Our 10 year anniversary: The people behind the brand

Our 10 year anniversary: The people behind the brand

On March 1st, Talent Works International turned 10 years old. At the time, we marked the occasion with an interview with our CEO and founder Neil Purcell. As we’re nearing the end of March, we’re getting ready to celebrate in style, and in person, with all our colleagues. So, we thought it was the ideal time to chat to our employees, both new and old, from Northampton, to Manchester and Boston.

The Talent Works experience connects us. Some longstanding employees have built friendships that extend right through to their children and families. As Global Senior Consultant, Tammy Davies says, “I’ve made friends here I will carry for life.”

Some newcomers are just integrating themselves into the fold and, as such, making their mark. In this blog we’re listening to them all and collating their experiences in one place to give our readers an insight into who the people behind the brand are.

When did TWI start?

Jody Russell, Business Support Manager, is TWI’s longest standing employee, having been with the business since the day of its inception. As she had worked with Neil previously, Jody was excited by his vision to build his own company, and she agreed to join him on the journey.

We started off in a converted barn, on a farm. The countryside was lovely, but it was freezing in the winter, baking in the summer. But we were all in it together. As a company, we still tend to feel like we are all in it together. It feels like family to me because it’s been such a massive part of my life, for the last 10 years. To me, it’s more than a business. I can’t ever see it not being exciting, different or challenging.

So, what happened then?

In the interim between then and now, TWI has both grown and evolved to meet the demands of the ever-changing recruitment climate. Simon Thomas, Brand & Strategy Director, said the business is unrecognisable from when he joined. He said, in terms of continuing development, he’s learned to expect the unexpected.

Talent Works started as pure Talent Mapping and Executive Search, before establishing a team dedicated to Brand & Insight to provide a more tailored solution to our clients. Just over 3 years ago, we established our RPO offering and have seen this strand of our business move from strength to strength ever since. What we’re now providing is a source of difference in the market, combining RPO with our Creative, Insight and Digital offerings to provide flexible strategies for our clients.

We opened our Boston branch over 5 years ago, at a similar time to our Manchester based Creative team, with our VP of North America Jody Robie at the helm. This move established us as an international force. Jody has worked in television journalism, producing and reporting, as well as in recruitment, so she bought a new strand of forward thinking and creativity to the leadership team.

Our services now cover everything sourcing and employer brand related. The diversity of the solutions we can provide has enabled our continual growth over the years and brought us all the way to our 10-year anniversary.

What adventures have we had along the way?

During these 10 years we have maintained a culture of celebration. We have always placed an emphasis on rewarding internal achievements and milestones. This value comes from an innate belief that we should practice what we preach, cultivating an employer brand that not only attracts the best talent, but makes the most of the talent we already have.

We have many examples of how we have chosen to encourage and value our staff over the years. For example, on Geoff Pedder’s (Lead Consultant, Brand & Insight) third day in the business he won a TV on an away day after winning a Go-Carting competition. He was a bit surprised, to say the least, but when we celebrate our staff we do it well.

Over the years we have organised holidays, from Marbella to Las Vegas. Hollie Stiff, Senior Client Partner, recalls business class flights, and VIP tables with bouncers. Tammy Davies remembers attending football games, and The Player of the Year Awards with Neil, who is a dedicated Manchester United fan.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. We work hard, and we are committed to supporting the growth and development of our people in more personal ways as well. Hollie Stiff, TWI Senior Client Partner, cites her huge respect for Neil, and “what hes done for me in my career.” Sophia, Art Director, joined TWI in the Manchester office as a Junior Designer. After 3 months she was promoted to Art Director and has since taken part in pitches and won them. Alongside the fun and the successes, there have of course been difficult decisions but, as Simon Thomas says…

How has the new office changed TWI?

In 2018 we invested in an exciting office renovation in Northampton. It has resulted in a space we are remarkably proud of. This is not just because it is a beautiful place to spend each day, but because it is a sign of our investment in and respect for our employees. As Geoff Pedder says, the office in Northampton is a huge statement. It promotes collaboration, but also provides space to get away. Jody Russell says, we want our staff to have the best surroundings, to make their days better. You spend so much of your time at work, it’s important to be somewhere that has colour and warmth.

