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Recruitment Marketing: You Want It

Employment branding is hotter than ever. Thanks Great Resignation! However, as our special guest James Ellis, host of The Talent Cast podcast and senior manager at Recursion says, "We're all just figuring it out as we go along." That's why we brought him on this episode of the Cult Brand series with's Julie Calli. We dig into the state of the profession, how Covid changed everything and what role technology plays in building a strong employment brand.


Intro (2s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel (24s):

Oh Yeah. What's up everybody. You know who it is. It's your favorite guilty pleasure. The Chad and Cheese podcast. Another episode of the Cult Brand Series. I'm your cohost Joel Cheeseman joined as always by Julie, going back to Cali we are Sans Chad Sowash today, Julie, if you didn't know, is president of And today we are just giddy like school girls to welcome James Ellis to the podcast. If you don't know, James, have you been living under a rock? He's the Senior Manager of Employment Brand at Recursion and also host of a little podcast that competes with ours called the Talentcast.

Joel (1m 5s):

James, welcome to the show.

James (1m 7s):

Are we calling that competitive? I mean, I think my readership and your readership are really different.

Joel (1m 12s):

We're both on, we're both on Google play. I think, I think we're both competing for airspace on Google. So for those that don't know you, what did I miss in the intro that you want our listeners to know? Give us a Twitter bio poetry? Walks on Lake Michigan? What's James all about?

James (1m 29s):

Yeah. And by the way, I heard that you were in Chicago this weekend and didn't say hi, so what's up with that? But we'll talk about that separately, when your ass' off the line. I am James Ellis. I got a podcast. I wrote a book called Talent Chooses You. I've got a newsletter called Employer Brand Headlines. You can go to a and sign up, it's free, every Monday and get a little smarter about employer brand. But right now my big focuses is getting season 2 of the Talentcast, which is an audio book version of Talent Chooses You. So that's really kind of where my big focus is right now.

Joel (1m 57s):

So you got a lot of free time on your hands is what you're saying, what you're saying.

James (2m 1s):

Yeah, that sounds right.

Joel (2m 1s):

By the way James, I was in Chicago on a little getaway with my wife. No kids, no kids allowed. So I hope you'll forgive me by not bringing you into the date if you will, of my trip to Chicago, which was a lovely weekend for one day of it, the other two days were rainy and cold. Speaking of sunny with spots of rain and cold.

Julie (2m 25s):

Sounds forgettable.

Joel (2m 26s):

Your everything, employer branding, you wrote a book about it. You got a podcast on it. I'm curious as someone who doesn't live and breathe this like you and Julie, what is the current state of the profession? Is it on life support after the pandemic? Is it rising like a Phoenix? Is it stable? How would you describe the profession?

James (2m 46s):

And I think we were, we had been kind of clawing our way as a profession, kind of planting our flag saying, Hey, we're a valid function of branding and marketing. We are part of recruitment's kind of evolution away from post and pray and just transactional butts and seats sort of recruiting into something more. And then the pandemic hit and it just exploded. So right now you've all heard about the great resignation. That's really where we live. That idea that first off, if you think about employer brand as purely, how do we attract talent? That's a way of looking at it, but real great employer brand is not that I'm going to include myself in that list. They see both sides. If they see that employer brand is a means by which you attract great people, but it's also the reason why you compel people to stick around thus limiting the impact of the great resignation.

James (3m 32s):

So for a lot of companies who had invested well in employer brand, they're not seeing the kind of seismic shifts of the great resignation. And there are the companies who are thriving and I think that's led to a very, very strong job market for employer branders. A lot of trends, a lot of movement, a lot of people shaken up a lot of people jumping to the next role and companies really realizing that it's not just this nice to have thing. It's an incredibly powerful means by which they can avoid the really ugly stuff, really ugly parts of the great resignation.

Joel (4m 1s):

And my assumption is they're in the minority that most companies, from my perspective, like the employment brand folks were the first to go when the shit hit the fan with the pandemic, is that your contention as well? And did, were companies really quick to hire those same people back, you know, six months to 12 months later when they realized, oh shit, this thing might be over sooner than we think. And we might actually need to have a brand to bring people back to work. What's your take on that?

