I’ve said it before but it’s worth making the point again. Whether you realise it or not – or like it or not – your organisation already has an employer brand. Your employees and your candidates will have formed an opinion of your company based on your reputation, their experience and your employment offer. But is it a positive one – and one that they’ll have an affinity with? That’s because the success of any employer brand depends on the one thing you really can’t fake – authenticity.

A successful employer brand is not only about how you differentiate your offer, it’s also about how that offer is perceived and effectively ‘bought’ by your target audience. They won’t buy what they don’t like – and nor will they buy what they don’t believe – or trust.

This article looks at the importance of building authenticity in your employer brand. We’ll share some tips and also how some examples of our own work. From the candidate’s perspective accepting a job offer is often a huge and highly personal decision. So let your authenticity help them choose you.

We are all truth seekers

Never before has it been easier to discover the truth – and it forms an essential part of our decision making. Will you buy that product? Look for reviews on Amazon. Will you book that hotel? Take a look on TripAdvisor. What’s it like to work for a certain employer? Ask GlassDoor – or check out social media and see what employees have to say.

LinkedIn has published some interesting employer branding data. They claim that 75% of jobseekers consider the employer brand before even applying for a role, and just over half (52%) visit the company website and social media sites to find out more information. And when they do, what’s more important to them? What the company says (well they would, wouldn’t they?) or, what actual users – or employees – have to say? No contest.

It’s a fact. We tend to gravitate towards what people like us have to say, rather than accept the corporate line. It wasn’t always that way but now, the truth is out there. Thanks to social media. And the X-Files.

Be real, or face the music

We are not only truth seekers but these days we also have pretty good bullsh*t filters fitted as standard. Candidates can tell very quickly if what they see on your careers site is genuine. And if they are not sure – as we know, they can find out.

A poor visual representation of your brand does nothing to help matters. Fakery used to be obvious – we can all recall the cheesy stock shots that used to feature in recruitment brochures and early careers websites. You know the ones. The boardroom shot, people pretending to be on the phone.

And then there was the corporate songs. Sadly the infamous KPMG video has been pulled from YouTube but someone has re-posted the song. If you’ve not heard this before, you are in for a treat.

Of course we have moved on (thankfully). But these examples, as bad as they were, illustrate the point that people want to see a realistic representation of the organisation they might want to work for. Even more so today.

Don’t forget, what they see of your employer brand is being compared against every other brand they come into contact with.

A few little authenticity tips

Tell it as it is – no airbrushing: It goes without saying that, if they find that the actual experience of working for you doesn’t match the expectations of your messaging, they’ll be disappointed. Your employer brand needs to be a truthful reflection of your organisation, your people and the way you work.

Involve your current employees: For all the focus on candidate attraction that often comes with developing an employer brand, it’s a mistake to forget about the people you currently employ. They’ll have a pretty good view on the authenticity of the employer brand you develop. And what’s more, you’ll want to retain them. Involving them in your employee value proposition and brand development reminds them of why they joined and engages them to be ambassadors for your employer brand. Which brings us to…

Employee generated content: Remember what we said about trust? Potential employees want to know what your people think about working for you – so give them a voice. It’ll also show that you value the opinions of your employees too. Engaged employees who find the employer brand is what they were expecting (meaning you’ve delivered on the promises implied) are more likely to share positive experiences with their social networks. And that means a reach far greater than the organisation could ever create.

Social media: This is where the conversation is. So please don’t be one of those organisations that gets all possessive about social media. Not only should you encourage your employees to generate their own content, it should be spontaneous and the more natural (OK, we’ve probably used authentic enough in this piece) the better. Having an away day? Take a camera, shoot a video. Give candidates the chance to see who you are and what it’s like to work for you. It will help them decide if they want to apply – or if they’d rather not. Both are good outcomes if you’ve shown the real you. The selection process goes two-ways.

We’ve written a whole piece on how social media can support your employer brand. Take a peek here.

So, that was the tips – but can you show us some examples? I’m glad you asked…

Real examples

Here are a few choice selections from our portfolio. In essence, each of the following examples is based on:

  • Thorough research with the intended audience – internally and externally
  • Complete buy-in to the authenticity of the concepts
  • Using their own people in all visual elements

Hastings Direct

Winner – ‘Best Development of an Employer Brand – The Firm Awards 2019

Insurance company Hastings Direct needed an employer brand to represent their modern culture, resonate with jobseekers across different functions, was warm and professional and centered on their people. We carried out internal and external research with each recruitment audience, developing the key themes and proposition and then ratifying the core messages with the client. Throughout the research it was mentioned that great people at Hastings Direct has a ‘certain something’ about them – that they were ‘clearly Hastings Direct in nature’. So what better way to show this than but featuring their own people.

Impact so far: 87% increase in website visitors, 29% increase in completed applications.

Take a look at the full Hastings Direct employer brand development case study here.


Wolseley, owner of retail brands Plumb Centre, Parts Centre and Climate Centre, wanted a website that would help them not only articulate the opportunities available within the group, but also support the renaming of their retail branches under the Wolseley name. We recognised that Wolseley’s people are their very best advocates. That’s why they feature on every page, blog or job and in every piece of video. They help deliver key content and offer a real insight into their culture. And supporting this, the site integrates seamlessly with their social media platforms which help articulate the day-to-day activities of Wolseley in real time.

Take a look at the full Wolseley careers website case study here.

Impact so far: 148% increase in website visitors, 36% increase in completed applications.

Want more? Take a look through all our case studies here.

So why does authenticity matter then?

We are living in a world where more and more of us are less willing to compromise on our values. It’s no different with where we work and who we decide to invest our time with – because it is an investment for the employee too. They want an authentic employer brand that meets their values and where the reality matches the expectation.

As recruiters, it can be easy to get immersed in job requisitions and deadlines, missing the point that joining an organisation is a big decision for a candidate. They are more likely to dig beneath the surface and they are going to want to like what they see – and go on to find that they were right.

Often getting your candidates over the line isn’t so much down to what you say, but what your existing employees are prepared to say – and you know who’s responsible for that.

We’ll help you keep it real.

We are That Little Agency, we help employers tell their story and we do this by developing award-winning employer brands and careers websites. All with authenticity at their heart. If you feel that you’d like some help, support or even a little chat around defining your employer value proposition, developing your employer brand or any aspect of your talent attraction strategy just drop us a line. After all, much of our best work has started with a cup of tea and a biscuit.