Employer brand – the key to attracting tech talent

The concept of ‘employer brand’ is a relatively new one. For some, it’s just another buzzword to add to an...

Andy Bristow
Andy Bristow
5 min read Reading Time
21 September 2018 Date Created

The concept of ‘employer brand’ is a relatively new one. For some, it’s just another buzzword to add to an ever-growing list of industry jargon, but in reality, it should be front of mind for any company that’s serious about attracting and retaining the best talent. Here’s why.

Selling yourself as an employer

When it comes to recruiting a developer or other IT professional, it’s important to understand the context of the market. Anyone you wish to employ will likely have several other opportunities open to them, so you won’t get a clear run at any candidate. Half of our job when engaging with some clients is giving them that context, but the other half is understanding why a candidate would want to join that company.

In the majority of cases, a decent pay packet won’t be enough to attract a candidate away from their current role. If you are an experienced software developer you can get a salary anywhere. Benefits can make a difference, but if the projects you’re working on are dull and the company has a bit of a dull vibe, that makes it harder to sell.

With some of our clients, candidates come out of an interview buzzing because the individuals at the company believe in the product, they’re passionate about it, and they sell it. It’s more of a challenge when a client is a bit flat or low key, or they say things that upset the candidate. They take the view that they’re interviewing somebody to come and work at their company – they forget that they’re also being assessed by the candidate.

Employer brand feeds into this. You can have the best employer brand in the world, but unless you’re giving people that experience from the first moment they engage with you, it just goes missing. There’s no point having a great employer brand if you don’t get back to people, if you leave CVs sat on your desk for a month, or if your interviewing environment is a windowless office in the basement.

That being said, it’s not always easy to marry up your employer brand with your candidate experience. After all, how do you know if you’re doing something wrong unless somebody tells you? Very rarely would an interviewer get feedback from a candidate that they bored them to death for an hour and couldn’t wait to get out. As a business, you can’t get that feedback easily, unless you’re working with a recruiter who is prepared to have that sort of conversation in a helpful and constructive way.

Candidates are always telling us about bad experiences – just last week, a candidate said: “The job is alright, but the hiring manager told me I’d probably be a bit bored.” What you’ve got there is a hiring manager projecting their own frustrations to an interviewee, which in turn is just making their own job harder as they fail to engage candidates effectively. So, there are lots of different pressures to make candidates feel welcome.

A “good” employer brand

With this in mind, what exactly does a good employer brand look like?

For me, a good employer brand is prominent, it’s got a good presence on social media, it has good processes for candidates coming in, it has collateral it can share with candidates, including information on what it’s like to work there. It will also have ex-employees saying it’s a good place to work – whether that’s on LinkedIn or employer review platforms like Glassdoor.

A company that values the way it is generally perceived in the market is typically halfway to creating a good employer brand, and a key part of this is carefully selecting an agency that will be your mouthpiece to the candidate market you are targeting and investing the time needed to ensure your agent not only understands the business, but can offer advice and guidance on how best to appeal to the people you seek to attract.

In the increasingly competitive tech and IT markets, employer brand carries a huge amount of weight. If you’re a developer and you leave a company that’s in an absolute mess, you’re more than likely to join another team of developers, and you’re going to tell those developers what an absolute mess that company is in. When that company looks to replace that person, there’s a team of developers who have all heard from the person first-hand. They can see he or she is a reasonable person with no axe to grind. They’re just saying that place is a mess, and that’s made the other developers’ minds up.

It’s a very small world, too. We’ve got over 600 developers on our books across the east of England. How many of those are connected to others, either directly or indirectly? Probably most of them. That alone is a reason not to dismiss employer brand as meaningless jargon.