‘Just Give Us the Basics’: Recruiters Reveal Their Expectations of Employer Branding

Who in your company knows best which employer branding assets you need the most? Hint: It’s not your head of employer branding. It’s your recruiters.  

At the ERE Recruiting Conference, Nov 7-9, in Atlanta, Cristal Mikenas will be delivering a presentation called “Chapter 1: Your Company’s Story Begins With Transforming Employer Branding Into Recruiter Enablement.” Mikenas, global employer branding lead at global pharmaceutical giant Takeda, will be talking about how to pull the right data from your recruiters as part of a content needs analysis — and in the process, transform employer branding into a true recruiter enablement tool. 

I recently spoke to Mikenas about her upcoming presentation, what she discovered surveying her own company’s recruiters, balancing centralization and localization in terms of employer branding, and more.

ERE: Let’s begin with a loaded question. Who should own employer branding? Talent acquisition, marketing, HR, comms…who?

Mikenas: There should be a partnership between talent acquisition and the marketing or communications department. That’s because marketing understands the tactics and communications strategies needed for effective messaging, while talent acquisition has an in-depth understanding of the audiences that need to be targeted and the goals for the company to achieve. Let’s keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of employer branding is to attract talent, to enable recruitment to do that more easily. Involving HR can muddy that and turn the process into something more complicated than it needs to be, which is a means to attract talent and help them understand the organization, as well as how people can benefit by being a part of it — and, of course, helping internal folks be talent ambassadors.

OK, but you used the word partnership. Fair enough, but who should actually own employer branding?

In many ways it is easiest if marketing owns it, but it must still come to talent acquisition for message approval and alignment.

Your conference talk really centers on the notion that recruiters are a main stakeholder in terms of leveraging the employer brand, which you see as a powerful recruiter enablement tool. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Think about marketing and sales enablement. Marketing owns the messaging, which is really about enabling salespeople. This tracks with whyt marketing needs to own employer branding. Recruiters are not marketers;  they don’t necessarily know the ins and outs to leverage certain messaging and reach certain audiences, so  employer branding is really about making the job of the recruiter easier. 

Good employer branding should be based on a self-service type of model, where recruiters are provided with assets and guidance to help them talk about the organization. So say a recruiter has a specific need — like tips for how to to best reach out on LinkedIn or how to nurture a campaign pipeline — there should be employer branding materials to support any given activity. 

And importantly, this should include how to measure effectiveness of their activities, because so often, people get so caught up in pretty stuff, like cool messaging and branding. But at the end of day, was it effective? How do you know certain messaging is actually working? Recruiters need employer branding measurements to help them understand these things.

I know you’ve done internal surveys to help inform the employer branding messaging and assets you create. What have you found?

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We found that recruiters just need tools that get back to basics to meet their fundamental needs first. We found that they were asking for simple templates for reaching out on LinkedIn or, for instance, simple LinkedIn banners associated with a hiring campaign that they could use on their own pages. They also were asking for simple advice on how to advertise a job more effectively on LinkedIn — you know, beyond “hey, here’s an exciting opportunity for you at fill-in-the-blank company!” 

Their feedback informed what we’d create in terms of messaging and assets. It also led to us creating learning sessions where we’d dive deep into various topics, like measuring the success of campaigns. And then ultimately, doing these things is how we’ve built trust as an employer branding team. Recruiters trusted us to help them be better ambassadors because we gave them what they were looking for. 

Beyond assets, what have you found that your recruiters needed most in terms of the messaging itself?

We’re a big decentralized organization; yet I’m in a global role, creating global messaging. The biggest question we always get is, “How does the messaging apply to me and my specific team?” People throughout the organization want to know how the messaging relates to R&D, manufacturing, etc. And then in each business unit, people want to go deeper to know how the messaging relates to their need for, say, data scientists, farm scientists, oncologists, and so on. 

A lot of people want messaging tools specifically for them. But again, we are in a global role, so we can’t give everyone everything. Rather, what we do is set up clear expectations and define clear guidelines and guardrails — in the sense that we may not have specific messaging for you and your team, but here’s a plan to take what we’ve built for you so you can customize it and make it applicable for you.

People want information and autonomy, but they need guidance. So again, what we do is just that — we enable recruiters to leverage the employer branding assets and messaging in the best ways.


Want more insights from Cristal Mikenas? Experience her session, “Chapter 1: Your Company’s Story Begins With Transforming Employer Branding Into Recruiter Enablement,” at the ERE Recruiting Conference in Atlanta, Nov. 7-9. 

Vadim Liberman is editor of ERE.net and TLNT (the devil wears TJ Maxx) — a workplace renegade advancing how we think, work, and live. He has previously worked as a strategy consultant to HR and recruiting tech companies at The Starr Conspiracy, as a talent management professional at Prudential, and as senior editor of The Conference Board Review, a magazine for business leaders. Vadim loves to talk about all things HR, talent acquisition, and Bravo TV shows. Bring it!

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