Employer Branding T.I.P S03Ep.10 | Communications, recruitment & employer branding: the three pillars of becoming an employer of choice, with Oliver Aust, @Eo Ipso Communications & Konstanty Sliwowski, @Caissa Recruitment   


Ending season 3 of #EmployerBranding: The Inside Podcast with a bang! 

In the last episode of the series, we talked with Oliver Aust, Founder & CEO at Eo Ipso Communications and Konstanty Sliwowski, Founder and Managing Director at Caissa Recruitment, about the implications of proper communication and the importance of a well put together recruitment process to build a strong employer brand. 

We spoke about the importance of a unique value proposition, as well as about company values and the way they influence any organizational culture. Tune in on Spotify for more!   

What you’ll learn by listening 

  • Company culture: what it is & how to implement it
  • Company values & the overall communications process in the context of employer branding 
  • The importance of a very well put together recruitment process 
  • How Employer Branding is reflected in the hiring process
  • Employer branding & communications: how the two are linked together 
  • The importance of having a genuine EVP 
  • What’s a suitable number of company values & why you shouldn’t have more
  • Management & leadership: great reflectors of company culture 

About the company

Caissa is a talent acquisition, staffing and executive search organisation with a focus on technology and digital economy. Their mission is to support clients and candidates in identifying and pursuing their employment objectives. As part of Arrows Group, Caissa provides superior recruitment services to startups and scaleups across Europe and beyond. 

Eo Ipso Communications helps high-profile individuals and organisations take their reputation to the next level to build future-proof businesses. The company specializes in Strategic, CEO and Crisis Communications. 

Enjoy listening to T.I.P S03Ep.10!

Podcast transcription 

Georgiana: Hi everyone! This is Georgiana with a new episode of Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast. And today for the first time since I’ve been doing this podcast, I’m interviewing two people at the same time, which is going to be brand new and hopefully, really nice, both for me and for them. And so my guests today are Konstanty Sliwowski, from Caissa Recruitment, founder and managing director. Welcome! Good morning, Konstanty. Thanks for coming. And Oliver Aust, Managing Director and Founder of EO Ipso Communications. Hi, Oliver. Good morning!

employer branding general

Oliver Aust: Good morning! Thanks for having me!

Georgiana: And the reason we met today is because we’d like to go through some important aspects of employer branding in general; we’ll be discussing company culture, company values, I would say the overall communication process when it comes to employer branding, also the importance of a very well put together recruitment process for the economy of an employer brand. And, yeah, we are going to be asking questions of one another, which is quite a new format for this podcast, and an interview among three people. And we are going to start if that’s okay with you guys. Unless of course, you’d like to say some more about what you guys do. I think that’s also important, introducing ourselves, maybe a little more extensively.

Konstanty Sliwowski: Sure, happy to do so. So, thanks for having me on the podcast, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. You know, as a podcast host myself, I always enjoy these conversations, especially in this format of three people, where we get to explore what we know. My personal background is 20 years in recruitment and leadership, as well as executive search within tech and product.

I’m very much a proponent of the importance of employer branding and how Employer Branding is reflected in your hiring process. My company Caissa is very much a company focused on how your organization is represented to a candidate market, how your organization is able to process a candidate’s hiring in a way that reflects them as a employer, them as an organization, as well as the management team in an effective and engaging way that would ensure that candidates feel that it is the right place for them to work and ultimately put their time, effort and life into. So that’s, that’s a little bit of an introduction about me, but we will cover a lot more in this podcast. 

Georgiana: Thank you, Konstanty! Oliver, please! 

Oliver Aust: Yeah, thank you for having me. So, very much looking forward to this conversation as well. And I think it’s worth adding that we’re all friends. We all met at the Mindspace community years ago. And we also work together on a number of projects in this field. So with that, my background is in communications, I’m CEO of Eo Ipso Communications.