James (4m 30s):

If you look at the macro trends, but the businesses that really kind of shuttered the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, you're talking about hospitality brands. We're talking about restaurants, you're talking about theaters. Those are places, employer brand didn't have a very strong foothold anyway. Larger companies tended to hunker down, they maybe froze hiring. They may be froze some of their processes, but they didn't do mass layoffs. You know, much like a restaurant would. So employer brand wasn't, didn't have a big shake up that way. I think what's happening is that everybody who's got a couple of years experience doing this and have a good couple of good stories to tell about what they do and how they do it. They're just looking for the next step up. And you're seeing a lot of people come in from content marketing, from recruiting, from marketing specialists who realize they can take their skillsets and kind of move into this space, which is hyper-focused or hyper specialized around the recruitment marketing relative industry.

James (5m 16s):

Though, you know, we could talk all day about how it's connected with the rest of the company and saying, this is a great space for me to kind of plant my flag to really focus my energies, because it's a part of marketing that hasn't been incredibly prescribed, incredibly defined, right? You go to school and you learn, you know, in marketing the four Ps and all the other standard marketing stuff. And it means that marketing on the corporate side tends to be a little paint by number, which is, you know, that's a little unfair, but it's still pretty, Hey, everybody has the same education. Everybody's leveraging the same kind of resources and ideas. Employer brand doesn't have that. The best people doing this stuff are making it up as they go along. To be fair the worst people doing this are making it up as they go along too. But that's the thing is we're all making it up.

James (5m 56s):

So there's so much kind of room. You're watching people say, Hey, my focus on employer brand is all about working with comms teams to talk about and connect advocacy internally. Or some people are saying, it's all about how do we get, you know, review sites up and running and how we get to shine on those spaces. For some people it's how do we tell our story via video? There's so many different avenues to do it. There's so many opportunities to kind of dive deep. And I think you're finding people saying there's so much room let's just dive in and see what we can do.

Julie (6m 23s):

I love how you just said there were two pieces there and like why employer brand was so valuable right now, right? It's the attraction to attract new talent, but also the retention that people are trying to address right now, people are now seeing that employer brand as a solution for that. And there's a demand for it. Do you feel like since the pandemic and since, you know, we've had the great resignation that there's been a bigger cry for it than before?

James (6m 51s):

Oh yeah. I mean, you look at Harvard Business Review, which to me is like, it's a very lagging indicator, but it's the middle of the industry saying, Hey, this is what businesses think. This is the pulse check for business. And you're hearing so much about retention. You're hearing so much about culture. You're hearing so much about values. You're hearing so much about work and employee experience. These are phrases that were fuzzy bunny two years ago. They were just highfalutin or they were, yeah. Yeah. That's nice to have. That's what that weird B Corp over there is doing. Not only now, the big companies are doing it and investing in it. And they're realizing we can't treat people like automatons. We can't treat them like human resources, that they're actually people, right. They're actually human beings and they have thoughts and feelings and cares and their entire world is complicated.

James (7m 33s):

And we have to kind of build around them. That's really becoming more of the norm because I just see it in the places where I'd expect that's the, you know, where the old thinking might be.

Joel (7m 43s):

So it's hotter than ever. But how has it changed? We're working remotely more often, we're working with contractors and gig workers more often, we're working with a global workforce. How has the profession changed?

James (7m 57s):

It's gotten so much more complicated. Great employer branding is so, you know, I worked with Talent Brand Atlanta. We put together a nice long article about the 16 core competencies of an employer brand, which sounds crazy, but it's accurate. It's this idea that great employer brand is know how to do vendor management and stakeholder management and content development, and understand that the HR and TA tech stack and they know all these different things. Of course, that's impossible for one person to know all these things. What happens is you end up focusing and you say, I'm a great storyteller. I'm great at the politics style. Like I know people who and I won't name names who are great employer branders because they excel at the politics side. That's not something I kind of stick my, you know, you know, that's not where I live.

James (8m 39s):

I'm more on the content creating side. So every there's so many different ways to succeed. Everybody's finding avenues to do it. So as you get into this space where the market itself, what everybody expects employer brand to do, everybody's kind of looking and figuring out if they go along. If you go back four or five years, employer, brand and recruitment marketing, we're almost overlapping circles of a Venn diagram. There was so much similarity, was just buy ads, get on Glassdoor, make sure your ads are going to the right place, make sure your jobs are going to the right place. Give it some polish. Now it's about how do we get a thousand people inside our company to sing our praises in an aligned and structured way against our larger either it's EDP pillars, whether it's values, whether it's culture, whatever it is, however your architecture works.

