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Improving employer brand

Keeping your employer brand relevant in times of transition

Your employer brand relevance is necessary to attract top talent—especially in times of transition. Learn how to meet Gen Zers’ expectations.

As organizations adjust to new norms and implement strategies to be more competitive, the ones attracting top talent recognize the importance of their employer brand.

Riding economic highs and lows, reacting to current events, and keeping up with the fast pace of’s just another day on the job. When something major happens, your brand’s community feels it—candidates, customers, employees, and you. And often, it requires rapid change.

So, how is your brand keeping up with that pace?

First you should understand the difference between your employer brand and your talent brand.

  • Employer brand: Your employer brand is the narrative about your organization you can control through mission statements, values, benefits, and more. It’s how talent views you.
  • Talent brand: Your talent brand is about the employee experience forged by honest voices inside your organization. It’s how your culture lives internally.

Your talent brand creates the foundation for your larger employer brand. When you leverage the voices and experiences of real employees as part of your employer brand, you're able to increase authenticity and build trust.

This is especially important for staying steady when we’re going through something as a society. Here are some ways your brand can show up for candidates and employees and stay relevant in times of transition.

Building a talent-winning brand during times of uncertainty

Learn how to avoid brand dissonance, and get simple strategies to attract Gen Z with a strong and authentic talent brand.

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Support your community’s emotional well-being

Stability and emotional well-being are high on Gen Z’s list. Early talent today wants to work for employers that recognize and support mental health and wellness. You can deliver on that and help your candidates and employees feel emotionally supported through flexible work schedules, remote-friendly roles, and mental health benefits.

Be relatable

Interpersonal relationships expose talent to how your company handles times of transition, such as social justice issues, company restructures, or natural disasters. Recruiters and others involved in the hiring process can invest in 1-on-1 relationship building with top talent, which can help candidates identify with your brand and get first-hand insight into what it's like to work at your organization—no matter what's going on in the world.

Communicate transparently

You can build brand relevance with transparency. For instance, tell candidates up-front all the steps in the interview process. Once onboarded, check in on new hires and schedule a video check-in to walk them through their first day and make them feel like part of the team. Overcommunication can help you retain top talent too—during trying times, people want to know their employer has their back.

Foster community

Safe spaces like Employee Resource Groups can encourage connectedness especially for underrepresented groups. You can involve ERG members in the candidate experience for open and honest exchanges about your brand behind the scenes. Involvement and feedback from candidates and employees alike can build brand trust, especially in times of transition.

Lead with your values

Brands that respond—or don’t respond—to social justice issues in a way that is guided by their core values are the ones that will feel most relevant. While 63% of workers 18-25 think employers should take a public stance on social justice issues, there’s complexity around if and how your brand responds. Your People/HR leaders can create representative working groups to come up with a strategy that is authentic to your values and your stakeholders.

Host inclusive, intentional events

Handshake Network Trends found that virtual recruiting can level the playing field for women and people from underrepresented backgrounds. Be a brand known by candidates and employees alike for running meetings and events where everyone has equal opportunity to participate—especially if you’re in an industry that’s been expanding its remote workforce. For example, if you're holding a virtual roundtable, make sure to give each person a chance to speak if they choose to.

Treat job descriptions as a first impression

Help candidates feel connected to your brand right away through job descriptions. Use inclusive language, and express how the role will contribute to your organization’s work. Telling your brand story can help keep your brand relevant by connecting your mission and values to the challenges of today.

Four out of 5 people reported reading online reviews before applying to a company. Digital platforms like Handshake make it easy for you to build your brand for the student audience by featuring testimonials and reviews on your Employer Page.

Provide financial stability for today—and the future

Negative news, especially when it’s about the economy, can make candidates uneasy about landing a job. If you’re going through a restructure or layoffs, see if you can offer short-term work opportunities to build a pipeline when you’re ready to hire full time workers again. If your hiring is full speed ahead, offer pay transparency and showcase your financial planning and 401k benefits. Making this information easily accessible can lend trust to how you prioritize your employees even during unpredictable periods.

Strategize your social media presence

Get to know where Gen Z spends time, and be there. To keep your brand relevant, learn how to use the viral video trend to show how your mission and values are your compass for navigating business strategy through times of transition. Make sure your social sharing guidelines are up to date and consider empowering interns and employees to share their experiences on channels like TikTok.

Personalize your outreach

Email is one of the most consistent ways you’re representing your brand and interacting with candidates. People are more likely to engage with your brand and respond to messages if the content feels personalized and relevant. Your choice of words can show empathy, validate candidates' feelings, and help build relationships. For example, ask how students are doing during their job search, a big time of transition in their life.

Create memorable experiences

Your employer brand isn’t limited to your profile or reviews. It includes how you interact with people to create meaningful experiences. Use these as opportunities to introduce early talent to advocates of your brand, who can speak to your culture and how it’s evolving with the times. For instance, if your company went fully remote during the pandemic, share how the team still stayed connected and built relationships virtually.

Your brand can stand the tests of time

Times of transition call for the authenticity, transparency, and sharing of lived experiences that talent brands can bring to life through the candidate experience. Modernizing your employer brand to meet Gen Zers’ expectations is necessary to compete.

That means addressing challenges head-on through authentic conversations, providing readily accessible info on your digital channels, and thinking of yourself (and everyone involved in the candidate experience) as brand ambassadors. This is how you can bridge your brand from one challenging moment in time to the next.

“How to Build a Strong Brand That Attracts Gen Z” is Handshake’s guide on how your brand can stand out to a generation of job seekers who are looking for authenticity. Download guide to learn more

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