Episode #3 – How To Become The Employer Of Choice

How to Become the Employer of Choice in Today’s Marketplace

Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant Stacy Pursell provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers. Her mission is to help organizations acquire top talent, while helping professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities.
Teresa: Welcome to today’s podcast. I’m joined by Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter, and we’ll be talking about being the employer of choice for top candidates in the marketplace. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, I’m glad to be here.

Teresa: Obviously, every organization in the marketplace would like to be known as an employer of choice. But something that is also obvious is that not every company IS an employer of choice. What do you believe accounts for this?

Stacy: Well, there are a couple of things. First is the fact that companies have to do what is necessary to be an employer of choice. Not all companies are able to identify what those things are and then put those things in place within their organization. Second, even those companies that identify and implement these things often don’t ensure that they’re promoting themselves enough—in essence, “selling themselves” enough—to top candidates.

Teresa: What’s the first thing that companies can do to become an employer of choice?

Stacy: Organizations have to assess a number of benchmarks, including hiring success, turnover rate, and overall employee satisfaction. They should ask questions such as the following:

Have all of the candidates you’ve extended an offer to in the past three years accepted that offer?
If they haven’t, what’s the percentage?
How many employees have quit working at your company to pursue another opportunity during the past three years?
What are the reasons those employees left?
How do top candidates currently view your organization in the marketplace?
How are candidates treated during the interview process?
And how do you want your organization to be viewed?

Teresa: That’s certainly a lot of questions. How important is an initial assessment such as this one?

Stacy: One of the problems that organizations run into is that they don’t manage their brand very well. In other words, they’re not aware of what exactly their brand is, and their brand involves everything from how they’re viewed in the marketplace to their core values to their company culture. An initial assessment like this one creates a realistic starting point, especially in regards to which direction the company should go first.

Teresa: What kind of overall philosophy or strategy should companies employ when they’re approaching an endeavor like this one?

Stacy: Being the employer of choice revolves mainly around the ability to give top candidates what they’re looking for. That means a couple of things. First, an organization must know what candidates are seeking in new employment, and second, that organization must know what is currently being offered to top candidates by other employers. An organization can’t become an employer of choice unless it knows what the criteria are for becoming one.

Teresa: What are some of those criteria?

Stacy: Well, there are two main types of criteria for becoming an employer of choice: tangible criteria and intangible criteria?

Teresa: What do you mean by that, exactly, tangible vs. intangible?

Stacy: The tangible criteria involves everything that the employee does concerning their job—their duties, responsibilities, the actual work that they do on an everyday basis. The intangible criteria involves other, less noticeable things, such as the company culture, the way in which the employee interacts with their co-workers, their relationship with their boss, etc. Believe it or not, the intangible criteria often play a larger role in determining which organizations are employers of choice.

Teresa: Can you elaborate some on the tangible criteria?

Stacy: To be considered a top employer by candidates, companies must offer challenging, forward-thinking work. People want to work for organizations that are leaders within the industry. Not only does that mean being on the cutting edge of technology whenever possible, but it also means being on top of industry trends and developments and continuously pursing projects that will help the company maintain its place as a leader.

Organizations must also offer opportunities for both training and advancement. Employees want to work for a company that invests in them by helping them to acquire new skills so they can stay at the top of their field. Employees also want to work for an organization that has a clearly defined career path. This is especially the case for the best employees. They want to know how they can grow within the company and what they have to do in order to get there.

A job is not “just a job” for these employees. They’re seeking work that they find both personally satisfying and professionally meaningful. This is the type of work that an employer of choice offers to its employees, and it’s the type of work that top candidates seek out.

Teresa: You mentioned, though, that the intangible criteria often play a larger role in determining which organizations are employers of choice. Why is that?

Stacy: The intangible attributes that I’m going to address often serve as the differentiators or the “tie breakers” when it comes to a candidate choosing between multiple organizations. For example, let’s say you have a candidate who is interviewing with multiple companies, and they receive offers of employment from three of them at roughly the same time. It’s a difficult choice for them because all of the tangible criteria are pretty much the same. The companies involved are basically in a “three-way tie” in their quest to secure the candidate’s employment.