And I’m really a student first and foremost of communications. I studied this in my podcast Speak like a CEO, and I studied it in various books I’ve written about the subject. We, at Eo Ipso, focus very much on employer branding, leadership and CEO communications and crisis communications. And what we’ve seen in recent months really is an uptaking interest in employer branding, compared to other forms of communication. And so I think it’s very timely and topical to talk about employer branding at the moment. So glad we’re having this conversation.

Georgiana: Yes, great. And as you all know, I started this podcast about two years ago, willing to sort of investigate the market in Berlin when it comes to employer branding. My background is actually in digital marketing. And during the past two, three years, I’ve worked as an employer branding consultant, I’ve also worked in recruitment marketing, with my company, Beaglecat, we carry a lot of recruitment marketing campaigns for tech companies in Berlin and in Romania. And if we are done with the introductions, I think we can get started. And practically the first part is going to be me, asking Oliver about Employer Branding, in general, about the importance of a unique value proposition as an employer. And yeah, I guess this is it. So, Oliver, the unique value proposition as an employer should be clear to the employees. Do you agree or disagree?

Oliver Aust: Right. So that’s an important question that we would ask companies. Do you think it’s clear to employees because often it isn’t. So let’s start with definitions. I think that’s in order. What is the unique value proposition for an employer? It’s basically like a USP, a unique selling point for the company or product or service. You have to think very hard about why anyone would join or stay in your company. So that’s the question you need to answer and looking for your unique value proposition is just a convoluted way of saying as much. 

So why should anyone join? And when you have conversations with candidates, and you’re putting on job ads, and you go through interview processes, you should be very clear about why anyone should join your company. The process to get to your unique value proposition is very much like coming up with a unique selling point for your product. And this can encompass various aspects from your market position. So if you’re a market leader, that could be interesting, if you just had a huge round of funding that could be interesting for people, maybe have a visionary leadership team, maybe a fantastic culture, your location, your compensation. So you start with all the great things about your company, and then think about what’s unique, I would not put everything in there.

Really think hard about what one or two things are really unique about the company that make you different from other companies. And it needs to be very specific to you. And it can’t just be “we have a great culture”, right? So you need to explain in a very few simple words, why your company culture is great, or why you’re a market leader or what your vision is, as a company, those things you know, people find interesting, but they also find interest in what you do for them, of course, not just who you are.

Oliver Aust

So a learning environment built to grow, helping teams and people to grow and move through the ranks quickly. So those things are also relevant here.

Georgiana: Do your employees need to recommend you as an employer? Do you agree or disagree?

Oliver Aust: Yeah,  that’s a great question. And I think they do need to recommend you. In marketing, you talk about net promoter score, right, the NPS. So any company or any product, usually, at a certain size, they ask customers, “would you recommend us?” that’s the Net Promoter Score NPS. And the same is actually true for employees. And you should ask them, you should do surveys, you should always keep your finger on the pulse of your people. And one of the most relevant questions is really, would you recommend us as an employer, so it is very important to keep track of that regularly. So, once a quarter, ask that question, because you want to know whether your people would actually recommend to their friends and to their network to work for you. Because if they don’t, that’s a huge red flag, and you should really dive into why that is the case.

Georgiana: Does a company need to receive enough or want to receive enough high quality applications to fill their positions quickly? Agree or disagree?

Oliver Aust: Exactly. So another very important question we ask. And this is obviously one of the main reasons why people come to us and want to talk about employer branding. And they often at the moment, at least in a very competitive market, don’t receive enough high quality applications, even if they go out and approach people. So it’s not just about -you know- putting up a job ad and waiting, because that doesn’t really work at the moment. So you have to be way more active and way more direct in your approach.

But still, even after that approach, do you receive enough high quality applications to quickly fill your positions, so you can grow and thrive? Because if you don’t, you can’t really grow, you may not even be able to replace the people who are leaving, we’re living through the Great Resignation. So receiving enough applications is very important. And there are various ways of achieving that. And I think we’re having this conversation, because you need to look at this holistically. So why is that the case, if you don’t receive enough applications – that can be the branding part. But it can also be your culture, it can be the recruitment process or some other things. So you need to look at the whole picture that a candidate would see in order to assess how you can bring up the number of high quality applications.