At Talent Works we are so excited for the next step in our adventure, but we are loving being able to reflect on our achievements as we celebrate reaching 10 years old. We have experienced both highs and lows over the last 10 years. However, throughout it all, we are proud to have grown the business and retained our identity throughout. We have ensured our focus remains on our core values, putting our people and our clients first.

Currently, it is an extraordinary time to be in recruitment. Curating a powerful employer brand is essential in a market which is so candidate rich. While we’re interested to see the future of AI and how it affects recruitment, we believe in the importance of human connection and interaction. As always, we remain committed to having the best talent on the job.

5 ways RPO can enhance your employer brand

Your employer brand is key to attracting and retaining top talent.

By effectively communicating who you are as a company, you can attract high-quality candidates and improve retention rates. When your employer brand is strong, candidates will want to work for you.

RPO providers can help to develop and build your employer brand. As well as this, they can make sure your employer brand is effectively represented through the recruitment process.

We’ve put together some of the ways working with an RPO provider can help strengthen your employer brand.

Work with a recruiter who specialises in the appropriate area

When outsourcing your recruitment process, you can partner with recruitment specialists who are experienced in the sectors most relevant to your business’ vacancies. Working with an experienced sourcing specialist reduces time and optimises your recruitment process. A recruiter who fundamentally understands the role and its value to your business is best placed to source the right fit.

A recruiter becomes an extension of your business

One of the main advantages of RPO is that the recruiter or recruitment team you partner with becomes an extension of your business. They will spend time getting to know your business extensively so that they can represent you accurately. RPO recruiters are uniquely placed not just to understand your brand, but to enhance it.

Expertly crafted job descriptions

A well-crafted job description is essential in capturing top talent. RPO providers offer support in writing ad descriptions that instil your employer brand, while accurately defining the job role to ensure it attracts relevant candidates. If a job description is too vague it can result in an influx of applications from candidates who are just not right for the role. Most RPO providers have copywriters and content writers who can give your job advert that extra flare to make it stand out. This also ensures the words used are succinct and to the point.

Using social media in your recruitment marketing

Some RPO providers have creative and digital teams. This means they can create specialised social media campaigns, promoting your employer brand to reach the right candidates. Experienced digital marketers can target an audience for your job postings, right down to city and profession. This ensures you are targeting the most relevant candidates and using your resourcing budget effectively.

Quality candidate experience

Candidates want to be confident that they’re making the right decision if they choose to join your business. By utilising recruitment partners, you can ensure that the candidate will get a quality experience throughout the entire recruitment journey, from the application stage through to interview feedback.

Specialist recruitment teams can provide excellent support to candidates, giving them the information they require when they need it. And because recruitment partners are aligned with your company values, they can shortlist candidates that are not only right for the vacancy but also a good fit for your team.

RPO and employer branding go hand in hand to make your recruitment strategy more specialised, and ultimately more successful. To find out more, check out our blogs on RPO FAQ’s and how to improve your employer brand.

Promoting your employer brand on Social media: a guide on what NOT to do

Social media is fast becoming the way candidates find out about your employer brand, with a staggering 68% of Millenials choosing to specifically visit company social channels to evaluate their employer brand prior to applying for a role. After the company website, the most visited site when researching a potential employer is their corporate Facebook page. Is it time you took control of your employer brand on social media? In this blog, we go through our top tips on what not to do as well as some inspiring examples from companies who are getting it right.

Stay the same

Each social channel has its own merits and the way content is consumed differs accordingly. Ensure your posts are tailored to the particular channel and limit cross-posting. It can start to look automated if you post the same content on all channels on the same day. Change up your timings or be selective of where you post – will that funny Gif work as well on LinkedIn as it will on Twitter?

Sound like a robot

Automation is efficient and can be really effective if used correctly. But just because something can be automated doesn’t mean it should. Some ATS systems can automatically post job vacancies to your social feeds however, rather than flooding your audience’s feeds with irrelevant job openings, we’d recommend cherry picking the right roles to promote.

Share corporate content or stock imagery

Your content should showcase real people in your organisation and give a true picture of what it’s like to work there. Take advantage of the digital era we live in and encourage your employees to capture shareable moments, which prospective candidates will be truly interested in seeing.

