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Post by Erin Gray on Oct 23, 2014 3:17:00 PM

We recently hosted an event on Employer Branding for Tech Talent at our New York headquarters. Our mission was simple: Bring industry leaders together for a panel discussion about how customized recruitment marketing campaigns helped them better engage and recruit technical talent. To offer advice to our attendees, we built a panel of Stack Overflow clients who successfully restructured their recruitment campaigns to appeal directly to developers.

The group included Artie Jordan, SVP of Information Technology at 2U, Joris Luijke, VP of HR and Talent at Squarespace, Christy Mommsen, Director of Global Recruitment Marketing and Branding at American Express, and Anthony Onesto, VP of HR at Razorfish. Despite the variations in company size and industry, all of the individuals had experienced some sort of branding dilemma at one point or another. The branding wasn’t the only thing the companies had in common.

Check out our top takeaways from the hour long discussion:

1. Consumer branding doesn’t always translate into employer branding, especially when it comes to technical talent.

At the first few career fairs that Christy attended on behalf of American Express, she saw a unique issue: Everybody knew American Express, but thought they were attending in order to sign people up for credit cards! Anthony experienced a similar issue at Razorfish--the digital ad space knew and respected them, but convincing technical talent to join the team was a struggle. The fix, for both companies, was the creation of an internal recruitment marketing team to focus specifically on their employer branding.

Their advice: When planning any recruitment campaign, treat it like an additional marketing campaign. Make sure you take into account all of the key stakeholders and branding avenues.

2. Regardless of industry, differentiating yourself as a company while recruiting can be challenging.

According to Joris, even Squarespace had difficulty in figuring out how to differentiate themselves from other tech companies and deciding how to position the company externally. With so many other software companies touting the same benefits and employee perks, they decided to build a recruitment campaign that stood out entirely from their competitors.

Their advice: Never forget to point out what makes you unique and be able to tell your company’s story in a way that helps developers relate.

3. Unique recruitment methods can be very, very effective.

Joris and the Squarespace team created a recruitment campaign that involved treating finalist candidates to a weekend in their version of NYC. In an attempt to convince candidates outside of the area to uproot their lives and move to the Big Apple, they wanted to show candidates what it is locals love about New York. Artie took a different route and started working with organizations that help with career changes, i.e. General Assembly and the Flatiron School.

Their advice: By differentiating yourself in your recruiting strategies, you’ll already be making moves to differentiate your company from others trying to recruit the same candidates.

4. Diversity in recruiting and employment is a main focus right now.

From research and partnerships to meetups and networking, all four panelists discussed measures they took to increase diversity in the workplace -- from the standpoints of both recruitment and retention. Not only did they want to hire women and minorities, they wanted to ensure their employee happiness.

Their advice: Don’t expect the same methods and tricks to work in a diversity initiative. Start by having open conversation with key stakeholders and being transparent about your company’s goals and current state of the diversity of your employee base.

5. The face of recruitment is important.

Your recruiters are the first people that candidates speak with, and thus they have the ability to set expectations for the job and company right off the bat. That’s why Joris likes to employ recruiters with an engineering-like mindset--naturally curious individuals who want to learn more about the people they meet and who are genuinely interested in finding that needle in a haystack.

Their advice: Make sure your recruitment team understands what it is that makes engineers tick and how to approach them in a way that will be well received.

6. Retention is crucial.

If your current employees don’t want to stick around, why will future employees? Make sure your current employees are happy, and then figure out what it is that keeps them there. Joris and the Squarespace team accomplish this by structuring their engineering team a bit differently: they don’t have traditional teams and get to join new projects as they choose. This not only allows them to play a role in numerous parts of the company, but also keeps them challenged as they learn new technologies and tricks.

Their advice: Make sure you have a solid understanding of what current employees love about working with you and make sure those ideas are reflected in your recruitment and interview processes.

While our panelists provided some key insights into the realm of recruitment marketing, what worked for them may or may not work for you. Finding success will likely be a matter of trial and error, and employer branding will not be conquered over night. So where do you start? When it comes to developers, start by figuring out why current developers love working for your company. That's your branding bread-and-butter. After that point, you can work with internal stakeholders to spread the message. If you're looking for a quick win, set up a free Company Page to get developers on Stack Overflow more engaged with your employer brand.

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