Georgiana: And now we go to the last question of this first, general Employer Branding part. Should the company run campaigns that position them as an employer? What do you think?

Oliver Aust: I think so. And that campaign doesn’t necessarily mean you do it for a few weeks, and then it’s off again, and maybe the next quarter, you do it again. But a campaign can be evergreen. The reason why I think this is important to talk about with organizations is that you need to tell the world about your company or not the world but your target audiences a specific persona of potential employees you want to target and then run a campaign because otherwise they will not know what you can offer as an employer and that’s where the unique value proposition comes in, because the campaign should obviously be based on the big ideas that derive from your unique value proposition.

You need to figure out why people should join your company, then you need to run a campaign to tell them. And you create many touch points for that specific audience. In a way, this is how you bring up the number of applications, you run a great campaign, you have very clear messaging in your campaign. And you ideally get your employees to promote you to their networks as well, so that people hear about you via various touch points.

Oliver Aust

Georgiana: And Oliver, Konstanty, and I, we’ve put together this employer branding process in which three main components are visible, right? So we talked about the importance of creating a good brand, as an employer; we talked about the importance of having good values pinned down, and we talked about how important it is to have a steady and not too stuffy recruitment process in place. And this being said, Konstanty, the next part is going to be on company culture. And it’s actually my turn to answer your questions. So please go ahead.

Konstanty Sliwowski: I do love questions. But I’m actually going to hijack this a little bit, because Oliver mentioned a few things in his answers that I think are very important to mention, before I start actually asking some questions. So you mentioned to Oliver that, you know, a big part of this is “would your employees recommend you?” and how you should be checking this on a regular basis. I would actually say more than regular, more than a quarterly basis.

Personally within my organization, we check this on a weekly basis. And there are certain tools that you can use for this, such as Officevibe. However, another key indicator of this is when your candidates recommend you. And if your hiring process is not run in a way that enables candidates to feel comfortable with you, as an employer, comfortable with you as an organization, this has a much deeper impact on your employer brand. Because ultimately, if someone has a bad experience, bad candidate experience with you, that is what they’re going to be telling the market, that is what is going to be known to the market. 

Oliver Aust: Good point. And I like to do this every week. I think you’re really leading this obviously. I think it depends a little bit on the size of the company, right? When you have 1000s of employees, these things tend to happen very rarely. But it should be done very regularly. How do you ask the candidates then?

Konstanty Sliwowski: I mean, you can even do an NPS score with candidates following their hiring process.

Georgiana: Right? Provided that you had a very good hiring process and that you’ve turned them down with a phone call or an email, you know, with something personalized?

Konstanty Sliwowski: Well, if you didn’t, then you’re going to find out that they’re unhappy with the process. So you can actually do something about it. Right? Yeah. So there’s an episode that I did on my podcast School of Hiring, where we talk a lot more about this actually with Oliver. But if anyone wants to find out more, have a listen to that. The other thing that you mentioned, Oliver, is about receiving enough applications. Now. Sure, there is a need for a certain volume of applications.

I think that very often in hiring, we look at whether your employer brand going to attract enough applications. And I believe that is the wrong question. What you should be looking at is whether your employer brand going to attract the right applications. Because you can attract hundreds of people, if they’re not the people that you need to hire for your organization, there’s something really, really wrong.

Konstanty Sliwowski

And this is where I should want to begin my questions for you Georgiana. Because your company has clear written values and a culture code. Yeah, the mission, the vision, the values. Do you do you think that this is important? Do you agree with this concept? And how should this actually be structured within an organization?

Georgiana: Well, ideally, I think these values should exist, period. Absolutely. And then of course, they should be clearly stated. And also ideally, then maybe translated into some employer brand pillars, if we’d like to do things by the book. However, what I’ve noticed is that many times these values are written down on the website and just remain somewhere in the void, these very depleted of meaning concepts that nobody understands and that nobody applies.

In the end, values should just reflect the human side of the company and should always come down to how the employee feels when working for a company.

