What is employer branding and why is it so important?

Where did you always want to work before you landed where you are now? Was it Google? The New York Times? Starbucks? Why? These companies are excellent at attracting the best minds in their fields by creating and maintaining hype about going to work for them. Of course, depending on the industry, they attract very different kinds of people, but what they all have in common is state-of-the-art employer branding.

Employer branding, or just branding?

While the two can (and should) be defined separately, general branding and employer branding are very closely related. In the same way that general branding creates a business persona that’s attractive to customers, employer branding creates an employer persona that’s attractive to potential job candidates. Rather than trying to sell a product, you’re trying to sell the experience of working for your company.

Why does everyone want to work for Google? Good pay, exciting opportunities, an open work atmosphere and great benefits are surely at the top of the list. To a certain degree, these characteristics are coincidental. Google wants its current employees to be happy and productive, so they created a way of doing business that accomplishes this. But they’ve also made a conscious effort to play up this persona and these qualities for the wide market of potential employees. That is good employer branding backed by a genuinely good product.

But it’s important to note: employer branding doesn’t only work for big companies that already have lots of publicity. Smaller brands can enjoy the same benefits with carefully crafted social media posts and blogs as well as job and company descriptions and dozens of other outreach tools. It’s all about how you present yourself.

Why all the fuss?

Sure, it’s nice for recruiters to have a wide variety of candidates to choose from, but is employer branding really worth the extra thought and effort? If you build a successful company won’t people want to come work for you no matter what? What do you really get out of employer branding that justifies investments of time, energy and money?

Yes, success will attract talent, there’s no doubt about that. But that’s only a piece of the puzzle and there are plenty of other pieces that startups and small businesses can use to great effect as well. In this way, attracting good talent is a natural byproduct of success and publicity. So, as you’ve been growing, and as people on the job market have begun to form an image of your company in their heads, you’ve been working on your employer branding (or creating an employer persona) whether you knew it or not. Therefore, all these questions can be condensed into one: Why go the extra mile to intentionally market your company as a great place to work?
The obvious answer is that when people want to work for you, you don’t only get a large number of applicants, you get the best applicants in the market. Scoring a high-profile programmer or blogger on your team can mean that you’re hiring not only a skilled professional, but an influential voice as well. Keep in mind that the more top-quality talent you attract to yourself, the less is left for your competitors. In fact, with the exception of giants like Google, employer branding is more about keeping up than getting ahead. Competition for good, qualified talent is fierce and investing in employer branding gives your company a better chance at surviving and thriving.

But there’s a less-obvious answer as well. The same way having a good product and good general branding can do some of your employer branding for you, your employer branding can greatly affect how your company is viewed by the general public. These days, consumers don’t just want to see a company with a useful product – they want to see a responsible company that shares their values and promotes cultural ideals, and that includes how they treat their employees.

There are few better gifts you can give yourself than investing in public perception of your brand. You already have an employer brand, whether you’ve put thought into it or not. It’s up to you whether or not you want to have a say in it.


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