What’s all this buzz about employer branding? According to Hung Lee, the founder of recruiting tech platform Workshape, it sucks. He says EB is broken and the candidate experience is currently pretty crappy.

Struggling to attract the right types of high-quality talent? Read on for a summary of Hung’s cold hard truths on where you’re going wrong, and how to fix things.

You can also listen to our full interview on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Why is employer branding broken?

“I think if you take employer branding as part of a general sort of attempt to position the business and kind of a way to improve your brand presence, for instance, get customer awareness, get all those types of good stuff, then fantastic.”

“I think, to a large extent, the investment that we put into employer branding largely misses the point. And whilst I think it’s one of those things where I think I value the sentiment, and I totally understand companies being very committed to, you know, presenting the right image, but I think it still doesn’t generate great candidate experience on the other side if you think about it. You know, you get lots of companies spending a lot of money building their so-called employer brand, but the fundamental mechanics of how a person experiences that brand, as a candidate, hasn’t changed. And that is still quite a negative and frustrating experience for the vast majority of people.”


Employer branding sucks?

“I’ve mounted an attack on employer branding and I want just qualify that. You know, I don’t think it’s wasted energy per se, but I think a large part, employer branding is designed to improve the experience of the candidate because how can you, you know, have great employer branding if you make your candidates miserable or the applicants miserable? But there’s a lack of understanding that it’s actually the applicant flow itself that creates the negative experience. So, if companies could do a much better job focusing on how they deal with people that interact with their brand after they’ve “acquired” them, that’s how you would improve the experience overall. And the key to that is not to force them to apply.”

What should employers be should be doing instead?

“…my biggest problem with employer branding is that it’s sort of the front end of what is the standard recruiting funnel. If you look at most, whatever companies do, however innovative it is, ultimately, the call to action is, “Oh, apply to this job.” And once that person applies to that job, you know what? Straight away, you’re dropping in recruitment form on him or her, and that is literally a very processed and reductive activity which I think most people don’t welcome. Now, I think you can get away with it when you’ve got an audience that is, you know, highly interested in job discovery.”

Where do they start?

“So, caveat number one is every company is unique. So, you’ve gotta start internally. You know whenever you see a best practice blog or article out there, you always get kind of a tidal wave of negative response, no matter who actually produces it. And the reason why that is, is because best practice assumes that every company is kind of a venture same. And of course, they aren’t. So, first thing to do is to understand what your company is in terms of, you know, how interested you are in this activity. You’ve gotta analyze, for instance, how many people you’ve got involved in managing recruiting. Like, is it a priority? Lots of companies say, you know…the rhetoric is, I’m sure, you know, everyone says, “Oh, our people are the most important part of our business,” but let’s see whether that maps to reality. Is the budget there for this? Is there people in charge of talent on the top table of the business? You know, what is the commitment of it?

What trends should we keep an eye on?

1. Artificial intelligence

I think you need to look at artificial intelligence. And by this, I mean automated recruiters, automated job search agents. These are kind of little programs that are trying to solve the discovery problem in a totally different way. It’s not about search, it’s not about ads, it’s not even about what we do, which is match. It’s about basically empowering a digital agent to go out there and find what you want for you. Now, I think that is going to be a hugely interesting segment.

2. Blockchain

if you like, a macro trend as to where we are is blockchain. I think a lot of people don’t quite understand how blockchain tech applied to the world of work. But to kind of dumb it down to a level where it shouldn’t go, but sort of for the sake of, you know, trying to do a quick explanation, blockchain is essentially the technology which allows you to track transaction but also protect the identity. So right now, it’s predominantly used for financial transactions, you can trade with it, bitcoins, etc. But of course, it’s clearly applied to the world of work. Imagine if you’re in a situation where you produced a brilliant bit of copy, Jorgen. You ideally wanna track that copy wherever it might be replicated. Why could you not get a royalty for that? Right now, that’s impossible for you to do. But with blockchain tech, that allows you to do it because it’s public ledger of the content that you’ve produced and the structure you’ve produced it. Suddenly, you can start seeing workers basically using blockchain tech to validate that, “Yes, I am the owner of this bit of labor and I should be paid for this labor.” That’s gonna have huge, transformative effects society-wide, I suspect.

3. Digital predictions

And the third major trend would probably be another application of AI. But rather than using agents, I think we’re gonna get to the point where we do have the ability to predict fit and performance based on what this person’s behaviors and digital footprint might be. And this goes way back for you and I, Jorgen, when we were, you know, first looking at social media influencing and all of this type of stuff. And those signals at that point were very crude, you know? “How many followers?” was more or less the measure. But we’re getting to the point now where I think there’s so much data that everyone produces, inevitably produces, that you know, we’re not even aware of.

About Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter, CEO of Link Humans and host of the weekly Employer Branding Podcast.

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