It is widely recognized that Quality of Hire is critical for business success, growth and sustainability. The right people bring more than skills-in-demand and fresh perspectives – they inject confidence and energy into the organization and have a positive impact on culture.

With fierce competition for talent and nearly 80% of talent categorized as passive by LinkedIn, the question for talent acquisition leaders is: how do we raise awareness of the opportunities we are offering and make them a compelling proposition for the right quality of individuals?

A smart strategy is focused, targeted and portrays an accurate picture that encourages both self-selection and de-selection. The goal is not to generate an increase in applications per se: it is to generate an increase in applications from your target quality candidates.

Employer branding is a powerful ally in your mission to recruit quality hires. Here are the top five principles that will support your success.

80% of Talent is Categorized as Passive by LinkedIn

1. Know Your Audience

Profile your best talent – Identify, assess and interview your top performers. Know the key skill sets, attributes, attitudes and values that determine their success. Find out if there are any success-enabling factors they rely on in the work environment you could incorporate into your messaging. Do you notice any trends that are common to specific talent groups?

Devise personas for each of your talent groups – A persona describes a fictional individual who epitomizes the attributes of your target talent group. Typically, this description covers background, education, experience, status, location and core drivers/concerns, but there are more in-depth models. For guidance on how to approach this, has created a helpful blog and toolkit on candidate personas.

Map best talent channel and device preferences to owned, earned and paid media – When you talk to your best talent, ask them about their online hangouts and communication preferences. This will help you determine where to invest in your brand and advertising and also how to structure communication with target candidates. It is helpful to chunk your employer brand strategy into three sections: owned media (i.e. your careers website and social media platforms, which you have full control over), earned media (what third parties say about you online – like Glassdoor, for example) and paid media (anything for which you hand over cash). It makes sense to focus on optimizing owned and earned media, but all three media types play a key role in influencing candidates.

2. Tailor Your Messaging

Segment your different audiences – Having clear personas will help you develop effective strategies and messaging for your target groups. It is important that you cater to these different personas in your brand communications. For example, on your careers pages, you might want to have sections specifically for graduates, experienced hires and senior executives. Segmentation will also pay dividends for groups such as military veterans, mothers returning to work and skilled individuals seeking part-time opportunities.

Prioritize the messages that best map to audience drivers – Identify the top three
emotional hooks that will make the biggest impact on your target candidates. Bear in mind, these usually are not exclusively extrinsic factors relating to money, status and power. The biggest hooks could relate to autonomy, flexibility, creativity, culture or
making a difference. Use your interviews with your top talent to identify the biggest
hooks and emotive messages.

Keep it real - Being honest and open about the realities of your work environment and culture plays an important role in enabling selection and de-selection. It is fine to share your aspirations, but follow the 80/20 rule. Make 80% of your positioning an accurate portrayal of how things are now, with 20% focused on the journey toward an even better status quo. Misleading candidates only leads to disappointment, for them and for you.

80% of your positioning should portray how things are now, with 20% focused
on your journey toward the future

Use an appropriate tone of voice for different audiences – The first rule in terms of tone of voice is to make it personal for each of your audience groups. Write as though you were speaking directly to an individual. Use “you” and “we” because these help to build a sense of relationship. Adapt your language to reflect the different nuances and preferences of that audience. Get an audience member to review the copy. For example, graduates have the best idea of how graduates communicate.

3. Promote Your Heroes

Leverage the power of association – There is a reason why consumer brands use celebrities to endorse their products. We all love to be associated with qualities we admire and aspire to. The same is true in a work environment. We want to work with people that we like and respect. Valued peers and role models play an important part in fostering and retaining talent. For this reason, make your top talent the heroes of your employer branding.

Get great at storytelling – Let your heroes shine by enabling them to share their personal stories and points of view. Demonstrating culture, environment, career progression and fulfilment through a personal story enables you to indirectly communicate your key messages in a fashion that is engaging, authentic and high impact. What your people say about you will always carry more credibility than “corporate speak” on a website.

Vary your mediums – Explore the use of video, interviews, Q&A, photo stories and soundbites. Different individuals respond to different mediums, and in our time-poor, content-rich world, it is important to present information in a visually and emotionally stimulating fashion that can be easily and speedily digested. Layer your information so that interested candidates progress to more in-depth content, helping them on their journey toward application and conversion.

4. Engage Your Ambassadors

Encourage employee advocacy – According to a recent report by Social Media Today and Hinge Marketing, 31% of high-growth firms have a formal employee advocacy policy. Getting your employees to promote the benefits of working for you is one of the surest ways of positively influencing target candidates.

31% of high-growth firms have a formal employee advocacy policy

Spread your call-to-action across owned and earned media – Be specific about what you would like employees to do and make it as easy as possible for them to contribute. If you are looking for short videos or soundbites for your website, run a survey or a competition with “complete the sentence” style responses and give examples of what you are looking for. If you wish to increase the number of positive reviews on Glassdoor, explain your rationale, share an example and provide a link. Be creative about ways of engaging your employees.

Run referral initiatives – Goodwill goes a long way toward encouraging employee advocacy, but financial incentives inspire action too! Few are better positioned to recommend quality hires than your own people. It is important to make your referral programs visible to employees by promoting it on relevant internal sites. You could also support it with an internal campaign. Celebrate and publicize successful referrals and keep the scheme on your employees’ radar.

5. Make Two-Way Dialogue an Easy Option

In our age of transparency, no company can afford to be a closed book when it comes to building talent pools and candidate opportunities. Enabling dialogue via social media, networking evenings and personal connections strengthens relationships with potential candidates, enabling them to fulfil their due diligence needs and make an informed decision about whether you are the right company for them. For you, establishing chemistry and rapport early in the candidate journey puts you in a stronger position than competitors who are less available/able to engage.

It is clear to see how branding plays a big role in Quality of Hire through raising awareness, influencing perceptions, setting expectations and building rapport and trust. By applying the five principles above, you will be able to build a strong strategy that enables you to be a talent magnet for your target hires.

Post contributed by Dawn Hollingworth, Director of Brand Strategy and Creative Services.