James (9m 22s):

How do we get everybody to sing those praises? How do we build content at scale? How do we make sure that the CEO understands that their impact on the employer brand, along with the recruiters and the hiring managers so much has opened up. And it's fascinating to watch people dive into these tiny little niche spaces, having success and realizing that there is no one way to solve their employer brand problem.

Joel (9m 44s):

So let's talk about the how there for a second. And one of my favorite interviews is, are the ones that we do with Douglas Adkin, who literally wrote the book on marketing, right? And when we talked about the state of the world with the pandemic and how it would impact culture of organizations, and he hates the remote work phenomenon. He's a big fan of get people in a room, rub them together till, until they become sticky and that's how culture is created. So from the how, in your perspective, companies that are used to getting together, having social functions and creating a culture, how do we do that today?

James (10m 23s):

Yeah, there's a lot to be said for the power of physicality, the power of being in-person and proximate to each other. So my job is, you know, remote, but every couple of weeks, I fly out to Salt Lake City to be in front of my team and work with that team and get to know people. And it's incredibly powerful. And I don't think you need to be a hundred percent, you know, on, you know, boots on the ground. You don't need to be a hundred percent in the space, but building a culture does have a sense of proximity. It does have a sense of, you know, that is the friction of that. But I think the economy is starting to shift that. I think you're starting to see a lot of people, even in the employer brand space, see that they can be very, very good at their job. Even if they take kind of a freelance approach where it feels like, Hey, I'm just good at making video.

James (11m 6s):

I am just good at writing job postings. I am just good at this one piece. I can work across the field to anybody. And that's where remote work really kind of excels where you don't have to be in the place. You're a specialist, you have an incredible set of skills. And you're there very, very naturally focused in that area. But given an employer brand impacts every part of the company, because every part of the company impacts employer, brand people who are in-house do need to have some time spent in the building in headquarters, going to offices, rubbing shoulders with people because that's how they connect. That's how they engaging and it kind of bang the drum of this is how employer brand works. Employment is very, very abstract. It's a very hard to explain idea where the employer brand doesn't exist on a piece of paper.

James (11m 49s):

It doesn't exist in a deck. It exists in some stranger's minds, what they think it must be like to work for you, where that expectation comes from is a function of everything the totality of what a business does. So being in the building, connecting with all those people, to let them know that, Hey, your customer service, your policies, your product selection, your channel selection, all that has some sort of impact on employer brand. That really is hard to happen in a remote space. That said, I think there's an interesting space where more and more companies are building, not remote as a response to the pandemic, but more companies are going fully distributed. Not because of the pandemic, because they just realize that they can connect better talent from around the world into one spot.

James (12m 33s):

I think that hasn't been well-documented yet places like automatic, 37 signals, they're fully distributed. There's an opportunity to build culture fully remote, fully distributed. There's just not enough examples of it yet to say, ah, someone's cracked the nut.

Julie (12m 47s):

You mentioned before about the politics and employer branding. What kind of politics are people facing?

James (12m 53s):

That is a great one. Cause I'm not, the joke of course, is that I have a poly-sci degree. That's where I spent my time in school thinking about. I'm horrible politics

sfx (13m 3s):


James (13m 3s):

I know. Right. Who went to college? Boo higher education, I guess is what Joel just said.

Joel (13m 10s):


James (13m 10s):

Yeah. Okay. That's better. Here's the deal. The organization, when you put it together, everybody has separate agendas. Everybody has something things they want to achieve. And in most organizations, in my experience, those agendas do not line up a hundred percent of the time. That's just how humans are. Everybody wants their bonus. Every wants their team to shine. And if it happens to happen in a way that kind of, you know, nixes is somebody else, that's just how the cookie crumbles, right? That's just a cutthroat world. That's the dog eat dog situation we're in. That means that if you're looking for buy-in budget resources, that requires a political kind of hand on the tiller. You need to be in a place and you need the skill set to say, I know how to talk to a recruiter, to get them excited about what I'm about to do.

James (13m 52s):

I know how to get talked to the TA VP to get them excited by what I do. I need to talk to the marketing VP or CMO to get them excited by what I do. You need to get the business excited by what you do. You need to get leadership excited by what you do. Everybody has to come together to say, we are willing to change even slightly, our way of doing business, our messaging, going out to align to a broader idea around employer brand. That is not something you can just make happen. Because employer branders, I don't care what your title is, have no authority. They are influencers. And we say that in a positive sense and not in the Kardashians sense. They are there to influence the conversation. They are there to influence people they have no direct authority over.

