In Interview By Cyndy Trivella, Managing Partner, TalentCulture


“Employer branding” is not a term one often hears in small to medium-sized businesses, though it exists within all companies, regardless of size. With the help of Employer Brand Specialist, Howard Weintraub, we’re going to describe what an employer brand is and how a small business owner can use theirs as a hiring tool. 


Cyndy: How would you describe employer branding to someone who knows nothing about it?

Howard: It’s easy to understand if you think about the job-seeking experience in the same way as a consumer shopping experience. As consumers, when we’re weighing an important purchase, we tend to think about things like a manufacturer’s reputation for durability, performance, after-sales service and other important considerations that affect our ownership and use of the product. We also look at the prestige of the brand, since we have to live with the product for a while and others will know we bought it. There’s a lot of emotion involved, but the key is that we are basing that decision on a variety of facts and claims put forth by the seller, as well as stories and testimonials from previous owners and third-party reviewers (easy information to get in our socially-connected, information-rich society). All of these contributions come together to create the brand. It’s not only the information that is put out by the seller but also the conversations that happen among interested parties.


Cyndy: How can this same mindset be applied to the hiring experience?

Howard: Essentially, an employer is selling, and a job seeker is buying. To pique and sustain interest, employers need to understand why someone would want to join them and contribute their skills and knowledge. Hiring is competitive, with a lot of organizations making similar claims about the work environment, pay, training, management style, company purpose, etc. Such branding is important in helping the employer grab the job seeker’s attention and get the chance to show them how they differ from other potential employers. Job seekers care about a company’s prestige and reputation because they want to feel proud of where they spend their workdays. They care about purpose, integrity, stability, people practices, opportunity, growth—all things that may be claimed but cannot be validated in a job posting. As the job seeker searches for that information, all such come together to form the job seeker’s perception of the employer’s brand.


Cyndy: I agree; employers cannot communicate this type of information in a static job posting.

Howard: Today’s job seekers are smart AND connected; research shows that people will do their homework BEFORE they apply to an organization and do more digging as they progress through the hiring process. The information they find—be it factual, suspected or implied—is, for better or worse, the employer brand that will help the job seeker connect both emotionally and factually to the employer and the position the employer is trying to fill.  


Cyndy: Good points. And given the competitive nature of hiring in today’s tight job market, any attempt a business owner can make to help themselves stand out to potential job seekers is important. Also, given the nature of a small business, that next great hire may come from the business’s customer base, because people saw a “Help Wanted” sign in the window; businesses need to understand that customers are taking note of the company’s work environment. What are a few economical ideas for a small company seeking to establish and capitalize on its employer brand?

Howard: They need to understand that a brand is not created; a brand is discovered, you can’t just decide “this is my employer brand” and base it on a slogan, some pictures, and fancy words. That’s an ad, not your brand.

A good company knows its strengths, regardless of its size. It knows what it is and what it is not. That said, the best way to start creating your employer brand is to be honest with yourself about your company. If you don’t have the budget, time, or resources to discover and articulate your employer brand, start with some basic storytelling. Sit down and put together the story of how you’ve attracted and retained employees over time and look for the qualities that have contributed to the success.  Chances are the owners and managers already have a good sense of what these things are. 

The various characteristics of an employer brand usually evolve from principles that were present when the company began. Have conversations with current employees to uncover their stories about the business, and then craft them into a series of statements about the employee experience. These are also known as Employee Value Propositions—things that attracted people to the organization and those that motivate people to stay.  It’s powerful stuff.

Once you know what you offer as an employer, you can start boasting about your values and share them with job seekers. Don’t try to push every conceivable message out; keep it simple and short, to avoid that confusing sense of information overload.  Purpose, principles, and value statements are a great start. Claims that relate to fairness, quality, accountability, care, growth, etc. are good foundations.

Of course, it’s great to have a lot of good research and feedback to back up your claims, ensure a consistent message, and keep it in front of your potential employee base, but that requires time and money. If you start with honesty and authenticity, your employer brand will be uncovered and grow. The best part is, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get there.


Cyndy: I agree, it all starts with conversations and feedback, and a business owner’s best place to start is with the employees. Thank you for your time today.


So, now that you have a few pointers on how to get started, how will you tell YOUR story? Creating a WorkScene Page is a great way to show off workplace culture, happy employees, your community involvement and all the other positive attributes that let job seekers know why your business is the right choice for them. Create your WorkScene Page today, It’s Free!


Howard Weintraub is a corporate communications and talent acquisition consultant with expertise in developing communications platforms, strategies, and tactics focused on employees—past, present, and future. Howard works with organizations of all types and sizes to enhance their abilities to identify, attract, and hire new talent and to engage existing employees. This includes assessing his clients’ readiness, advising on developing best practices approaches, and executing on their behalf. He also works with his clients to provide them with ongoing support and counsel in these and related areas. His work includes researching and developing employee value propositions (EVP), employer branding, recruitment marketing, and media strategies, social media recruitment, internal communications, and recruitment technologies.