Employer Brand vs. Candidate Experience

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

This topic has echoes of the old honour versus reputation debate – reputation is what others know about you; honour is what you know about yourself.

We are all familiar with the concept of brand and we constantly adjust our perception of a given brand in the light of our experience of the product or service provided. We recommend brands and products that make a favourable impression and avoid those which disappoint for one reason or another. Actually, there are other reasons, perhaps ethical or environment for instance, that lead us to choose or dismiss a brand or product but you can see how the concept applies to the employment market.

Employer brand is your organisation’s reputation as an employer. This is what the CIPD say about it:

“Employer branding is a useful tool to help organisations differentiate what they have to offer in the labour market, and recruit, retain and engage the people they need to succeed. Just as marketing professionals seek to understand their customers, HR professionals will benefit from gaining ‘employee insight’ through methods such as employee attitude surveys and focus groups. This insight should inform the HR strategy, influence how internal communications are handled and help in the design of effective people management initiatives.”

The employee experience comprises all that people experience during the course of their employee journey with an organisation, from the application process to the day they leave and become part of an organisation’s alumni. A good candidate experience drives referrals and enhances the employer brand even when candidates are not hired. It affords a type of loyalty that cannot be achieved via other interactions.

Why it matters

Obviously, the two are closely linked and have an impact on recruitment and retention of talent; in a perfect world employer brand and candidate experience would be synonymous. Employer brand is how you want to be perceived in the labour market, and employee experience is what actually happens to real people who apply to and who work for an organisation. Creating a great employee experience helps foster productivity and improved morale.

Stop, and think about this for a moment. How often have you heard complaints that a job was not as described in an interview or that an organisation was not what the employee had been led to expect?

The brand promise has the potential to inspire talent to engage with the organisation’s mission and purpose. More and more candidates are relying on online research activities to guide their career decisions. A 2014 survey by Manpower found that one in four job seekers or candidates considers brand/company reputation to be one of the three most important factors in making career decisions.

Positive perceptions

Meghan Biro points out that “more than half of job candidates say they had some kind of relationship with the employer, well before the recruiting experience – as a customer, consumer of the company’s services, a friend or relative of an employee, a consumer of the company’s content, or even a company advocate”. In other words, employee experience begins not when that candidate sees a job posting, but when they first engage with a corporate brand.

Bear in mind that technology enables platforms, such as Glassdoor, which influences perceptions of brand and reputation mean that anonymous, qualitative and subjective comments are posted on the Internet for anyone to find.

It is plain that a robust employer brand attracts the best candidates and also the importance of ensuring a positive candidate experience for all applicants and employees. What they say about you to their networks and via social media plays into the perception of your brand in the real world. Biro says “how your employees represent the company’s mission and brand is as important as anything leaders or HR says in the hiring process”.

Shared experience

Applicants and employees will share their experience, whether positive or negative, which can make a big difference when it comes to recruiting. Even unsuccessful job seekers who have a good experience when interviewing say they would tell others to apply, and they are also more likely to buy a company’s products or services. When the competition for talent is fierce, it is smart to pay attention to the candidate experience.

In their 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte suggest that understanding and improving the employee experience is critical for companies operating in a highly competitive global economy and that a strong employee experience drives a strong customer experience: “Employee brand and reputation – the story that employees in the external world tell about your company’s employee experience – will be a critical competitive differentiator”.

When we talked to Jacob Morgan, author, speaker and futurist about how the world of work is changing he told us that what you should aim to achieve in creating a positive employee experience is “that people are going to want to show up to work. They’ll genuinely feel excited and engaged about it”. When experience is aligned with brand, the organisation harnesses a powerful tool for retaining high potential talent, leveraging employee engagement and enabling the creation of a robust talent pipeline.


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