In a situation like that, the companies’ intangible traits become more important. They serve to help the candidate decide which offer they should take and which ones they should turn down. While companies often closely mirror each other in terms of what they offer tangibly, that’s not always the case with the intangible.

Teresa: Before we turn to the intangible attributes, I have a question. Where do money and compensation fall in this discussion?

Stacy: That’s a great question and a very valid one. Money and compensation fall into the category of tangible. It’s directly related to the employee’s duties and responsibilities because that’s the way in which they’re compensated. Now, there’s something important to remember about the role that money plays in this process.

Money and compensation certainly play a role in being considered an employer of choice. However, the better the candidate, the less important money becomes. That’s because candidates know they can command the money and compensation they desire, if not from your organization, then from another.

Teresa: Which brings us back to the important intangible aspects . . .

Stacy: Exactly. And if a candidate—especially a top candidate—is seeking a new employment opportunity, what they’re really seeking is one that will be personally satisfying and professionally meaningful. That’s something I mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating, because those two things are closely linked to the intangible attributes of an employer of choice.

Let’s start with the first one: personally satisfying. What does that mean? Well, it encompasses quite a few things, including:

The relationship that the employee has with their manager
The relationships that the employee has with their co-workers
The sense of accomplishment they enjoy as a result of their job
The recognition they receive from the company, their boss, and/or their co-workers for the work they’re doing
The positive feelings they have due to the fact they know they’re pursuing their passions

Teresa: What about that phrase you used, “professionally meaningful” . . . what does that entail?

Stacy: For a candidate or an employee to consider an organization to be an employer of choice, that organization has to stand out from other companies in terms of what it offers. Here are a few of the criteria top candidates use to assess companies:

Whether or not the company’s core values are in line with their own
Whether or not the company is socially conscious and “gives back” to the community
Whether or not the company stands for something more than just making a profit
Whether or not the candidate or employee can envision staying at the company long-term

At the beginning of last year, The VET Recruiter conducted a survey of candidates in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. As part of that survey, we asked candidates what they look for in an employer. According to the results of the survey, the top 10 things that candidates want are:

#10—Flexibility
#9—Excellent products/new technology
#8—Stability within the industry
#7—Educational opportunities
#6—Company culture/supportive environment
#5—Good wages/benefits package
#4—Integrity/honesty/great reputation
#3—Fairness/to be treated with respect
#2—Strong leadership and vision for the future
#1—Opportunities for growth and advancement

These 10 things represent what it takes for a company to be considered an employer of choice. That’s because these are the things that candidates are looking for and that they want from their employer.

Teresa: Is there anything else that companies should be aware of?

Stacy: Yes, they need to be aware of how they’re perceived in the marketplace. Remember that branding is how the company is viewed in the minds of candidates and job seekers. Everything that an organization does and does NOT do brands it, and I have an example of this.

A company reached out to me recently to ask for my help with filling a position that had been open for six months. They had been trying to fill the position on their own without success. Now they wanted to hire me to help fill it for them.

The trouble began when I reached out to a potential candidate for the role. When I spoke with him, he asked, “Hasn’t that position been open for six months? Why can’t they fill it?” The problem was his perception. He believed that there must be something wrong with the position or possibly the employer since the position had remained open for six months.

So think about that for a minute. The hiring manager had never spoken to the candidate. The candidate had never interviewed with the company. But the candidate now had a negative perception of the company. They certainly did not view it as an employer of choice.

Teresa: You also mentioned at the beginning of our podcast about companies “selling themselves” to candidates. Can you elaborate more on that?

Stacy: If an organization is an employer of choice, chances are good that “word of mouth” will help it to gain visibility in the marketplace. However, that does NOT alleviate the organization’s officials from the responsibility of selling the company to candidates. If your organization is an employer of choice, tell candidates this, show them how you’re an employer of choice, provide examples of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and make sure that you’re selling the company all through the interviewing and hiring process.

Being an employer of choice doesn’t help that much if you’re not hiring the very best candidates because of it.

Teresa: Stacy, thanks so much for being here and providing this information for us.

Stacy: You’re very welcome, and I’m looking forward to our next podcast.