James (14m 32s):

I can't tell my CEO, you have to do this or, you know, this is going to fail, it's going to break. I don't have that authority. I don't have that power. I can't make anybody do anything. But what I can do is educate. What I can do is excite. What I can do is amplify. What I can do is really kind of connect what I'm trying to do to their agenda, to show how it's helping me serve them. That's the game of politics. That's all it is. Doing that really, really well opens doors across the organization. It opens budgets across the organization. That's where a lot of people find incredible power.

Julie (15m 2s):

Check it. Do you have to do internal campaigning before you can create a campaign externally?

James (15m 7s):

Exactly. Yeah. It seems kind of crazy, but that's, you know, the people I think about when I think about who does it, well, they are so good at getting people internally excited by the idea and the prospect of an employer brand. They understand what to get out of it. I think employer brand still talks about the concept of what we do. Very loosely, very abstractly. It's like, oh, it's great for great, for a strong brand. What's a strong brand worth? It's great for a strong brand that you, you know, you run away and you hope that conversation never happens. Great people who are great at politics really understand how to take that idea and connect it to someone else's agenda and say, this is going to help you hire this person, keep you from losing people, you know, change the culture of how you do business, increase optimization of the process of how you do your work or how you onboard people.

James (15m 54s):

It's going to give a culture shift so that more people are engaged with the work and that you're really extracting more value out of each person and that the team as a total. That is a magical ability. It requires the understanding of what a brand is, but also what those elements of the business are, what that other person's agenda is. And no one walks around with a sign that says my, you know, my agenda is that I want to become CEO one day. No one has that sign, so politics says, I understand that you're a VP of blankety blank and one day you'd like to be CEO. How do I give you some value that gives you half a step in that direction, whether it's here or someplace else, because when you do that, you helped me. That's the game of politics.

Joel (16m 33s):

And, in light of some political tug of war, I'm curious your opinion on the state of, I guess, holistic brand versus employment brand. Obviously there's an argument that you don't even need an employment brand if you have a strong holistic brand like a Nike or, you know, something culturally relevant. But in a world that we're living in now where the workforce is more global than ever, remote work, you know, there used to be a time where a local employer would hire local people and there would be a local brand that they can all rally around that everyone knew and had some gravitas. Well, if you're a local brand and you hire someone, a thousand miles away that holistic brand in your local market has zero meaning.

Joel (17m 16s):

So I guess you could almost argue that employment brand, some of the advantage is going to that and building that brand online and what that looks like, what's your take on holistic versus employment brand is someone gaining in the world as it is? Is someone losing? What's your take on that?

James (17m 32s):

So I'll take it a step further and say, ultimately, even if you don't invest in your employer brand, you have an employer brand. You just aren't intentional about it, right? If you choose to not manage the message and understand what you're trying to say to the world, people are going to read things on Glassdoor and Comparably and Power to Fly and Fairy God Boss. They're going to have neighbors who work for you. They're going to see your stories in the news, whether they're good or bad, they're going to touch your products. They're going to use your products. They're going to try and return your products and engage in your customer service. All of that leads to the employer brand. You may not spend a dime on employer brand. You may not have anybody with a title of employer brand, but guess what? You got one, what an employer brander does is manage those perceptions as best they can.

James (18m 13s):

I would say you're a hundred percent, right? I don't think there are some companies with holistic brands. I think all companies have holistic brands. They just treat them holistically. You look at like a Spotify or a Delta, or there's so many companies where they, their focus isn't about we're going to create employer brand. It's about, we have a core brand and everybody, you know, think of the brand as a lens or prism and the employer brander looks through that lens to look at and talk to candidates or prospects. The investor looks at that same brand and looks at institutional investors. The consumer marketer looks at that same brand. It looks at potential customers. It's the same brand. That's where I think the power is like to me, the maturation model of employer brand starts by, I'm a bunch of recruiters putting butts in seats.

