Employee Value Proposition: Building a Stronger Employer Brand from the Inside Out

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While I was in talent acquisition and HR roles, I was often involved in strategy development for candidate attraction and retention. I would help my team come up with creative ways to attract talent, which could be especially tricky depending on the type of candidates we were aiming for. Once I started in HR and recruitment marketing, I realized that these were also hot topics when it came to developing copy for employer branding initiatives. Regardless of the role I was in, I knew the importance of brand marketing, effective recruiter communications and reputation damage control. Although these are all exceptional ways to help a company become an employer of choice, I believed that companies missed a step in the process. Sure, employer branding is great but you can’t truly make it strong if you have nothing behind it. To be an employer of choice, you must start from the inside and develop your employee value proposition (EVP).

Having an employer brand isn’t going to be nearly as effective if your employee value proposition isn’t robust. Companies need to focus on developing this first before they can brand themselves in good conscious. If your previous or current employees were to give a testimonial, what do you think they would say? What about the candidates that already interviewed with your organization? With technology making it easier for people to find news and reviews about your company or social media allowing candidates to communicate with employees, companies need to realize that they can’t just “fake it until you make it.” People will see right through it.

To build or revamp your current EVP, consider the following:

  • Surveys: Give the people what they want! Getting candid feedback from your employees can help you understand what retains them, what things they value over others and what they’d like to see for future offerings. Also, get additional feedback from candidates. Learn more about what attracted them to your company to begin with and why or why not they decided to move forward with the interview process. Accumulating distinct details about attraction and retention can aid in the development of new offerings and nix the ones that make no impact.
  • Competitors: Look at direct competitors within your industry to see what you’re up against. If a candidate is interviewing at multiple organizations, having this competitor intelligence can make it easier to seal the deal and help make your organization present itself as a stronger choice.
  • Voluntary Turnover/Exit interviews: If an employee is leaving your company voluntarily, it’s in your best interest to find out why. Any information you gather from their exit interviews can be invaluable when it comes to knowing where your company is falling short. For example, did the employee leave because of the long commute? Incorporate telecommunication opportunities. Did they leave because lack of growth potential? Work with HR about career succession. Every exit interview can be an opportunity for improvement.
  • Forecasting and continuous revamping: The world is fast changing, which means the landscape of employment, candidates and offerings will change quickly too. Employers need to focus on correcting or revamping their EVP for the here and now and they also need to stay on the forefront of what employees or candidates could want in the future. Staying ahead of the curve can limit any risk and make your talent acquisition strategy proactive. Revamping the EVP can keep it fresh and engaging.
  • And, of course, branding: Once you get all the details of the EVP squared away, you then have a really strong backing to help with your employer branding initiatives. Your brand can speak to things you’ve already implemented and employees can give their testimonials to confirm that your company practices what it preaches. Showcasing your future initiatives and how you value employee and candidate opinions can make those researching your company more engaged and excited to see what’s to come.

Your brand has to start from the inside. Before you can catch up with the trend of building a brand, social media recruitment, video branding and candidate experience, you have to make your employee value proposition into something worth talking about.

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The Evolution of HR and Talent Acquisition

The Sky's The Limit....or is it?

When I first started this blog back in June of 2012, my experience with HR had been quite different than what it is today. At the time, my knowledge came from textbooks and from working at small organizations with one-stop-shop HR departments. My job experience typically had me in roles that did everything from initially recruiting candidates, on-boarding, new hire orientation, training, employee relations, payroll, off-boarding, and general HR management. I had a hand in everything and at the time I thought this was everything I needed to know about HR. It wasn’t until shortly after I started the blog that I realized how wrong I was. Either my experience had been sheltered, the HR function had changed rapidly, or a bit of both. Regardless, the HR function has evolved right before my eyes.

