The only numbers that matter? 🔬 EBH#162: Couldn't Stand the Weather
You aren't other companies, so why do you care about benchmarking against them?
The mission: Create a million employer brand thinkers (like you!)
Employer Brand Headlines is written by James Ellis. »» Yes, you should say hello! ««
We all know that all our companies have employer brands. The question is whether we are taking advantage of those brands to make an impact. One clear and obvious way is to get recruiters trained on how to use the brand.
That’s why I developed Employer Brand for Recruiters, a complete video course to teach recruiters how to level up what they do simply by understanding and using their employer brand properly.
I’m now offering group rates for companies who want to get a bunch of recruiters to take the course together. Interested? Ping me at email@example.com.
If someone shared this with you, feel free to subscribe. Every week you’ll get a little bit smarter about employer branding.
The Big Idea
Why is measuring employer brand so hard?
Problem one: Quality vs Quantity.
It’s insanely easy to measure quantity. How many views, how many followers, how many applications, how many website visits, et al. Since all of marketing is obsessed with quantity, getting quantity metrics is easy.
But we don’t deal in quantity. What good is a hundred applicants if none of them are qualified? And what good is a hundred applicants when ALL of them are qualified? And then, we like getting quality candidates, but we hire the most qualified. How do you measure that? Can you measure that your work is attracting more of the best qualified candidates? (No, that’s not a typo: read it again. That’s our job!)
Problem two: Which metric should you focus on?
Our goal is to create desire amongst target audiences (If I’m a software company, what do I care if nurses want to work for me?) to work for us. Yeah, it’s fine if we can cajole some people to apply, but the best hires are the people who get what we do, why we do it and are deeply enthused by the same things. They like being rewarded for the things we reward employees for. They don’t accept us as an employer, they want to work here.
Where’s that metric? Net Promoter Score is really problematic. First, do you filter out people who we don’t want to hire and only ask late-stage candidates? Do you think many of them are going to give you positive scores having just told them to get lost? And I will happily recommend a monitor and a pan and a set of headphones to anyone who asks, but recommending my employer? My employer isn’t for everyone, so my not recommending it is as much about the employer as the person I’m recommending.
Problem three: What should you care about?
Should you care about how effective you are at turning interested people into applicants? Or should you care about candidates accepting offers? What about your recruiters’ outreach conversion rates? These three metrics are connected to very different parts of the funnel, so when we are picking metrics, what we’re really doing is deciding what problem we want to solve.
Professional instinct is to try and solve all of them but… can we? If we are trying to “fix” all stages of the funnel (hahahaha… what is “fixed?” in a funnel? 20%? 80%? See?), what happens we we solve for some of them and not all? Also, if we increase the quantity of applicants, aren’t we increase rejection rate and decreasing quality scores? So do you know what you should care about?
Problem four: Benchmarks are worthless
We seek benchmarks because we seek validation. We want to know that since email open rates are 12% (completely made up benchmark) so we don’t feel too bad about having an 11% open rate. We can justify to ourselves that we’re in the vicinity of “normal” and maybe have some data points to share with the boss to say we need more resources.
But benchmarks are 100% contextual. Beyond obvious differences like company size, number of recruiters, location, industry, how do you benchmark yourself against a company that’s been producing quality content for a decade while you’re only six months into EB? How do you benchmark yourself against a company that just released a game-changing product and your product release schedule is much slower?
If we benchmark quarterbacks in football, how would you rate a young quarterback who’s barely six feet tall when the “benchmark” is 6’ 4”+? Or what about a 45-year-old in a job where the average age is 26?
So what matters?
Can be specific in the problem you’re trying to solve for…
Can tap into anecdotal evidence about how much someone desires working there (candidates telling HM’s that they applied because they saw a video you made)…
Can defend against people who want to see the benchmarks…
The only benchmark or metric that matters is whether you are getting better or not.
If you care about getting the best candidates to engage with recruiters, and you can trust your recruiters not to spam people on LinkedIn, measure your outreach conversion rate, and then focus on making it better every week.
