THE BLOG
12/02/2014 10:56 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Employer Brand and Hire Right

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We all tend to think of our business' "brand" as something solely targeted to external customers and clients. But a strong brand is just as important to ensuring you hire the right people who will remain loyal, productive and committed to your mission. Your people are your most important brand asset. How they appear to and treat customers is more important than any slick ad or cool website. Why?

Your brand is more than a logo. It's your core and essence as a company and starts from the inside out, impacting everything the company does and says. Brand is expressed in three crucial ways: visually, verbally and experientially. Your employees are a huge part of how your customers experience your brand. No amount of cool marketing will make up for a poor customer experience with the person they are dealing with at that moment in time.

To hire the right brand ambassadors, you need to start with creating a brand that appeals to the very best job candidates out there. Recruiting expert Rikka Brandon knows how important this is to your business growth and success. She has hired over 500 people and placed over 400 more as an Executive Recruiter. She writes, advises and speaks to small businesses about how to build amazing teams.

"Small business owners don't tend to spend a huge amount of time thinking about their 'employer brand,'" she says. "But as you continue to grow, this brand's ability to attract just the right people starts to take on enormous significance."

Here are three simple ways to build a strong employer brand - starting with your next interview.

1. Be Prepared

Don't treat a candidate any differently than you would your very best customer. Like your mother always taught you: Be considerate, be professional, take the time you need to get yourself organized.

If a candidate showed up unprepared, it would leave a terrible taste in your mouth. It's the same for your candidates. "If you are fumbling, distracted and unprepared, you're creating a horrible brand impression," Brandon says. "The job market is too competitive these days and the best candidates -- the ones you really want and need -- don't have to put up with that." Brandon advises reading the resume in advance, printing it out, making some notes and coming up with relevant questions to ask -- and preferably not ones that are easily answered by simply reading the resume.

And be on time. If you are asking someone to show up or call at a specific time, be available and ready for it. Set your alarm for five minutes before the scheduled time. Get your cup of coffee, go to the bathroom, do whatever you need to do so you're ready and present before your appointed time.

2. Show respect.

If you want to hire people that will respect you and your company, you need to show respect for them from Day One: the interview. If not, you risk ruining your brand for them not just as a candidate but as a consumer. I've seen firsthand how candidates can turn so sour on a company during a flawed interview process that they no longer wanted to use the company's products or services in the future - and told others about how the company just didn't have its act together. Talk about bad word of mouth.

Be respectful of their time. Don't keep them for an hour if twenty-five minutes will do.

Be respectful of their feelings. Don't say, "Hey, that was such a great interview - we love you!" and then a few minutes later you're telling a co-worker, "Put him on the regret list." "I'm not saying you need to verbally regret everybody as you go," advises Brandon." That's something that you'll get more comfortable doing as time goes on. But don't lead people on. It's so frustrating for candidates to leave the interview feeling like everything was awesome and get the rejection letter in the mail two days later. "

A simple way to lower their expectations is to say, "Thanks for your time today. I'm not sure if this is a good fit or not. We'll be talking to a lot of people but we'll definitely be in touch about next steps."

Lastly, be respectful of the fact that they are most likely working somewhere else. Don't do backdoor reference checks at their current employer as this can endanger their job security if their current company frowns upon exploring other options.

Overall, be considerate of the fact that they have a job, they have a life, they're juggling current priorities to interview with you, and they're interested enough in your company to make it happen.

3. Focus on what's in for them

Just as successful company brands focus on their end customers' needs, people who succeed at recruiting and hiring are always thinking about the candidate's needs, not just their own. They put themselves in the candidate's shoes and think about what would get them to say YES to a job offer. "Think outside the box and adapt to meet the needs of the unique person you really want on your team," says Brandon. Every individual's motivations are different, and surprisingly, it is not always just about money. It could be flexible work schedules, recognition, opportunities for growth, collaboration or advancement. By getting to know the candidate and thinking about what he or she craves, you can put together the perfect offer that they just can't refuse.

By following these three simple tips, you can reinforce your employer brand to be one for which the best people clamor to work. And with great people on your team, your business will go on to create brand magic for your customers, clients and partners.