Some of my most noteworthy discoveries:

  • HR and Talent Acquisition are two different things: Due to the fact that my experience had dealt with everything from start to finish, I thought that this was the norm across the board. It wasn’t until I got a new job as a sourcer (which I had no idea what that was at the time) that I learned how talent acquisition is a beast in its own right. Effective talent acquisition involves an in-depth strategy, involving anything from candidate mining, to employment branding, to better interviewing options. Once I saw how this was done, I almost wondered how anyone could even fathom handling all the other HR duties on top of this function. As time went on, I saw more and more companies splitting talent acquisition off from the HR department.
  • Recruiting has gone social: When I first started this blog, I was using it as a supplement to my resume. I wanted people to see my knowledge and passion. To promote it, I started using social media sites only to eventually get hired via Twitter. Once I got settled in my job as a sourcer, I was deemed the social media recruitment queen and had to create training on how to do this effectively. Needless to say, I like to practice what I preach so I often incorporated social media into my sourcing efforts. Candidates are also recognizing how much social plays in the job hunting game and now take the time to use social as a means for personal branding. Honestly, looking at some of these creative resumes was a lot more fun than staring at the typical resume format over and over.
  • HR tech is going beyond HRIS and ATS systems: Prior to my most current employer, my experience with HR tech was the typical HRIS and ATS systems. With the acceptance of social media in the workplace and the increase of technological advances, new HR vendors are emerging rapidly. HR technology now can include anything from video interviewing and social media recruitment platforms. Also, there are platforms for onboarding, recognition, training, career succession, and more. It’s wild how much has been developed over the last few years and I hope to make it out to the HR Tech Conference one of these days to see some of the interesting options.
  • The 2020 workplace is right around the corner: Not to alarm anyone but time is flashing by. Although it’s no secret that 2020 is known as the “Gen Y Takeover” of the workplace, companies need to start revamping their offerings to attract these candidates. Competitive companies are taking the time to understand Gen Y values and apply it to their culture or perks. For example, some companies are offering flexible work schedules, telecommunication options, social media friendly environments, creative workplaces, assistance with student loan payments and more. It’s no longer about offering a hefty paycheck but about creating a situation where work-life can be blended better.
  • Typical employment is changing: Say farewell to the idea that your employees are bound to stay with you for their full career. That’s not really a thing anymore. In fact, it seems as if more companies are contracting employees or more people are becoming free agents and/or consultants. When I first started recruiting, I was told to stay away from the job hoppers but as the years went on, I’ve realized that “job hopping” is becoming more of a regular occurrence. Some employers are actually even embracing those types of people because the amount of knowledge and skill they picked up from employer to employer.
  • Talent acquisition is becoming more proactive: Companies need to be prepared because any one of their employees can be a potential risk thanks to proactive recruitment. Recruiters are now taking time to build relationships with passive candidates and talent pools are now being upgraded to talent communities. Passive and active candidates are easily in contact with recruiters and are up to date about opportunities as they arise. Posting and praying is becoming a thing of the past and recruitment is now about two way communication.
  • HR law is becoming a bit trickier: HR law seemed to be so much easier to handle before social media and alternative workplace options came creeping in. Sometimes it boggles my mind to even try to consider what could be a liability in these situations so I’ll leave that to the professionals. There are way too many gray areas for me to process.
  • The usual training programs don’t cut it anymore: If you’re relying on classroom trainings during new hire orientation only, you’re doing it wrong. More companies are expanding their training through various means, such as job shadowing, social learning, mentorship, support for continued education and online learning. Additionally, training is no longer focused only on new hires. Instead companies are now offering trainings or refreshers for people who want to keep up with the fast paced changes in their industry. If an employee wants to take control of their career progression, these new options for training and development can allow them to do so.

If someone asked me two years ago what I thought my career progression would have been, I would have said HR assistant, to supervisor, to manager, to assistant director, and so on. If someone were to ask me now, I would have absolutely no idea. For example, my current job role is in marketing for HR and the talent acquisition industries. Never in my life would I have thought I would fall into marketing but apparently this is one of the many areas that someone in HR can go, especially with the emphasis on employment branding. I definitely am not complaining because it allows me to keep up with the industry and continue to learn. The sky’s really the limit and based on what I’ve seen over the course of the last year, I think that’s going to continue to be the case.

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Employer Brand: Is Yours Costing You Candidates?