Georgiana Ghiciuc

Konstanty Sliwowski: Should have meaning for who? I think this is a key question. 

Georgiana: All parties involved, of course. For the employer, but especially for the employee, I would say. And you were right in mentioning that every once in a while employees should be surveyed, they should be asked what it feels like for them to work in a company, are they happy? Do they adhere to the current culture? Do they feel that the values have changed? And how does the culture reflect the new values? Absolutely, they are important, but they should always always be put in the context of how the employee feels while working for a company.

Konstanty Sliwowski: Absolutely right. I couldn’t agree more. However, there’s also something that we, the three of us, because we’ve discussed this, have observed that very often these values, this culture is set by the management, this is what our values are, this is what our culture is, here’s the great posters on the wall. And no one in the employees actually buys into it. For me, it’s very important that the culture, that we recognize that culture is defined by the employees, not by the management. 

Georgiana: Absolutely, and the way the three of us do it, when we start working with a company with our end to end Employer Branding approach is that we start by working with the leadership team. And then we make sure that what is discussed with the leadership team is accepted and appropriated by the rest of the company. And then it’s up to the HR to make sure that people are on board with everything that’s being pinned down as values, as culture, as mission. So absolutely, it should not stay just with the leadership, it should be top down or sideways, depending on how the company works.

So my question for you is, how do you then make sure that the working environment actually reflects the company culture? How do you as the management do that? I think many times, if you know, let’s put it this way, if you do a survey with the leadership team before working on defining the company culture, and then you do at the same time a survey among the company, you might feel that the reality perceived by them is quite a different one.  So then you start to think, “how can I put these together? How can I make sure that these people are all in the same boat and adhere to the same concepts?” So the way to do it after you’ve worked on really forging that employer brand that Oliver also mentioned in the beginning is, like you said Konstanty, just three times a year, twice a year, five times a year, ask your employees, what they feel about, how they feel about what’s going on in the company.

Konstanty Sliwowski: Absolutely. And I actually would argue that you need to do that more often. More often. As Oliver said, we are in the middle of the great resignation. And many of us have experienced the churn of employees within our organizations over the last two years. The impact of that churn is that there is a change in how we perceive culture. So what your culture was two years ago, is no longer the culture you have now 50% of your staff have turned over. And this is not an uncommon number.

Actually, if only 50% have turned over in two years, you’re probably not doing something right. So you really need to look at this. And this brings me to the next question. You know, your employees need to know what the culture of an organization is, and need to act accordingly. So there’s, there’s a fine balance here, that you need to achieve. That’s the management’s responsibility, to first lead the way with regards to the culture and then make sure that the culture is adhered to, but you’re really winning, if your employees start to be the ones that ensure that culture is adhered to, but I, you’re the specialist on this, am I completely off?

Georgiana: No, not at all. And I would say that the most important person to work with and to have in mind when starting the entire process is the person in the HR department or the team in the HR department, because in my opinion, these people have to first of all understand that you’re there to help them. So that, afterwards, they can convey the new values, the new messaging to the entire company, right? And this is done in a variety of ways.

This can be done through a better structured or a differently structured recruitment process, this can be done through a variety of visual communication cues that employees are going to see in the office. This can be seen through how leadership communicates with employees, how people in the company, in the organization communicate with each other, right? So there’s, in my opinion, a long way between knowing the values or the company culture and actually walking the walk. But  it’s a constant process, I would say it’s a process that HR needs to initiate. And then it’s a process that the entire company needs to be a part of, and yeah, needs to work on with time. 

Oliver Aust: Can I ask a question here? Because you are the experts on this. But how would you phrase a value? What I often find is that they are too general – let’s say, empathy. But that doesn’t tell me how I should behave. So how do you square that circle?

Georgiana: I would phrase this one like this: in this office or in this organization, we care for one another. We help each other when we’re in need. It should always be doubled by a very concrete example of how that value occurs in the organization. And there are various ways of doing it. Various ways in which you can emphasize the value while always sticking to the purpose of the company. The purpose of each company is also something to have in mind.