Only post about you

It can be off-putting if a person only ever speaks about themselves- the same can be said for companies on their social media channels. It’s great to post about your employees and organisation, but avoid being predictable or producing forced content. Intersperse this with curated content which represents your brand values, and will be of use to your audience.

Start without a solid Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

It is important for all members of the social media/marketing team to be aware of your brand values before you begin. This will ensure a consistent style and tone across your social channels. A strong EVP will drive your content strategy and have the adaptability to work across various social channels without feeling repetitive.

Ignore your audience

Social media isn’t meant to be a one-way conversation. By interacting with your following and asking questions you’ll increase engagement (major plus!) and you’ll discover insights about your audience that you can use in the future.

Stay free forever

Once you’ve nailed down your strategy and gained an understanding of what your audience likes, don’t be afraid to put some money behind your posts. Using Facebook sponsored advertising, even on a minimal budget, will increase engagement and give you the ability to target specific audiences.

Stretch yourself too thin

The main social channels are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram but there are others including Google+ and YouTube. Be sensible with the number of channels you decide to use as each will take valuable time to manage. If you have limited resources stick with 1-2 channels and perfect your content before you consider expanding.

Stick to what you know

When it comes to recruiting the social network of choice more often than not is LinkedIn. This doesn’t mean it is the best platform for every business to showcase their employer brand though. If you are only launching on 1-2 social channels initially think about where your target audience spends most of their time, and place yourself in the action.

Go it alone

It’s crucial that your employees back your brand from the beginning and show their support by sharing posts on their channels – especially at the beginning. A good way to do this is by utilising an employee referral program (ERP) which will make it easier for your employees to share your content. As well as increasing your reach, referrals will also increase the quality of applicants. Referred candidates are 3-4 times more likely to be hired than candidates who haven’t been referred.

Who’s doing it right?

There are many companies that are using social media to promote their employer brand. Here are a few examples from organisations who think are doing particularly well.

Employer branding example on Facebook

Why does it work well?

Not only does it use an authentic-looking picture of a Nando’s employee, it is accompanied by a quote about his personal experiences of working there. This post is simple, unpolished and packed full of honesty.

Employer branding example on Twitter

Why does it work well?

The BBC Careers account shares live job listings, but BBC Get In, their entry-level recruitment account, touches on the more human, user-generated side of things. Here, they repurpose images and posts from employee’s to share behind the scenes content. This is posting in its most natural form, and no extra context is required.

As well as this, the name of the channel sets them apart from other more generic careers social channels, and sets the tone for the rest of their feed.

Employer branding example on Instagram

Why does it work well?

Instagram is a place where you can really get creative with your content. Penguin Random House Careers are onto a winner with this post – fun user-generated boomerang image, a quote from an employee and a handful of relatable hashtags which will make the post easier for potential candidates to access.

Employer branding examples on LinkedIn

Why does it work well?

This post by Oath reflects their company values by referencing their commitment to diversity and equality. Including a group photo emphasises their authenticity and commitment to their people.

People spend on average 1 hour 40 minutes a day on social media and it is increasingly becoming the first point of call in candidates’ search for jobs and information on hiring companies. With 69% of candidates more likely to apply to a company which manages its employer brand its crucial, now more than ever, for your employer brand to be present on social media in order to attract top talent.

Looking for more figures on social media? Check out our blog on our top social media stats you need to know if you’re in recruitment.

The yearly round-up – the 2017 edition

The holiday break went at lightning speed, as predicted. But now we’re firmly back in the office and despite it being early January, the ‘Happy New Year’ email openers are steadily decreasing and everyone is embracing their new and improved routines.

But before 2017 becomes a distant memory, we wanted to recap on all the amazing projects we’ve had the opportunity to work on this past year.

Familiar faces

To start with we had the pleasure of working with some familiar faces including global software giant, Sage. Over the last year we have provided full RPO support, with on-site and remote sourcing teams. Our partnership has also involved developing compelling attraction campaigns which have been informed by location specific research conducted, as well as working on longer-term employer brand planning. We’ve not let the new projects and commitments distract us from supporting with executive hires across the globe – with a dedicated sourcing team on hand to find the right people.

Sage Tech careers website

We also continued to build the Ericsson employer brand globally, creating awareness through diversity initiatives and large-scale recruitment events. We were honoured to win the international award for ‘Best Corporate use of Online Recruitment’ at the Onrec awards in partnership with Ericsson.

