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  Why Google or Starbucks?

Why are people attracted to companies like Google and Starbucks? Is it money? Opportunity? Or maybe for the bragging rights?

Certainly a few candidates are drawn by these superficial attractors, but more are subtly drawn by what Google really does and by what it stands for. I call this the organization's cause.

Google's cause is free information. It represents the 21st century approach to information: open, free for all, easy to access, and organized in logical ways. That is why Google has purchased YouTube and that is why it has Google Earth and Google Images and Google Docs.

Whether you are interested in visual or verbal data, Google has it all. All its core businesses are focused around this central principle or cause.

And more people are attracted to causes than things.

Starbucks' cause is community. It's a place, like in the old television show Cheers, where everybody knows your name. It feels good to go into your local Starbucks every morning, be greeted by a smiling barista who knows your name and your favorite drink, and to meet some friends.

Both of these organizations have built their business strategies around these causes and as a result have created powerful brands. Their brands work not only for the products and services they sell, but as attractors of great people who have similar affinities.

A powerful recruiting brand is about identifying your organization's "cause" and leveraging it to attract the right people.

Many recruiters think that a recruiting brand is independent of their corporate brand or that it can be different from that brand and image. Whenever an organization puts out a recruiting message that does not reflect the true culture and cause of the firm, its messages will fall on deaf ears and candidates will instantly pick up on the dissonance. A powerful recruiting brand picks up and amplifies and focuses the true culture and cause of the firm.

Recruiting brands are also built very deliberately; they just don't happen by themselves. Google and Starbucks, as well as Intuit and Cisco and many other top companies, have put together branding strategies that span months and even years.

An effective branding strategy includes a variety of influencing tools: books, blogs, career sites, speeches, presentations, analyst meetings, advertising, and email messaging, to list just a few. A solid recruiting brand is a long-term solution in the short-term world of most recruiters.

Make Your Firm Memorable

This is a tall order for many organizations that feel they are ordinary and unexciting. But I have not found any organization that, on at least a local level, cannot identify a few things that make it special. Use this special quality to build the brand.

There are five keys to successfully building a recruiting brand:

Gain perspective and know yourself. Thoroughly understand what your organization's cause is and its unique characteristics. Do market research to learn everything you can about your competitors and what they are doing. Identify who your primary candidate is, and who you most need to attract to be a successful company. Learn from representative samples of these people what messages they like to hear and what concepts and words attracted them to your firm.
Define the promise. What are you promising an employee about what they will get from working in your organization? As mentioned earlier, people tend to be attracted to causes. In Google's case, their promise is that key employees will be able to work on projects and in teams that continue to expand Google's ability to access information and make it available to everyone. If you haven't identified your cause, get several long-term employees to write down why they work for this company. Ask what they find exciting. Probe until you feel you have hit that nerve that really defines the cause your organization stands for in the minds of employees. Once you have that you can develop very powerful marketing and branding messages.
Develop a strategy. No brand develops itself. Successful brands are deliberate constructions, based on understanding the cause to be sure, but then constructed step-by-step. Have a final vision of what a successful brand would deliver to the organization in terms of both employees but also in terms of what these employees might accomplish. This means that your employment brand has to be aligned with and synergistic with your corporate and product brands. A typical recruiting strategy might stretch over three or more years and have many milestones and targets. The more time you spend on getting a good strategy in place, the greater the benefit and the easier it will be to see your progress.
Create a "buzz" to communicate your brand. Once you have the vision and alignment, you can decide what communication tools will fit your budget and be most effective. Almost for sure at the center of your branding activities will be a career site. This career site needs messages that carefully reflect the brand and strengthen a candidate's desire to work for your organization. Some of these tools include articles placed in publications or on websites that are read by potential candidates, blogs that someone in your organization writes on a regular basis, videos that shows employees living the cause and doing engaging work, or presentations that you make at college campuses or to professional associations that also demonstrate the cause and culture of your firms.
Measure your progress. Corporate executives won't provide funding for programs that cannot demonstrate some sort of return. Brands can be measured in hundreds of ways. For example, if you mention your company at a cocktail party or to some friends, will they recognize the name and have an impression about the quality of the company? You can track how many know about your company and whether it has a general positive reputation or a negative one. Another idea? Ask yourself whether or not your firm is listed as a great place to work by Business Week or Fortune. If not, you might consider applying for that distinction. It is a time-consuming process, but it may be worth it if it is part of your overall branding strategy. If you are a small company, there may be a local magazine or newspaper that does something equivalent. A third measure could be the number of referrals you receive and how many are good fits. My final measure is how many of your employees are sought after by your competition? Are you considered a good source of candidates? If so, the desire to hire your people most likely has come about due to your strong reputation and brand.
Employment branding is a growing field that has just begun to unfold. It can help immensely in attracting the right people and in making it easier to convince good candidates to work for you.

DaCare is the leading bi-lingual executive search firm in China. Ranked top 10 in China by People's Daily.