Look in the Mirror - Here's How to Audit Your Employer Brand

Look in the Mirror: Here’s How to Audit Your Employer Brand

Early in 2016, FirmPlay launched a free service that provides you with a score and detailed breakdown of your employer brand. Ingeniously, we named it Employer Brand Score Report (who’s the marketing wizard at FirmPlay?!). The response has been amazing. Since launch, we’ve seen a steady stream of companies sign up to get their free Score Report. They love the detailed breakdown of their employer brand, and find the actionable advice we provide critical in figuring out how to improve.

In the spirit of helping as many recruiters and companies as possible, we asked ourselves, “Why not share with everyone what we analyze in the Employer Brand Score Report?” We looked at each other and nodded: Why, yes…that’s a good idea. So that’s exactly what we’re doing in this post.

We’re going to give you the framework and criteria we use when auditing a company’s employer brand. We hope this helps you “look in the mirror” and analyze your own employer brand. At the very least, you’ll end up with some insights on where you need to focus your branding efforts. And who knows, you might like our approach so much that you decide to use it as your employer branding framework on an ongoing basis, assessing yourself periodically to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. (That would warm our little employer branding hearts to no end.)

Framework for Auditing Your Employer Brand

A quick word before we jump into the framework.

There are a lot of ways you can analyze your employer brand. For instance, you can use Google search volume for “[your company] + careers”, or survey candidates who’ve gone through your application process to capture the “candidate experience” aspect of your brand, or look at employee retention rate, or use some kind of employee engagement metric. And you’d be 100% right in using any and all of those approaches.

As you’ll see below, our framework focuses on the top of the funnel – the upfront sourcing part of your recruiting efforts. What are candidates seeing about you when they’re both passive (i.e. perusing social media and reading news) and active in their search (e.g. looking at your careers page, and maybe even applying and researching you in detail before an interview)?

In other words, you’re selling a product (your workplace). What do potential customers (talent) think of it?

You're selling a product (your workplace). What do potential customers (talent) think of it? Click To Tweet

With that in mind, let’s dive in and look at each of the three major areas we assess when auditing a company’s employer brand.

Look in the Mirror - Here's How to Audit Your Employer Brand - 1 Careers Page

This is the homebase of all your employer branding efforts – every serious candidate that enters your recruiting funnel will come across your careers page at one point or another. Plus, you (presumably) have complete control over it. As such, we weigh this more heavily than any other area we consider. (It’s exactly why we regularly publish Careers Page Teardowns, a blog post series that examines real careers pages in excruciating detail to see what works and what doesn’t.)

For the “Careers Page” area, we look at the following:

Type of Content 

  • Good: You have culture-related content that comes straight from employees themselves (i.e. employee-generated content, or EGC). Mix of photos, videos, and text. In the case of photos and videos, they’re captured directly by employees via their smartphones. Content shows mix of positive and quirky – or even less positive – aspects of your culture, illustrating that you’re not afraid of transparency. In the case of text, you ask employees to answer questions on life at your company (e.g. “What We Do for Fun” and “What Our Culture Is Like” – if you’re curious, you can see more examples here and download helpful templates to get you started with this type of content).
  • Bad: Little to no culture-related content, with a blank careers page or simply a listing of openings, oftentimes embedded via widget provided by ATS (or linking out to job listings page hosted by ATS). If content is present, it’s overly positive and optimistic, sometimes even professionally produced, and generally driven and created only by one or two people in talent acquisition or marketing (instead of employees themselves) – thus lacking authenticity and transparency.

Role-Specific Content

  • Good: Content that delves into the unique aspects of each major role, department, or function (and even location, if there are multiple offices). Again, EGC should be a focus here, with engineers talking about the engineering team, marketers about the marketing team, and so on. This specific information is critical, as it helps talent envision who they’ll be working alongside on a day-to-day basis. (And when you can help talent envision life at your company, that’s always a good thing.)

Role-Specific Content on Careers Page

What good role-specific content looks like, as demonstrated by Rapid7. (For more, see their Careers Page Teardown here.)

  • Bad: Content is general and lacks role-specific details; speaks of the company only as one undifferentiated whole, without acknowledging differences across teams and locations.