Ericsson Diversity and Initiative online campaign

Speaking of awards, we won ‘Best Employee Communications and Engagement Initiative’ for our relaunch of BNP Paribas’ UK Diversity Awareness Week which included augmented reality, social sharing and events.

Furthermore, we built VWFS’ employer brand framework and launched it with a new careers website framed around the ‘Beyond Expectations’ message, supporting photography, employee stories and event collateral.

VWFS careers website and marketing collateral

New partnerships

As well as working with existing partners it was great to build new relationships. For major travel technology provider, Amadeus, we developed a recruitment campaign targeting Developers for their Heathrow office, which will be going live imminently.

We also worked with the world’s largest cloud delivery platform, Akamai, on various global projects in order to enhance their candidate experience and employer communications.

Akamai animation campaign

We built a tailored Employee Value Proposition for Thermo Fisher Scientific which included a brand perception audit as well as interviews with senior leaders, current employees and hiring managers within the business. In addition to this we conducted a market intelligence report for Simply Business and provided case studies on businesses that have been through non-digital organisational transformation.

One of the largest UK bar and restaurant chains, Mitchells & Butlers, came to us to reactivate their employer brand. We provided new brand specific assets, fresh overarching brand guidelines, updated photography, film and attraction toolkits that can be used by individual premises to create tailored recruitment ads.

In addition to this we provided RPO support to Asahi Europe, the leading super premium beer company, and supported this with attraction campaigns for high volume roles. We took this one step further and at the end of the year we began to develop an employer brand framework for Asahi UK. More on this over the coming months!

Asahi careers website and photography

What’s next?

All the TWI teams have managed to fit a lot of work into 2017! We are excited to continue building on the successes we have achieved for our clients over the last year, as well as establishing new partnerships in the coming year. Interested in knowing more? Get in touch using the form below:

Expert Perspective: Getting a job description just right

First of all, what is your purpose? Is it a job spec or a job description? Yes, they’re different.

A job specification generally comprises of specific roles, responsibilities and background points that are required for the role. Whereas, a job description tends to build more of a narrative around the position. This is what I’m going to focus on. So, what are the key things to include?

Here are 8 key points to understand before writing your job description:

1. Get the job title right
Consider whether the title is a true reflection of the role and the candidate you are looking to hire, if not then tweak accordingly. If the role requires you to spend the majority of your time working on marketing campaigns, this should be reflected in the title.

2. Where does the job sit within the business?
Who will this person be directly reporting into? It all matters. It’s also vital for a prospective candidate to know the team structure and who they will be working alongside. If the candidate will be joining a team of four dedicated Account Executives, let them know.

3. What experience should a candidate have?
It’s important to distinguish the ‘nice to haves’ from the essentials. This is a great way to filter out the unsuitable applicants.

4. Be specific about the role and responsibilities.
To ensure higher staff retention, be realistic and specific about the areas that a successful candidate will spend their time working on.

5. What will their progression route look like?
If there is a clear structure within the business, let the candidate know.

6. Provide company specific narrative
Size, scale, locations, clients. Because no-one feels inspired to work for a company that they know nothing about.

7. Short summary copy
In most opportunities there is intro copy that needs to grab the reader, before they consider making the next step through to the job description.

8. Getting the order right
Short intro, role responsibilities, person specification, rewards, your company and next steps. Some of these can be omitted depending on where you’re advertising, if it’s internal the ‘your company’ info can take a back seat.

Keep everything succinct. Depending on where you’re posting, a job ad should be to the point about the role and sell the business and opportunity to a candidate.  It requires you to take a step back from the writing, the job description should serve a function, and it should provide a compelling transaction opportunity for the right candidate. If it doesn’t, then you’re doing something wrong. If it captures unsuitable candidates, you’re doing something wrong.

Stop doing something wrong, and start doing it right

Taking the above 8 tips forward, you’ll establish a replicable structure to use to build job ads. You need to treat prospective candidates in a similar way to consumers. They will be in a position to either count themselves in or out upon reading your crafted job description. You need to make sure that the right people are getting through to the application stage. You can do this by setting out the requirements and responsibilities from the offset. Be honest here, embellishing details will make it harder to retain the right people.

