9 Obstacles on Your Employer Branding Journey and How to Overcome Them

July 18, 2013

Once upon a time, there was a little old company who went about his business the same way, year after year. He cruised along merrily using print ads, job boards and agencies to attract talent.

Then one day, he stopped with a jerk. He couldn’t move another inch. His traditional recruiting methods could only take him so far.

He saw a big mountain ahead, one with great passive candidates on the other side. Alas! If only he could get over the top!

Along came a young little engine. Hopeful, the company begged, “Please young engine. Won’t you please help us over the mountain?”

“Sorry, but I don’t even know where to start,” sighed the engine. “And it’s too overwhelming anyway – don’t you see how steep it is? And also, how do you even know it’s a good time to try?”

So the young little engine refused to move.

Along came a nervous little engine. “Please, please dear engine. Won’t you please help us over the mountain?”

“We won’t make it. Competitors are on the same path, and their household names make them faster. Plus there are so many tight turns – we’re bound to lose sight of the top.”

So the nervous little engine didn’t budge.


Along came a heavy little engine. ”Please oh please, dear engine,” pleaded the company. “Won’t you please help us over the mountain?”

“Not a chance,” replied the engine. “I wouldn’t get past your CEO, and your employees aren’t willing to push. But even if we could get to the top, your talent is too scattered in the valley – you wouldn’t reach them with just one path.”

So the heavy little engine stayed put.

Then a fearless little engine came along. “Please oh please, dear engine,” pleaded the company. “Won’t you please help us over the mountain?”

The little engine saw the desperation in the company’s eyes. She thought about all of the high-skilled candidates on the other side.

So she hitched herself to the company and said, “I think I can -I think I can-I think I can-I think I can-I think I can.” Pulling and tugging and puffing, she started to move.

  1. The little engine didn’t know where to start.

    So, she carefully observed the terrain around her and asked experienced engines to give her tips. She then found the path’s entrance in a flash.

  2. The steep road in front of her was overwhelming.

    So, she partnered with Marketing and Communications to make the climb more manageable. And on she went.

  3. The company’s CEO stood in the way, ordering her to turn back.

    So, she showed him how his bottom line would increase if she could get over the top. The CEO then stepped aside, and she moved ahead.

  4. The little engine needed more manpower on the next incline.

    So, she tapped the company’s strongest employees to push first, and this motivated others to follow. With so many people pushing the engine, she had the power to keep going.

  5. Companies with household names started passing the little engine.

    So, she switched to a narrower but shorter route. By targeting fewer but more relevant candidates, she could keep up and even surpass her bigger rivals.

  6. The company needed talent for a wide range of geographies.

    One route couldn’t do the job. So, the little engine mapped out several paths in order to reach the diverse groups on the other side. 

  7. The little engine wasn’t sure if she should keep going. 

    So, she paused along the way to get feedback from the employees. This delayed her temporarily, but with fewer wrong turns, she ultimately reached the top faster.

  8. Competitors on the same route were speeding past her. 

    So, the little engine went back to her employees and listened to them more carefully. The additional insights revealed a new path that was shorter than the previous one.

  9. The little engine didn’t know where the top was.

    So, she took note of the landmarks along the route and made sure she passed them. She was flexible though: when she had to switch tracks, she identified different landmarks to measure her progress.

At last she reached the top!

“Hurray, hurray!” the company cheered, “Now we can reach all those great candidates!”

Down in the valley, the people were working hard with their heads down, oblivious to the engine approaching.

As the engine reached the base, the company turned to her and said, “This is just the beginning, my friend. See those mountains in front of us? They don’t ever end.”

What’s the moral of the story?

  • If roadblocks push you down on your employer-branding journey, get up and try again. There is always a way around them.
  • If you never try in the first place, you will have no chance of reaching the talent you need.

To learn more about overcoming obstacles in the employer branding process, download our Employer Brand Playbook.

* image by Charlie Stinchcomb