Konstanty Sliwowski: The word specialist in this room is definitely Oliver. But having gone through the process of defining mission, vision, values, within my own organization, I can say that I spent a lot of time with a thesaurus, finding the right word that just nails it. By a lot of time. I mean, it took me four months to nail down that one word that speaks what it is that we do and how we act, that would be not only accepted by me, most importantly, accepted by my team, by my organization, and would be able to be perpetuated within the organization as it grows. And it’s not an easy task, I have to say.

Oliver Aust: I agree. And so the test applies, is it sticky? Can you remember it? And is it something I would actually use in the conversation at work? So rather than saying, we have a numbers-driven organization, we have data-driven decision making, you can say “have your numbers ready”. And I always look for these phrases that make it sticky and very simple to communicate. And that you can always come back to.

Konstanty Sliwowski: Well, it’s how you define the word, right? Empathy can mean five different things for five different people. How do you, as an organization, define empathy? How do you, as an organization, find partnership? How do you as an organization define ownership or responsibility or data? So there is a big task there to get the team to agree. Because it doesn’t matter what you as a manager think is the definition. If the team doesn’t agree with that definition, it’s pointless. Right?

Oliver Aust: But can I ask you  another question? How many values do you think are a good sort of ballpark number for a company to have? 

Georgiana: Three?

Konstanty Sliwowski: I like three, three is good. Yeah. I’m also married to someone who’s Chinese. So four is a bad number. Three is good. And five is a crowd.

Georgiana: And hard to remember, the more they are.

Konstanty Sliwowski: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I do have one last question for you. You know, and this actually, we did kind of touch on this. But, you know, it’s leadership and management within an organization and the style of leadership and management within an organization needs to reflect company culture. I think we can all agree on that. But to what degree? How far do you take that? How, I think, is the question here, really?

Georgiana: You know, Konstanty, I don’t think it needs to reflect the company culture. I think, especially for smaller companies, the management and the leadership always reflects the company culture or the other way around. If you want, the company culture is always a reflection of the leader. Do you agree? Oh, because I’ve worked in my life with a lot of small companies, we used to do a lot of digital marketing campaigns for tech companies. And what I’ve noticed is that in smaller companies with up to, I don’t know, 50-70 employees, the presence and the persona of the leader, of the founder, of the CEO sometimes, was so so strong that for most people, they were one and the same thing, you would not separate between what the leader was as a person, and then the company culture in that company and the way everybody behaved and the way everybody helped each other, you know, that was so evident for all of us. 

At the same time, it’s really easy to make mistakes, when you’re in that position. And when you’re in a small company, you’re always under scrutiny. And you always need to be attentive to what you do and how you speak, because everyone’s gonna sort of appropriate your behavior as the company culture. For larger organizations, however, I think matters are a bit more volatile. I don’t know, I really haven’t worked a lot with multinational companies, for example, but I have worked in one in my life. And my experience was that it’s really, really volatile. It’s really bland, even sometimes it’s  impossible for people when working in a huge environment to pin down a proper company culture. So maybe, yeah, maybe Oliver, you have more experience with working with and in larger organizations? And you can maybe give us an example for that. But I would say that, absolutely, Leadership and Management should always reflect the company culture, because unless we walk the walk, then the rest of the company won’t.

Oliver Aust: And it’s worth pointing out, if there’s a discrepancy between the words, the values written down, and the action, that people will follow the action, the action will determine the culture, not the words. And this is very important to understand, because sometimes this is very toxic, but it does happen, that culture is used, basically, to impose one’s will on people. So if one of the values is, “we discuss, then commit, so disagree and then commit”, that someone in the organization leadership uses that to get people to just commit, even though they disagree and say, well, now we discussed it, now you need to commit to it, that’s our value, which is actually the opposite of what this is supposed to mean, right? So a safe culture where you can actually disagree, and then find the best way forward together, not to impose your will on others. So this is where culture can become very toxic. So yes, leadership matters a great degree and be careful with the actions, they need to be fully aligned with the values.