Get the address right

Most job descriptions are written in the third person. But, the way to engage the audience is to use the second person ‘you’ address to build a relationship and speak directly to the reader. The use of ‘you’ breaks down the distance between the writer and reader, allowing the reader to see clearly where they could fit within the business.

Size matters

You should keep your job description to less than 700 words, with clear sections to keep readers engaged and provide the essential details about the role and the business opportunity.

So, that’s it, a quick guide to getting a job description to work for you. It’s also always worth considering how setting the scene around a role on social media can attract applicants. Think of creative ways to showcase your role, and you’ll get the applications to match.

Is your careers site user friendly?

To target the right talent, first you have to understand what your candidates are looking for.

People look for ease and convenience in every aspect of their lives and finding a new job opportunity is no different. When candidates are applying for positions it is crucial that the process is clear, efficient and easy to use. If not, it can have a substantial impact on the amount of applications received, as candidates can drop off at different stages of the process.

To ensure your candidate journey is a positive one, here are the 4 main points of a careers site you need to get right:

Simple Navigation

Your careers website is a key area for prospective candidates to find out more about your company. To ensure you capture job seekers’ attentions you should ensure that key information is readily available and easy to find.

We recommend using a one-click application button where candidates can upload their CV easily on either a desktop or mobile device. As well as this if you have an online chat facility on your web page already it’s a great idea for a pop up message to appear after a short period of time that encourages candidates to apply. Furthermore, having predictive search on your job search bar will help candidates to find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently.

Red Bull Careers website – Predictive Search Bar

Optimised for mobile

Studies show that 89% of job seekers think mobile devices play a critical role in the job hunting process It is critical that if a candidate visits your website on their mobile they need to have the same positive experience they would do if they were on a desktop. To ensure this happens we recommend making sure your website is optimised for mobile or building a mobile design.

People spend less time viewing web pages when on a mobile device so we suggest using limited but attractive visual content, readable text, user friendly forms and concise language to keep candidates engaged.

Pinterest mobile careers page – focuses on visual content


Candidates want answers to their questions quickly and with the availability of live chat, they have a direct line at their fingertips. More and more companies are adding a chat facility to their careers page which adds a personal feel and can be monitored 24/7.

As well as using live chat we recommend putting all available contact channels on the website. Many large organisations have a Twitter account dedicated to careers so candidates can follow the dedicated page for the latest vacancy updates.

Spotify have a dedicated Twitter account to promote their vacancies

Keep it clear

The main objective for a careers site is to convert visitors to applicants. Making the application process as simple as possible is the key to success.

We recommend making the application as short as possible as studies show, 60% of potential candidates have quit a job application process because it was too lengthy. Single page applications may not work for every organisation but research has shown that the lowest number of applicant drop offs occur from the shortest application processes.

Spending time to look at how user friendly your careers site is will help greatly reduce the frustrations users may face and, in turn, reduce drop offs.

Interested in making your careers site more user friendly? Take a look at a site we made for Sage for inspiration.

Are meetings a waste of time?

“We have too many meetings” is a frequent complaint in business. Publications such as The New York Times and Forbes give some quick remedies to our suspicions that not all meetings are necessary.  These with other articles recycle solutions such as:

  • Halving the time of your meetings
  • Chair your meeting standing up
  • Avoiding holding a meeting unless you know what you wish to accomplish

… and so on.

A new article from the Harvard Business Review has gone a step further to quantify the problem, with some simple steps to remedying.

Executives now spend an average of nearly 23 hours in meetings; 10 hours more than back in the 1960s. This does not include the impromptu gatherings that don’t make it onto the official calendar.

Are meetings an efficient use of our time?

HBR surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

While there’s no denying that meetings provide real benefits such as enabling collaboration, creativity, and innovation some can be counterproductive. In a recent survey conducted by HBR only 17% of senior executives reported that their meetings are usually productive and a good use of group and individual time.

What type of meetings are counterproductive?

Meetings that waste group time

Some companies have few meetings but run them poorly.

The main reasons for a poorly run meeting are:

  • The time and/or location changes at the last minute
  • No objectives are set prior to the meeting
  • The next steps are not made clear which leads to secondary meetings

In this instance, employees have a sufficient amount of time for solo work and deep thinking however they miss out on colleague collaboration and group productivity.

Meetings that waste individual time

Some companies have high quality meetings but they’re also high in quantity. This amounts to employees having less time to complete solo work and their deep thinking becomes interrupted by poorly scheduled meetings.

The downfalls to having lots of meetings include:

  • Interruption of workflow
  • Takes away from critical solo work
  • Can lead to burnout and turnover

While meetings that seem to be ‘getting stuff done’ are in theory an efficient use of time this will undoubtedly encroach on solo working time. Research conducted by HBR has shown that this has a knock-on effect as increasingly people are using their personal time to complete individual tasks. This ultimately leads to people burning out and their heads more easily swayed.

Meetings that waste both individual and group time

Many companies are guilty of conducting meetings that are both a waste of group and individual time. These triple-threat meetings are too frequent, poorly timed and badly run. This leads to a loss of productivity, collaboration as well as insufficient solo working time. HBR’s survey showed that an astonishing 54% of executives would put their meetings in this category.

How to strike a happy medium

As many people in a company are involved in scheduling and running meetings, it takes a group effort to make changes.

Although it can be difficult altering your meeting patterns it is not impossible and can contribute to significant improvements in the well-being of both groups and individuals.

How to escape the meeting trap

1. Ask questions
To find out how meetings affect your team you can conduct surveys to gain a better insight. We suggest doing these anonymously initially to encourage people to speak freely and honestly about the matter.

2. Collate the information
Once this information is collated come together as a team and go through all individual comments. These comments should lead to further open discussions and establish buy-in from individuals which will be required for the remaining steps.

3. Agree on a goal as a collective
Coming up with a solution is undoubtedly the most difficult part however this can be made easier if individuals independently benefit from the group initiative. Designating blocks of times in the day as meeting-free zones will allow individuals more time for solo working and deep thinking. Being given a limited amount of meeting-acceptable time also encourages people to consider if a meeting is necessary before scheduling. Furthermore, these large blocks of meeting-free time inevitably lead to increased individual productivity and limits the risk of burnout.

4. Monitor progress
Once changes have been made be persistent and make sure they are being adhered to by everyone. To ensure people don’t slip into old habits monitor progress and keep track of measurable progress such as the number of hours saved from inefficient meetings. Ensure you celebrate the little wins along the way.

5. There’s always room for improvement
Regularly check in with people to see how they feel about attending meetings. If people are becoming frustrated it’s time to review your processes and see what can be improved. Changing bad habits is no mean feat but the rewards can be significant.

HBR also provides a handy calculator to quantify how much all those unnecessary meetings are really costing.

How does your team feel about meetings? Have you managed to strike the right balance? Tweet us your ideas and insights at @mytalentworks 

7 tips to improve Candidate Experience

Candidate experiences are like my DIY projects at home. Forever a work in progress. So for now, let’s ignore everything you could do, and focus on what you should do. Task number 1: think like a candidate, not like a recruiter.

A change of perspective may be the most important change you’ll ever make. Seeing the world of employment from a graduate or school-leaver perspective. Seeing your opportunities through the eyes of a skilled professional. Seeing what your candidates see and understanding the career decisions they make. Seeing who your real competitors are – and seeing exactly how you look in comparison.

It can raise some interesting questions. At the very least, it can help you see what you should do next to keep one step ahead.

The competition for talent

We talked in a previous post about competitive insight allowing you to understand how you can differentiate your business to the right candidate. By looking at direct competitors and those companies in your target market, you know how your proposition competes.  But you can only do this  by giving an honest evaluation of yourself and your competition.

Aside from what you think you are saying or communicating, have you looked at what is visible from the candidate perspective before they apply for a job with you? What are your chances of them understanding your culture and seeing where they could fit? You may think that you have a better proposition than most in your market, but what if it isn’t clear from your careers site? What if you don’t have a careers site? (Then you at least need some campaign pages or a microsite to facilitate your hires…but that’s a story for another post)

You can’t control what other companies do, but you can get ahead of the game by understanding their brand strengths and weaknesses, along with your own. And by using this to leverage your brand to attract the right people knowledge is power after all.

1. Be the candidate

Take some time to navigate your own careers site. How easy is it to use? Do you use video to engage and tell stories? Is it very text heavy? Do you segment the proposition by role type, location, graduates/EIC? Are your values visible? Are they the same as everyone else in your industry? (I’ve got another one coming on that!

