The Problem With Emphasizing Employer Branding in Job Posts

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Aug 5, 2021

Job postings often emphasize employer branding by focusing on the company. The problem with that is that a job post should focus on…the job.

In his groundbreaking 2019 bestseller Nine Lies About Work, Marcus Buckingham, had it right when he cited in Lie No. 1 that people really don’t care which company they work for.

Yet many job posts focus heavily on employer branding. What’s more, they often speaking in generalities about the organization. Those are sometimes powerful generalities, but usually they are generic: Opportunities to succeed! Leading the way! 

Serious, ideal candidates crave specifics. They demand knowing if potential employers will value their strengths and talents. They also demand insights into the team environments that await them. Most of all, they desire a deeper dive into the role so that they’re not left guessing what the job will be like.

But despite the needs of candidates, most job posts include employer branding that overshadows the role. Thing is, once people start working at your company, the role always overshadows the company. Thus, if you lure candidates with a heavy focus on broad issues like company culture at the expense of concentrating on the role in your job posts, you risk future disgruntlement and turnover. 

That’s not to say that your innovative, collaborative, career-nurturing, inclusively diverse corporate culture is not important. It is vital, in fact. But your culture should not trump giving people an idea of what it will be like to work in actual jobs at your organization.

Making the Role the Hero

It’s important to create a post for each job as unique as the job itself, one based upon a strategic focus built around what’s most important to the candidate.

In other words, take a step back and look at the job from a different perspective. Flip the emphasis upside down by imagining the job as a pyramid with the elements proven to make the most powerful, most impactful connections with ideal candidates at the top. 

Start with the job itself — more specifically, what the candidate would love most about it. Second, reference the team dynamic they will be working within. And finally, at the base, forming the foundation for all the above, is the corporate culture — that is, your employer brand.

When you think of a job posting this way, it’s easy to see why efforts that focus largely on branding the company in job posts are often less than optimally effective at attracting ideal candidates. Many times, organizations focus on the bottom of the pyramid, basing everything on their employer brand, when the real attractive power lies at the top with the opportunity candidates can have to do what fulfills them. Candidates want desperately what we all want — to feel valued for the personal, distinctive talents and contributions they bring to their tasks and the role itself.

However, an emphasis on lower-level messages around employer branding tend to appeal mostly to candidates for whom job specifics are not of paramount importance.

You don’t want these candidates. No, you want more discerning candidates who will love the job first and be compatible with the company second. Because if they love the company and are merely compatible with the job, they are less likely to be fulfilled and more likely to be more vulnerable to leaving. 

Which is why it is essential that you look at job postings for what they are — advertising. Make sure your posts leverage the awesome power to connect by focusing on the top two levels of the pyramid. That requires content that captivates, that engages and excites people about the work itself.

In turn, this means that you need to write a highly creative, eye-grabbing headline, combined with crisply written, totally engrossing content that brings the job to life. Together, that will form a message that will have tremendous attractive power for your ideal candidates. Doing this effectively will also repel people whom you wouldn’t want to hire.

The net result would be getting more ideal candidates, but fewer total candidates, all of which helps create a tighter, simpler, shorter, more effective review/testing process. It also leads to a more competitive, more productive interview process to eventually hire good fits for your roles.

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