genuinely asking your current employees what they think of the company, communication is at the beginning (and middle and end!) of positive employer brand. As Levin said, “It really comes down to just asking. Once you understand the importance [of employer brand], then you can understand what the current perception is.” From there, you can create change.


Written by Stephanie Kronenberg