After being in the working world for a few years and seeing the many different working environments an individual could be involved in, I believed that performing extensive research on a company’s brand was important for me once I returned to the job market. When I looked for jobs a few years ago, I never thought to look further than the job description I was applying to. Needless to say, I was often unprepared and didn’t have any intelligent questions to ask the recruiter once I landed an interview. Even worse, I wasn’t prepared to make an informed decision if I was offered a job and would occasionally find myself in work environments that were less than appealing. After seeing the difference that research can make, I often try to preach this to the candidates and job seekers I speak to.

Recently, I saw how helpful research could aid in a job seeker’s journey for a new opportunity. One of my good friends had just graduated with a new degree but was having a hard time moving up in her current company. Her current company was a tech giant and although it offered great opportunities and benefits, red tape and politics made it nearly impossible for her to transition into a new role. Reluctantly, she decided to apply to jobs outside of the organization to see if there were better chances for her elsewhere.

A few weeks into applying, she received a call from a recruiter asking to set up a phone screen. I told her the first thing she should do to prepare for the interview is to complete in depth research of the company. This included anything from press releases, social media, forums, Glassdoor sites, etc. Of course companies try to do a great job of presenting their employer brand in a positive way on their career sites, so it’s important to get some feedback from real people, such as employees or previous interviewees. Needless to say, she saw some red flags via employee reviews on their Glassdoor page. With this being a job out of state and with a company that wasn’t as secure or well known as her current company, this was a bit disturbing. I urged her to bring up these questions in her interview.

The first phone interview went well but when it came time for her to ask the recruiter questions, she completely stumped the recruiter. Apparently, the recruiter had no good response to the probing questions referencing what their current employees were saying about the company. Despite the poor responses, the recruiter suggested that my friend ask the hiring manager during the next phone interview. Although hesitant, she agreed for the next interview just to hear the hiring manager out. Unfortunately, the hiring manager also didn’t have much good to say ease my friend’s mind. It’s a bit concerning when members of company don’t even know its own brand well enough to be able to answer these types of questions during the interview process. How did they expect to convince people that they were competitive against tech giants?

Candidates should take note of the situation to properly prepare themselves to make good career moves. Additionally, companies should work with their recruiters and hiring managers to ensure they prepared for these sorts of situations. Needless to say, when my friend received a job offer from the company, she quickly rejected it. She was thankful to have taken the time to research its reputation otherwise she might have left her great company for something that was an awful career move.

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Taking Social Media Recruitment to the Next Level

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For years we’ve been hearing about utilizing social media for recruitment. Over time, this developed beyond sites like LinkedIn and has now spilled over to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Open Source. But are you still missing out on available talent?

With more candidates finding ways to creatively share their personal brands, it might be wise to start tapping into other social media sites like Instagram and Vine. Not sure where to start? Check out a blog I wrote on SourceCon last month.

“Let’s Get Visual: Attracting and Sourcing Candidates Using Instagram and Vine.” Click here to read the original blog post on SourceCon.

Showing Your Candidates That They Matter

Recently, I was having a discussion about the importance of the candidate experience with a friend. She’s a job seeker and was expressing her stress and frustration when it came to customize every single cover letter, resume, and letter of interest. It’s time consuming and exhausting. In the end, she sometimes only receives a generic e-mail back stating that her resume was received or that the company was going to “pursue other candidates that more closely fit their needs.” And just like that, it was all the interaction she got. Cold, human-less, and impersonal. We make candidates jump through all these hoops, but why aren’t recruiters held to the same standards? Recently, I came across an article on CoderWall and it really got me thinking about the messages we send to candidates.

The article on CoderWall discussed the issues with recruiting tech talent. I’m currently recruiting for tech talent and I know that it’s definitely not easy. This talent is in demand and more often than not, they get to pick and choose their opportunities. But regardless of this industry, the statements made in the article can ring true for any industry. With options like LinkedIn messages, e-mail templates, and automated messages, recruiters are able to increase the amount of people they contact in less time. But just because we have these tools doesn’t mean we should get lazy or abuse them, right?