James (18m 56s):

And it ends up in this idea that we have a shared single sense of brand, that we are all working on collectively, that everybody in the brand team knows that when the employer does something powerful and showcases a person working, that's something that the consumer or investor or marketplace marketer can use to say, these are the people building these products so you can feel good about buying these products. The same goes that the other way around. The employer brand knows that when the consumer marketer goes and does a great job, it has a great commercial or a great ad, or the stock price goes up. They can say, look, we're a great company. Those things are completely interactive. They're collaborative. That's where companies are trying when the smart ones anyway, are trying to get to. I think a lot of companies are kind of stagnated on the, Hey, we have a great employer brand end of paragraph.

James (19m 41s):

Let's talk about our consumer brand as if they're unrelated and they're not, they are the same. It's just, how do you treat them?

Joel (19m 46s):

I love that you brought up Glassdoor and Comparably, obviously our listeners will know those, those players. And I think that that business is going through some tough tectonic shifts, is that right?

James (19m 59s):


Joel (19m 59s):

You went to college. You answered that one. So.

James (20m 3s):


Joel (20m 3s):

So today, you know, we talk about on our weekly show about TikTok, right? That people are on TikTok, quitting their jobs live, right. Like recording it and posting it and talking about their experiences. Well, that stuff doesn't show up in Google, a Google search, right. It doesn't show up on Glassdoor. And I think the idea of sort of providing Yelp-like reviews on employers is a bit of an antiquated idea. What's your take on that phenomenon of moving to video and social media, as opposed to, I guess, the old standards of review sites and how does a company manage that?

Joel (20m 43s):

How do they monitor it? How do they kind of get their hands around it?

James (20m 48s):

Yeah, that's a great, I think you're probably right in that the idea of a Yelp-like site where people go to leave, their reviews is a bit of a and forgive, you know, and I'm almost 50. So when I say this, I cringed myself of a web 2.0, kind of methodology and mock modality. This idea that everybody goes in Google searches for the piece of information they need, they get the information, they do it, take with it, do with it, what they will that made a lot of sense five, 10 years ago today, less. So I'm not saying it doesn't make sense. I think there's plenty of data that shows people are still using those sites as data points, but there's a lot more data points. And there a lot more data points that, you know, to your point, that are not Googleable, they are the quote unquote "dark web"

James (21m 28s):

of, you know, how people find information. To me, the fact that the quitting happened on TikTok is interesting because that person was going to quit anyway, that person had friends there , and they're going to happily tell them an amazing story possibly while drinking of when I told my boss to suck it and dropped a cake and said, Hey, you know, my joke is always, if I ever wanted to quit place, I hated, I would just leave a cake that just says, eat me and I quit. And that's all I would say. And it would be like, I brought you a cake. It was a nice way of quitting. That would be an amazing video, but I still would've done it anyway. I still would have quit. I still would've made a big fuss to my own local network. The fact that it can go viral now is an interesting wrinkle.

James (22m 8s):

Ultimately, this all leads back to this idea that companies can't segment and compartmentalize their thinking and approach to employer brand. Employer brand has all the things you do, all the things you do becomes your employer brand. So if you're going to hire people poorly, if you're going to train them poorly, if you're going to make them feel like they have to become robots who have social security numbers. If you're going to treat them like, you know, and I, if you ever look at Reddit anti-worker channel, I highly recommend it. It is fascinating and hilarious all at once about people complaining about the stupid stuff their company's and bosses make them do the stuff that any sane human being would say that's laughable. And yet it's an everyday occurrence. Lots of businesses have not figured this out.

James (22m 50s):

That treating people poorly leads to people treating them poorly. It's just, you know, it's the golden rule, right? Businesses don't think they have to abide by that, a lot of them. A lot of them do, but a lot of them don't. So I think as this kind of information moves out of a Yelp model and into a more distributed model, it makes the job of an employer brander harder, but it also means there's more channels that they know are useful. Now, why can't an employer brander make a TikTok video about how great it is to work? Now, nothing so heavy handed, hopefully, but something like that use the weapons, you know, every strength has a weakness, every weakness is a strength. If this channel is hurting, you take over that channel and start to use it on your behalf. There's no winning that game, but it is about how do you manage that process?

James (23m 33s):

I will add, there's a really interesting idea that if people are going to be willing to quit publicly and sometimes live in the moment, why haven't we turned that around and say, do people search for jobs publicly and live in the moment? Why aren't jobs searches, entertainment? We shop for entertainment. We go, you know, whether it's QVC or Amazon or walking around a store, we shop for entertainment. Why can't we jobs for entertainment? Why can't we do it publicly? Why can't I open a Discord channel says, Hey, everybody, I just quit my job at blah, blah, blah. I want to look for a job, take a look, take a look at my resume, take a look at my LinkedIn profile, or what have you? Give me ideas and feedback and let's tell jokes while I'm doing it to make this horrible process of putting my information in ATS some more, a little bit more palatable.

