Inbound Recruiting: HubSpot’s Approach to Employer Branding

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Building an employer brand, especially online, for all the world to see has become paramount to your business. It’s easier than ever to discover what a workplace is like nowadays, so why not take full advantage of that?

Most of you reading this will know that finding and connecting with top talent is not simple. The very best talent usually isn’t looking for a job. But at HubSpot, they believe they have a way of getting around this.

We speak to Hannah Fleishman, the Inbound Recruiting Manager at HubSpot, to find out why candidate experience is such an important piece of the employer brand puzzle, and what strategies you can put in place to truly build relationships with top talent.

Have a listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary, and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

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Tell us what an inbound recruiting manager does!

So that’s one of those job titles you get a lot in tech, which is like, “What the heck is that?” So inbound recruiting is how we think about employer branding and candidate experience. HubSpot is an inbound marketing company, and we make software, and we have thousands of customers all over the world that use HubSpot to run their marketing. That’s an inbound approach with an inbound methodology. We took the basis of that and applied it to recruiting.

I run a program which entails top of the funnel marketing, so employer brand content, like blogs and social, to middle of the funnel content, which is candidate nurturing and emails, and lead capture, things like that, but for talent, and then working closely with our recruiting on the bottom of the funnel part of that, which is that candidate experience piece and more of the candidate facing materials once someone’s in the pipeline. Long story short, I run the inbound recruiting program, so employment branding and marketing for all things jobs at HubSpot.

Inbound is also the name of your annual event, isn’t it?

Yes, exactly. So inbound is our philosophy on everything. We always try to do everything in an inbound way, which really, we just think of as being relevant, helpful, and human, so doing things in a way that’s engaging, in a way that solves problems for your customer, user, or candidate. So putting them first is how we just think about inbound generally.

76% of candidates start their job search on Google by googling you. We know we need to be there and get ahead of that with content and be part of that experience as opposed to not accepting that things have changed in that regard, and people find jobs really different today. So inbound is hopefully our answer to that.

How would you describe the corporate culture at HubSpot?

Culture at HubSpot is probably our biggest focus in terms of business priority. I think a lot of companies, they think of culture as an HR priority or something that your recruiting team or your HR people need to think about. From very early on, company culture has just been a core focus at HubSpot, and it really shows. And I think it’s both because we’ve been so proactive about creating a great company culture, but also because as we’re talking about hiring and talking about inbound recruiting, we keep the bar really high, and we really do want to hire the best people because we think that’s what makes working at HubSpot so great.

I’ve been at HubSpot for about five and a half years. The culture is first and foremost about the people, everyone is smart, everyone pushes one another, everyone is incredibly helpful. The other piece is that we’ve really created this culture where you can do your best work. So work very, very flexible with policies like unlimited vacation, you can work from home when you want to, we have people who do remote work, but also a lot of autonomy and transparency. So no one has an office, for example. Our executive team, they don’t have offices. We all sit together in an open space, it’s very collaborative. If you have an idea, you can work on that idea. You have the freedom and autonomy to move the needle on something if you’re passionate about it.

What talent challenges could you possibly be faced with?

HubSpot is of an interesting size. We consider ourselves a scaleup, so we went from startup to scale up in the past couple of years. When I joined the company, we were about 300 employees. We have just about 2,000 now. We’ve always been in growth mode, and that naturally just makes hiring hard, right? Great people are really hard to find. That challenge never changes. But our unique challenges right now are that we have some obstacles in different parts of the world. We have seven offices globally, and yes, we have a great Glassdoor rating and we have a really strong brand presence where our headquarters is, in Boston. But in some of our newer offices like Tokyo, for example, HubSpot is not a familiar name at all. And it’s not somewhere you would think to work or apply for a job. So brand awareness and newer markets for us is really, really a top challenge at the moment. Our second biggest office is in Dublin, and we are trying to hire lots of multilingual salespeople, sales talent. Doing that has been a real challenge because breaking into markets like Sweden or the Netherlands, we have that same brand awareness problem.

Because of the size we’re at now, we’re actually looking for more. We hire tons of recent grads and do tons of internships, but now, we’re opening more director-level positions and senior management positions. HubSpot is typically thought of as a startup, a young company. Our average age is probably in the late 20s, but, we also have an amazing program for parents called ParentSpot. We have incredible benefits for families, making it a little bit clearer that HubSpot’s also a great place no matter what stage in your life you’re at.

What is the best source of hire for HubSpot?

It varies a little bit globally, but the top two would be referrals from employees and then inbound applicants. So HubSpot gets thousands and thousands of inbound applications, and in some of our offices, that’s the top source of hire. But I would say globally, it’s referrals. So we’re very lucky that employees are excited to work at HubSpot, and they tell all their friends about it, and they refer all their friends. And we really try to take that program seriously and really make it pretty systemic at HubSpot. So we have referral bonus program, we have resources for people to refer things, we have a program called ReferSpot, we just make sure referrals are always top of mind for new and people who have been there for a while. We offer $2,500 for a referral who gets hired. I think they have to be there for about three months. And then if it’s an engineer or a software developer, the amount’s a bit more.