Konstanty Sliwowski: I’m really biting my tongue not to make a political statement here at this point. I mean, we are recording this in the first days of March of 2022. And clearly there is an international situation going on. And if if you needed a more staunch representation of what, you know, “discuss and commit” looks like, then all you need to do is look at what’s going on in Russia where things are discussed, and then commitment is dictated from the top, which is why the situation has been allowed to excel to the current sad state it is in. And, you know, on the on the other hand, you know, there are, there are other alternative forms of governments that can be achieved through consensus, and we’re also seeing how consensus can work on both local, national and international level and the effort that it can yield as well as the results that it can yield. 

Oliver Aust: How do you segue to the recruitment process? This is tough, so let’s just do it. Okay. This is a hard left turn to talk about recruitment, the recruitment process, if I may. Considering you’re the expert on this, very clearly. I mean, you’ve been recruiting and helping to recruit 1000s and 1000s of very high profile people. And I  wanted to ask you about the recruitment process. In what way does it need to reflect the company culture?

Konstanty Sliwowski: The recruitment process is a direct representation of who you are, as a business, how you function, how your organization communicates and what the expectations of the organization are. So designing your recruitment process needs to be done with your culture in mind, you know, are you an organization that effectively communicates, if you say that you are an organization and among your values is effective communication, better make sure that your hiring process reflects this. So if you’re missing feedback, if you’re not scheduling interviews in a nice and organized way, if you are not providing information to candidates before each step of the interview process, that is already going against your culture, as an organization. 

The recruitment process is a direct representation of who you are, as a business, how you function, how your organization communicates and what the expectations of the organization are.

Konstanty Sliwowski

So, you know, this is something that really needs to be addressed in your hiring process, it really needs to be reflected. And there’s, you know, any hiring process has multiple touch points. And when I mentioned touch points, people immediately think, oh, interviews, right, interviews are touch points. Well, actually, no, interviews are conversation points. And the average process has 37 potential touch points with the candidate. And these touch points can be anything from scheduling an interview, doing a pre-interview, check-in providing post interview feedback, gathering the candidate’s post interview feedback, communicating reading lists, communicating materials, you know, all of these touch points are opportunities for you to set the agenda of what is your mission?

What is your vision? What is your culture as an organization? And it always baffles me why companies are not using these. You know, we’re complaining about candidates not being engaged in hiring processes. we’re complaining about candidates choosing other companies as places they want to work for, rather than our organization. Well, the question is, what are you doing in your hiring process that actually engages people and showcases you as an organization to be the preferred employer of choice for them?

Georgiana: I just wanted to make one mention before I forget it, because I have a lot on my mind with everything that’s going on right now. I wanted to ask you Konstanty, why do all recruiters complain that they never have the time to do everything you’ve mentioned? Oh, is it maybe because they attract a lot of employees, most of them wrong for the company?

Konstanty Sliwowski: Well, yeah, first of all, we need to split this into in-house and agency recruitment, because there are two sides to this coin. And recruiters are very often just put into this one bowl and recruiters. And that’s not the case. Because in- house recruiters have a very different set of business focuses, than agency recruiters, right?

In-house recruiters are dealing with usually a much wider range of positions. They’re also, due to their position within the organization, a lot more reactive to the needs of the organization, they have a lot less choice about what it is that they’re working on. And as a result, they are extremely time-poor in terms of candidate engagement, which means that candidate engagement is very often heavily reliant on inbound applicants, whereas agency recruiters have a different set of pressures. Yes, they do get to choose what they’re working on. They do have the ability to say no to an organization, but they are working a lot more. And because of this, their work focuses a lot more on engagement and outbound activity. 

You know, as an agency recruiter, if you’re relying on inbound from job ads, you’re gonna fail, right? Your job is a lot more about engaging, it is a lot more about reaching out, it is a lot more about creating a network and then keeping that network in the loop, keeping that network constantly engaged with you, whether they’re looking or they’re not looking at the required information. It is more about that. So let’s not put recruiters in general into one pot, because that’s a little bit of an unfair one. There’s very different pressures. But why do recruiters not have the time for the engagement, I’m sorry, that is not the recruiter’s job. 

