COVID-19 has required companies across industries to quickly reassess their priorities. But while human resources has remained a top concern, whether implementing waves of layoffs or navigating large hiring rounds to meet increased demand, employer branding seems to have taken a back seat to other demands.
But that's a mistake.
Even if your company isn't hiring right now, it's never been more important to invest in your employer brand and show prospective employees how your company lives its values. And one of the most dangerous things you can do for your post-COVID hiring and retention is ignore your employer brand right now.
To capture more insights into why employer brand will make or break recruiting and hiring during and after the current crisis, we sat down with James Parker, Senior Manager of Global Talent Acquisition at Glassdoor. Here's what he had to say:
Glassdoor: What new employer brand challenges do you see organizations struggling with in the wake of COVID?
James: The biggest challenge employers are facing is the shift to working remotely, and as a result interviewing remotely. When you're interviewing in an office, you're seeing people interact and engage with the physical space. There's a lot of stimuli, and you can see things that influence your perspective of a company. But all of that data's been thrown out the window. And that's when many companies realized they didn't have a way to supplement those data points in a meaningful way.
We're seeing this a lot right now with big names in the technology industry who, a month ago, were asking "Can we hire someone we've never met before?" And today this could not seem more normal because we've all adapted to remote work and a completely virtual interview experience. And these experiences will exist long after COVID now that we all know it's possible to do so.
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Glassdoor: It sounds like employers and prospective candidates are realizing what a critical role the onsite interview played in information gathering.
James: I've had many recruiter friends and connections with candidates who specifically ask for videos of the office, pictures or some kind of media that gives them a sense of what it's like to be in the space. But unless a company was taking employer brand seriously from the start, most companies don't have that on hand right now. So they're scrambling to try and supplement that experience.
There's no way around employer brand as a priority in this environment. For the active candidate, employer branding is non-negotiable. Because if they can't find that information online when they're preparing for the interview process, they won't get it all, and they won't make a decision.
And for passive candidates, it's much the same. These are the individuals you're trying to influence in the long-term, with the hope that at the right time, and with the right role they'll see a job, think of all their previous interactions with you, and confidently come on board. A strong employer brand is an investment in that long-term relationship.
Glassdoor: Would you say this has been an eye opening experience for employers about why employer brand is an urgent topic right now?
James: Definitely. Employers that didn't put a focus on this are now feeling the pain of that decision. Because even though some companies are experiencing layoffs and hiring less right now, your employer brand is something that will have an impact long after the economy has adapted to COVID-19. Prospective candidates aren't going to interview with you the same way if you don't have the employer brand experience ready for them.
I think of it this way: in the world in general, people want to make decisions based on as much information as possible. Employer brand is one of the most meaningful bits of information a candidate can use to make the life-altering decision of where to work. And it's a powerful way for employers to influence and have an impact on that decision.
A strong employer brand resonates with the modern interviewer or candidate - it tells them you have an exciting company to work at and it gives you the edge over other companies that can't tell that story.
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Glassdoor: What else stands out about the value of a strong employer brand when you're interviewing and hiring candidates remotely?
James: Well, fundamentally, your employer brand is your external representation of your internal values and your employee value proposition. When it's done well, it introduces candidates to your core values and highlights why people love working there. But if you don't have an employer brand, the data points a candidate has are limited to just the interview experience, like the hiring manager or the teammates doing the interview. And candidates are going to over-index their decision based on that interview experience, which may or may not be accurate.
This is obviously a problem because you want to control that first impression better. But it's also challenging because your interviewers may not realize that shift has happened. So little things like being late to a meeting or needing to leave early, without context, could have undue influence on a candidate's impression of your organization.
Glassdoor: And do you see those benefits extend to existing employees, too?
James: Absolutely. Employer brand plays a prominent role in retention of current employees, too, because when you bring your company values to the forefront of your interactions with candidates, employees get reminded of why they're excited to work there, too.
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Glassdoor: What are some best practices you'd point out to employers that want to improve their employer brand and do a good job interviewing candidates remotely?
James: For starters, I think too many employers are put off by budget issues. But you don't need a five figure production budget and a drone to craft an employer brand that resonates with candidates. If you have a smartphone, you have enough to create an employer brand. Why not interview a hiring manager about the role they're hiring for and publish it on your company's blog, or create a short podcast or video blog featuring the different departments within your company? Raw employer branding is still authentic and can be very effective.
But underneath the execution of your employer brand, you have to know what you want to say about your company before you start trying to say anything. We experienced that first hand when we re-launched our Glassdoor values earlier this year. We started to see exactly how our core values of transparency and communication show up in our workplace, and it became easier to let those values influence our decision-making. Connecting that back to the messages we're portraying with our own employer brand has been very rewarding.
Finally, because we're in such a unique and unprecedented time, I think candidate feedback is more important than ever. Asking candidates for feedback through an anonymous survey - so they know they're answers won't impact their eligibility to be hired - can give you insight into your employer brand that you might never have uncovered otherwise. Especially when everything is in flux due to COVID, this kind of feedback can help protect you from indulging in any mistakes for too long.
At Glassdoor, we found those anonymous interviews to be very informative about how candidates were perceiving the remote interviewing process. We found that very simple things, like the timing of interviews, or having interviewers come in and out of the chat interview room, were having a negative impact on the candidate experience. In reviewing that feedback, we were able to craft a one-page interview document that we give to all our hiring managers so they can be a bit more proactive about how they engage with candidates throughout the hiring process.