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The Startup Guide to Solve for Hiring Part 4: Talent Branding

March 22, 2023
Amrutash Misra (Amrut)
Co-founder at CoreVoice | Serial entrepreneur with successful exit | Start-up marketing expert

Creating Desire

It's obvious: people should “want” to join your company.

This long Glassdoor article is an excellent place to learn why Employer Branding or Talent Branding is essential. However, if you want a brief overview written for startups, then read on. 

Until now, this hiring guide has taken you through steps that can reduce the common pain points during the entire hiring process - these steps improve efficiency in the hiring funnel. In the last article, we discussed the hurdles you have to set up for candidates.

Improving funnel steps is not enough - more is needed. You need to create desire - people should “want” to join your company. 

It may sound obvious, but you need to create a great workplace so that high-quality applicants dream of working with/for you. This way, you can beat the competition in the crowded hiring market and attract top talent.

But just creating a great workplace is not enough. The missing link is Talent Branding - where you communicate your work, culture, values, and rewards so prospects know you are worth their time and effort.

Talent acquisition teams across industries and sectors recognise the impact that Employer Branding has on both the quality of their funnels and the number of applicants across roles. Consider this statement from the above Glassdoor article: “Recruitment is becoming more like marketing, say 86% of HR professionals.” 

The Money Question

As a startup, it’s tempting to think that “at my stage, I can only afford this kind of an employee” or “for this much money, I’ll only get this much.” This kind of thinking leads to a downward spiral because misaligned employees will join, making your team worse. You’ll then be able to attract still worse candidates. 

You might wonder— “does my startup even need talent branding? Isn’t it for bigger companies? I can’t afford to spend money on branding now.”

Firstly — no matter your startup's stage, you need talent branding. For one core reason: great teams can move mountains. And you urgently need to assemble a great team!

Secondly—talent branding is less intimidating than it sounds. It’s just about identifying your core voice and communicating it authentically. You can start small and scale your talent branding efforts as your company grows.

Here are three things to think about while designing a talent brand: 

  1. About Us: Who, what, why
  2. What do we offer to the employee 
  3. Communicate in a believable way

Part 1: About Us: Who, what, why

To create a strong talent brand, start by articulating who you are, what your company does, and why you exist. Further, you need to communicate in such a way that a prospect will care about it.

At CoreVoice, we recommend using an “Origin Story” - where did you start, the decisions you made along the way, and where you are in your journey now. Look at the work we did for Setu; it answers the questions - “why is Setu’s work important, and how does it fit into a larger picture.” Setu got acquired by Pine Labs for $75m two years after we made this video.

But merely putting out an origin story video is not sufficient. In 2019, we worked with HyperVerge to identify their core voice. Sure enough, we started by articulating their origin story.

Further, to establish that HyperVerge does excellent work, we made a few videos about their most demanding challenges. We created these for the talent prospect (as opposed to the business prospect). We wanted talent to imagine the kind of work they will get to do in HyperVerge. In creating this content, we kept in mind that HyperVerge is a dual-purpose company with a “contribution” focus. Read the entire case study here.

Hyperverge is a unique dual-purpose company. But you don’t need a special purpose to tell your story. You just need to articulate what motivated you to start your business in the first place, what you are trying to solve, and where you want to reach

Part 2: What do we offer to the employee

Once candidates know who you are and what you do, their next question is why they should join your company. What is in it for them?

Candidates care about (a) remuneration and benefits and (b) growth opportunities, and (c) work culture. 

As startups, there is often an upper limit on remuneration and benefits. But growth opportunities are limitless. Thus, you need to highlight your company's unique growth opportunities. At CoreVoice, for example, we tell candidates, “why to learn marketing with one company when you can learn with five?” We can make this claim because employees at CoreVoice get to work with multiple startups (our clients). 

There’s also the question of work culture. Perhaps you have a “culture document” or not. Either way, you need to inform candidates about how you work. At CoreVoice, here are a few “hows”:

  • We take ownership. (Employees select their work.)
  • We make promises and live up to them without needing nudges. (There will be no managers.)
  • We are comfortable remote. (There will be no office.)
  • We approach work with a joyful attitude. (No whining, cribbing, or roasting.)
  • We are always open to learning new things. (We don’t always know everything.)
  • We have lives outside office hours. (Work can’t be your entire life.)

These “hows” may differ for your company, but articulating and communicating them is critical. Candidates who resonate with your work culture will try harder. Candidates who don’t resonate will self-reject themselves and save you time.

We worked on Chargebee’s Talent Branding in 2018. At the time, they were 150 people strong. They turned unicorn in 2021 with more than 1500 employees across the world. We weaved the “who, what, why” questions and articulated the work culture into videos, webpages and ppts. We used the voice of the founders and existing employees to convey these. We also made a video about Chargebee's home-base: Chennai. Take a look at the case study.

Part 3: Communicate in a believable way

Candidates have been had before. They have joined companies only to realise that behind the glossy hiring campaign was a toxic workplace, a terrible culture, and a lack of growth. 

Hence, you should assume that candidates will not believe what you say. They will want to verify your claims of best-in-class pay, infinite growth opportunities, work-life balance, etc. At the very least, they will look up Glassdoor and LinkedIn. 

Candidates are sceptics. They know that every startup says nice things before joining. In this environment of mistrust, how should you communicate? Two ideas:

Be authentic

Communicate who you are without unnecessary embellishments. Be yourself, don’t use too much jargon, and say it like it is.

Show, Don't Tell

Wherever possible, show an illustration instead of telling it. For example, instead of saying, “we don’t work on weekends,” you could say, “the founders like to spend time with their families on weekends.” Perhaps a few pictures would help too. This will help you pass the ‘vibe check’.

A Landing Career Page

Your talent brand needs a home! Dismissing a careers page as a webpage with a form to collect resumes is easy. In reality, it is much more.  

Take a look at the careers page of Rippling. Why is this page a great example? Because it engages prospects meaningfully and helps them understand why working at Rippling will be awesome. It creates that “want” we discussed at the beginning of this article.

At CoreVoice, we have a team page and a careers page. Both are simple and made on a shoestring budget. Yet, we get emails from top candidates saying they loved our careers page and would like to join us!

In conclusion

Five thousand words have passed since we started discussing hiring. Is it safe to assume that you care about this topic? That it is a “top-of-the-mind” problem for you? 

Your startup deserves the best. And you’ve got some great tips to implement right away. You are bound to see significant improvements in your hiring practice.

At CoreVoice, we are a story-led marketing consultancy for tech startups. If you have a talent branding problem that you would like us to look at, contact us! Do share this series with a friend or a colleague by sharing the link to the first part.