The engagement is the hiring manager’s job. It is the job of everyone that is involved in the hiring process. It is not down to the recruiter to ensure that the hiring manager provides the candidate with feedback. It is not down to the recruiter to ensure that the hiring manager is able to effectively represent the company in the hiring process that is down to the hiring manager. And this is why it is so important in the outset of any hiring process to define what is the process? And who is responsible for what part of the engagement? How is feedback shared? How is feedback gathered? The recruiter’s job is to coordinate that process. Absolutely. But it is not down to the recruiter to be the only one that’s doing the engagement with the candidate.

Georgiana: An important distinction, Oliver, I’m sorry, I interrupted you, you were going to ask something?

Oliver Aust: Because what proportion of companies actually use the recruitment process to tell the candidate who they are? Not enough? It’s definitely a minority, right?

Konstanty Sliwowski: It’s definitely a minority. And it’s such a missed opportunity. 

Oliver Aust: I think that’s the takeaway here, right. So if you do this, and I know this feels like another thing you need to do, right, if you’re a hiring manager or you’re in recruitment, but in effect, this is gonna save you a lot of time, a bit further down the line. And it’s a huge opportunity to be an employer of choice. So use it, it could be a great opportunity.

Konstanty Sliwowski: Absolutely, absolutely. And look, just think about it. You know, we’re sitting in Berlin, so let me give some stats about Berlin, right? The average engineer in Berlin is approached actively about a new opportunity 20 times a month. They don’t care about you, they really don’t, they couldn’t care less, because if it’s not you, there’s another opportunity and they just change jobs. So really, why should they engage? It is on you, as the potential employer, to define why that person needs to engage with you. It is on you, the potential employer to define why you are an employer of choice. And you as an employer of choice need to have a brand as an employer of choice. And this is why it’s so critical to have this well defined and well organized and embedded in everything from your hiring process to your onboarding process to your employee experience.

Oliver Aust: And I think this starts with the first interview, right? When I talk to companies at the moment, they’re still using the first interview as screening or they think that they are screening the candidate when in fact it’s the other way around, right?

Konstanty Sliwowski: Yeah, no, you’re not screening the candidate. I mean, my rule for first interviews is that it should be focused on 70% explaining why you are the employer of choice, and 30%, about ensuring that you are roughly there. I also argue that the first interview shouldn’t be done by a manager, it should be a reflection of how serious the company takes you as a candidate. And this is, you know, nothing against recruiters, being one myself. But I think it needs to come directly from as high up as possible. We’re serious about you as a candidate, we want to talk to you. And we have the time to spend on explaining to you why we think we’re the best choice for you.

My rule for first interviews is that it should be focused on 70% explaining why you are the employer of choice, and 30% about ensuring that you are roughly there. I also argue that the first interview shouldn’t be done by a manager. It should be a reflection of how serious the company takes you as a candidate. I think it needs to come directly from as high up as possible. We’re serious about you as a candidate, we want to talk to you. And we have the time to spend on explaining to you why we think we’re the best choice for you.

Konstanty Sliwowski

Oliver Aust: Right, and then you let’s say you get to the offer stage. And what we see now is I think that more offers are declined, right?

Konstanty Sliwowski: Yeah, I mean, the offer acceptance rate at the moment is just under 50%, which is pathetic.

Georgiana: So you’re saying that they walk with you through the first two, three steps, and then they decline the offer?

Konstanty Sliwowski: Oh, they go through the entire hiring process, and then they decline the offer.

Georgiana: Missed opportunity and time.

Oliver Aust: It’s huge. 

