Common Employer Branding Mistakes that Startups Make
The smaller your company is, the more essential every employee is. Nobody understands this better than founders and CEOs of start-ups. Whether you’re hiring your initial team or starting to scale up, every hire requires a level of scrutiny and deliberation that can be overwhelming.
That said, you’re not an HR guy, and you probably don’t have the budget to hire one. One of the best things you can do to decrease your time-to-hire and increase your chances of finding best-fit candidates is to devote some time to your employer branding.
Your employer brand is a lot like your customer-facing brand, but it must also convey your company’s mission, vision, goals, and culture to potential candidates. It’s easy to piggy-back off of your current branding efforts while cultivating and maintaining an employer brand, but you want to make sure that you’re attracting the right people by not falling for these common mistakes.
Leaving It All Up to Marketing
The folks in charge of creating your customer-facing marketing materials are an excellent resource for employer branding, but you can’t necessarily expect them to manage both sides of the brand. While employer brands and company brands need to be consistent with each other, they are not the same thing. If you’re a start-up, chances are that your marketing team spends a lot of time trying to increase your SEO rankings through blogs, social media, and ads. These are all great resources for your employer brand, but you can’t expect the content created for customers to also capture candidates.
Instead, you (or your marketer, if you ask nicely) need to sit down and decide what elements of your company’s mission, vision, and culture you want to highlight for potential employees. What types of perks do you have for the company? Where do you see the company in five years? Create content, landing pages, and occasional social media posts that answer these types of questions. Make sure that you periodically update your employer brand to reflect changes in your culture, plans, or product. Otherwise, you might create a disconnect between a candidate's expectations and your hiring process that can be bad for your candidate experience.
Overselling the Perks
If you’ve got a great location or a company vacation plan, then we want you to talk about it. Employee happiness is an increasingly important factor for attracting and keeping talent- especially with candidates under 35. But you don’t want to rely too heavily on selling candidates on the “fun” aspects of your workplace.
For one, not everyone cares about catered lunches and ride-share programs. They’re a great add-on item to a compelling mission and potential career trajectory. Make sure that your messages read more like “We’re a growing team dedicated to equipping hotels with the most efficient booking software on the market. Oh, and we have a waterslide in the parking lot,” than, “Waterslides! Need we say more? Apply today.” This will make sure that the bulk of applications you receive for open positions understand your product and are interested in helping the company grow.
Ignoring Your Local Network
You want the best of the best. Everyone does, and like we mentioned in the opener, as a start-up every hire feels like it matters exponentially more than that of a larger company. However, it’s important not to assume that the best of the best can only be found in San Francisco, Austin, and other start-up hubs.
Our advice: establish a relationship with department heads and career counselors at your local colleges and universities. You’ll be able to nurture fresh talent through internship programs and mold newly graduated professionals into your way of doing business without having to retrain them out of any bad habits.
You might think that as a start-up, everybody you hire needs to be a jack of all trades with years of experience in every arena, but that’s just not true. If you’re assembling a sales team, or a marketing team to keep up with all of the branding you’re asking out of your marketing head, college interns or graduates are an excellent resource for small companies. They’re motivated to prove themselves in the field and eager to find a good culture fit at a company where they can grow their technical and professional skills. You’re equipped to give them everything they need, and they come at a much lower price than your jack of all trades.