exclusive: torgil lenning, ceo potentialpark, about employer branding and social media

just recently, potentialpark conducted the top employer web benchmarks in germany. torgil lenning, the co-founder and ceo of potentialpark explains in an all exclusive saatkorn. interview the recent findings and what kind of role social media plays in the field of employer branding. this is a premiere, since it is the first saatkorn. interview in english – which makes me very happy ;-)  so let’s start and a big THANK YOU to torgil!

saatkorn.: what are the top 3 key findings of this year’s potentialpark study for the german market?
first, the recently released top employer web benchmark 2010 identifies that many more german companies have understood the importance of the being present online. they have used the downturn wisely in preparing for the coming recruiting upswing. this has led to better career websites and a more competitive landscape.

second, the german job seekers have also become more used to improved career websites and have increased their expectations and demands. in order to be competitive when your dream candidate sits in front of the computer and evaluates you versus your nearest competitor, you need to have a website that is coming from the candidate perspective.

third, we see that the most successful companies guide their candidates on the path to apply. they take them from: information via inspiration to a relation. if the candidate does not see clearly the opportunity that is perceived unique, why should they invest the time to apply?

saatkorn.: what kind of role do social media play in 2010 for employer branding in your study, and given all the interviews and company meetings you had so far?
social media is really the buzz word this year, and with strong reactions both for and against. social media is the big thing that is happening now, but how to use it and how to communicate is the question. social media is different from all other communication channels; per definition it turns the table on sender and receiver. everyone participates – simultaneously. we see great opportunities for relationship building with candidates; and it is not about one way communication.

our research shows that job seekers and especially students are fully using social media; they do not yet expect employers to contact them on social media platforms. or at least not directly. social media, where everything is shared widely, is, funnily, seen as very personal and private and not for unknown anonymous companies to act on. on the other hand, if there is a connect between the employer and the candidate, social media provides a brilliant opportunity to keep the relationship going over the university years and the recruiting period.

regardless of whether your company has decided to be present on social media, we recommend that you get involved and start to learn. social media is changing the way that we are using the web and the way we communicate with each other. the more you understand what is happening today, the more easily and faster you will be able to identify which parts of the development will be right for you and your company when communicating with your potential candidates.

social media is not the same for each individual, neither is it for each employer. depending on the employer brand values you would like to communicate and your recruitment needs, you should act differently in your experimenting on the new platforms and social media.

make sure that if you are not active on social media, it is an active choice and informed decision.  remember that you also communicate by not being present.

saatkorn.: do you see a difference in the amount of trust that potential candidates might have regarding the „formal“ corporate messages of a recruiting website compared to the „informal“ discussion on a social media platform (e.g. facebook fansite)?
from what we have seen in our research, candidates want to hear both the official story by the companies and the comments by people who have experience with the company. the two sources of information complement each other.

any comment on a discussion forum or a blog, is evaluated based on the sender. there are strange people out there that say strange things, and readers understand this – you do not need to panic over one bad comment; and if there are employers that tell stories that do not hold true, readers will discover this too. with the magnitude of the social media, stories that cannot be verified or are not correct will back-fire. job seekers expect to recognize the reality and the truth in the corporate message, as well as what is written in the blogs. everyone understands (even though they do not express it in marketing terms), that there is a difference between image/perception, identity and the profile/communication of large corporations. however, the stories that employees tell cannot be too far apart from the corporate message. additionally, official communication from the company must be in line with what recruiters say in the interview situation and what is the underlying message when checking what former and current employees write about the company.

discrepancies and neglect are worse than bad news. companies will learn that they can no longer control the communication on their corporate culture and that “internal” discussions will be communicated externally. thus, we are facing a challenge for marketers and communicators – what they say needs to be backed up internally. not only by managers but by all the co-workers.

employer branding for us is: “to be and to be known as a great employer to the right talent”. the first two words are key. if you take care of them, the social media and the active references and spontaneous witnesses of your employees will help bring the message out.