Hiring Process Content

  • Good: Content that describes the hiring process in detail, from receipt of application to initial screening to interviews to onboarding and training. Written not only by talent acquisition team, but also hiring managers and “front-line” employees who can talk about their involvement in the hiring process. Preferably broken down by major roles.
  • Bad: No information at all on the hiring process. Candidates are left to form their own impressions from word-of-mouth and Glassdoor.

Talent Network

  • Good: Ability to opt-in to regular communication (e.g. a newsletter) that updates candidate on new or upcoming roles, continues to surround the candidate with new EGC that depicts life at your company, and maybe even invites candidate to open-house type events to get to know the company better.
  • Bad: No way for candidate to opt-in to receive nurturing communications from you.

Look in the Mirror - Here's How to Audit Your Employer Brand - 2 Social Media

When reviewing a company’s employer brand, we also place a lot of weight on their social media properties. Like your careers page, it’s a medium that gives you a lot of creative freedom when promoting content. But unlike your careers page, social media is a great way to reach passive talent, especially if you’re leveraging your employees to amplify your social media content. You should take social very seriously – and if you’re a B2B company, it should be a top priority.

Here, we look at:

Content on Major Properties

  • Good: You post EGC about life at your company at least weekly to two or more of the following: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. You have a dedicated company culture-related hashtag (e.g. Dallas-based TSP uses #TSProckstars, like in this post here):

Employer Branding Hashtag

The #TSProckstars hashtag in action.

If you’re especially frequent with your posts, you might even have dedicated careers-related social media profiles, as the BBC has done on Twitter:

BBC Careers on Twitter

BBC Careers on Twitter.

  • Bad: Lack of career-related content on your social properties – or, worse yet, you have a careers-related profile but it’s only job openings automatically blasted out by your ATS (this is not the way to convince top talent to join your company – unplug your ATS from your social accounts immediately if this sounds familiar).

Glassdoor Account

Note: Yeah, we don’t like them either. But they’re an unfortunate reality of the recruiting game. In case you think you can ignore them, just look at the chart below of their popularity from 2005 to 2016 based on volume of Google searches:

Glassdoor trend

Ignore the Glassdoor beast at your own risk.

  • Good: Your overall score is 3.5 or above (the average score on Glassdoor is 3.4) and is trending in an upward direction. You’re an “Engaged Employer” and make sure to address negative reviews in a non-defensive manner. Your profile contains culture-related visual content, and you encourage your employees to add their own content as well.
  • BadPoor overall score (below 3.5) with a downward trend. Little to no culture-related content supplied by you or your employees.

Look in the Mirror - Here's How to Audit Your Employer Brand - 3 Press

While it might not be the focal point of your recruiting efforts, press, like social media, is sneaky good at reaching passive candidates. There are at least a couple of ways in which press can have a dramatic impact on your employer brand.

Best Place to Work Awards

  • Good: Recognizing the impact that these awards can have on your employer brand, you make sure to keep an eye on the long list of awards out there for you to apply to, and have been recognized as a great place to work by at least a couple of them. Awards are listed prominently on your careers page, shared on social media, and announced in your own press releases.
  • Bad: No awards to your name.

Negative Press

  • Good: Simple – no negative press. Curious what negative press looks like?…
  • Bad: Frequent pieces about company’s struggling financial situation, legal issues, or regulatory challenges (see: Theranos), just to name a few possibilities. You can imagine the damage this does to your employer brand.

Next Step: Audit Your Employer Brand

As a next step, we suggest using these criteria and taking an honest look at your own employer brand. Have at least two or three people in your company independently run through the criteria, that way you’ll reduce the likelihood that your analysis is overly biased. (Make sure at least one person is NOT on the talent acquisition or broader HR team.) Then come together and share the results. Identify where you’re weak, and identify one or two ways in which you’ll start to tackle those weaknesses.

Alternatively, you can have the FirmPlay team create a detailed report for you for free (you can sign up here). In addition to the three main areas above, we look at a couple of other areas as well. We also give you a numerical score on each area (Careers Page, Social Media, Press) and subarea (e.g. type of content on careers page, content on social properties, etc), with notes that explain each score in detail. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we’ll give you actionable next steps that you can take to improve your score and, by extension, your employer brand and overall recruiting efforts.

Happy auditing!!

Vasilios Alexiou

Co-Founder at FirmPlay
Vasilios is an entrepreneur and tech enthusiast interested in the intersection of employee advocacy, social media, and employer branding. He works with forward-thinking companies to turn their employees into passionate advocates for recruiting.