Do you have an EVP in place?

We do. HubSpot’s employee value proposition is our culture code: The culture code is a slide deck that we published a couple of years ago. It was heavily inspired by Netflix’s culture code. Our co-founder put it together with input, help, and feedback from employees, and he’s always iterating on it and changing it. But it has about three million views on SlideShare today. The bad side, it is 128 slides. So it’s a long a deck, it’s a long employee value proposition, but it can really be broken down into four things. And all of them have to do with the fact that you can grow, and that means personally and professionally at HubSpot. We want to create an environment and a workplace where you can do your best work and grow your career quickly.

  1. The first pillar is autonomy. It really is autonomous here. You have complete flexibility and ownership over your work. We just think that helps people grow faster, we don’t believe in micromanaging, we don’t believe in not letting people do work that excites them and that they’re great at. So autonomy.
  2. The other is transparency. We completely overshare everything internally. For example, our executive team, more or less, has access to all the same information that an intern would have access to. We have an internal wiki that we just publish everything on. What the engineering team is working on, why we might build this product instead of this product, to what the sales team is doing within the next three weeks to help with that. You know, lead conversion things like that. We talk about everything on the wiki. We think if people have access to more information, then they’re going to be more bought in on the mission and more tuned into the overall company goal, which is super important too as we get bigger.
  3. The third thing is the mission. I think we do a really good job internally, and we always have in that, as we mentioned inbound earlier, it’s always to solve for the customer and solve for that end user. That’s our mission, we want to make our customers’ lives easier. And we do a pretty good job of making sure that’s embedded and baked into everything that we do. So mission.
  4. Then the last one is HEART, which is actually an acronym. We like to work with people we say who have HEART, and that’s humble, empathetic, adaptable, remarkable, and transparent.

Does your employer brand allow people to self-assess their fit?

Definitely. And I think the culture code helps with that. The majority of candidates we talk to, if you ask them, “Why do you want to work at HubSpot?” or “How did you first hear about HubSpot?” it usually comes back to the culture code. They said, “Oh, I saw this deck,” or, “Someone sent me these slides and I just couldn’t believe it. It sounded too good to be true.” I think other people probably see it and think, “I don’t think I want to be somewhere where I am left to my own devices at times and can go work on anything I want to at a certain…” I think some people self-select out of that.

We try to make it clear in our employer brand too and then the messaging that we have that this is an incredible place to work if you are ready to put in the work. HubSpot is a very fast-paced environment, and we’re very metrics-driven, and with that freedom and autonomy and somewhere this fast where things change this quickly, we do expect a lot from people.

What are the four stages of the inbound recruiting funnel?

These are the four stages we think about in inbound recruiting:

  1. Attract at that top stage, that’s the first interaction or touchpoint that a candidate has with your employer brand. For us, that’s the culture code for example. And then the things that my team works on have strategies around would be our social media presence. We’ve always been active on social about jobs and our employer brand, but it was about a month ago, we launched our own Facebook and our own Instagram accounts just for recruiting and culture. We have a Facebook page, an Instagram account.
  2. The other piece would be our jobs website. We put a lot of energy last year into redesigning our whole jobs website so that it was more candidate-friendly, there was more information on there about HubSpot because we want to be transparent not just internally but with them, too. Our jobs website, we have a careers blog, so candidates find us through that as well. And then the other piece is Glassdoor. On similar sites like Glassdoor, we use some others as well and we put a lot of energy into our Glassdoor rating and reviews and responding to those reviews in trying to create a culture to remind people that Glassdoor is a helpful resource for us. Those are the big ones that we focus on at the top of the funnel.
  3. And then if someone lands on your jobs website, from there, what happens? As we move down the funnel, we do some candidate nurturing, too, and that’s before they apply. The whole goal of inbound recruiting and my team’s work is what the candidate interfaces with before they submit a job application mostly. That means, “Oh, you aren’t ready to apply for a job yet, you have an option to sign up and subscribe to updates or learn more.” Then we do some email nurturing where we send newsletters, we send them location-based information on if we have an event coming up or recruiting event that they want to come to. We also do a blog, newsletter, things like that so that they’re always in the loop.
  4. Then the other things we work on are further down the funnel. I work really closely with our hiring managers and recruiters to write more candidate-friendly job descriptions. We think that’s a really important piece of content that’s often overlooked. So we try to make those as inclusive, and as helpful, and as engaging as we can.

What happens next?

At this point, hopefully, a candidate has applied and submitted a job application, and we make sure everyone gets followed up with. There’s always going to be an automated email with more resources telling you what the expected wait time is to hear back from someone and what the next steps are. Then I work with our recruiters to create resources that they have so that when they do reach out to a candidate or they’re talking to a candidate, they have information and links to more content as well to help them. We’ve also created resources to make the interview process a little bit less scary. We do video interviews, for example, and we have a great blog post about how to get ready for a video interview, what a great video interview looks like, things like that so that that marketing and content is happening even throughout the process.

