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Employer Branding Strategy for Engineering

Company Culture
Hiring

5 April, 2020

Ilya Kozlov, VP of Engineering at Taxfix, explains the importance of having a brand strategy for engineering and details points to reflect upon when building one from scratch.

Problem

Once you experience the contrast between a company with a poor, or even average, employer brand, versus a very strong one, you will never want to compromise. Great culture attracts great people. But how do they even know you are out there?

Actions taken

At Taxfix, we have an internal Employer Branding Manager who has extensive knowledge on this topic and helped us map out the process for engineering. Luckily, building an employer brand is similar to the process of building a product. It might feel a bit inside-out because you need to rethink fundamental concepts like "who is my customer," "what is my value proposition," and more, but most of the techniques you can reuse.

In our case, we already had a company-wide branding guide which had recently been built. As a result, we simply adopted it for engineering. However, if you need to build one from scratch you should reflect on the following points.

  1. Understand which problem you are trying to solve

    Every company has its own culture and values (they may not always be written-down). Use these as your foundation. You want to attract the most relevant people and not just in terms of technical skills, but culture and attitude as well.

    The result of this exercise should be a one-page description of your high-level objectives and key-results for the next 1-3 years. At this stage, you should validate it with your founders/manager, peers, and a few members of the team (recent joiners and veterans).

  2. Understand the full user journey

    Employer branding is slightly bigger than just a career page, an interview process, and benefits. Think of the entire life of an individual: how did they interact with your customer-facing product, what was their first touchpoint with your brand, what has triggered them to reach out to you, and what did their last day look like before they left their previous company? Design thinking could help you answer these questions. As soon as this part is done, don’t forget to validate your hypotheses.

  3. Understand your value proposition

    What do you bring as a company, as a team, and as a business to an individual. Perhaps you have a great vision but simply need a bunch of enthusiastic people to make it come true!

  4. Focus on relevant topics

    Once we identified our value at every level of the company, and more specifically for engineering, we focused on these three topics:

     a. Domain-specific language (DSL) we developed to digitalise the law,
     b. In-house build reasoning engine written in Elixir,
     c. The culture of internal open-source.  
    

 

These may not sound very interesting to you, but that's okay! We're trying to target very specific people. Validation of this is done via measuring conversion plus user research.  

 

  1. From strategy to action

    If you’ve taken all of the above steps and applied one of the strategy frameworks - for example The Business Model Canvas - you will have completed your strategy and it is now ready to be used.

    The logical next step would be to create an action plan for every objective you have identified. It could be a content plan for your blog or video channel, a new hiring process, attending or organizing meetups and conferences - everything that others do. But you now have a tailored brand for your needs that targets the people you would love to work with in the future.

  2. Learn and iterate

Lessons learned

  • Don’t take action before understanding the problem. I’ve had this backfire on me. I’ve been in a situation where the engineering team was reluctant to write to the company blog because “we used to have it, but it wasn’t working.”
  • Your company activities should not be limited by your employer branding strategy. You should still host meetups just because you have good relations with an organizer or because your team is interested in a specific topic. The same applies to your blog posts and other activities. Just make sure expectations are managed properly first.
  • Employer Branding is not a one-off project. Treat it as if it were a product.

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