In a sluggish job market crowded with qualified job seekers, it may seem counterintuitive to be thinking about how to make your own company stand out among other employers looking to hire new staff. After all, candidates should be banging down the door to work at your company, right? Well, the truth is, no matter how competitive the job market is, the very best candidates will always be in high demand, which means they’ll always receive multiple job offers, which means… If you want to compete for the top candidates, you’ll have to be on your A-game, too. In order to stand out from the hiring crowd, you’ll need to take a good long look at your current hiring practices from start to finish. Just as you’d expect from a stellar candidate, you’ll want your company to deliver a strong and consistent impression from the original job posting through to the hiring process itself. Try the following four ways to differentiate yourself as an employer.

1. Voice
Go to one of the massive job aggregator websites and read a bunch of job listings. Pretty boring stuff, right? Unfortunately, most companies posting jobs on sites like hardly take the time to fully describe the job itself, let alone make sure that an engaging, vibrant voice comes sparkling through the posting. By voice, we simply mean the personality, character, and style that animates the words and at the same time tells you something vital about the company behind the job. If your job postings lack voice, chances are good that you’re turning off some outstanding candidates. Why? Because outstanding candidates don’t want to work for just any old company. And generic or drab job postings suggest exactly that–that you’re just any old company. So throw some swagger in your job posting game, or, if that phrase made no sense to you: hire a write to help you. It may cost you more time or money up front, but the quality of candidate and what they can do for your business will more than make up for the up-front costs.

2. Culture
Your company’s culture oozes out of its every pore. It’s in the voice of your job postings. The way you correspond with candidates. The way you conduct interviews. Your logo, location, even your company’s name. But don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t necessarily need to change your company culture in order to attract top-shelf talent. More importantly, you need to recognize your culture and give it its fullest possible expression throughout the hiring process. Of course, if you notice some culture issues that need tweaking, by all means, try to work on them. For the purposes of this discussion, however, it’s most practical to figure out what makes your company unique and to use that as a selling point when trying to recruit highly sought-after candidates. For example, your company may not be in the most glamorous business (say, widget-making), but maybe your office is one of the most collaborative and supportive workplaces that you know of. Well, use that quality to attract top talent. Make sure it comes across in your marketing content.

3. Image/Brand
Like culture, company brand can be a slippery subject. Whereas company culture relates to the substance of how employees behave and treat each other within your business, company image is more about how your company projects itself into the outside world as well as about how it’s perceived. Controlling this image as much as possible can mean the difference between getting A-list and C-list candidates in response to your next job opening. So, what’s your company brand like? Are you conservative, hip, or neutral? Are you aggressive and competitive? Are you cutting-edge or appealingly retro? Are you pioneers or incremental innovators? The phrase, “image is everything” is overblown. But we can all probably agree that image is a lot. Before you launch your next hiring initiative, consider bringing on a professional brand consultant to review your company and make some suggestions. You might just be due for a company makeover.

4. Reputation
Unlike brand or image, your company’s reputation is something that develops over a longer period of time and is far less easily manipulated. It exists in the eye of the beholder–of your clients, customers, competition, and the marketplace in general. It follows you wherever you go. Reputation or “good name” is a huge intangible asset for any company. It probably took you years to earn it–so why not use it? Leveraging your reputation is a great way to reach a higher quality of job candidate. Awards are the most obvious manifestation of standing within the business and consumer communities. Don’t be afraid to cite these awards in job postings or in your marketing material. Toot your own horn. Let potential new hires who haven’t heard of you know that you’re a player in your field. The more impressive you are, the more likely you will be to draw impressive candidates.

Accountable Search is a division of Smart Resources, a Chicago-based administrative staffing firm. It retains and furthers the highly regarded approach that has made Smart Resources one of Chicago’s most-referred staffing firm since 1994. For more tips on innovative hiring strategies and practices, along with information on other employment-related topics, read our related blog articles.

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