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Mike Ruddle

Capita Resourcing

Director, Consulting

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Is it time we treated candidates as consumers?


Much has been written on the subject of employer branding in recent years, especially in the context of its importance for successful talent attraction and acquisition.

We know that acute competition for skills (particularly those in short supply) necessitates that HR and resourcing teams be ever more creative in their approach to finding and engaging talent. Naturally, talent attraction is only ever half the equation though.

Today’s talent knows its worth. Talent therefore now has much more choice when considering future work and employment opportunities – and it is more savvy about its individual brand and what’s ‘in it’ for them.

This places even greater emphasis on organisations to focus and invest in both developing flexible employer brand strategies and in communicating relevant and authentic employer value propositions

What we’re finding is that when it comes to building a strong employer brand, many organisations are still falling short because they’re failing to see candidates as consumers. As such, not enough importance is being placed on providing a positive candidate experience.

If organisations don’t get this right, they run the risk of reputational damage to their consumer brand – ultimately having a detrimental impact on their commercial interests. 

We need to take clear and decisive action in order to get this right. I’ve outlined some key steps that companies should be taking in order to build a strong employer brand and deal with the consumer candidate culture.

Establish roles and responsibilities early on

There is much debate as to where organisational responsibility for employer branding should reside: HR, resourcing, marketing, corporate comms and so on. The answer is it needs to be a combination and collaboration of all of these departments but it should be fully supported and embraced by line managers and business leaders.

Marketing and corporate comms teams have the knowledge and power to ensure the employer brand matches with the organisation’s overall corporate values. HR departments are able to ensure that the business’ overall reputation is translated and reflected into the working environment.

And finally, resourcing teams ensure that the brand values are communicated throughout the talent attraction process by creating a great candidate experience.

Having said that, HR professionals do need to take the lead on this and work closely with the wider business to agree areas of ownership.

If the above approach is taken, and agreed as soon as possible, organisations will find developing and promoting an EVP a much easier task than they originally thought.

Link up the employer brand, with the consumer brand

While marketing teams work hard to develop techniques that attract customers, communicate with them effectively and maintain their loyalty, it is of little use when it comes to attracting candidates if it is not linked with the employer brand. Employer branding involves applying a similar ‘marketing style’ approach to people management and outlines what an organisation has to offer to potential and existing employees.

A study by LinkedIn and Lippincott [PDF] examined hundreds of global brands in order to gain a better understanding of the benefits of aligning consumer and employer brands. The results speak for themselves: companies with strong results in both showed a five-year cumulative growth in shareholder value of 36%.

Companies that keep their employer brand consistent with their consumer brand can create a certain amount of alignment between the two. This can be translated into loyalty as well as engagement: potential candidates know the business, and can usually get an idea of what the company would be like to work for, simply by knowing about the consumer brand.

Make the recruitment process friendlier

According to Forbes, around 70% of companies have a complex and cumbersome online application process, with a great many not even responding to applicants with an email. This is worrying. We operate in an increasingly candidate-driven market, where job-seekers have high expectations of employers and can be very particular when choosing who they want to work for.

HR and resourcing teams are at the heart of getting this right.

Simply ensuring all applicants receive a timely, polite response will immediately demonstrate to them that they are valued. The same can be said for managing unsuccessful candidates. A professional and courteous letter or email advising applicants that they were unsuccessful (and if it feels appropriate, why they were unsuccessful) can help maintain goodwill, further enhancing a positive reputation or your company.

It is worth acknowledging, however, that operating such ‘personal recruiting’ practices can be challenging to achieve in reality, particularly when recruiting on a large scale.

That said, given the importance of the candidate as consumer issue, it is a challenge that HR and resourcing teams must find a solution to. We have seen a few companies get stung by previous employees and candidates due to a poor recruitment and on-boarding process.

Thankfully developments in HR technology are enabling us to address some of this. However in order to deliver an exceptional candidate experience the solution ultimately needs to combine the benefits of automation with some good old fashioned personal interaction.

The results

In the war for talent, having a strong employer brand and EVP will help to keep potential candidates engaged, whether they end up working in the business or not, and will also help to position your business as a co-operative place to work. Realising that candidates are consumers is at the heart of this, and forward-thinking businesses that start to take this on board will quickly see the benefits of doing so.

Author Profile Picture
Mike Ruddle

Director, Consulting

Read more from Mike Ruddle