James (24m 20s):

We can do it collectively and together. I think that's coming down the road, this idea of public and entertainment driven job searching. That's just my thoughts.

Joel (24m 28s):

Well, one it takes work. And two, it's hard to compete with someone dunking their scrotum into the ice cream machine as entertainment value. That's part of the reason.

James (24m 37s):

And that has its own entertainment value on some level. I'm sure.

Joel (24m 42s):

Only for people like me, James.

Julie (24m 46s):

Well, I know that, you know, people are, look at companies to say, Hey, what's going on in there with Glassdoor, but they're also looking for ways to connect, like social responsibility's become something that companies are investing in. They're looking for that both on the consumer side and on the candidate side, because people are searching to understand what does this company do to make an impact on the world? Would corporate social responsibility be something you would consider part of the responsibility of an employer brand?

James (25m 16s):

I don't know if the word was responsibility is the right word, but I definitely know they're connected. I definitely. So in my own job, I work hand in hand with the comms team that runs the ESG reports and they do all that work. It helps me tell my story. They tell their story. Then we leverage each other's resources. We connect the dots. I think the problem is, and, I'm going to go ahead and beat up on an ATSs in general as an industry you'll excuse me I imagined because no one likes their ATS much like no one likes their cable company. No one likes their ATS. Everybody thinks there's a better one out there. There isn't. They all are hard and painful. Anyway, moving on. I'm sure there's some companies out there who would love, love to tell me how I'm wrong.

Joel (25m 53s):

The point of view has changed on ATSs. That's that's refreshing, that's refreshing.

James (26m 1s):

But this idea that the ATS has forced recruiting to say recruiting is all about shoving people through a funnel, as fast as humanly possible. It process-itizing, optimizing, all this idea that how do we remove the humanity from the concept of looking for a job and as much as, and honestly, as much as I'd like to dump on ATSs. Let's be fair. Corporations in general have been doing this since the fifties, you just have to look at the man in the gray flannel suit and the organization, man book. It's been happening over time. You can go back to tailorization. Anyway, that's a history lesson we don't have to get into, but we've been forcing people to remove their humanity a little bit every single day. And this has been a big swing to say, you know what?

James (26m 42s):

Maybe we've taken this way too far. Maybe there's value in leveraging our employee's humanity. And take humanity to me whenever you want the things they care about, the things they sweat about, the things they are passionate about. Don't you want employees who are passionate about the work you do. If the work you're doing is about, and you can take it to saving the whales, saving the planet. But if the work you're doing is about making a stack of cash. If they're passionate about it, aren't they better at it? Well, you can't bring the passion if you feel like you're completely disconnected from your humanity. Just look at if you've watched severance first off, if you binge watch it, you will have weird dreams about your work. I will promise you that my wife and I were both like, are you having weird work dreams? Like, yes, I totally am.

James (27m 23s):

It's an amazing show, but it's this idea that how do you remove the humanity from work and what are the after-effects? Totally Philip K Dickey. And it's amazing. Yes. I said Dickie and it's okay. It's a word. But this idea that humans can pretend to be non-humans. They can pretend to be cogs. It's gone. We're done. People want to be people. That's where the great resignation is really all about. It's this idea of people saying, I want to give my humanity. I want my, my moment, my life to have some meaning and the reasons businesses exist and when's the last time you heard anybody say this is so that a group of people can achieve more together than they could individually. That's literally the reason why businesses started.

James (28m 3s):

It doesn't feel like that's why businesses exist anymore. It feels like businesses exist so we can make the owners of the business richer. And it doesn't help me. The more businesses realize that they can are there so that each individual participant, each employee, each contract, or each vendor is there to do more than they could individually. The more they lean into that idea, the less they're going to have to worry about resignation, the less they're going to have to worry about bad reviews. The more people are going to connect to their humanity and who they are. And that turned into a real kind of rallying cry of fuzzy bunniess on my part, which I don't think I personally expected, but here we are.