Stacy Donovan Zapar also wrote a recent blog about spammy messages to candidates, which just continues to show that candidates are sick of our lack of personalization. How can we expect candidates to respect us or even be interested in talking to us when it seems like we didn’t invested a couple minutes to read about their personal experiences? We make them customize their messages to show us how they would fit in our job opening but shouldn’t we be doing the same?

Have I been guilty of shooting out generic messages to candidates in the past? Unfortunately, yes. And I realized that it’s no way to build a relationship. I’m not saying that templates are a bad thing. It could make it easier to include the job details you don’t want to have to rewrite over and over again. But it’s important to leave a section of your message open for editing based on each individual. Read their profiles, research their blogs/portfolios, check out their skill sections, and so on.  When you message them, include the things you researched. Maybe even ask them how they apply that to their current job or side project. There are plenty of ways to uniquely humanize your messages for each individual candidate.

I know that I’m instantly impressed by candidates who take the time to customize their letters of interest or cover letters for a job opening I have. I appreciate what they did and it makes me want to talk to them because they seem like they care. I’m sure that candidates feel the same about our messages to them. So let’s raise the bar and show these candidates why they matter to us.

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Clearing the Misconceptions about Recruiters

Recently, a friend forwarded me a snarky blog post written by an individual giving technical recruiters “tips” on how not to be hated by technical candidates. I get it- technical candidates are contacted multiple times a day by recruiters and sometimes with job openings that aren’t relevant to their skill-set. I would be annoyed after a while, too. But as I read through the blog post further, I actually started to see that he was off-base on a lot of points he made and seemingly generalized recruiters into one “type.” After thinking about this, I started to wonder if other people who weren’t familiarized with the recruiting and talent acquisition industry had the same thoughts. If so, then I think it would be best to break them out of this one-size-fits-all mentality about recruiters.

I would like to clear the air about the following areas and help people outside of this industry understand our purpose a little bit better:

  • We don’t all work for commission: Yes. There are recruiters out there that work for agencies that only pay based on certain metrics. But that only makes up a small portion of recruiters. I’ve had people angrily say to me, “Well, what do you care? You’re only doing this to make your commission.” No. Wrong. Whether I hire you or not has no effect on my paycheck. Making a bonus has no part in the reason why I’m contacting you. I honestly reached out to you because I’m trying to find quality candidates for my client and I thought you were a potentially high caliber candidate.
  • We’re not sales people: Sure, sometimes recruiting duties have some similarities to sales functions. But that doesn’t make me a sales person. Some metrics are just to ensure that we are not only finding quality people, but that we’re also finding it in a timely manner. As much as I would love to find the best person ever, sometimes companies don’t have that time luxury. But regardless of this, it still does not make me a sales person. What I love about recruiting is the ability to help people find work and help companies find the person that can make their organization better. It’s about discovering the connection that benefits both parties.
  • We’re not all looking to hire temporary or contract employees: Sometimes companies don’t have the bandwidth to handle the tedious and long processes it takes to source and recruit candidates. They sometimes hire outside help to assist with their time sensitive positions. A good portion of those times, the positions are full-time, permanent, direct hires with the companies. So it may be best to clarify this with a recruiter before writing them off.
  • Trust me, we’re doing our homework: Just like you don’t appreciate having your time wasted by people reaching out to you for completely irrelevant job opportunities, we don’t like wasting our time searching for and connecting with candidates that aren’t a fit. In the blog article I mentioned earlier, the individual said something to the effect that “recruiters don’t do their homework.” I know several recruiters, including myself, that spend hours every day trying to educate themselves through various means. We try our hardest to wrap our heads around the lingo, the details, the expectations, and so on but sometimes we fall short. There is only so much we can learn about a job or industry without actually going to school for it or without actually working in it. It would almost be the same case as when a candidate first broke into their new job or first started going to school for a specific subject. Sometimes you can’t fully learn something until you do it for a while.
  • We take your feedback into consideration: On the same note as the “homework” thing, I’ve had plenty of candidates give me some detailed reasons about why a job was or was not a fit for them. Some even explained a few of the industry terms to me. Not only did I appreciate it, but I also shared it with my team so they can learn. Additionally, if the candidate said they weren’t a fit but gave me details of what they’re looking for, I’d happily pass them to someone who is recruiting for something more relevant. Your feedback does not go in one ear and out the other.
  • We’re not always recruiting for ONE job: We may reach out to you for one job because it seems like that’s what you’re most fitting for. However, there are plenty of times that we are recruiting for other positions or know someone who is recruiting for other positions. Instead of ignoring the phone or email, give us an idea of what you’re looking for (even if it’s passively) so we can hopefully help you down the line.
  • We’re extremely connected with each other: I wish I kept track of how many times I passed along a candidate to recruiters inside and outside of my organization. Sometimes I can’t help a candidate but know someone who could. I’ll try and get that resume to the appropriate person. I’ll try to help even if it doesn’t benefit me or my company. This seems to be pretty common in our industry (at least to me it seems so). I’ve worked with recruiters in different companies and different hemispheres to help candidates and vice versa. But just like a recruiter can positively recommend a candidate to someone, they can also be the reason why a candidate is not recommended. Remember to keep your interactions professional to ensure all recruiters have the correct perception and impression of you and can make those positive recommendations.

There are so many more points I can touch upon but I think this will do for now. Yes, there are recruiters out there that fit the negative outlook that the blog writer had indicated in his post. But it’s only hurting him to shut out all recruiters because he thinks this is how they all are. Recruiting is not an easy job. It involves a lot of research, strategy, and learning. We’re not just looking for ANYONE to fill a position, we’re looking for the RIGHT ONE. So before a candidate assumes that they’re just another random contact that has to be made to meet a recruiter’s metrics and goals, please consider the fact that we may be reaching out to you because we honestly think you could be the right person that our hiring manager is looking for.

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Looking Back: The Time I Wished I Hadn’t Wasted

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When I was in college, I thought I knew it all. Then again, maybe most of us have a false sense of confidence at that time in our lives. I thought that I was going to be ahead of the game because I was working full-time while obtaining my bachelor’s degree. Not only was I making enough money to have financial independence, but I was also allowing myself to get some real-world experience so I would be a more attractive candidate than the others who only had their diploma. Oh yeah, I had it all figured out back then… but I was wrong.

Having a full-time job was definitely great but it didn’t help me get where I needed to be. When I was going to college, no one told me about the importance of honing in on a specific job function to ensure a smooth transition into my field upon graduation. I mean, surely having experience as an administrative assistant would be transferable to a role in human resources, right? After applying to jobs and interviewing, I learned that this was a big no.

I remember sitting in an interview for an entry-level HR assistant role and the recruiter asked me about my HR experience. “Um, well, I have my bachelor’s that focused on HR and I took plenty of classes that were HR related.” I thought that was a decent answer. After all, this was an entry-level position that would take recent grads. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

I called my brother that night to complain about the fact that no one would hire me for HR jobs. I just couldn’t understand how entry-level positions would say they were open to zero years of experience, but then would reject candidates for not having experience. Was this some sort of sick trick? How could anyone expect me to get experience if no one would give me a chance? “Why don’t you do an internship?” my brother asked me. At that point, I had absolutely no time to squeeze in an internship on top of a job. Also, I was living on my own, states away from home, and couldn’t afford to quit my job (and income) to take a non-paid internship.

I wished I knew what the hiring criteria was before I graduated school and before I made the move out of my parent’s house. I wished I would have taken advantage of my live-at-home situation to help me properly get relevant experience in my field while I had the time and option to do it. Instead, I wasted time thinking I was “growing up” faster and gaining “professional experience”, when in reality I was only gaining experience that wouldn’t actually get me where I needed to go. I eventually landed a job in HR down the line but I often wonder if I would have been further along in my career if I didn’t waste that time in college.

If you are in college, please take note of my career blunder and don’t waste your time. If you have a career focus, make sure you take the time to learn about the hiring criteria before you get to the point where you need to start applying. Learn what employers look for in candidates and take the time to somehow build those skills before you need to actually get a full-time job. You’ll be glad that you put in the extra effort during college, trust me.

For internship advice, check out YouTern – great resource.

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