Avoid the 3 Biggest Employer Branding Pitfalls

doritos-logoAs major brands like Goldman Sachs and Zynga have stumbled into PR crises, I thought it might be useful to help your company avoid the most common employer branding mistakes.

Three suggestions:

Don’t be inauthentic — Your employer brand embodies your employees, your culture, your vision, and your values. These are impossible to fake. If you’re a fast-paced company with an entrepreneurial culture, don’t market yourself as a laid-back environment with unlimited vacation days.

I remember looking at the careers site for BP several months after the 2010 oil spill and being shocked to see that it looked the same as before the spill. Surely the eco-minded Generation Y or Gulf Coast residents affected by the disaster might hesitate before joining the company afterwards. But there was only one acknowledgement of the situation — a tiny text link on the sidebar that asked “Why is it a good time to join BP?” Why indeed?

Don’t get lost in the crowd — The are dozens of salty snacks on the market, so how does Doritos stand out? By having an attitude … coming in crazy flavors with cool names and bright packaging. In the same way, your employer brand has to be distinctive. Avoid bland themes like “Grow your career with us” or “We offer work-life balance.” Almost any job can become a career and almost every job lets its employees go home at night.

Don’t get stuck in the facts So many careers websites begin with, “Company X was founded in 1950 and now operates out of 75 offices in 12 countries.” Does that year mean the company is old-fashioned? Do those 12 countries mean employees get to see the world? Do the 75 offices mean employees can be transferred against their will?

Stand-alone facts like those can be both boring and confusing, a deadly combination for anyone looking to top motivate talent. You’re trying to create an emotional connection, so facts and numbers can only get you so far. Instead, talk about how your company helps people’s lives. Let employees share their stories. Show your workplace. Highlight employee events, rewards, volunteer work. Never be boring.

Be authentic and differentiated, and add an interesting and emotional component to your recruitment messaging.  If you can’t always leave them laughing, at least leave them hungry to learn more.

About the Author

Jody Ordioni is an employer branding and recruitment marketing thought leader. In her role as president of BRANDEMiX, she leads the firm in creating brand-aligned talent communications that connect employees to cultures, career opportunities and corporate business goals. She engages with HR professionals and corporate teams on how to build and promote employer brands, and implement best-practice talent acquisition strategies across all media and platforms. A frequent speaker at HR conferences and events, she also facilitates workshops and training to internal recruitment and leadership teams. She has a passion for the latest trends in technology and marketing and has spent her career developing and implementing programs that make the most effective use of both. Her personal mantra is "one brand" and her mission is to integrate marketing, internal communications, and social media to foster a seamless brand experience through the employee lifecycle. Visit http://brandemix.com for more information.

  • Erik Plesset

    Stand-alone facts may be unattractive but do have value depending on the company business and industry. Serious thought is required to find balance between respecting the legacy culture and values and, appetite for bringing in new ideas and progressive talent. Presenting emotional interest is absolutely necessary and creating an employment branding message that relflects the behind-the-scenes comittment to that balance is a tough concept to express during the entire process.

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  • Keith Halperin

    @ Jody: Thank you. I like your point on “authenticity”- a very good thing to act (to others) as if you possess it, like empathy, integrity, and sincerity. 😉

    @ Erik. Very well- and articulately-said. You should comment more…



  • Ken Schmitt

    As the president and founder of a boutique career management and recruiting firm I speak with clients constantly about their branding. In this day and age it’s easy for a client to “be whatever they want me to be” when searching for a new position. However, I have to constantly remind them that not only is employment like a relationship in that it’s long term, but it can not work if there is a lack of compatibility. And how can you be compatible when you have no clear definition of who you are.

    Your 3 tips for companies to you, can also be applied to applicants as well. It seems companies often exist in the two extremes- inauthentic projections of who they are or stuck in a rut with simple numbers and stats. An innovative company that is going to capture innovative candidates is one who uses its history and numbers to support the culture they promote. These facts are best used to show the innovation and evolution of a company, how it is willing to adapt and change to meet a changing consumer. As for candidates, an authentic representation of who they are as employees (their professional DNA, as we call it is key to finding the right fit that will lead to professional success and satisfaction.
    Ken Schmitt

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