5 Steps to a Successful Employer Branding Strategy by Mile Živković on Nov 6, 2018

A company becomes a great place to work in once people want to work for it, for reasons other than getting a paycheck. How its employees and applicants see the company is known as an employer brand, and it can be incredibly difficult to establish, especially for startups.

Seeing how it’s one of the most effective ways to get lots of high-quality applicants, here are a few great employer branding strategies you can use for your company, coupled with some examples to get you inspired.

Evaluating your current employer brand

Before deciding on a strategy for the future, you need to assess where you stand at the moment and find out what it takes to move where you want to be.

First and foremost, develop and run a survey, external and internal, asking relevant stakeholders about the traits they associate with your company. This means reaching out to employees, associates, partners, as well as your current customers and target audience. While there are other methods, (anonymous) surveys work very well if you want to find out what people really think.

Second, look at what’s already said about you online. Look through your social media comments to get a feel for what your customers, followers, and fans think about you and your products/services. Look through platforms such as Glassdoor to get insights from current and former employees.

Once you know the public opinion about your employer brand, you’re ready to dive into the next step.

Understanding your needs

It goes without saying that every company would want to have excellent employer branding. After all, who wouldn’t want to be a desirable employer and have people want to work for them?

However, not everyone needs the reputation and the employer branding of Google, Microsoft or one of those cool startups offering perks like free foosball and craft beer.

You’ll want to create an employer branding strategy suited to your needs – without investing time and resources into building a world-known brand. Perhaps your goal is to have a local, office-based team with a small number of people, specializing in a certain area. For example, as a WordPress developer, you’ll be most likely to hire other WordPress developers.

Define the steps for establishing an employer branding strategy

Once you know what potential applicants, current employers, and customers think of your brand and you know your needs, it’s time to put your thinking cap on and set up a strategy. Here are some ideas to get started.

Make your employer branding strategy into a story. Take it from a writer – people like stories much more than facts placed out of context.

Take a look at this example from LEGO, who created an animated story for their 80th birthday. The cartoon ended up being a huge success, becoming viral and netting over 20 million views since it was first published in 2012. By investing time and resources into showing their company’s background, LEGO presented itself as a brand with vivid history and a great story to tell.

Sponsor a local meetup. If your company’s goal is to hire people with a certain background in a single city, region or country, the best way to do it is to find a local meetup and do some promotion. You can find an employee who’s active in the community and let them be your spokesperson. You can provide food, drinks, or some cool company merch to hand out at the meetup. It’s an inexpensive way to get your company’s name out there and your employees will appreciate the opportunity to be the voice of the company.

Stand behind your employees. Does your employee have a side project they’re passionate about? Instead of worrying that it will take away time from work, why not get more interested in it and support them in their passion?

One of the biggest digital agencies in my country, Four Dots, happened to have an employee who’s really passionate about R programming language. To help the employee pursue their passion, they now host an R Cran mirror directly on their company website.

If you have an employee who’s passionate about a hobby or sport, invest time and some resources to support them – it can go a long way.

Make the job ads stand out. If you’re a serial job applicant (guilty as charged), you may have noticed one thing. After having seen a number of job ads, they kind of tend to sound the same… That’s because they actually are very similar.

Recruiting managers have the tendency of copying a large chunk of their previous job ads, or even worse, someone else’s job ads. There’s lots that’s wrong with this approach, but let’s start with the fact that no two positions are alike, and you’re most likely drawing candidates away instead of attracting them.

As an example of a job ad done right, you can take a look at one of our articles, or check out this job ad on Zapier:

zapier job ad

In fact, check out any job ad on Zapier (we’re big fans of theirs), because they take the time to introduce applicants to their commitment to anyone applying, culture and values, their guide to remote work, code of conduct, as well as official statements on diversity. In a nutshell, Zapier did a great job of building an employer brand by simply spending 20 minutes more per job ad to make it stand out.

Make your hiring process different. Besides starting your hiring process with a test by Hundred5 (shameless self-promo), there are a number of ways to be different from all the faceless companies out there. Most companies follow the same old pattern – job ad, applications, screening, interviews, offer, position filled. Why not give candidates something they’re not expecting?

In 2017, Mercedes Benz ran an excellent ad for Web Summit, where you would interview for the job in the seat of a 510hp Mercedes Benz C63. It’s bold, it’s different, it’s not up to everyone’s taste, but it certainly got plenty of buzz. As far as I’m concerned, the only downside is that the applicants don’t get to be in the driver’s seat.

Note: always ask for candidate feedback, especially if your hiring process is as unusual as this one. You may be inadvertently putting candidates off – it never hurts to ask.

Follow up with past applicants. If you have an opening for a position, you’ll get a wide range of applicants. The few that are really good make it to the interview round, but only one person gets hired. The people who don’t are a real HR treasure trove – they lacked that little thing to make the cut, but they’re an excellent candidate, so keep their application and CV handy.

Somewhere along the road, you may have a similar (or same) opening and those are the first people to reach out to. In the meantime, they may have gotten more experience, changed jobs, picked up a few more courses, learned some new things… By reaching out to them, you’ll establish a great employer brand and save lots of time on screening, sourcing and interviewing a new round of applicants.

Provide great benefits

One thing that can make a difference and build a great employer brand are benefits that are out of the ordinary. You’ve probably heard of startups offering game rooms and pinball machines, all the way up to on-site escape rooms for employees. While having all of this is great for publicity, it’s hardly something that will make your ideal candidate quit their job and apply with you.

Instead, offer applicants meaningful benefits that really make a difference. Some examples include paid parental leave, on-site daycare, unlimited days off, free meals, funds for education and professional development, funds for books and conferences, and many others.

Be different

One thing that’s common to companies with a great employer brand is that in their essence, they’re different from everything else out there. While this carries certain risks, you can also reap the rewards. Take a look at this recruitment video from Fiverr:

While the first couple of seconds may confuse you, it quickly becomes evident that the video was created as a parody of how start-ups nowadays shoot promotional videos. In reality, they could have made a traditional video (much like those they’re mocking) and simply recorded a different voiceover with a few extra shots.

Whichever the case, Fiverr risked being seen as weird, but the video generated quite a buzz and ended up being featured in various outlets online.


Building a great employer brand is no easy feat. It requires thoughtful planning, a little bit of luck, courage to try unorthodox ideas and patience to see your employer branding strategies play out. However, if you play your cards right, you can set up a successful employer brand and become a company people want to work for.

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