Job Shopping: The Role of Brand

Recently, one of my children bought a very nice piece of clothing on sale on the internet.   She was very proud that she found a dress made by a big designer at a really good price.  I asked her why she picked that particular piece of clothing and she smiled broadly and told me it was made by such and such designer.  After we spoke about it, I wondered how often we buy something from a brand we like regardless of how it looks, if it is needed, or even provides some practical purpose.  In other words, I wondered how often we buy an ideal instead of an actual object.

Most of us have brands that we prefer and that brand possesses a sense of satisfaction or utility beyond the actual purchase.  It could be brand of vehicle, gum, soda, snack, electronics, clothes, airline, or computer.   If we inventory our preferences, most of us can identify favorites with almost everything.  That is good news for those companies with strong and solid brands since it makes us more loyal to their products and ensures their continued presence in the marketplace. It is less than ideal news for those unknowns or weak brands who want to sell us more profitable merchandise.

Since it is in our nature to be drawn to certain brands, it is interesting to consider if the same mindset applies to looking for a job?  In this economy, it makes sense to take what you can find, but preferences are still alive and well even in the downturn.  There are several major things to keep in mind related to organizational branding when you are recruiting:

  • candidates assess the market
  • initial impressions carry over
  • value of brand

Assessing the Market

As job candidates, we form mental images of different organizations and what type of employers they would be.  Most of us gain information from three primary sources:  advertisements, major media, and friends and family.  These information sources form the basis of an employer’s brand.  Companies communicate with potential candidates formally and informally through job postings, commercials, and public information campaigns.  Companies that identify with fun or making a big difference in the world create a positive image that carries over to candidate impressions.  For example, Dow does a fantastic job of making their case with their Human Element commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpydugTkt1U&NR=1 ). Regular media supplements these sources through news reports and special interest pieces.   A great media example is the CNN-Money rankings of the best places to work in the United States (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2011/full_list/).  Lastly and the most important is what people we trust say about a potential employer regardless of factual content.  This assessment of where are the jobs, who is a good employer, and where is my effort best spent all arises from these three sources and influences each decision throughout the job seeking process.

Initial Impressions Carry Over

Our view of an organization and its “brand” once formed typically stays through the assessment, application, and selection phases of the recruitment process.   Just like with people, the initial impression is hard to change.  If I believe an employer compensates poorly, then any offer will be filtered with the view that the offer is not as much as I could receive somewhere else.  Similarly, if an organization is known to be a great place to work, then other less advantageous components of the job offer will be overlooked in favor of the well-known positives.

Value of Brand

Like it or not, our brand reputation comes into play on a regular basis when we attempt to recruit and retain employees.   Although it is typical to associate high wages being at “exclusive brand” organizations, research shows that it is not always the case.  Actually, those organizations with a positive brand can have a lower labor cost than other organizations.  The value of your brand translates into the quality of candidates you can have apply, who accepts positions with your organization, costs of hiring those candidates that you desire the most, and the overall productivity of your organization.

Just as you protect your corporate brand, you need to protect your brand in the labor market as well.

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