by Kevin Smith, MBA SPHR HCS
President, Leaderstone and The Kevin Shabaar Smith Co

It is an “Employees Market”, and is likely to remain this way for the foreseeable future. This is leaving many organizations at a loss for how to attract, recruit, and onboard high-potential employee candidates. But if we go back to the basics, the road to building a high performing workforce doesn’t have to be so daunting.

The first thing to remember when taking your recruiting efforts to a new level is the need for a mindset shift. In many organizations the “old-school” methods of hiring talent are still alive and well – and causing major headaches in today’s workplace.

Years ago, Human Resources personnel were more of “gatherers”. Overwhelmed with applications and resumes, the challenge was finding the time to sort through all the good ones and narrow the stack down to the best few. In fact, not too long ago, the candidate had to learn best practices to keep their resume from ending up in the HR trash can because companies had so many good candidates. Back then, one simple grammatical error could mean the resume of a highly qualified candidate would not even get read! Often there were so many qualified candidates, many HR leaders had file cabinets full of “back up” resumes just in case a new hire didn’t work out.

Today is a different ball game and some companies are slow to adjust. HR professionals can no longer afford to post a job and simply “gather the resumes”. The requirement now is to shift from “gatherer” to “hunter”, which requires proactively seeking potential hires wherever and whenever possible. The days of highly qualified employees knocking down your door are over – or at the very least, too far diminished to rely upon. So how do companies set themselves apart and attract the ultimate candidates when all the competitors want the same people? Employer marketing of course.

Employer marketing is creating a brand or image of the company as an employer of choice and delivering the message consistently to employee candidate pools.

The Three Keys of Employer Marketing

Marketing is About Influence

Why do companies market products? To influence potential buyers and show them how their lives (personal or professional) will be better if they purchase the company’s product or services. The exact same concept applies to becoming the employer the perfect candidate chooses to partner with. Influence is key. It is critical that employers define the image they want to portray as an employer and influence potential candidates to give them a good look. Influence is about leading the candidate to actually visualize themselves working for the company. That is the key differentiation. Without this influence piece, you are not marketing, you are simply socializing – a much different, and much more expensive task!

Marketing is Constant

Many companies make the mistake of attracting candidates only when they are hiring for a certain job position. This would be like a company only advertising their product when they are having a bad quarter in sales. Marketing – both product marketing and employer marketing – is a long-term game, and should be a consistent activity throughout the life of a business. Remember, even if you’re not hiring, you can still interview, build relationships, and engage with candidates you may want to hire down the road.

Marketing is about Emotion

Marketing 101 – The vast majority of people make decisions based on emotion, then justify with logic (read that again). Look at the most successful commercials on TV. All of them attempt to strike at emotions first because they know this basic marketing lesson. For this reason, it’s important to connect with both the emotional side and the logical side of the candidate thought process.

Many companies simply speak salary, vacation and benefits and never market how a successful candidate may feel being a part of your team! Companies that rely solely on logic, run the risk of losing a candidate simply because the competitor checked one more box or offered one more day of paid time off! Think of the following as you start to develop your employer marketing content.

  • What frustrations will the candidate no longer feel if they work for you?
  • What aspiration will they be closer to achieving as they become part of your team?
  • What are the key non-financial benefits they will gain from joining your company?
  • How simple is the next step to becoming a team member?

Once you have answered these…and only after you have answered these questions, should you start connecting with the logical side of influence and talk about salary, benefits, and time off. Once you start making a name for yourself as an employer of choice, you will find you will not only win the battle of the ‘Talent Grab’, but you will also reap the benefits that come along with having your high-performing workforce.

Side Note: Kevin Smith will facilitate a 3-day Talent Grab workshop in Erie on March 15, 22, 29. See more details at