How to Build an Internal Brand to Highlight Recruiting’s Value

By Roy Maurer Oct 13, 2016

LAS VEGAS—When talent acquisition expert Kara Yarnot thinks about recruiters, she is often reminded of the old saying about the cobbler's children going without shoes.

Recruiters expertly rank everyone else's resumes but have some of the worst resumes themselves, said Yarnot, the founder and president of Meritage Talent Solutions, a consultancy based in the Washington, D.C., area.

And "we're just as guilty when it comes to branding ourselves," she told attendees at LinkedIn's 2016 Talent Connect conference for talent acquisition (TA) professionals. "As for working on the employer's brand, you're doing great stuff. You are defining the company's employee value proposition, partnering with talent management, and really working hard to find out what makes the culture at your company great and how you can communicate that," she said.

She applauded the recruiters in the room for making strides with company careers pages, communicating the employer's brand over social channels and working with marketing to create engaging content.

"You do such a great job creating an external brand, but internally, your hiring managers, business leaders, even HR, they don't think so highly of you," she said. "You're so busy that you forget to build your own TA brand, internally."

In Yarnot's experience, a talent acquisition function that is not valued nor understood will have to deal with hiring managers who question what recruiters are doing and executives who place the onus of any business failure on the talent acquisition team.

"We need to change that," she said. "There are ways to brand the great stuff you're doing in TA internally to your organization, whether you are a Fortune 50 company or a tiny nonprofit."

The most important step to building an internal brand is first understanding and then aligning the goals of the business with talent acquisition goals. "You need to ensure they are in lockstep. If you don't know what your TA goals are, you have to start there. If you don't know what your business goals are, you have a bigger problem," she said.

Yarnot recommended reading through the company's annual report and press releases to ferret out what the company is driving to accomplish. "One of my favorite places to dig into what the business goals are is the finance department," she said. "If you don't have a [contact] in finance, find one. They love to talk about the numbers and what's going on."

For example, she explained, maybe the company is looking to organically grow the business in China. Or cut overhead costs by 10 percent. Or get into cloud computing. "Make sure you understand the goals, ask questions if you have to and try to relate what you're doing in TA to align to those goals," she said.

The talent acquisition function could take on the selection and implementation of recruitment outsourcing to grow the company in China. At meetings, recruiters can bring up controlling marketing spend to cut overhead costs. The team could launch a talent community of cloud computing professionals, in preparation for the company's move into that space.

"Make sure you can clearly state what your goals are and how they support what the business is doing," Yarnot said. "It makes it look like you are a partner and putting the business first."

After recruiters have aligned their goals, she said, the next step is to communicate that alignment to key stakeholders—hiring managers, business leaders, and HR professionals.

She advised setting a performance goal to be able to clearly articulate business objectives and talent acquisition objectives and how they align. Armed with aligned goals, recruiters can assuage concerns and show that they understand the business needs.

For example, "when a hiring manager says 'Why isn't my job on CareerBuilder?,' your recruiters are empowered to say 'We are aligned to the business objectives, and one of those objectives is keeping costs down. Every quarter we determine which applicant sources are yielding the best candidates, and CareerBuilder is not making the cut. But here's what we are doing to find those candidates.' "

If a leader asks TA to start hiring people in Latin America, an informed recruiter could respond with "I thought the top priority is growing business in China? Is Latin America now more important? Where should we be spending our time and resources?"

Either the company will put more resources into the idea, or it will realize that the talent professional is right and recalibrate. "Or maybe Latin America becomes a new goal, and you're already at the table having the discussion," Yarnot said. "You can then start building talent acquisition goals that will align to the new goal."

Finally, the talent acquisition team must spread the word about their alignment with the business. "Much like employer branding, this step is key," she said. "If you don't tell your story, you won't own your brand. We're terrible at this. We're really good at filling positions and moving to the next one. But when do we ever stop, take a deep breath and say 'wow, I've filled 30 requisitions in the last four months?' "

She recommended working with the company's internal communications team to broadcast "how you're saving costs while still growing the business in China and filling positions. Show your results. Show them how many cloud computing talent leads you've collected."

Anytime there's a chance to be in front of a C-suite executive, "have that slide ready to show how talent acquisition aligns with the company's goals," Yarnot said.


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