Inside the Employer Brand: Tips from Recruiters at Zappos, HootSuite, SpaceX, CEB, and More

July 15, 2014

Employer branding is a topic that's front of mind for most corporate recruiting teams these days, and for good reason. A compelling brand can tip the scales in your favor when hiring in a competitive climate (sorry, still not a war).

While most corporate recruiting teams know employer branding is important, many struggle with questions like where to start, how to find time, and what types of content and channels to deploy. It can be a daunting task for corporate recruiting teams who are already spread thin with requisitions, projects, and at times unrealistic expectations.

To give you some starter [or continuous] inspiration, I approached half a dozen recruiting leaders at the forefront of employer branding, from top brands including Zappos, HootSuite, Cisco, and SpaceX. They’ve shared their employer branding wisdom and insights below:

What is the key to a successful employer brand?

“My number one tip is to try to give candidates an insider’s perspective into the company... a peek behind the curtain. Be authentic, transparent and paint an accurate picture of what life at your company is really like. That's what prospective employees really want to see!”

Stacy Zapar | Zappos, Employer Branding Strategist
LinkedIn | @StacyZapar | @InsideZappos

“I think the key to a successful employer brand is to use a multi-channel content marketing approach that is truly authentic and tells the story of what it’s truly like working at your company. Talk to as many employees as possible. Tell their personal story. Don’t just broadly tell the story of your company and its values, but tell the stories of many employees in various levels and roles at the company. All these individual stories will start to come together and you realize that there are things they all have in common when it comes to what they love about working at the company and that…that is your employer brand.”

Will Staney | GlassDoor, Head Talent Warrior
LinkedIn | @WillStaney | @InsideGlassdoor

“It’s important to finds ways to harness and share the employee voice. Your employer brand should represent the unfiltered soul of your organization. That’s best represented by your employees – not necessarily glossy or highly produced campaigns. The candidates you’re trying to attract want to know what it’s like to work at your company from the perspective of future colleagues, doing the work they might be doing if they worked for your company. Those are the stories you want to illuminate in your branding efforts.”

Lars Schmidt | Founder, Amplify Talent | Former Employer Brand leader at SpaceX & NPR
LinkedIn | @ThisIsLars | @NPRjobs | @SpaceXJobs

When an organization can get its employees excited and engaged to the point of actively participating in and sharing your brand messaging … that’s #winning.  And, I love a good career website; it’s at the center of the employer brand and HR’s digital footprint. Having a well thought out, user- and mobile- friendly site is key … and still a huge opportunity for many businesses.”

Shannon Smedstad | Corporate Executive Board, Manager, Employer Brand
LinkedIn | @shannonsmedstad | @CEBCareers

“To me, authenticity – you can only truly develop value around what is real about your company and what you offer your employees – there’s a way to spin everything positively or negatively, but if it’s not true it’s not going to hold up.  In this day and age with the communication channels we have at our fingertips the last thing you want to do is open yourself up for a negative backlash because you weren’t being honest. It will cost in brand reputation and real $$ very quickly.”

Sedef Buyukataman | Cisco, Employer Brand & Channel Strategy Manager – Global University Programs (former)
LinkedIn | @Sedefmb

“People talk a lot about being real, authentic, and genuine but ultimately, making ‘no bullshit’ connections are at the center of engagement (both online and offline). If your organization’s brand voice doesn’t have a human element to it; with wins, challenges, shares, and cares – prospects will have a tough time connecting with your brand and you’re going to leave some value on the table. It sounds simple but being vulnerable, warts and all, is a hard thing for HR to do; but with things like Glassdoor and other avenues for your employees to keep you real, you might as well be genuine. In a time where followers can be easily bought in the thousands, making that lasting impact to someone still reigns.”

Ambrosia Humphrey | Hootsuite, VP, HR
LinkedIn | @Hambrody | @HootHR

The common theme across this advice? Engaging your employees to develop your organization’s employer brand narrative.

You can spend endless amounts of money developing glossy videos and detailed employee value propositions, but all those efforts are wasted if you can’t help prospects connect with the humanity in your organization – your people.

Here are a few more resources to help you get started or enhance your talent brand efforts:

content marketing for talent acquisition