If you care about building your pipeline, focus on audience size and engagement. Are you sending them content that makes them click and read? Now you’ve learned what they care about. Now give them more and better content (but also throw in things they didn’t expect because people get bored of the same things over and over again). Measure that you are growing the audience regularly without diminishing engagement rates.
If you care about only attracting the best candidates (the kind you’d all but hire at the screening stage). Measure how small your application pool is but without shrinking the rate that that kind of candidate is in the pool.
Thelonious Monk says that the genius is the one most like themselves. Employer branding is the same: you can’t compare yourself to others. You can only compare yourself to yesterday, and only you can decide what metric you want to base that comparison on.
That’s the only number that matters.
We’ve got to stop talking about employer brand quality linearly, with “bad” employer brands on one side and “good” ones on the other. That kind of thinking is what drove the rating industry we love so much for a decade and drives the “employer quality award industrial complex” today.
Saying “we’re a great company” is saying “we’re great for everyone,” which of course is impossible.
Do you really think the person who loves the chaos and agency that comes in a startup be happy in a large and regulated company? Do you really think the person who wants to serve their country as a soldier or agency middle manager will be happy in the chaos of a startup? Does the person at PETA want to work at a meat-packing conglomerate?
Some people want to work at hypergrowth firms, some want to join the cash cow, and others appreciate what an underdog offers. These people aren’t the same people.
There is a pot for every lid, and no matter what the ads say, there IS NO UNIVERSAL LID. To quote Zig Ziglar, you can either be a “wandering generality or a meaningful specific.” The compromises you have to make when you try to be for everyone means that you can’t be all that great for anyone.
Proof that different people want different things in their employer??? Look at these headlines (the first two from this week’s Recruiting Brainfood)
‘A bigger paycheck? I’d rather watch the sunset!’: is this the end of ambition?
Brand singularity will define the next 5 years «“One Brand” thinking
Quick Programming Note
I’m teaming up with Clinch for an 8-part webinar series, where I talk to employer brand and talent acquisition pros about what’s new in tech hiring. Last week’s conversation with Equinix’s Jessica Rose was about the impact of employer branding in tech recruiting. The next one is with PageUp’s Jay McCulloh to look at the issues from a recruiter’s point of view. Register here!
Inside the fortune cookie
"The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do” - Michael Porter
This newsletter now has more than 2,800 subscribers. Thank you! Keep sharing the issues!
Search the 1,600 links referenced in the newsletter archive.
Download my ebook with 105 free (or almost free) ways to activate your employer brand.
Read Talent Chooses You for free from this open source Google Doc.
Here’s the 2022 version of The Employer Brand Manifesto.
If you have a question, reply to this email. It comes directly to me.
Cheers and thanks!
-James Ellis (LinkedIn)
Where the subject line came from:
Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble - Couldn’t Stand the Weather
Okay, okay. Some of you don’t realize I finished up the 1980’s in Houston, Texas. I’m not proud of it, it’s just something that happened. Houston in the late 80’s is not a place where you’re going to find a lot of They Might Be Giants or Souxsie and the Banshees (except during “Exposure! With your host David Sadof!” Sunday nights on the normally cock-rock-y KLOL). Radio in Houston is the most dude/bro-tacular classic rock scene ever created. And in the midst of the hair-metal-hell that was 1989, this was the only music on the radio I enjoyed. Blues and soul with some rock and roll twang for flavor, Stevie is a virtuoso. No matter what the song is, it’s like he’s got a little button that lets him jetpack into a maelstrom of guitar tricks and technique and still nail the landing.
It’s worth watching the live version here. I am always blown away by how fluid and relaxed his playing is, and yet he’s making so much music. And here’s a live clip of Stevie with a whole different backing band playing Crossfire, a song which has a nice slow build until it explodes starting at 5:10 (I mean, the bassist snapped a string?!).
If you are enjoying the music, congratulations, you’re old! Just for you, I made a Spotify playlist of all the subject line 80’s songs I’ve referenced over the last year and a half. You don’t even need hairspray to enjoy it: