Selling Yourself: Interview & Branding Insights

October 19th, 2010 | Hiring Resources | No Comments »

So, you’ve interviewed Jim, the perfect guy for the job. His desk is all ready and waiting, and you can’t wait to take him out for his first business lunch… Until that one fateful phone call. He tells you he’s turning down your job offer for another. When asked why, he explains that this other company simply sounds like an awesome place to work, and he can’t pass up the opportunity.

Given the state of the current marketplace, this scenario may initially seem unlikely. But the truth is, things are picking up, especially in the IT industry, and we’ve already seen several similar situations in just the past few weeks. The best candidates now often have multiple job offers, so how will you ensure that they will become a member of your team?

Why should you care?

So much attention is given to the marketing of your service or product to your customers, that it’s often easy to forget that marketing your company itself to your potential employees is just as important. An “employer brand” is simply the image of a company as a workplace, marketed by and to both current and potential employees. A craze over employer branding kicked off in the ‘90’s but has been neglectfully kicked off to the wayside during the past several years of hiring freezes and flooding applicant pools. As the market and your hiring pick back up, you’ll want to make sure you’re attracting the best people, not to mention retaining the great ones you already have, and employer branding is the way to do it.

The traditional view has been that there isn’t much explaining to do on the employer’s part during an interview. A candidate needs a job, and you can offer him that job. It’s a simple formula and seems like a done deal. Except that many candidates – and typically the best ones – aren’t looking for “just a job” anymore. They’re looking for an organization that’s interesting, that can offer a great place to work; a comfortable work environment, a fun, smart team, a chance to grow, and similar values. And they need to know up front that you and your company can provide that for them.

Discovering your brand

Figuring out exactly what kind of things your company can offer is definitely the first step. It’s important to note that, just like a product brand, an employer brand cannot be created. Creating and marketing an ideal yet false image of your product will lead to unhappy, disloyal customers. Similarly, telling Jim, your potential new hire, that working at your company is like one thing, when it’s another, won’t help your retention or performance rates. The trick is to define your brand based on your existing culture. Once you’ve figured out what makes your organization special, you’re ready to tell the world.

While a full blown employer branding campaign takes the best efforts of both your marketing and hiring/human resources departments, there is something you can personally implement to fundamentally influence your employer brand.

Insider’s Insight

There are very few things more satisfying in our office than when a candidate – like Jim for instance – calls us after an interview raving about your company; “That is exactly the kind of place I can see myself working at, I loved it!” Jim will scream down the phone. And more often than not, when Jim says this, the company he interviewed with loved him too, and it’s a match made in heaven.

However, Jim sometimes calls after an interview feeling unsure about how it went. Rarely is his uncertainty due to his doing badly. Typically, the interview went well, but the employer did not “sell” their company to Jim. They didn’t gush about their dynamic culture, relaxed work environment, monthly office parties, or the opportunities for career growth. Their lack of excitement meant that Jim wasn’t excited either, leaving an overall negative impression of the interview, even if they actually loved him.

The Big Picture

The key thing to realize here is that an interview is as much about you selling your company to the candidate as it is about the candidate selling himself to you (and this holds true even if you don’t hire the candidate, because you can bet he’ll spread the word about your company later). Be enthusiastic about why your company is an awesome place to work. And be honest; your mission statement may be attractive, but make sure it’s an authentic reflection of your company before you advertise it.

Clearly, the interview process is an integral part of your employer branding. Take it upon yourself to answer Jim’s unspoken question of “is this company worth considering?” Do that, and you can be sure that you’ll be at the top of his list should any other job offers come his way.

Clare Webster – Marketing Director at Ashley Ellis