By George Blomgren
One great thing about guest authoring an article for Wendy Terwelp is that I can take it for granted that readers are hip to the power of personal branding. As you may not be aware, there is a corollary on the employer side of things: smart employers engage in employer branding. This probably doesn’t require much explanation, but just to make sure we’re on the same page, let’s consider Harley Davidson as an example. Harley has two different reputations: the brand of their products, and their brand as an employer (living in their hometown, I’m quite sensitive to the latter). To be sure, these two reputations overlap and influence each other, but not completely. Each requires work, and HD knows that. They work hard and spend a lot of money supporting a positive brand in both areas.
Here’s an interesting thing about employer branding that a lot of employers don’t realize. (You’ll note that you can apply the following to your personal brand as well.) There are two distinct dimensions to an employer brand. There is the deliberate dimension, which consists of things like advertising efforts, recruiting events, and web sites directed at job seekers. And there is the inadvertent dimension, which consists largely of all the impressions an employer makes on everyone, which they turn around and discuss. In some cases, these two dimensions are way out of whack, and tend to cancel each other out. There’s a pretty big retail chain — you know the one I mean — that is experiencing this quite publicly right now.As a job seeker, I think there are several things that you should know about employer branding. First, job seekers often feel quite vulnerable. Big bad employers can push them around, ignore them, put them through interviews and never follow up, etc. But, take heart! The laws of karma apply here. If you’ve been treated poorly by an employer, chances are you’ve told other people. Your comments all contribute to the overall employer brand. You may feel like your “vote doesn’t count,” but it does. The collective weight of all the conversations that people have about an employer add up to more influence than all the TV commercials and ad campaigns ever can.
Second, I would suggest that in deciding you want to work for, take stock in their employer brand. Both the deliberate and the inadvertent dimensions. An employer who is working hard to cultivate a positive reputation as an employer has at least made some level of commitment to being a better employer. And when this is complemented by a reputation as treating employees well (and job seekers) — that’s promising! Third, you can use employer branding to your advantage. Employers like job seekers who have done their home work. They like job seekers who clearly understand their company culture. And, like most people, they like flattery — when it’s used sparingly, and when it’s plausible. By researching an employer’s brand (online, by talking to people, etc.) you can find out a lot about the type of company they aspire to be, what types of employees they like to hire, etc. You can better decide whether you want to work for them, and if you do, you can position yourself accordingly.
To wrap this up, let’s pretend your job search entails dates between you and prospective employers. If you were an employer, would you rather go out with someone (i.e., a job seeker) who had a pretty fair idea of who you are and what matters to you, and who seemed genuinely interested? Or with someone indifferent to what you are all about and what matters to you? The answer is obvious, and you can use this insight to your advantage.