Joel (28m 39s):

So let's keep the dunking competition on ATSs and technology going, or maybe not. We reported recently a study that 92% of people, job seekers who actually click on the apply button, 92%, do not complete the process.

James (28m 58s):


Joel (28m 58s):

What can employment brand do about that? We see technologies come along that say, you know, chat bots can cure it because nobody exits and it's a ghost killing machine kind of thing. I'm always curious how we don't treat, apply to a job similarly to how we use shopping carts online. If I abandon a shopping cart, I get an email, you know, the next day saying, Hey, did you forget something and inviting me to come complete the process? I don't think that happens with jobs, but it should. I think you'd probably agree. What's your take on that? How do we fix it? Does employment brand have any hope of working with technology and fixing some of these or is it just simply hopeless?

James (29m 41s):

I don't think it's hopeless. I'm going to leverage a Kanye story. If you wanted to listen to the roast recent Kanye album for a long time, you had to wait until Kanye literally showed up to your town in a stadium, bought a ticket, showed up in a COVID kind of situation and listened to the record with him. That was the only way to do it. Now you think, but I have Spotify. I can listen to 4 trillion songs. Why would I want to do that? It's because Kanye fans desired more Kanye songs. They had so much love for what he was doing. They were so desperate to hear more information. They were so excited by the idea of what the new song or the next album was going to be about.

James (30m 22s):

They went to frigging Soldier Field to listen to an album. No one should want to do that. What's my point? My point is that if you create enough desire for what you're offering, people are more than willing to jump through infinite hoops to get what they want. The problem is most companies don't think they need to explain why their job is amazing or what someone should get out of it. It's simply I have a job plus I have all the power, I will dangle it like a carrot in front of you, you just run and jump through my hoops the way we want. That worked 10 years ago, but it doesn't work now, where I have infinite choice of places I could work. If I have deeper understanding of what the business is really about, what the culture is really about. If a company knows and invests in how to create desire for their jobs, obstacles don't matter.

James (31m 4s):

You could use an ATS that simply write it down on a piece of paper, stick it in the carrier pigeon's butt, fly it out to our headquarters and they people will apply. It's not like Google gets so many applications, not because they have the best ATS, but because everybody wants to work there. The problem is a problem of desire. And if you don't stoke and invest in that desire, the easiest process are only going to collect people who are willing to, okay, sure I guess I'll apply. They'll apply to any job, not your job and what you want are the people who want to work for you. And they have a good reason. They have a compelling reason. They have data points to prove that case. They want that thing. The reason they want that car is because they see it every day and they see people driving it.

James (31m 47s):

It looks exciting and they've done their research and they want that car. They'll wait six months for it to come, to take delivery. They cause they want it. If you don't stoke desire, making an easier way to click apply and make it easy to apply it's just going to collect the wrong people you're looking for. So that's my take on how employer branding really can change the thinking around ATSs and say, look, it's an obstacle. It's a hurdle. It's a database for it for HR, not for TA, let's be fair. Don't you can't change it. So how do you get people to overcome it, to be willing, to take the steps, to overcome it. You stoke that desire.

Joel (32m 21s):

And I hope Taco Bell's listening cause if they just offer a Chalupa Supreme at the end of an application, they'll see a huge rise in the people that want to work at Taco Bell.

James (32m 28s):

And they tell and tell if they should tell a whole story around at the end of this process, there's a whole taco stand for you. And that's the stuff that people go cool. I want to be involved in it. And that's the creative thinking that employer brand should be more involved in. I think we're getting there. It's a slow process because these industries change slowly. But yeah, I think that's where we really have the most impact.

Julie (32m 48s):

You're making me want tacos right now.

James (32m 50s):

Who doesn't want tacos?

Joel (32m 51s):

What are you going to do? It's lunchtime actually every day, every time is lunchtime.

James (32m 55s):

It's always lunchtime somewhere.

Julie (32m 56s):

I may throw in this question. I thought this was a great one that I've heard you speak to before. But what is the biggest misconception that employers have when it comes to employer brand?

James (33m 8s):

Well, I've already talked about one, that is the idea that you already have one. You don't need to invest it. You already have an employer brand. The other one I think is most interesting that business, cause it's kind of forget is that employer brand doesn't have to be expensive. Places like Glassdoor spent 10 years convincing you that the second someone said, employer brand, you should cover your wallet cause this is going to be a five figure kind of investment. Just to start, they, you know, it became an act of pick-pocketing. It became an act of how do we extract as much cash? I don't know. Let's do strategy. I don't know if they'll dictate strategy. How about employer brand? Like that was the way, you know.

