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Employer Branding Strategy: Researching Competitors and Talent Markets

Before you dive into building your employer branding strategy, you need to ensure you’re taking a holistic look at everything that can affect it. Yes, your employer brand is a way for you to communicate what you offer employees and a look behind-the-scenes at your company culture, but you can’t build it in a vacuum. To be competitive and differentiate yourself from all the other companies out there, you need to do your homework.

Audit Your Competitors

These are the direct business competitors, industry competitors, and local companies who are hiring the same talent. To get a pulse on where you should first focus your efforts, check out what your competitors are doing to identify areas of opportunity and where you might be lacking.

Checking out at least 10 competitors can offer a good baseline, but you’re welcome to do more. Just don’t go crazy because it can end up leading you to have analysis paralysis.

Here are some key things to consider when doing an audit:

What’s your focus?

There are a ton of things you could look at when doing your audit, but if you don’t have a clear vision as to what you’re assessing, it will be a lot of wasted effort. Some things to review:

  • What kind of content are they producing? What’s the market’s reaction to it?

  • Which events, job boards, or social media sites are they investing in?

  • Does their brand have a specific focus? Such as diversity hiring, tech roles, etc.?

  • How are they leveraging their employees’ perspectives?

  • Do their employees share content and/or interact with the employer brand on their own networks?

  • How transparent are they in their communications? Do they share diversity numbers, compensation packages, or more?

What are you reviewing?

Think how a candidate thinks. How would they discover a job? Would it be through a friend, social media, or job board? Once they discover the job, what will they do to learn more about the company? According to Inavero, job seekers use an average of 18 sources before applying to a job. So, you’ve got quite a bit to look at. Here are some things to consider:

  • Career site: generally look at the type of content and pages they have on their site, how it ties to their main site, what the application process is like, and how easy it is for candidates to navigate through.

  • Social media: check out the platforms they’re on, the content they promote, how often they’re posting, and how they interact with their audience. Also, note if they have a specific social media channel dedicated to careers or if it’s mixed in with corporate branding.

  • Content: what kind of content are they producing? Do they create blogs, videos, photos, or maybe a consistent mix of multiple mediums? Is the content high-quality or are they leaning more on user-generated videos and photos? What consistent messaging is coming through, and what topics are they regularly highlighting?

  • Third-party sites: which job boards are they investing in and how are they leveraging it? Are they doing barebones job posting or are they investing in building mini career pages and sponsored content through these sites?

  • Online reviews: how are they rated on sites like Glassdoor? What are the pros and cons that show up consistently throughout the reviews? How is the company addressing it?

Best thing to do is create a spreadsheet that lets you evaluate all competitors the same. Create a template that allows you to select certain responses so there’s consistency, making it easier to identify trends. For example, if you’re looking at video topics, you could have options for employee testimonials, company culture, workplace features, diversity and inclusion, event recaps, and so on. Or if you’re reviewing blog content, you can mark off the most regularly blogged about topics such as employee spotlights, specific perks, and team spotlights.

Check out the trends.

Look at your spreadsheet when you’re done and start highlighting trends. You might find that majority of competitors talk more about their tech teams or cool perks. Or maybe you see that they rather post quick videos and quotes on social media rather than build macro content like blogs.

Also important to look at is how the market responds to their efforts. Did they put out a flashy video that hasn’t gotten much interest? Or did one of their employee spotlight blogs go viral? Document these important details so you can see if there are common themes and what efforts seem to pay off.

As you dissect the information, see where there’s consistent overlap. Are there untapped areas where you can get in front of candidates with limited competition? Did you notice if most of the competitors are leveraging specific platforms rather than others? Did you observe a common theme in their copy and voice?

Figuring this out lets you see where to focus first and also uncovers how you can stand out from the crowd. It’s great to see what engages candidates, but you want to make sure whatever you create is unique to you so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of buzzwords and trendy posts. Pick the things that feel true to your company.

If you’re a lean team or a team of one managing your employer brand, doing this audit can also help you focus on the most impactful areas. Trying to manage all of the things required to build a brand and market it can be overwhelming, often stretching you thin. By identifying a few areas to focus on first, you’ll pace yourself better and ensure your brand is top-notch, engaging, and unique.

Need help building your employer brand? Harlow Creative Co. can help. Learn more here.


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