Konstanty Sliwowski: It’s a massive cost of business. And I’m not necessarily talking about a financial cost. But if you consider that, you know, if you’re running candidates through a three step interview process, and you’re running seven candidates through that process, and you have a 50% offer acceptance, you’re going to need to run 14 candidates through that process. Each of those candidates during interviews, you’re talking about anywhere between 140 to just over 200 hours of time invested into a hiring process, which does actually translate into money. It also translates into how much your staff is taken away from hiring. Which brings us back to the conversation about, you know, do you want to be attracting volumes of candidates? Or do you want to be attracting the right candidates? I would argue that anyone with the thinking hat on would prefer to interview two great candidates and make the hire. Right, which is why it also is extremely frustrating to see companies still arguing, “oh, using agency recruiters is so expensive.” Yeah. Well, let’s calculate what the cost to you is.

Oliver Aust: Yeah, I mean, the cost could be as much as the businesses growing. And, you know, maybe your competitors are growing. So if you have a great idea, and your three competitors have kind of a very similar idea, you’re going for it, but you can’t grow because you don’t find the right people, then you’re probably not looking into a very bright future as a company.

Konstanty Sliwowski: Absolutely. I mean, your people are ultimately your greatest wealth, your greatest asset as a company, which is why it’s such a pity to see companies only now waking up to how important talent acquisition is. And still not being so forward thinking as to consider how important retention is. But I don’t want to be working with clients that are unable to retain their staff, because that tells me a lot about who they are as a business and who they are as an employer. So there again, how important is your employer brand? Well, there it is.

Oliver Aust: What’s the number one reason for low retention rate at the moment?

Konstanty Sliwowski: So you’ve definitely got money as a part of it. Money is always a part of retention. Traditionally in our surveys over the last five years, money is the number one reason people leave. But I personally think that money is a little bit of an excuse. We all know that people don’t leave the job, they leave the manager. So this, again, is the importance of culture and how culture is perpetuated through management. The other thing that we are seeing right now is there’s a big shift in how employment functions, right, we went from a nine to five type of setup and an office. 

Companies that are hanging on to that ideal are definitely losing out. We have moved towards hybrid and remote working. But ultimately, if the last two years have taught us anything, it is flexibility. And flexibility has a huge impact on our ability to retain staff, any any company that says right, as of 2023, we’re all going back to work in the office nine to five, I can guarantee you, they’re going to start losing their staff very, very quickly. Because the moment they make that announcement, people are going to start looking at opportunities where they will have that flexibility, where they will be able to retain that flexibility they’ve developed over the last few years.

Georgiana: I guess I can conclude this part. And then we can also conclude our episode today, that I think what a good employer brand helps with in the end is to repel the many and compel the few, as some people say it. So yes, this was really interesting talking to you today, Oliver, and Konstanty. Thank you for being my guest on this podcast. Where can people find you? LinkedIn?

Konstanty Sliwowski: I would say so, for me. First of all, thank you very much for having us. And for this rather lively discussion. This was very interesting. Thanks for that. I can be found on LinkedIn. I am the managing director and founder of Caissa. My name is Konstanty Sliwowski. I also have a podcast called “School of hiring” which is available on all major podcasting platforms. So I invite you to have a listen there and hopefully also engage in some of the subject matters: culture, mission, vision, product vision and what is important in the hiring process.

Georgiana: Perfect. Oliver?

Oliver Aust: Yeah, for me as well. LinkedIn is probably the best platform to connect with me. My podcast is “Speak like a CEO“, we’ve been doing it for years. So already 150 CEOs have been on and founders like you on the podcast. If you want to check out my books, like Unignorable, where we talk a lot about personal branding, rather than employer branding, but still a lot of relevant stuff in there as well.

Georgiana: Thank you so much, guys!  In this episode we covered various aspects of having a very well defined employer brand. We spoke about the importance of a unique value proposition. We spoke about the importance of receiving many high quality applications whenever you need to fill the positions in your organization. We spoke about company culture, about how your working environment reflects the company culture and how the leadership and management style within the organization reflect the company culture. And we also spoke about the recruitment process and how it actually gets to reflect your company culture. 

This was Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast. You can find our podcasts on Spotify on Apple podcasts and content on employer branding-related things on employerbranding.tech. Until the next time, stay tuned.

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