What are your top tips for employer brand managers?

My number one tip would be, remember that your employer brand should be thought of as a team sport internally. I think employees create the best employer brand content naturally, so making sure that they are bought in, but also excited about creating content is key. So being proactive about that, not just expecting people to share content because it exists or write something because you asked them to. I think it’s really important to have a program in place for how people can work with you to create that employer brand content and to make it rewarding, so to reward those people that do it and to reward those brand ambassadors.

The other thing I would say is to think about your metrics sooner than later. I actually think that’s a mistake we probably made at HubSpot. We doubled down really much really on our top of the funnel awareness and going after you know, big recruiting events that we could host and things that just had more buzz and appeal and would get us new eyeballs on HubSpot.

But employer brand is very hard to measure. When you get down to it, if you’re looking at how many hires did I get from this initiative, that might be really hard depending on the systems, the technologies that you use. I think it’s important from the get-go to be really intentional about the metrics you can move and hit. Maybe that’s visits to your jobs website or the number of followers on your Facebook page for recruiting or something like that, but I think it’s important to think about the metrics ahead of time and see which ones you can actually achieve.

How do you measure employer brand at HubSpot?

We have a couple of different metrics in place that we measure, but I’ll be honest it took us hard to get to them.

  • Right now we focus on a month over month increase in views to the jobs website, inbound applications month over month, and then we have metrics for each of our social channels, so Facebook or Instagram, that growth there. And then we look at metrics on a per campaign basis. Those are the four at the top of the funnel that we’re always tracking.
  • Then in a way actually our Glassdoor rating for us is a metric. We want to see that stay the same if not increase. And that’s a little bit harder to measure on a timely basis, but it is something we look at and try to move the needle on. But the per campaign basis metric, so that would be like we do a lot of retargeting campaigns or Facebook ad campaigns, so we measure those. But that’s more tied into the jobs website traffic that we then get as a source and things like that.
  • One thing that we decided not to try to measure yet is the inbound recruiting to hire as conversion. I think we thought we were going to have this source and in an ideal world that I think one day we will. But there are system challenges and there are things you need to have in place to really be able to report on that well at that level and down to that part of the funnel. So we don’t measure on the full funnel yet, but we measure everything going on at the top of the funnel and then how many inbound applications we get as a result.

What other companies out there in terms of employer brand?

I mentioned Netflix before, we really do think they’re great. Our co-founder Dharmesh Shah, who wrote the culture code, our culture code, he makes the joke that if you have time to read two culture codes, read the Netflix one first and then read it again because it really is that good, and it really inspired ours and where we went with it.

Personally, I look up to Spotify a lot. I think they have a really strong employer brand. I look at their jobs website. I look at their social content when we’re trying to get new ideas for things. I think they do a really great job. And then some other people that we admire are actually our partners. HubSpot resellers in Europe are actually pretty ahead of the curve with inbound recruiting. I talk to them pretty regularly, some of our agencies, because they’re already using HubSpot and other tools to do inbound recruiting and they’re pretty advanced with it. They definitely keep us on our toes and keep us inspired, too.

What’s up next for employer brand at HubSpot and in general?

For HubSpot, you’re going to see a lot more from us on the video front. That’s in the company generally and our marketing strategy for the business, too. We’re just doing more and more video. It’s easier to produce now and people are engaging with it, and we’re finding it’s actually a really great conversion tool for marketing. So in our employer brand, we’re going to do much, much more video.

Then we’re going to double down on some of our global events actually. Some of those market challenges I was talking about before, we’re going to start trying to do a lot more targeted event experiences around the world.

The third piece for us is more thoughtful diversity and inclusion employment branding. We have a pretty great internal program for diversity and inclusion. We have employee resource groups like our LGBTQ Alliance and the Women@HubSpot group. I think we’re doing some really cool things internally. Admittedly, like a lot of companies, we don’t have the diversity data that we wish we did, and we’re trying to get better at it. But truthfully, I don’t think we do a great job right now of sharing what we do externally.

Then for employer brand in general, I actually think it’s such an exciting time. I feel like every day, there is a new software or a new tool that’s coming out specifically just to make the hiring process better or to make your employer brand better. I think there’s going to be a lot more companies, tools, products coming out just thinking about this and bringing new ideas to the table. My hope is that the inbound recruiting phrase and expression will be something within a year that people are doing and talking about and having conversations about. I think, right now, it’s still a little bit in the early innings, and people think of employer branding as the answer to their challenges, and I think it’s part of it, but I think you need to go a step further and start taking more of a funnel approach in those stages of the process that we talked about and thinking about every step of the way.

Connect with Hannah Fleishman on LinkedIn. And be sure to check out Hannah’s most recent interview: How to Start Building Your Remote Employer Brand.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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