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Post by Rich Moy on Sep 12, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Out of all the topics that we’ve covered on this blog, employer branding is our third largest category—and for good reason. Large organizations such as The Washington Post have made subtle tweaks to their employer branding strategy that enable them to attract and engage with developers. There’s also plenty of data that suggests that there are serious financial implications for companies that don’t make branding a priority.

Over the last few years, developers have said that company culture is one of their top priorities in a new job. In response, many talent acquisition leaders are applying storytelling concepts to their employer branding strategy. When you hear the word “storytelling,” you probably think about long-form articles or novels that inspired and moved you deeply.

But are developers looking for a traditional story arc that’s inspired by your company mission? Or are they just looking for the facts? We asked a few developers about how they evaluate a company’s employer branding story. Here’s what they had to say.

Keep It Simple, but Don’t Skip the Technical Details

In this year’s Developer Survey, 13% of respondents said that a company’s culture is their highest concern when assessing a new job. Aurelien Gasser, a Developer here at Stack Overflow, agrees that this is something that programmers should consider. But he also tells us that in his opinion, an employer branding story driven by technology is more compelling.

“When I want to learn about a company’s mission, I can usually find what I’m looking for in their general marketing materials,” Gasser continues. “I’m more interested in the technologies that every company uses. I think a good technical job listing should have a minimum of four sentences about the programming languages and frameworks in the tech stack.”

Of course, this is far from a mandate to omit details about your organization’s culture. But take another look at your employer branding materials for developers. Is there enough information about your team’s tech stack or current projects? A few additional sentences about the technical side of your employer branding story could make your company more attractive to tech candidates.

Understand the Candidate’s Impact on Your Company

Tom Flanagan, a Senior Software Engineer at Marvel Entertainment, says that employers commonly make one mistake when they sell themselves to candidates. “Job listings and recruiter emails often make grand assumptions about the positions and what a single engineer can do,” Flanagan says. Although developers prioritize opportunities for professional development, he says that this isn’t an effective way to advertise career growth.

“They often say something along the lines of, ‘We need a world-class engineer who will re-architect and develop our entire product line from the ground-up, in addition to upgrading our infrastructure to meet our extremely high bandwidth needs,’” Flanagan continues. “Describing a position like that won't make it enticing to anyone. If expectations are that high at the beginning, a developer will have no room to impress an organization with their talent.”

With that in mind, it’s clear that your employer branding for developers needs to be realistic. What types of contributions are you hoping that one developer will make? Are you asking too much of candidates through your employer branding? On the surface, this might not seem like an exciting employer branding story for developers—but the good news is that you don’t need anything over the top to get their attention.

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