2. Be honest

Give yourself a score out of 10 for all the areas you think are important, do the same for 3 or 4 “competitors” (for talent). Be honest and look at the final scores.  If you are top, that is great! But what if your competition are doing the same, and they are about to launch a shiny new website which will out do yours? What are the areas you could improve on and why wouldn’t you do it anyway? It’s all about getting ahead and staying there.

3. Be real

It isn’t just your careers site that promotes your brand, look at social media, review Glassdoor scores – again, include your competition in your research. What about your recruitment team? Who answers the phone/email/live chat when a candidate wants to find out about you? Do you use agencies? What do they say? Do you respond to every candidate that applies? As a candidate what would be the most upsetting thing to read on a careers site or in an automated application response?

“Due to the volume of applications we receive, we only respond to those who are successful” this is only marginally worse than adding a timeframe – “if you do not hear within 2 weeks then you have not been successful”, don’t even bother adding “we wish you luck in your search”.  Do you? It doesn’t feel like it…maybe it is because you are drowning in unsuitable applications…and you are losing the will to live?

Either way, it gives the impression that you’re not thinking about the candidates who put time and effort into their applications.

4. Be brave

So you’ve reviewed and there are clear areas for improvement.  Of course there are.  Everyone can improve, always. But how much room for improvement do you see? And could this improvement (which will require time and probably investment) reduce time and investment in the future? What if you implemented something which increased views on your website, made applications easier for the candidate, gave people a really good feel for your culture… but reduced applications? That isn’t a bad thing!

What if the reduced applications meant your messaging was working – those who don’t fit, don’t apply. Your recruitment team have less irrelevant applications, less people are “rejected” by you.  When you tell them they are not being taken through to the next stage it’s less time consuming. And if you can’t tell them at least there will be less people feeling frustrated by a lack of response.

In 2014 the Virgin Media Insights team cross-referenced candidates who were unsuccessful with people who left Virgin Media and 7,500 people cancelled their contracts in the month after their application. This translated to £4.4 million in lost revenue…. Just putting that out there…. it’s been out there for a while, since 2014… but some of you haven’t read or digested this statiscit yet…. Or maybe you did, but you weren’t brave enough to do anything about it, or you thought it didn’t apply to you?  You don’t have to be a consumer brand to lose out because of bad candidate experience.

5. Be better

Looking at yourselves with an honest and critical eye, and comparing yourselves to your competition can give you a great business case to fight your cause. This can’t do anything except make you better, and if you can get people to agree with you and act on it, you can improve your quality of hire, time to hire and cost per hire.

Then think again about all those candidates who apply for a job and never hear anything.  Maybe they weren’t quite right, maybe they will be in the future. Maybe their friend or family member would be – but if they don’t have a good experience with you, they won’t recommend you as an employer, they won’t necessarily buy your services or products again, and if you are a charity – how many others may now be getting donations which were once coming your way? All because you didn’t have time to reply to all applications, maybe because you receive too many applications… ah, back here again.

6. Be the candidate again

Go on then… what are you waiting for? If you don’t have time to do this, then find someone to do it for you. Ask a colleague, an intern, a family member? I’m serious, anyone with PowerPoint skills and a set of criteria can “be” the candidate to a certain extent. Or ask me*

*Disclaimer, I won’t do it myself… we have a whole team of people who are dedicated to Employer Brand research.  8 of them, and they are members of the Market Research Society too…. I can have it back with you in 10 days…. I’ll (They’ll) even do it in your own company branded PowerPoint deck if you like… 😊

7. Be the geek

Oh you’re still here… because you want to know more now? You’re a data geek like me?

Here’s one tip you may not know about – just find a company with a job on LinkedIn, click on the job and scroll down to see insights… then compare these insights with your competition (the competition for talent I mean…. Just checking!)


  • Where do your ex staff go to?
  • Where do you make the most hires from?
  • What universities do you/your competition hire from?
  • What trends are there?
  • Are there any companies in your sector that you don’t hire from / who don’t hire from you?
  • I wonder why…. I don’t know, I just wonder…

Creating an award-winning employer brand is simple…or is it?

