Rethink Your Brand for Better Talent Acquisition

May 7, 2020

Rethink Your Brand for Better Talent Acquisition

A single job posting can generate thousands of responses. With online applications, it is easier than ever for people to apply to jobs, which makes it harder than ever for companies to sort through the candidates to find the right hire. 

Yet most companies focus on attracting candidates when it would be far more effective to repel those who are unqualified or a poor culture match.

People are the only competitive advantage left in business. Everything else can be bought, automated, outsourced or commoditized. If you want to succeed, you need the right people, and in every business around the world, the cost of recruiting great talent is going up. If you continue to operate using the same tactics you’ve always used, it’s going to get costlier and less efficient to fill your roles. You need to be strategic. With your employer brand, you must begin to repel the many in order to compel the few. This will make your talent acquisition more effective while also saving you time and money.

The Cost of Talent Acquisition

According to a 2016 report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost-per-hire is $4,129. 

Finding the right people is critical to business success, and it requires financial investment. The problem is that for most companies, a substantial portion of the cost-per-hire is spent not on finding the right people but on filtering out the wrong people.

The more applications you have, the more you must spend in man-hours and administrative costs to filter through them and find the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Additionally, according to the same 2016 SHRM report, the average time to fill a position is 42 days. That is six weeks where you are not operating to your full potential, not even counting the time it then takes to onboard new employees. All told, you could experience months of lost opportunity cost.

If you could shave just five days off the average time to fill a role, you would save a lot of money. And one of the best ways to reduce the time needed to fill a role is to reduce the number of applications.

The Hidden Cost of Declined Candidates

On average, 249 people are turned away from every job vacancy in the United States. Let’s say your organization has 1,000 people and you turn over 15 percent each year, that’s 150 open jobs. That means turning away approximately 37,350 people each year. If each person has a social network of 500 people, your exposure is more than 18.5 million people. That 18.5 million people will form an impression of your organization based on what the rejected candidate has to say about their experience. 

That can have a direct, significant impact on sales. A Ph.Creative case study on the Virgin Media candidate experience found that £4.4 million of lost consumer revenue was the result of negative candidate experiences of applicants who were also customers at the time.

Seeing this simple math makes it startlingly clear that it’s in our best interest to dissuade people from applying to our jobs if they:

  • Have no chance of getting the job, or
  • Would accept the role only to discover the less-than-stellar parts of our environment that we neglected to mention and leave because they weren’t prepared for it.

Almost all of the time, recruitment is in the rejection business, an appalling waste of time and money with significant human cost on both sides of the process. One of the most impactful ways to improve this situation is to use your employer brand to help more people self-select out of the process before they apply.

A New Approach to Employer Branding

Your employee value proposition (EVP) is designed to attract talent toward your organization. Yet we believe the most valuable use of EVP is to help your organization repel talent.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, it’s true. We want you to think of your employer brand and EVP as a smart filter that sits between your recruitment marketing and your recruitment, helping to weed out people who are unsuitable. 

The true value of an EVP lies in articulating the expectations, harsh realities, vulnerabilities and challenges people must be willing to overcome to thrive at your organization. Pair those with the benefits they stand to receive in return, and you’ll be amazed what starts to happen to your recruiting funnel.

We believe in creating EVPs by using the premise that it’s not a one-way broadcast of strengths, benefits and opportunities but a value exchange that clearly articulates what a company wants, needs, expects and demands in return for the spoils on offer. It’s a two-way street. If you can communicate that message effectively by illustrating what it’s really like, how someone is likely to feel and what they must be prepared for on any given day, people are far more equipped to make an informed decision as to whether they have what it takes to thrive there and whether they want to take on the challenge.

We call this mutual value exchange the give and the get—what employees must give and what they get in return. 

It’s important to articulate the give because it enables you to qualify applicants before they apply. Embracing the things that people need to be prepared to face, such as working lean or being ready to embrace a consensus-driven organization, enables you to repel anyone who isn’t up for working that way.

The Benefits of Give and Get

This approach has many benefits:

  • It’s disarming. If we feel we’re being sold to, our mind shifts to defensiveness. Talking about what’s not great about a job or who won’t enjoy it causes candidates to drop their shields and get curious.
  • It builds trust. Rather than coming off as overconfident or self-aggrandizing, you show candidates your team is open to constructive criticism and dedicated to continuous improvement.
  • It saves you time and money. If your messaging brings in lots of candidates who aren’t a good fit, that’s making your recruiting less effective. By being honest about a job’s downsides, you give the wrong candidates a reason to self-select out, which reduces the noise in your funnel, saving you time and money.
  • It draws in the right candidates. Your business needs people who are excited to meet its biggest challenges. The sooner you surface those challenges, the more likely you are to find the candidates who see them as a fun problem to solve. If you hide the harsh realities of the job, you are more likely to hire people unequipped to handle the challenges, which will lead to subpar performance or attrition.

With the benefits of give and get employer branding, you will likely see improvements in two key metrics: (1) unwanted applicants and (2) regrettable loss. 

Unwanted applicants are the ones who are dismissed at various stages and their origination. They are those declined candidates whose experience can have a direct impact on your sales. With give and get, your unwanted applicants metric should go down, because ill-fitting candidates self-select out of the application process.

You should also see regrettable loss—the loss of good people—decline. You can use your new EVP to remind your rising stars and top talent why they’re at your organization and show them how much they are appreciated. Plus, the talent coming in your door should be a better fit culturally, leading to fewer regrettable losses in the future.

With the clear, concrete benefits to be gained, it’s time to stop thinking of an EVP as something to attract people to our brand and start thinking about it like a smart filter designed to reduce the number of applications.

Repel the many, compel the few and watch the quality of your hires go up, while costs go down.

The Authors: 

Adapted from Give & Get Employer Branding: Repel the Many and Compel the Few with Impact, Purpose and Belonging by Bryan Adams and Charlotte Marshall.

Bryan Adams is the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, author, podcaster and speaker. 

Charlotte Marshall was named the 2019-2020 Employer Brand Leader of the Year and is the global employer brand lead at Danaher Corporation.