10 Ways to Minimize Cost and Maximize Impact in Employer Branding

By Richard Mosley

Two common arguments against employer branding are: (1) It costs too much, and (2) It’s hard to identify and measure the return on investment. Creating recruitment campaigns, developing or buying content, and drawing time and focus from other business activities all demand valuable resources. Investing in your employer brand delivers value in terms of better quality hires and enhanced performance, but it can also help your company to reduce the costs.

Here are ten ways to reduce the costs and maximize the impact of your investment in attracting, hiring, engaging, and retaining employees.

Build more talent for your employer brand

Companies have the option of buying or building talent. Buying talent involves hiring someone with the expertise to do the job, whereas building talent involves training candidates who have the potential to do the job. Building talent generally costs less, so consider investing at least a portion of your employer branding resources in reaching out to college students and graduates and developing an internship program. Some businesses may even expand these programs to local high school students.

Maximizing referrals for your employer brand

Instead of paying large bonuses to professional recruiters, incentivize current and former employees to reach out and refer qualified candidates from their personal and professional networks. Many of your employees are probably well qualified to prescreen applicants, so you can save money in several ways:

  • Reduce or eliminate the cost of recruitment advertising to fill a position.
  • Eliminate the cost of paying a professional recruiter.
  • Streamline the screening process.

Hiring above-average talent for an average wage

One way to deliver cost savings through employer branding is to reduce the premium you pay new hires to join your organization. Building a strong employer brand enables you to hire above-average talent for an average wage. This doesn’t mean underpaying talent, but a strong employer brand means you shouldn’t have to pay an above-market premium.

With an employer brand, you build equity in other areas of the employment offer. The benefit that you’re deriving is your ability to attract and hire high-quality candidates at a lower cost, because you have a strong career-enhancing reputation, and deliver a distinctively positive employment experience.

Conversely, if you have a poor employer brand image, you have to pay a great deal more to attract the interest of high-quality talent and convince them to join you. You may also need to pay a lot more to executive search firms to go out and hook people, because they’re not coming to you of their own accord. This adds up to a fairly major additional cost in terms of attracting the right talent.

Target efforts to attract fewer, but higher-quality candidates

Some organizations receive thousands or even tens of thousands of applications for a single advertised opening. With employer branding, you can more effectively target your recruiting efforts to attract fewer but higher-quality applicants, so you save time and money on the screening process.

Here are a few suggestions for targeting candidates who are likely to be a better fit for your company or for a particular opening:

  • Be very specific in your job descriptions when listing minimum qualifications, certifications, and skills required.
  • Be very clear when crafting your EVP to convey the character, values, and commitment your company expects from its employees.
  • Identify advertising and media sources of low-quality applicants and stop spending in those areas.
  • Leverage the profiling tools available to help you identify more specific target groups when promoting your marketing content across social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram.
  • Be open to sharing your warts. Openly conveying the pros and cons yields more informed candidates who are likely to be stickier hires because they’re joining with a better insight into your company and what the opportunity entails.

Focusing your creative spend in employer branding

In business, you always try to get the biggest bang for your buck. The same is true for employer branding. Use your EVP and brand framework to focus your creative spend where it’s likely to have the greatest impact:

  • Create an employer brand toolkit that allows everyone across the business to use the same advertising templates rather than reinventing new ones every time advertising is needed.
  • Use design tools, such as Canva, to create employer brand creative assets in-house.
  • Invest more in evergreen creative assets that can be reused. Resist the urge to invest too heavily in a creative campaign for a short-term project, because the assets created aren’t likely to deliver longer-term value.

Shifting from paid to owned and earned media

One way to reduce marketing and advertising costs is to invest less in paid advertising and focus more attention on owned and earned media:

  • Paid: Promotional material you pay for.
  • Owned: Content published through your own channels.
  • Earned: Content that other people outside your company create.

An additional benefit of localizing content creation is that locally relevant content is likely to resonate with more narrowly targeted audiences.

Encouraging employee-generated content for your employer brand

In respect to employer branding, employee-generated content may be the most effective in attracting the desired talent and convincing them to apply. It’s also the cheapest to produce. Here are a few ways to encourage employees to contribute content:

  • Provide clear guidance on the kind of content you’re looking for, and share great examples to encourage others to follow.
  • Start small and simple. Don’t initiate employee involvement by requesting a major production, such as a video.
  • Make use of some of the content management apps now available for smartphones to help employees capture, edit, and share content with the employer brand team.
  • Create team projects — for example, showcasing a project that a particular department or team is working on.
  • Sponsor contests or giveaways that emphasize your employer brand.

Creating your own talent pools

A great way to build brand awareness, recruit candidates, and increase referral hires is to build talent pools — forums where individuals with shared skill sets and interests can gather and interact with one another and with the company’s leadership, management, and HR personnel. Once established, these communities can significantly reduce the cost involved in identifying and communicating with target candidates.

Maintain a low profile, serving the community as a gracious host and encouraging peer-to-peer discussions. The best approach is to have someone in your company who does the same sort of work serve as the host or moderator. Whatever you do, don’t treat the group as a passive audience for company updates and job openings.

Learning from failure and building on success in employer branding

Invest some time reflecting on what you’ve learned from your employer brand marketing activities. If something has failed to deliver a return or has run significantly over budget, make sure you identify what caused these failings to prevent them from happening again. It’s also important to recognize what you’re doing well and build on that success.

Success secrets can be hidden in a marketing campaign that produced incredible results, a certain social channel that has proven to be very effective, or a specific message that has resonated with the target talent. Don’t just celebrate. Figure out which elements within the marketing mix were the most effective in delivering great returns, so you can efficiently continue to deliver similar results.