Using the selection process as an employer branding tool


1. Employer branding: What is it anyway, and why is it so important?

“In the past it was the battle of the talents – today it is the battle for the talents” (DAHMEN Personalservice GmbH 2018)

The shortage of skilled workers is a reality for many companies today: Every second company reports difficulties in filling vacancies (DIHK 2019). And this has consequences – not least for communication with potential applicants. This is because it is increasingly the companies that have to court high-caliber talent (so-called high potentials) and inspire them for their company. In this context, one often also speaks of a shift from an “employer market” (number of open positions, < number of suitable talents) to a“Employee market” (number of vacancies, > number of suitable talents). But what happens in a world where the number of job openings exceeds the number of suitable talents? That’s right: high potentials can choose their employer. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to position themselves as attractive employers and to build a strong employer brand.

Def.: Employer brandingEmployer branding describes all the measures that a company can take to present itself to potential applicants as a suitable and attractive employer.

The indispensable guide
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  • Current scientific findings on the importance of the employer brand
  • Threats and opportunities within the online application process
  • Upgrades for a strong employer brand in the young target group

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2. What belongs to a strong employer brand?

Building a strong employer brand naturally includes professional company communication that focuses on the advantages the company offers its employees (also referred to as benefits). In this context, the company’s presence on the own website, in rating forums and increasingly also in social media plays a major role. However, the employer presence by no means ends with an attractively designed website, but continues, for example, with the online application, the subsequent selection process and the communication of the hiring decision (Kanning 2009). However, if we look at the recruitment process in many large and medium-sized companies, we see that this fact is not sufficiently taken into account in practice. For example, many companies make a typical mistake: They consider the recruitment process entirely from their own perspective. The focus is entirely on the question: How do we achieve our goal of selecting the applicants who best fit the advertised position? Another, no less important, question often remains unanswered: What does the recruitment process look like from the applicant’s point of view?

Companies with strong employer brands – what do they do differently? Companies which continuously attract high potentials are characterized in particular by the fact that they understand, design and optimize the process from the applicant’s point of view and therefore consistently place applicants at the center (also referred to as Candidate Centricity). Similar to a sales process, applicants are understood as customers who are to be recruited for a certain product (the job) – starting with the first contact up to the actual purchase or the decision for the job. Accordingly, the concept of the customer journey, which is familiar from marketing and describes the journey of a customer through various touchpoints until the purchase of the product, can also be transferred to the HR area – it is also referred to as the candidate journey.

3. The candidate journey - Why you should see applicants as customers

The candidate journey covers all the stages that applicants go through on the way to a possible job in a company – from the first perception of a company (e.g. presence on social media) to the final hiring decision (e.g. communication of acceptance and rejection letters). There are various touchpoints, i.e. points at which applicants come into contact with the company. The candidate journey can be divided into five key phases (see Figure 1): The attention phase, the consideration phase, the application phase, the selection process and the final hiring. How the individual touchpoints with the company are designed in the individual phases is decisive for whether applicants actually decide in favor of the job offer. However, a positive candidate journey also has positive effects beyond the hiring success, for example because applicants make positive public statements about the company, remain customers of the company or consider reapplying at a later date. Figure 1 summarizes the most important guiding questions you should ask yourself when designing each touchpoint, and provides practical tips on how you can succeed in designing a positive and holistic candidate journey.

Guiding questions and tips for designing a candidate journey.

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4. Why the selection process reveals so much about your company!

One of the most important and at the same time most underestimated touch points with your company represents the selection process itself. Of course, the selection process is particularly concerned with assessing the suitability of applicants and their competencies and potential. with the criteria set out in the job profile defined requirements. However, the way this is done is already an important part of advertising the employer and should make applicants want to continue the “journey” with the company. For example, a study by the TU Brandenburg (Schenk et al. 2021) shows that a selection process enriched by gamification only leads to a more positive experience of the process. Similarly, the game-based selection process also leads to more positive evaluations of the employer and a more realistic perception of the requirements associated with the job. Correctly used, the selection process is not only a tool for companies to learn more about applicants, it is also an important opportunity for applicants to get to know the company better and to better assess their own fit with the company (see also cultural fit).

If, on the other hand, the applicants’ “journey” through the selection process leaves negative impressions, this has negative consequences – and these usually go beyond the mere rejection of a job offer. For example, applicants who feel they have been treated unfairly in the selection process tend to advise their friends against the company or to rate it negatively in evaluation forums. We have summarized the top reasons for a negative perception of the selection process for you in Table 1.

Table 1. Top reasons for a negative perception of the selection process.
  • (Perceived) lack of scientific foundation of the test procedures
  • (Perceived) lack of relationship between testing procedures and job requirements.
  • Insufficient or delayed feedback on test results
  • Lack of flexibility in terms of location and time when carrying out the test procedures
  • Severe fatigue due to lengthy and poorly targeted adequate testing procedures

So much for how not to do it. But what should you do as a human resources manager to make the selection process more attractive and therefore contribute to a positive applicant experience? We have summarized the success factors for sustainably strengthening your employer brand through the selection process in a checklist for you (see Table 2).

Table 2. Top reasons for a positive perception of the selection process.
  1. “Validity First”: The scientific foundation of the selection procedures is the top priority. DIN 33430 provides an important frame of reference for distinguishing valid psychometric, aptitude diagnostic procedures from those of dubious providers.
  2. “Usability”: Make sure your processes are highly user-friendly, for example by integrating mobile-optimized services.
  3. “Zero footprint measurement”: Minimize any stress for applicants and ensure maximum flexibility by enabling testing to be carried out regardless of location or time. This is achieved, for example, with online assessments.
  4. “Instant Feedback”: Provide applicants with quick, direct feedback after completing individual testing procedures. The selection process should not be a black box for applicants.
  5. “Fun Factor”: Finally, the fun factor should not be neglected. After all, who wants to spend hours clicking through tedious test procedures? The good thing is that science and fun are by no means mutually exclusive and can be combined, for example, through the use of game-based assessments.
  6. “Always Learning”: Understand your selection process in terms of a continuous improvement process and develop it continuously based on feedback and the applicant experience.

Candidate journey with Aivy: Aivy’s goal is to make each and every applicant feel positive about their individual journey. This is achieved through a combination of self-awareness, which reveals one’s own interests and abilities, and performance tests, which are convincing due to their scientific yet playful character. Applicants are always at the center of the journey – user-friendliness is the top priority for the mobile-optimized services, feedback is transparent and individual, if desired directly via push notification to the smartphone. Contact us to learn more about your possible trip with Aivy.

  • German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK, 2019). Labor Market Report 2019. Shortage of skilled workers high – despite weaker economy. Available at: gross-despite-weak-economy-5906
  • Dahmen Human Resources Services (2018). From employer market to applicant market – The consequences for employees and companies. Available at: employer-market-to-applicant-market/
  • Kanning (2017). Personnel marketing, employer branding and employee retention – research findings and practical tips from personnel psychology. Springer.
  • Schenk, N., Rißmann, S., Gutowski, M., Kaphengst, S., (2021). Do differences exist in the assessment of a company as a potential employer for university graduates in the context of employer branding and recruitment, depending on whether information about the company is given during an online assessment center?, unpublished seminar paper in the context of the course Services Marketing WS 20/21 of the Department of Economics of the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences. Translated with (free version)

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