You’re a winner. You’ve done it. You not only built the business case for developing your global employer brand and employer value proposition, you had the budget signed off and you’ve actually gone and delivered it. It has been a long slog but my goodness you’ve achieved. Kudos, credit and props to you.

Your journey possibly went a bit like this:

Let’s keep it simple…if only!

You gathered together all of those people who you just had an inkling would suddenly have a pernickety but limelight-stealing hand in the ‘project’ near its conclusion despite never showing a glimmer of interest previously. You even had the decency to include them as part of a steering group. And you made a pact that you wouldn’t mention the word ‘brand’ or the acronym ‘EVP’ from that point forwards in order to keep it simple and not confuse ‘your people’. You even rolled with the punches that for some inexplicable reason, Canada and Puerto Rico refused to be involved in your ‘global project’.

Research is key and so is segmentation

You researched inside and outside the business; you surveyed; you spoke to loads of people in focus groups and 1-2-1 interviews; you segmented your audiences to include HiPos, HiPers, new joiners, people who’ve been about for years, people who have left, people you didn’t know were about to leave, employee resource groups, people in far flung countries and in inconvenient time zones, Geeks, Wizards, Ninjas and Procurement.

Authenticity comes from within

You found out lots you already knew about your business: car parking is a nightmare; technology for new joiners doesn’t work; communication is poor; departments operate in silos. Some of the stuff you found, you could never share with the ‘leadership team’ unless it was dipped in a little coat of sugar and packaged in a wrapper with a disclaimer on every surface. But at least on the flip side, everyone recognises you’re like one big happy family sharing 3 of the 7 values they can actually remember – a family, albeit one that’s just a little dysfunctional at times. You discovered what people know or think they know it’s really like to work for your company. You achieved authenticity in abundance.

Dilute the proposition at your peril

After much analysis and reporting you derived a fabulously clever model that has pillars, values, reasons to believe, selling points, big ideas and links to your consumer brand and proposition. Better still, and in the interests of simplicity (remember everyone signed up to that at the beginning), you contrived a segmentation matrix with a hierarchy of messaging that covered all 16 segmented audiences in 18 different countries. You negotiated the peace settlement resulting from the circular debate of “that’s just not us – it’s too aspirational” to “if you take our name off it, aren’t we like everyone else?” and your slightly diluted model was excitedly gifted to the ‘activation magicians’ – the creative team – to bring the whole thing to life; to tell your story in a compelling and award-winning way.

Seamlessly, your toolkit of attraction, engagement and retention communication materials (see what happens if we can’t say employer brand) along with the launch collateral and playbook were delivered as you reached your final milestone on the project plan. Job done. Aced it.

The reality

Much of this journey may be an all too real experience for many of you. And it’s the last part that probably seems the most fictional. That’s because it just doesn’t happen like that. Turning all that has gone before into something tangible, meaningful and effective is a major hurdle and often a significant stumbling block to success.

Creativity is the connection to the candidate, to your employees and the world at large. It’s where the emotional engagement happens and the real sense of purpose is communicated. It’s where we open the consciousness to possibilities and opportunities. The process to create that activation that lies in the proposition or brand is challenging. For creativity to flourish, it needs time, information, license to explore and most of all it needs simplicity. Yet for many reasons that’s rarely the case:

  • The brief has become more and more complex as we’ve gone on
  • The expectation and anticipation of the final output has been built up during the course of the project – living up to that is hard
  • Creative is subjective and means different things to different people – one of the key reasons we segment audiences is to ensure relevance of message
  • Over-segmentation of our audiences adds multiple layers of complexity and scope for misunderstanding
  • Inclusion of a multi-discipline steering group to avoid hurdles later in the process is sensible but has the potential for decision by committee and watering down of key differentiators
  • The clamour to find and apply innovation is not necessarily sustainable in recruitment – although we’re trying hard to do so
  • The degree of creativity is frequently governed by the confines of the consumer brand

So, the next time you’re managing, implementing or even just involved in an Employer Brand or EVP initiative, think about the journey you’ve been on and how complicated it may have become. Keep it as simple as you can because landing it successfully is anything but simple. Particularly if you’re looking to pick up awards and recognition along the way.

Simon Thomas is Brand and Strategy Director at Talent Works International. TWI is a global talent communications firm that helps organisations around the world build effective and efficient talent strategies through our research, sourcing and creative teams.