The Pulse of Employer Branding: Insights from a Global Brand Marketer
Shalaka Kulkarni • July 26, 2023 • 5 min read
Q1. Can you tell us about your journey and how you transitioned from storytelling to Employer Branding, especially in tech roles?
I started writing at the age of eight. I have been a storyteller at heart and I have done my electrical engineering and during that time I explored editing magazines, working for newspapers, understanding journalism basics and all that. That led me to managing the corporate affairs of an international UN model United Nations conference. My first job was of a category manager, moved to Global Communications and Employer branding.
Q2. Can you tell us about the importance and challenges of hiring in tech with context to Employer Branding?
Every company is a tech company. And the competition is so bizarre. Like a startup would want to hire a software developer with a good knack and you know, having the best credentials academia and otherwise. And even an oracle would need it. So when it comes to employer branding, it becomes so crazy. When you are doing a campaign, you have to target the right people because tech talent has become so costly. Tech talent has become costly.
Q3: How has the focus of Employer Branding shifted over time?
I think earlier when I started my employer branding career after switching from category management that time, a lot of emphasis was given to the website. Now it has been social because you have a plethora of things impactful visually and you get a lot of information from social sites like especially LinkedIn and Instagram with different approaches to the storytelling angle.
Q4: What's your take on the current positioning of Employer Branding within an organization's structure?
People don't know what they're expecting out of employee branding. So there are a couple of challenges where the role should sit. If it should be a part of HR or it should be part of marketing or it should be in terms of the CEO's office. I think it should be a part of the CEO's office because there are a lot of strategies and thousands of stakeholders that I have managed in the past.
Q5: How has your extensive stakeholder management experience influenced your approach to Employer Branding?
I have always been in the marketing team and because I have a core marketing base I'm sure you will also relate to it because the HR dynamics become very different and the title has branding in it. So it has to have at least an auto line to marketing.
Q6:What do you think has contributed to the shift towards companies actively adopting employer branding on social media, especially in the wake of COVID-19?
With the advent of COVID, when everything was digital, companies couldn't deliver the physical experience, be it a hiring drive or a hackathon. Everything that companies had to showcase was put on social media because there was no other channel. LinkedIn became the primary medium for employer branding, with employer advocacy, and new features were introduced by LinkedIn.
Q7: How have different social media platforms been used in employer branding strategies?
Companies such as SAP, Cisco, and Google have effectively used Instagram for their storytelling. They have life at Google, life at Cisco, Life at SAP accounts with amazing followers and engagement. These platforms serve different objectives and help companies reach out to their prospective employees in more engaging ways. Meanwhile, LinkedIn has maintained its professional image and has been used for more direct communication and official updates.
Q8:Can you explain the relationship between corporate branding and employer branding?
There's a very thin line between corporate and employer branding. Whatever you do for your talent or your existing employees reflects your corporate brand. Similarly, whatever you do for your corporate brand, like acquisitions and business decisions, can equally or more impact your employees and the talent that you are seeking.
Q9: How would you define employer branding in the current era?
In layperson's terms, employer branding today is about positioning your organization as the best place to work for your employees, reflecting the company's values and culture not only for your leadership but also for your prospects.
Q10: Can you share some examples of how hiring for tech varies across different regions, especially between India and the USA?
In India, campaigns were more focused on credibility, brand recall, and showcasing employees' faces for a human touch. In the US, communication was very direct and straightforward. For example, if we were hiring a .Net or a Java developer, we communicated it clearly. The base was smaller in the US, and we were targeting fewer people, so the requirements were different. In the US, word of mouth and referrals also worked well for us, which we supported with targeted referral campaigns.
Q11: Can you give an example of a unique hiring event you've organized in India?
One unique event we organized in India was a speed hiring event for analytics or data engineering roles. Like a speed dating setup, we shortlisted candidates, invited them, and provided a great candidate experience with goodies and more. We offered around 14 candidates on the spot. It was a very successful event, especially for roles that are always in high demand, like in tech and engineering.
Q12: What difference does employer branding make in tech hiring?
Employer branding plays a critical role in tech hiring. In the post-COVID era, employees' motivation factors have shifted significantly, with many valuing flexibility, family time, and personal projects. An employer's branding should reflect these motivating factors, showcasing its culture, values, employee rewards, and impactful work across various platforms. This can help the company attract the right talent. If an organization can effectively convey these factors, it can win a competition for a candidate.
Q13: How can companies learn about and implement effective employer branding?
To begin understanding employer branding, companies need to first define their hiring needs and build a forecast. They should clarify their core values and ensure recruiters accurately represent these values. For startups, it's vital to focus on solving immediate problems and hiring the right talent aligned with their values and work ethics. Medium-sized or larger organizations should consider employer branding from the first touchpoint (website) to the last touchpoint (exit interview). However, it's essential not to do too many things at once, but instead focus on three to four objectives every six months.
Q14: How are candidate preferences shifting, especially in tech?
There is a noticeable shift in the factors tech candidates consider when choosing jobs. Compensation is no longer the sole deciding factor. With the rise of AI and amid the current recession, there's a sense of uncertainty. Yet, the tech industry is always advancing, and candidates need to continuously upskill to stay relevant. To thrive in this changing landscape, they need to follow industry trends, seek mentorship if required, and adapt to new technologies.
Q15: Why do candidates prefer shorter, planned rounds in interviews?
The trend toward shorter, more structured interviews comes from a desire for efficiency and respect for the candidate's time. Tech candidates, in particular, often have to spend hours coding to clear a round. They appreciate when an interviewer is well-prepared and has a clear idea of what they want from the candidate. This provides a more pleasant interview experience and respects the candidate's time and effort.
Q16: How should interviewers prepare for an interview?
Interviewers should prepare for an interview by listing out the questions they want to ask and thoroughly reviewing the candidate's LinkedIn profile or resume. It's also beneficial for the interviewer to have a strong LinkedIn presence to represent the brand and establish credibility. The interview should feel like a comfortable discussion, with the candidate having time to ask questions. It's essential for the interviewer to represent the brand properly and tell the brand story well. This should feel less like convincing someone to join, and more like leading by example.
Q17: Where do you see yourself and employer branding moving towards in the future?
In the future, I see employer branding becoming more humanized and aligned with marketing. Organizations will need to define clear objectives for their employer branding and ensure that it's integrated with their overall communications strategy, including social media, PR, and internal communications. As the field grows in popularity, employer branding managers will need to ask the right questions to guide their strategies. With the impact of the recession and COVID, every organization will want to be in the limelight, and employer branding will play a key role in achieving this.
We are already working with teams that want to hire the best engineers