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A Q&A with CDW's Jen Sommesi
An employer’s reputation can be its strategic advantage. Developing your company’s brand is one way to stand out in today’s “talent-sumer” marketplace, where candidates can shop around among several companies, research them through online reviews and follow conversations about them on social media.
In 2013, executives at the multibillion-dollar technology services company CDW realized that the organization was not known among potential candidates as a standout employer. The company is ranked 253 on the
Fortune 500 for total revenue and 56 on the
Forbes America’s Best Employers list, but, given the company’s business-to-business focus, potential candidates didn’t really know who CDW was. And since the company doesn’t manufacture anything, its workforce is its main asset.
Jen Sommesi, who oversees CDW’s employment branding and talent acquisition programs, discussed with
SHRM Online the steps the company took to improve awareness among job seekers and proactively shape its employer brand.
SHRM Online: How did you get started?
Sommesi: First, you need to know what candidates and employees are saying about you to make an accurate assessment and address areas for improvement. So we reviewed what was being posted online—good, bad or ugly. We also evaluated CDW’s presence on LinkedIn and Indeed, determined a frequency to monitor online engagement, gathered as much data and feedback as we could, and benchmarked ourselves against our competition and industry averages. We also applied for the
CandE awards, [a competition that enables companies to benchmark and improve their candidate experience]. We received a tremendous amount of insight about our overall employer brand and details about various stages of the candidate journey. CDW also created our own candidate surveys to understand different pools of talent at different stages of the process.
After we understood the business imperative of leveraging our employer brand, we assessed our technology. Our applicant tracking system was great for compliance and tracking candidates through the selection process once they applied to an open requisition. But what about all of the passive talent that wasn’t applying? These leads either were never captured or were in recruiter spreadsheets or e-mails. We lacked a formal, consistent, accurate way to identify, track and quantify all of the work that happens before a candidate applies. We evaluated a variety of options and chose a recruitment marketing platform.
SHRM Online: How do you use recruitment marketing to attract candidates?
Sommesi: The company’s recruitment marketing goals are to improve the volume of the right candidates through increased brand awareness; create and deliver a dynamic, personal experience; and effectively drive conversion through the recruitment funnel. We conducted extensive discovery interviews to better understand key attributes and behaviors of our top-performing employees. We then developed a library of branded, meaningful, relevant content based on key learnings from our target profiles, or “talent personas.”
Content and personalization are key elements in amplifying your message. For example, CDW hires approximately 500 inside sales account managers annually, and we always need more leads. We identified opportunities in the pipeline where we could increase candidate engagement and improve conversion of quality candidates. We created more than 25 pieces of custom collateral to drip to candidates at various phases in the recruitment life cycle, including pre-offer, post-offer and post-start.
Personalization is also important. CDW is committed to supporting the military community. Previously, we used traditional recruiting forums like career fairs to target veterans. However, feedback regarding career fairs from both employers and candidates is often negative. For the employer, there is high cost, lots of competition and poor attendee quality. So CDW hosted a half-day career development session that included a company overview, meet-and-greet, panel discussion with CDW employees who are vets, and mini career fair. We used our own talent community to identify potential attendees and promote the event personally. The cost was minimal, but, more important, there was no competition and we were able to spend more time with quality, interested veteran attendees.
SHRM Online: How do you involve your current workforce in CDW’s branding?
Sommesi: We have created an environment of feedback and continuous improvement, so our employees are willing to share their personal experience. We regularly solicit reviews proactively from candidates, new hires and employees celebrating key service anniversaries. Annually, we also deploy a mass solicitation allowing co-workers to voice their opinions and help us understand how they feel about the company.
SHRM Online: What is your Glassdoor strategy?
Sommesi: Our strategy is simple: Listen and be honest. As an employer, we’ve always valued feedback. We conduct engagement surveys regularly and now use Glassdoor as another platform to better understand what we are doing well and where we have opportunities to improve.
SHRM Online: Have you evaluated the results of the branding initiative? How has it fared?
Sommesi: CDW developed a measurement strategy as part of the larger recruitment marketing initiative. We saw immediate gains. We saw an increase in accepted offers and a decrease in both offers reneged and the day 1 no-show rate. During the specific campaign design, we identified unique key performance indicators based on business objectives. We continually monitor campaign performance and make appropriate adjustments as needed.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him
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