Employer Branding for SME’s – It’s Not Just for the Big Cats

Employer Branding, not just for the big cats

Written by Rosie Skinner

Rosie Skinner is a recruitment expert, speaker and Director of Mployable - Talent Strategy and Recruitment on Subscription, also known as the Outsourced In-House Recruitment Team. She's been in the recruitment industry for almost ten years, in recruitment agency (yes, high street agency) roles in her early days, through to in house recruitment and HR managerial roles in the latter part of her career. Rosie is CIPD and REC qualified and has spoken at prestigious industry events such as 'Disrupt HR' and 'Inspire Recruitment' as well as numerous business events and workshops.

Employer branding. Sounds like one of those industry buzz words right? Something to leave to the Coca Cola’s and Amazons of the business world.

We’ll just carry on over here in a corner. Posting our job adverts to job boards. Hoping that the perfect candidate finds it and applies.


No!… Let’s rewind.
Writing off ‘Employer Branding’ as something the ‘Big Cats’ do as part of ‘their’ recruitment, will result in your recruitment results being about as effective and reliable as a chocolate teapot.

Let’s break it down. Employer Branding is quite simply thinking about your recruitment in the same way you think about marketing.  Recruitment marketing. Sounds less scary when it’s put like that, right?

Employer Branding is the grand sum of what the wider public, your prospective employees and current employees think of you as an employer. Plus the activities you undertake to perpetuate (or fix) that perception. When this perception, or indeed reality, is a positive one it will be the key driving force in attracting and retaining quality employees.
But, when it’s not so positive – well I’m sure you can guess the rest?

According to this blog by Talent Now 84% of job seekers say reputation of a company is important. Who knew?

Reputation is everything

Before we get into online presence and social media, let’s talk about good old-fashioned reputation. The simplest form of this is what people think of you as an employer. Essentially, do people want to work for you?
This can go from the less tangible ‘word of mouth’. All the way through to comments on community Facebook pages. As well as feedback that comes into your business directly.


Generally, more feared by the ‘Big Cats’. With higher staff numbers and often higher staff turnovers.
Glassdoor is like the Trip Advisor of Employers. Employees can leave a review for a business they have worked for. They can list the pros, cons, free type comments and give a star rating. Along with whether they would recommend others to work there.

It’s simple. If your business is a wonderful place to work, you have nothing to worry about. Hurrah. Similarly, to how no-one is booking that one-star Spanish ‘bargain’ on Trip Advisor. Prospective candidates won’t be knocking down your door for a position if a quick google search of your company brings up page after page of low star ratings and disgruntled employees.
So what can you do to bring your reputation under control? And into focus?

Start by checking out what is online about your business. If you can’t find anything specific – ask your team. Create a regular survey to check in on the general mood of your staff. That way you can catch any issues before they turn up online.

If you do find yourself on Glassdoor or any other employer review site, and the reviews are less than favourable, it’s time to do some ER. AKA Employee relations. Nothing will impact your recruitment and retention more than disgruntled existing employees. Quite frankly, if you’re a less than desirable employer, your business will be a hard sell to prospective employees.

Once you’ve got your house in order, then consider responding to reviews to show that you are proactively addressing problems. It will speak volumes to anyone who stumbles across it in future potential employer research.

Craft your message

Once you know where you stand in terms of your current reputation, you can consider your employer brand (recruitment marketing) and the message you’ll build around it  Clarity on your wider company culture, values and mission are crucial to building an authentic employer brand that will resonate with the right candidates.

To ensure authenticity, refer to your staff surveys and find out why your current team like working for you and ‘who you are’ as an employer.

Then, build a clear picture as to what your ideal candidate looks like, and who works well in your business.  Compliment this with specific messaging to target that person (or person type) and identify the right platforms to ensure your message gets in front of the right audience.

The endgame is to attract what we call ‘passive candidates’ – the crème de la crème of hiring.  Candidates who aren’t actually candidates – yet.  These recruitment nuggets of gold aren’t out on the open market proactively applying for jobs – they saw your job and your company and want to work for you specifically.

In much the same way you might go through this process with a new product launch, thinking about your candidates as if they were customers will go a long way in building a successful employer brand.

The customer (or candidate) is King

To that end, once you have started to build the messaging that attracts the right type of people into your business, the last thing you want to do is lose them at the first hurdle with a messy recruitment process and crappy candidate experience.

Just like how customers don’t want to shop in a cluttered shop, or navigate a clunky website, candidates will quickly lose interest if your process is long winded, complicated, ill thought out – or generally not candidate centric.

Make sure your experience is easy to navigate, clean, clear and candidates can contact you directly if they need to – don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.

Build it and they will come (if you also promote it)

If you’re still with me, you’re now clear on your ideal candidate, you know what to say to attract them, where to post the messages that will have them flocking, and your process is exemplary – what now?

Now is the time to smarten up your online presence.

If you have a careers page on your website and post the occasional job on your social media pages, congrats, you’re already one step ahead of the game.  Now, elevate this into the ‘who we are as an employer story’ and turn your careers page from a job feed into a value-add narrative that attracts the right candidates.

Go to your current employees and ask them to pen a ‘why I work for (insert your business name here)’ as a quote – testimonials for you as an employer.  Create a ‘day in the life of’ blog for different areas of the business to show perspective employees what it is really like to work for you. Show ‘behind the scenes’ – real-life office shots, team shots – maybe you have a stunning office view or a barista-style coffee machine?  Post regular updates, news, and bulletins from your industry, to make your site the up to the minute ‘go to’ page for professionals in your sphere.  The options are endless – but steer clear of cheesy stock images and showcase the real people that make your business tick.

Once you’ve collated this content, you can curate it across not only the careers pages on your website, but also social media and other marketing channels.  Collaborate with marketing, and get recruitment built into the wider business marketing strategy.

Cultivate a ‘green light always on’ hiring mentality to never miss an opportunity to engage with your perfect candidates

Leveraging your employees

We’ve talked a lot about utilising the experiences of your current team, but you can also empower them to shout about your business from the rooftops.  

Encourage your employees to keep a tidy LinkedIn profile and promote your internal opportunities.  See them as your recruitment ‘sales force’ and encourage them to become brand advocates.  

After all, it’s also in their best interests to find awesome people to continue to grow the business.

Control what you can

As with traditional business marketing, not everything in employer branding will be in your control – but if you can continue to improve your reputation, create an interesting narrative about what it’s like to work for your business, clearly communicate your vision, goals and motivations for the business, leverage your current employees and provide a shop window as to what you are like as an employer, you’ll have yourself a progressive, genuine, authentic brand in no time.

Oh, and no need to compete with the big cats for the prize candidates.  If you nail your employer branding strategy, long term – your perfect candidates will come to you.  

Happy hunting.

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