Cut & Polish

The Role Talent Acquisition Plays in Employer Branding

When talent leaders ranked employer branding as their #3 top initiative for this year, it was because they were fully aware of how deeply talent acquisition can impact that brand. Here's how.

Between the pandemic, the evolving landscape of work, and ongoing civil unrest, employer branding has become more important in this last year-and-change than ever before. People are observing companies to see how they’re treating their employees during our continual era of uncertainty. They’re paying attention to which organizations care as much about employees’ mental and physical well-being as they do about company success. They’re looking to CEOs to see if they’ve followed through on the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives they promised last year in the wake of George Floyd’s death, or whether those promises were for the sake of PR. They’re paying careful attention to the content organizations are putting out to see if their words align with their actions.

For better or for worse, your company has an employer brand. It's a reflection of everything your employees say about you—to their colleagues, their friends, and their networks, whether in conversations or on social media. If you're in talent acquisition, you can't control what current employees feel about or say about your organization. But you are in a position to relate—honestly and sincerely—the most appealing elements of your company to passive talent who aren’t otherwise searching out the story of your org. And you can bring in talent that reflects the culture and the brand you ultimately want to build.

When talent leaders ranked employer branding as their #3 top initiative for this year, as well as the #2 place they plan to invest their budgets in 2021, it was because they were fully aware of how deeply talent acquisition can impact an organization's employer brand. Below, we'll say more about how.

Recruiting is frequently a candidate’s first touchpoint

Whether it’s through an email or a LinkedIn message, the outreach that happens during the recruiting process is a company's first opportunity to present itself to potential candidates. This is true regardless of your organization’s size. If you’re a small startup, this may be the first time talent hears anything about your company, placing a lot of power in the recruiter’s hands. Even if you’re a well-known brand, chances are that the candidate knows a lot about your product or service, but very little about your work culture. 

Even a simple message or series of interactions can be very telling for job candidates. For example: Did the recruiter craft a personalized message that included valuable content and made them feel like the company was genuinely interested? Was the outreach organized, or did multiple people from the same company reach out about different roles? Did the hiring manager follow up, making it clear their message wasn’t just part of a massive outreach?

All of these small but significant details during the outreach process can shape a candidate’s impression of your organization. Of course, this is a lot of work for talent acquisition teams to handle. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by all the touchpoints, it may be helpful to bring in tools, such as a sourcing solution, that can automate personalized followups, track outreach, or allow you to send messages on behalf of hiring managers.

“At a high level, the reason sourcing is so important for any company is that it gives you the opportunity to go after specific talent—particular backgrounds and skill sets that you may not necessarily get from inbound. But it's also critical for a smaller company like ours that doesn’t yet have a well-recognized brand in the marketplace. Actively reaching out to talent who’ve never heard of you gives you the opportunity to tell your story the way you want to tell it. That’s pretty powerful to think about: sourcing allows you to be top talent’s very first touchpoint with your company; you set the tone for their perception of your brand.”
- Chris Middlemass, Head of Talent @ Gladly

It leads to hires that align with the company culture

Your employer brand is a culmination of everything your employees think, say, and share about your company. This means that your talent acquisition team has a big hand in molding your employer brand since they’re responsible for bringing new people into the organization. 

For instance, during the hiring process talent acquisition oversees everything from interview panels to one-on-one coffee chats with team members. Since your employees are essentially serving as brand ambassadors, you want to train your hiring team to emphasize the aspects of your culture or the role that most resonate with candidates. This reinforces your employer brand and gives potential hires a sense of who you’re looking for.

Similarly, your talent acquisition team’s decision to use structured interviews (or not) can significantly influence whether you hire people who align with your employer brand. Since this approach provides a standardized method of vetting candidates, it becomes much easier to make objective comparisons and select the person who is most qualified for the role and the most aligned with your culture.

This demonstrates the feedback loop that needs to be established between talent acquisition and employer branding efforts. A clear employer brand makes it easier to recruit the right people, and recruiting the right people leads to a stronger employer brand. 

It provides opportunities to elicit feedback 

The talent acquisition process also provides an excellent opportunity to collect feedback from candidates, which can be used to strengthen your employer branding. Candidate surveys are a great tool and provide an effective way to dig into the experience of people who come through your talent pipeline.

For example, let’s say a candidate shares that they were kept in the dark at certain points during the interviewing process. Specifically, they didn’t feel like there were enough updates or communication between rounds of interviews. As a company that prioritizes transparency, this is a chance for you to adjust your interviewing process to reflect these values and create a better experience for future candidates. This, in turn, will lead to positive word-of-mouth and strengthen your brand even more. 

While eliciting feedback directly from candidates provides great qualitative data, there are also ways to collect quantitative data. A CRM platform, for instance, can give you insight into questions like: Where are candidates falling out in our hiring process? Which messages are our passive talent pool most responsive to? Having the data in hand to explore these questions allows you to iterate on your process, content, and overall brand in a way that resonates with top talent. 

It allows recruiters to keep their fingers on the pulse of the talent market

The sourcing and hiring process organically allows recruiters to keep their fingers on the pulse of the talent market when it comes to brand perception. Through conversations with candidates, talent acquisition teams can get a sense of how job applicants feel about your organization, whether or not their expectations of the role align with reality, and what potential employees are looking for in their next workplace. Using these insights, you can fine-tune both your talent acquisition process and employer brand to improve the quality of the talent pool that’s available to your organization. 

"Through templates, Gem allows us to be consistent in our messaging. We change up the language, of course; but we have a consistent voice now. So now we’re not just building a recruiting pipeline; we’re also building a brand. It’s pushed me to do things like reach out to our marketing team to get access to our Instagram feed, because we’re linking to it in our outreach—which means we need new and relevant recruiting content to be posted more frequently. Prospects are clicking; we have to give them what we promise. So our brand feels alive—which means we’re getting amazing inbound applicants, too. It’s a virtuous circle."
- Shannon Zwicker, People Systems & Analytics Lead @ Cockroach Labs


Employer branding is more important in 2021 than ever before, and talent acquisition plays a critical role in how others perceive your organization. Find ways to strengthen your talent acquisition process, and you’ll find that you attract better candidates, hire the right people, and preserve your company culture. If you’re curious to learn how Gem can support both your talent acquisition and employer branding efforts, request a demo.

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