The Hunt for the Pink Unicorn Starts with Your Employment Brand

Building a Strong Employment Brand


This is an ongoing series discussing the strategic role of social media and technology used in hiring and recruitment.

An employment brand is a new breed of marketing and is the most advanced form of social recruiting. Companies are flocking to sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and even Pinterest to build their brand as a growing number of job seekers are using social media, mobile and online peer networks to select the company they want to work for. Recruiting teams are implementing robust branding and engagement strategies, seeing candidates not only as potential customers for the products they sell, but also as advocates for their brand and future employees. This is the definition of employer brand. Mobile plays a significant role in their strategies in relation to recruiting and employment brand as companies become more creative in order to reach the competitive candidate market. Marketers with proven experience are overseeing branding and execution in recruiting. Though larger organizations like Taco Bell, PepsiCo and AT&T are thinking this way, the market is still relatively new so smaller companies can take advantage and still

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be seen as an early adopter.

What is an Employment Brand?

Employment brand is also often referred to as recruitment marketing or employment branding and is the most complex recruitment strategy to date pulling from all the elements of the social media hierarchy (seen below). The idea of employment brand is fueled by the philosophy where company sees candidates as customers focusing on a long term relationship with a job seeker over a course of time versus driving them to apply for a job opening through a single job posting, career fair or interaction with a recruiter.



To execute an employment branding strategy, a recruiting team must work directly with the marketing team. Because both the branding campaigns support one another, it is imperative that the messages support and align with both teams efforts. This is major shift as HR and recruiting teams have not been seen as marketers even though they often oversee and execute internal communication between managers to employees and other announcements as well as external recruiting and candidate engagement efforts through campus recruiting, job fairs and internet recruiting and posting on social media as well as job boards.

A true employment brand campaign creates a story and underlying message that reaches their target job seeker and candidate audience using a number of targeted mediums based on research to reach and appeal to that sometimes very specific audience. Like traditional product marketing campaigns, employment brand campaigns change frequently to remain fresh, mainstream and top of mind for the job seekers they are looking to attract and resonate with.

Just like in traditional marketing, the use of focus groups and surveys is an important part of the employment brand research in understanding what works for a certain type of a prospective employee. One of the easiest ways it to tap into your newly hired employee population asking them why they applied at your organization, the number of touch points it took before they made the decision to apply and where they spent their time both online, in person and throughout their job search. It’s also important to make the distinction between whether the new employee was a passive or active job seeker whether they were actively looking for a new job or were dipping their toe into the job search waters but not actively search or apply via job boards or Craiglist for their next new job.

The Role of the Passive vs. Active Candidate and Job Seeker

The real difference between an active and passive job seeker is no different than a buyer of a consumer product except it’s in reverse. Passive job seekers are the pink unicorn of your recruiting and employment brand efforts. Pink unicorns are often preferred as they are likely happy, engaged and productive yet elusive employees who are likely open to new activities but haven’t made a substancial time commitment investing in looking for a job. I repeat, pink unicorns are not looking for a new job. These passive job seekers are also less likely to have participated in online activities that signal to competitors that they are looking for work such as tightening up their Facebook security settings, updating their LinkedIn profile or uploading a resume to a job board site. Technologies like Bullhorn Reach and Entelo currently exist in the recruitment technology marketplace so that companies can maintain a human capital advantage and the search for the pink unicorns continues.

The argument for many is that all job seekers are now passive candidates, but I don’t believe that ever passive candidate should be a pink unicorn. Employee retention is at an all time low as job seekers are looking for new experiences and work projects to improve their skills. Often times a job hop is the only way to increase your salary more than the standard annual 3% increase that employers provide. While I’m an advocate of engaging and focusing your recruiting efforts on the current employee population, it’s a solid business decision to vary those efforts to retain and develop your current workforce while also building relationships with new prospects long before they become an active or even passive job seeker. This can be accomplished through an employment brand campaign where multiple mediums or channels are leveraged including videos, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, digital photography and picture sites like Instagram and Pinterest and developed messaging and content through job descriptions, postings and blog posts.

Just like recruiting, there is no silver bullet for your employment brand campaign, it depends on your audience, industry, location and company culture which is why a strategy like this is so specific and complex. It can your company’s chance to share your company culture through storytelling efforts that align and support with your current marketing efforts.

This is an ongoing series discussing the strategic role of social media and technology used in hiring and recruitment. Click here to read the series from the beginning.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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