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Yesterday afternoon, while working my way through yet another plate of Thanksgiving leftovers, I received a phone call from an unknown number. While I’ve grown accustomed to ignoring the seemingly endless barrage of solicitations, I decided to answer, imbued with a generous holiday spirit and a bit of curiosity. On the other end of the line was John, a pleasant enough guy who seemed hellbent on getting me to switch my car insurance provider. While his pitch was well-rehearsed, his efforts were for naught. To begin with, it wasn’t particularly relevant to me; having moved in the last few months, I recently re-bundled all my insurance plans. Second, the move he was asking me to make wasn’t just about me; it had long-terms implications for my husband and on our joint finances. And finally, though the deal he was pushing did sound appealing, I had never heard of the company that John was calling from and wasn’t about to sign up with an unfamiliar insurer without some serious online research.

After thanking him for thinking of me and extricating myself from the call, I realized that while John’s mission had been futile, it didn’t have to be. While I’m generally happy with my current insurer, I’d probably be willing to switch for a better deal. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t want what John was selling. It was that I didn’t want it right then, and I didn’t want it from him.

It’s with increasing frequency that we hear, “We can’t hire people fast enough,” from our Talent Acquisition leaders. And this isn’t just perception; the data backs them up. LinkedIn’s most recent quarterly financial earnings report, noted a record number of job postings. Indeed.com continues to see meaningful growth from their client base in the use of postings to hire. With today’s low unemployment numbers, employers are often looking to hire for more roles than there are candidates to fill them.

Not only are the numbers stacked against employers, but the power dynamic has shifted as well. Today’s job seekers have a wealth of information at their disposal and are more connected than ever. Plus, as the role of work has shifted, so have their expectations of what they expect from their job and, by extension, their employer. Employees who in the past were seen as job hunters have become the hunted, and they are more discerning than ever.

The new landscape begs the question: in a world where the labor market continues to tighten and fewer people are actively seeking new jobs, how can an organization ensure that it continues to attract and hire the talent needed to compete?

The answer is simple but requires a profound reframing of what recruiting looks like. The best organizations proactively engage the talent they want to hire, telling a compelling story about who they are, where they are going, and what can be achieved together. Simply put, they sell.

The good news is, you already have the organizational muscle to sell. The key to winning the war for talent is applying that muscle differently. Instead of customers, consider your audience to be potential employees. And, rather than selling widgets, you’re now selling your company. Just like sales, recruitment isn’t a cost center. In today’s market, your talent is your competitive edge.

Now, I recognize that for many companies, margins are tight and recruitment budgets are constrained. So, how do you get the most out of your limited hiring resources? How do you avoid being Car Insurance salesman John, blindly reaching out to uninterested candidates, with a sales pitch that more often than not falls on deaf ears? How can you ensure that you maximize your efforts – and ROI – while still getting butts into seats? The answer is employer brand. It supercharges your recruitment efforts, giving you a story to tell, a vision to sell, and a culture to identify with. It puts your employees and the work they do at the forefront, making your company more human, more approachable, and more identifiable. Creating a strong employer brand has a few basic elements:

  • Drive Awareness. Then drive it some more: Data shows that your key talent pools need to see your logo repeatedly, between 3 and 10 times, in order to build brand awareness and logo affinity. This familiarity is the first step in getting them to think of you as a potential employer. Even if you’re well known in your industry or among your competitors, you are recruiting from an ever-expanding pool of talent, and have to assume that the person you want to hire doesn’t yet know who you are.

 

  • Have a point of view: While awareness is a crucial first step, it isn’t enough in and of itself. Simply put, people don’t want to work for a logo. This means you have to curate the information you put in front of them, information that gives them an idea about who you are, and what you stand for. Whether this is industry insights, company news and updates, thought leadership, or important events, it goes a long way toward establishing you in the minds of potential employees.

 

  • Talk about culture, not compensation: You expect to have a clear picture of the people you’re hiring, and they deserve to have the same kind of transparency from you. In fact, a recent Gallup study showed that, 95% of employees said that culture is more important than compensation. Highlighting your employees and your commitments to the communities you operate in is a way of pulling back the curtain for candidates and building a relationship on a foundation of understanding. The upshot? Not only will this help with the attraction of candidates, but it also helps with retention.
    (https://hbr.org/2017/01/what-matters-more-to-your-workforce-than-money).

 

  • Don’t propose on the first date: Part of building a strong employer brand is making sure you leverage it correctly, and that requires progressive levels of engagement. Only after you’ve established a relationship with your key talent have you earned the right to ask them to learn more, attend events, or connect with a recruiter. Until then, they will likely be as receptive to you as I was to Car Insurance John. Just as people don’t generally answer calls from numbers they don’t know, and they don’t respond to messages from companies they’ve never heard of. Your Talent Acquisition team will be more efficient and more effective if you spend the time engaging with your target talent before reaching out to them.

 

Strong brands create an emotional connection with their audience, and at their best make the selling of the actual product secondary. Your employer brand should be no different. When we ask someone to switch jobs, we’re actually asking them to do so much more: make new friends, change their routines, potentially relocate their families. Whether it’s a big ask, or a smaller one, like Car Insurance John, you’re much more likely to get the answer you want if you’ve built a relationship with your key audiences first.