Employer branding; who is going to tell recruiters and HR professionals?

Wim J.L. Elving


Employer branding is about branding the organization as an attractive employer. That is not and cannot be a value free exercise. You cannot claim being an attractive employer, if you are not.

We have studied Employer branding for some time now, first results (see Elving et al., 2013) showed that it is hardly exercised in the Netherlands, but if applied can lead to an significant increase of attractiveness. In this experiment we created two identical jobs at a virtual organization, one vacancy was the standard, as we see on recruitment sites and in the newspapers, the other one was branded, included information on the uniqueness of the organization, the possibilities for development for the candidate etcetera.

The remarkable results were combined with respondents of the Employer branding condition who asked us after they filled in the questionnaire whether we could reveal the real name of the organization, because they wanted absolutely to work in that organization….

But most remarkable about Employer branding still is that HR departments and recruiters are still unaware about the value of branding the organization for future employees, as a recent study by a MA student shows. Still job vacancies are filled with requirements and tasks for the job, but no information is given about the organization, the values of the organization, what their corporate identity is or what the organization is doing for society (CSR). Instead of this vacancies are still filled with empty phrases like they are searching for candidates with a hands on mentality (whatever that is), no 9-5 mentality or excellent communication skills.

It seems that organizations themselves lack elementary knowledge of communication, branding and generation Y. It seems that recruiters and Human Resource departments have lost track and still operate like they did in the seventies of the last century. Most remarkable was the vacancy I saw last week for a lecturer on brand management at an applied University (HBO) that had not a single element of Employer branding. Did we forget to inform the HR departments? Or did they loose ground and concluded that the war for talent would pass their departments and that generation Y does not exist? Young peoples are searching for meaningful work, for organizations that show and proof that they are standing in society, and not only for compensation and bonuses. But who is going to tell the recruiters and HR professionals?

Elving, W.J.L., Westhoff, J.J.C., Meeusen, K. & Schoonderbeek, J.W. (2013). The war for talent; employer branding in recruitment communication. Journal of Brand Management, 20 (5), 355 – 373. doi: 10.1057/bm.2012.21

Wim J.L. Elving is assistant professor Corporate Communication at the University of Amsterdam /ASCoR, and Editor in chief of Corporate Communications.

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