Published in CHRO SA on 21 April 2022

Employer branding is essential to compete for talent in the aftermath of Covid-19

As companies work tirelessly through this post-pandemic recovery period, it is most comforting to read the latest employment research surveys (The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey and Robert Walters) confirming the present and forecast increase in healthy hiring sentiments across various sectors.

However, amid this glimmer of positivity, it would be foolish and insensitive to ignore soaring unemployment rates, poverty, social inequality, persistent electricity cuts and choking economic growth that are exacerbating our recovery efforts.

SMEs remain resilient and the lifeblood of South Africa’s economy, employing between 50 and 60 percent of the country’s workforce. It was not surprising that we saw the growth of African start-ups raising over $4billion and the World Bank declaring start-ups as “the biggest job-creating opportunity in South Africa”.

The surge in start-ups and the reopening of the retail and hospitality sectors will see the war for talent get tougher, within a limited talent pool. There will be no reprieve, especially with companies seeking to recruit IT specialists, technical machine learning, software developers, data analytical and data scientists.

Recruiters face a variable labour marketplace requiring different needs

We are now faced with a small, highly skilled market that might opt to shift from traditional employment to join the freelance, temporary, gig or contract population. Alternatively, they might choose to join a start-up where they can follow their purpose, witness their impact and have a stronger sense of belonging in their sought-after career.

Recruiters cannot ignore that they are now dealing with a variable workforce with different needs, and competing within a global talent marketplace.

So what is the answer?

Currently, 72 percent of recruiting leaders around the world agree that employer branding has a significant impact on hiring and organisational success. Through differentiating themselves in the labour market, organisations can reap the rewards of recruiting, retaining and engaging the right people for their business.

This means talent leaders will need to work smarter and harder to creatively leverage employer branding and market universal HR practices to retain and grow their existing valued employees. Coupled with this, companies will need to build a competitive and distinct employer value proposition if they wish to address and win passive high-demand skills.

Why the disconnect between recruiters and employer branding?

Recruiters and talent acquisition leaders view employer branding as a long, tedious crusade filled with noise and nonsense. Recruiters want short-term, fast results and to draw on tools and solutions that will assist them in filling their high demand roles now.

Interweaving employer branding into the recruiting function should, however, be viewed as both long- and short-term. In this article we will not focus on the long-term, necessary implementation of a strategic employer branding framework, but on how recruiters and talent acquisition leads can build their employer brand presence and reputation “in real-time” to recognise urgent results.

Stop undervaluing recruiters – they also need to be properly upskilled and trained to perform creatively

Recruiters need to stop being purely transactional, showing up only to be seen and heard by the talent market when they have an urgent vacancy to fill. At the same time companies need to provide them with the recruitment support they need and not undervalue them as mere order takers when they are recruiting for the lifeblood that will make or break their organisation.


Recruiters and TA specialists should be producing and executing on exciting, informative content in their online feeds. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are consulted by jobseekers. Investing time in creating content to build a following among the passive talent community, will pave the way to enabling their outbound recruiting efforts.

They need to be showing up consistently with valuable insights, interesting news and personality not only when they seek to recruit. Indeed’s data shows 78 percent of people will investigate a company’s reputation before applying, with 88 percent of millennials placing importance on joining the right company culture. Social platforms are an essential space for all companies to share their employer brand and highlight their culture and employee initiatives so they can distinguish themselves in the job market.

As brand and content marketers, recruiters need to be simultaneously engaging employees outside of the recruiting function to do the same. As influencers their goal is to dominate the feed through showing up more than their competitors.


Through the collective team efforts and ongoing activity of the recruitment team and the employee voice they will drive top of mind awareness, becoming quickly recognisable as an employer brand and personal recruiter brand.

In doing so, recruiters can be effectively addressing the variable talent pool/community they wish to recruit.

So when a stranger (passive candidate) receives a message from someone within your company, they will have built that level of insight, knowledge and trust and will more likely read it and communicate with the recruiter or TA specialist.

The goal

Nowadays, for recruiters to compete for candidate attention, they need to be promoting content that sells and enables better engagement and recruiting.

Recruiters and TA specialists are marketers and salespeople all bundled into one person. Recruiters have to do this all themselves. To successfully stand apart from the rest, they need to be creating innovative and interesting content outside of advertising jobs. This is short-term employer branding in a sense. We don’t see this in the world of sales and marketing as these two functions are valued and prioritised within organisations as they exist to make money.

With recruiters and TA specialists permanently in the trenches speaking to both existing and potential employees, it makes sense to give them the tools, resources and solutions they need to represent the company as brand advocates. They are on the cold side engaging with candidates: not only sharing company information, but gathering valuable current market insights from competitors and hearing and seeing things that can affect essential talent hiring strategies.

Recruiters and TA specialists hold the key to creating content that will shape and inform your employer brand and candidate experience. With this mindset you are bound to secure widely sought-after skills within a shrinking talent pool.