saatkorn.: you mentioned that the german recruiting websites have a very high standard compared to other regions. why do you think that especially german companies are benchmarks also for companies in the us or asia?
we have been happily amazed by this fact. the way that we have understood it, is that traditionally in germany universities have not had the anglo-saxon style career service centers facilitating the relationship between job seeking students and employers. employers were left to their own creativity to identify, attract and recruit the students ahead of their competitors. in germany, there are still many innovative solutions remaining from these days. today, however, the career websites provide both the platform and the communication channel to the job seekers. with a good team work of specialists from marketing/communication, hr/recruiting and it/systems, german companies have taken a lead in creating excellent entry points to their companies through the career websites.

in the us, the situation has been different; with more privately financed education alternatives a university’s reputation is partly based on its ability to provide careers for their students. most us educational institutions have realized that their success is equal to the success and satisfaction of their former students. therefore they take an active role in bridging the gap between the job seekers and the employers. this very good service provided by the us universities, we think, made us employers not realize the full potential of career websites until a few years ago. many german employers in the us had much more advanced career website which helps both in overall employer branding and for improving the recruiting pipeline. no wonder that the us companies for years have been benchmarking with german employers’ career websites. however, now they are catching up.

the winner in this year’s potentialpark ranking: bertelsmann career website „create your own career“

saatkorn.: what kind of trends do you see within the field of employer branding and social media within the next 2-3 years?
social media, and how to interact on social media, is developing as we speak. we see the technology of social media, connecting and sharing online, is used in different situations and we expect that in the near future these functionalities will be taken for granted for example on career websites.

when talking about social networks, i often get the question which one platform should we be on? sadly, there never was one platform, nor will there ever be only one. and as technology becomes easily accessible, the trend is instead going towards more specialized and niche social media.

social media and the sharing that is now ongoing will change the way we view communication with our target audiences. and, we have not even seen the end of the development of functionality for connecting and sharing. think social media, add live video sharing from new mobile devices, not the current mobile phones, and we have yet a new level of communication.

independently from the development in social media, corporations will need to adapt to a world where corporate culture will be shared and known based on the stories of its employees. employees, current and former, will become ambassadors to the employer brand. thus, attention needs also to be directed internally, raising the awareness of what employees take for granted and what is actually part of the culture and part of why people work for the company.

think social media and extend the employer branding to incorporate all former, current and future employees, freelancers and competence that is brought in to develop the company. it will be more of an interactive news desk responsible for talent relations.

saatkorn.: what are the next topics for potentialpark, what are you going to cover in next year’s study?
for the career website study – the top employer web benchmark – we will continue to follow the preferences and priorities of the candidates and which companies do best meet these expectations. the five pillars will remain for next year: usability, employer branding, talent relationship, recruitment process and application management. the details are derived from the research process itself.

new research that is upcoming is on the ats – the application tracking systems – and the candidate experience of applying online. the systems and their implementations seem to be frustrating for both the candidates and the company representatives. despite the efforts invested into employer branding and career websites the ats are in many cases a big drawback for the candidates sometimes they are outright counterproductive to the employer branding efforts on social media as the candidates share their frustration in the communities. for an optimal process the employer branding activities lead a candidate to the career website that motivates them to continue to actually invest the time in a good application.

we aim to learn more about the candidates’ expectations and motivational factors when starting the application process. from their perspective, what is important? and, when during their decision-making and application process do they need which support? and, in comparison with other alternatives, when do their frustrations make them leave without completing the application, or stop the effort to make a great application?

and, a few last words, as we are getting closer and closer to an economic upturn, we will see an increased effort in recruitment and an even more fierce battle for talent. this battle will happen online. employers will need to start preparing for the recruitment upswing. as careers are found mostly online, they will need to be seen on an international market. and, as the new young generation of well-educated germans is attractive all across europe and internationally, german companies need to strengthen the online recruitment communication to retain the advantage achieved.

there are no boundaries for talent!

saatkorn.: torgil, thank you very much for this interview and all the best for potentialpark.

weiterlesen:
saatkorn. bericht zum potentialpark ranking
spiegel online artikel
zum potentialpark ranking
interview mit dem zweitplatzierten im potentialpark ranking, der
deutschen telekom
interview mit dem drittplatzierten im potentialpark ranking,
thyssenkrupp
employer branding glossar von embrace: erklärung der wichtigsten begriffe

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