Joel (33m 44s):

You want to say black male. So

James (33m 45s):

I didn't want to say I'm glad someone else said it. I know I'm not disagreeing with it, but I'm glad I didn't have to say,

Joel (33m 55s):


James (33m 56s):

No thank you. But the trick is, and your employer brand is everything you do. There is no inherent tech stack to your employer brand. Your employer brand is affected by your ATS but is your ATS, your employer brand? No, your employer brand is affected by your product selection and where you're going to market, but is that your employer brand? No, all those things impact your employer brand. So if you want to shape the perception of your employer brand? One, you should talk to all the people in your company who are making the touch points and experiences that a stranger might have about your company. You want to make sure that when they call in to have customer service, they actually get service and not treated like a number or treated like someone, Hey, how do I shut this call off? They need to feel like this is what the company is really about.

James (34m 35s):

The employer brand is just a sense of what it must be like there to work there. So understand what that sense you want to instill is. Look around you in a complete 360 and say, what are all the ways someone might get that sense? And change. Then you look and say, how do I spark interest in this? Now I've made the joke before that, you know, what does an employer brand costs like? Well, I don't know what a sidewalk chalk cost. If I'm looking for Python developers, I go to Python, PY Con, which is happening yesterday or today and just write in sidewalk chalk in front of the buildings really interesting messages. Now the fact that I have no money, forces me to say, what is something compelling? I can say, what is a message that's going to matter to this specific audience is?

James (35m 20s):

Not to nurses, not to sales leaders, not to future CEOs, but to Python developers. What do they care about? What are their challenges? What are their pain points? Why would they love to work for me? To steal that, come up with a creative package that makes them go, huh? That is really interesting. I want to learn more, which by the way, is what employer brander's job is, is to make strangers go, huh? I had no idea. I want to learn more. That's the job.

sfx (35m 43s):


James (35m 43s):

You can write an a couple of times in the sidewalk shop. I take the applause. I didn't, I don't think I invented that, but I'll take it. You write it and package it in sidewalk chalk or mimeographs some, you know, some flyers, right? How cheap can we get? Mimeograph.

Joel (35m 59s):

Smoke signals?

James (35m 60s):

Exactly. Whatever it takes. You know, if you can just hijack the microphone for 10 seconds and say something interesting, that's all it takes. It's not about the tech stack. It's about understanding who you are, understanding what your audience cares about. Connecting the dots in a compelling and creative way and putting it in front of them. None of that has anything to do with a website or Glassdoor reviews or a job posting or anything. It's about how do you want to make that happen? Taco Bell, they're best case for employer branding is a strong message at the bottom of every Taco Wrapper, right? There's a huge audience they want to reach. That's the audience they want to hire. It's a moment where people feel satisfied about Taco Bell, say something compelling to people who love tacos.

James (36m 42s):

There you are. What did that cost? You were already going to print that label anyway, already print that taco wrapper anyway, you might as well use it to say something interesting. So it doesn't have to be expensive. It just needs to be thought out.

Joel (36m 58s):

James Ellis, everybody. Speaking of saying something interesting. James, we appreciate the time for those that want to learn more? Buy your book. Listen to your podcast. Just generally connect with you. Where would you send them?

James (37m 9s):

So go to I think I linked to everything from there. It's easiest way to sign up for the newsletter to go look at the book. You can buy it on Amazon, but I made it open source and freely available as a Google doc from which I wrote it. So you can just go ahead and look at it. Just go to But I link to it from that, the podcast is the talentcast. I link to it there. We're super pumped that, you know, this is the, you know, we get to revisit the book by doing it as an audio book and kind of saying, Hey, I've learned a little bit in the last three years since I wrote it the first time. Let me add onto this book. So I've had a lot of people say they enjoyed the book, but getting to hear me talk about it, literally, as I'm thinking about, is it's a whole different experience.

James (37m 50s):

So hopefully it's useful to people.

Joel (37m 53s):

Always a pleasure. James. Julie, that's another one in the can.

Julie (37m 58s):


Joel (37m 59s):

We out

OUTRO (37m 60s):

Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of people, you don't even know and yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese, not one cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any hoo be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode.

OUTRO (38m 47s):

And while you're at it, visit just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.


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