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The 7 Most Common Misconceptions About Employer Branding

The term “employer branding” was catapulted out of obscurity and into boardrooms within just a few years. While several years ago many companies staunchly refused to invest money in their future staff, hardly anyone can avoid this topic today.


Now employer branding is an established phenomenon. Yet we frequently find that employers still associate it with various dogmas that often get in the way of its successful application. So it’s time to take a closer look at these beliefs.


Misconception no. 1: employer branding strategy = recruiting

Because we look for it everywhere, we look for it here too: the ideal all-in-one solution. The thought is as obvious as it is wide-spread: “If I’m going to spend funds, then that money better put applications on my desk.” But these are precisely the mechanics that no longer simply work on their own. So employer branding was created.

It builds a framework for acquiring future employees and is thus branding work. The company’s goal is to establish itself as an interesting employer in the minds of the target group. Recruiting, on the other hand, can be limited to a temporary time frame and is about giving people in the target group that pivotal nudge that makes it possible to fill a position with a perfect match. That is a significant difference. We can think of employer branding as filling a reservoir; recruiting is tapping into that reservoir.

Misconception no. 2: small companies always lose out

Many a mid-sized company looks upon the activities of the major players like Telekom, Deutsche Bahn or Accenture with a combination of jealousy and admiration. Because they’ve already been successfully pursuing highly professional employer branding for many years.

What they often overlook: typical B2B medium-sized companies have a locational advantage over the large companies. Due to the smaller number of locations, they operate within limited boundaries. This gives them the opportunity to build a local reputation. We frequently see what an amazing effect people’s connection to a region can have. This is where the big companies are at a disadvantage.
Another benefit: smaller companies in particular can concentrate on the regional aspects of their tasks as an employer brand. In contrast, the brand images of consumer brands, for example, are often dominated by their public presence.

Misconception no. 3: the image has to be perfect

Polished presentation as far as the eye can see – one happy employee after the other. Many employer branding campaigns and websites still cater to this idea. Why? Companies apparently want to spruce themselves up to make a good impression on applicants. Without a doubt, many of these campaigns give off a very likeable vibe – but that’s it. Because this approach doesn’t leave space for a company’s unique characteristics – neither for a special attitude nor for specific traits. And it means they miss out on the chance to create an authentic profile. What’s missing? Quite simply, the courage to focus on what makes the company special. It’s the same with people: rough edges really draw people in.


Misconception no. 4: “give the people what they want”

Experts regularly publish studies with the intent of explaining what applicants want. And this creates the impression that companies operating in line with these stated desires are successful. But the formula only works during recruiting, because decisions often have to be made quickly in this context. In order to be generally attractive to the target group, basic questions should be answered beforehand:

  1. “What kind of company is it? What goal is it pursuing?” – the question of intent, of commitment, of purpose
  2. “How can I be successful there?” – the question of corporate culture
  3. “How can I organise my work there?” – the question of how much personal freedom employees have

It only makes sense to talk about benefits, etcetera, once these basic questions have been answered conclusively.

Misconception no. 5: employer branding is a one-way street

Employer branding is far too often misunderstood as a purely communicative task with the goal of projecting a specific image. But the opposite is actually true. The one-way path of communication needs to become a feedback thoroughfare. “How do people see us from the outside?” “Do people really understand what we are trying to communicate?” “What might our value proposition be missing for future applicants?” It’s important to continuously search for new answers to these questions. And they are usually easier to find than you might think: posing these questions to candidates, via social media, using communication tests or in individual conversations with new employees. There is a broad range of possibilities here.


Misconception no. 6: employer branding is a project

Far too often, we see that efforts surrounding employer branding are cut back to a bare minimum after the value proposition and creative design have been developed. It’s all according to the idea: “Well, now we have what we need”.

An expensive mistake, because employer branding is never done! The companies that stop this work undo all their previous investments and fall behind the competition.

Successful employer branding requires both continuous activity and pushing beyond boundaries: it doesn’t just concern the responsible department; it concerns all employees. This is precisely where the art of good employer branding begins. Especially where the boundaries between employer branding and brand image (as perceived by customers) blur, that’s where the unexpected chances lie: your customer could be your next employee. As could your supplier or project partner.

Misconception no. 7: a corporate profile can be hashed out through discussion

Insights about the company cannot be gained with a standard research programme. The use of focus groups and other panel discussions, in particular, is only detrimental if companies are looking for the true essence of their employer branding. Because the results are always subject to the general trend: rough edges are rationalised away and, in the end, an interchangeable compromise is all that remains – why else do so many employer branding campaigns and motifs look so similar? Real, vivid “truths” are discovered in individual interviews – when managers, employees, partners and customers talk about their ideas, experiences and stories.


No matter which approach you use – it helps to follow clear guiding principles: employer branding should not only have the goal of gaining employees over the short term, its intention should also be to build employee loyalty over the long term to retain staff potential. Only then is employer branding a true corporate value deserving of investment independent of the situation on the labour market.


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