Every year, companies invest tonnes of resource into building their employer brand.

Why? Because your employer brand is the cornerstone of your reputation as an employer. It’s very much a candidate-driven market, so you’re competing with other organisations for the same pool of talent.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? How do you stand out amongst the crowd?

Simple – your employer brand.

As defined by the CIPD, your employer brand is:

“…a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that makes an organisation distinctive, promises a particular kind of employment experience, and appeals to those who will thrive and perform best in its culture.”

Ultimately, it boils down to how you position yourself as an ‘employer of choice’, amongst your competitors and the pool of candidates. Contrary to popular belief – it’s not all about how big you are as a company. It’s not about how successful you are, or how much money you make. It’s entirely about how your employees feel working for you.

According to Glassdoor – 69% of candidates would not take a job with a business that had a bad reputation.

It’s quite clear how important your employer brand is, especially in generating the greatest return possible for your recruitment endeavours. But, what mistakes could you be making that are damaging your employer brand?

  • Not understanding, or trying to understand, where you’re going wrong

Nothing is perfect, and mistakes will always be made. To save yourself from making the same mistakes over and over again – you need to understand exactly where you’re going wrong. Is there something wrong with your recruitment process? Do your management team require any additional management training?

At what point, in an employee’s experience with your brand, do things go wrong?

Finding this out is simple, and resolving the issues will work wonders for your employee turnover, experience, and employer brand. However, it does require some additional investment of resource.

Solution: Exit and Retention Interviews

It’s simple, isn’t it? If you don’t understand what’s going wrong – ask. The very people who are experiencing what’s wrong are your employees, and they’re the ones you should be asking.

Implementing an exit and retention interview solution is the perfect method for finding out what you need to know. The following questions could form the basis of your solution, and help you really get to the bottom of any employee issues your business suffers from:

  • What do you enjoy about your role with us?
  • Is there anything you would change about the role?
  • What was your main reason for leaving our business?
  • What could we have done differently to have made you stay?
  • What advice would you give us to make future joiners more comfortable?

Use the information these questions give you to improve your recruitment process.

  • Your candidates don’t feel respected or valued, particularly if they don’t get the job

Regardless of what happens – it’s important to make sure your candidates’ experiences are always positive, respectful and fair.

Understandably – you can’t offer every applicant a job. Candidates know that, they understand it, and they respect it. You not offering them the role they applied for isn’t what damages your employer brand.

It’s how you do it. Also, in most instances – it’s whether or not you actually do it.

Think about it – candidates apply for a role with your company. They get through a couple of the initial pre-screening stages, after which your recruiters determine they aren’t suitable to continue through the process. You let all of them, regardless of how many there are, know the outcome – right?

Sadly – most companies don’t. Completely cutting your candidates off without even communicating with them is more damaging to your employer brand than letting them know they haven’t got the job.

Solution: Communication

Solving this issue all boils down to something as simple as communication.

Keep candidates informed throughout the process, from receipt of their application, through to the final decision your recruitment team make. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking for a candidate than waiting to hear back from an employer about a role you applied for.

There’s nothing worse than waiting to hear back from an employer, and not hearing anything at all.

There’s also nothing worse for your employer brand than having a bunch of candidates with negative opinions of your company, simply because they didn’t hear anything from you. Even if your communication is letting the candidates know they’ve not been successful – they’ll appreciate it a lot more than being left in the dark.

If you’d like to go the extra mile – offer candidates the opportunity to call your team to receive detailed feedback on their performance, and give them advice on where they went wrong and how they can improve it for next time.

  • Your company has a weak online presence, and you’re difficult to find

It’s common knowledge that, nowadays, all of your potential candidates will be researching your company, and trying to find out as much as they possibly can. Why? Every bit of information they find will help inform whether or not they actually want to work for you.

That being said – potential candidates can only find the information if it’s there to be found.

In an environment as competitive as recruitment, especially in some sectors, this lack of information can often be the difference between receiving the application, and not. In that vein – the candidate that doesn’t end up submitting an application may well have been the one who would’ve received the job offer.

With your online presence, it’s not necessarily a case of damaging your employer brand – it’s more that it will never truly materialize.

So, how do you solve this problem?

Solution: Update your Website & Manage your Social Channels

Having a company Facebook page and Twitter account is a good start – but it’s no longer as simple as that. Job seekers and potential candidates expect employers to have built and be maintaining a strong online presence across multiple channels. What does this mean? It means a user-friendly company website and active social media accounts as a bare minimum.

You don’t need to invest hours of marketing and recruitment resource into building your online presence. It all starts with talking about recent company news across your social channels, sharing photos and videos of achievements, and generally showing pride in your brand.

More importantly – engage with potential candidates as often as you can. Respond to their reviews. Ask and answer questions. Share relevant content. Keep them involved in the conversation.


Building a strong employer brand will always make your company more appealing to potential candidates. Something as simple as this can help you compete in the market, and gain the upper hand over your competitors. Whilst it’s simple to build – it’s also just as easy to undo all of your hard work and send yourself back to square one.

To build a believable employer brand – you need to be a good employer. There’s no way to fake it. You need to understand where you’re going wrong, communicate with all of your candidates regardless of the outcome, and get yourself online.

Your employer brand isn’t just a passing trend – it’s something that can, and will, directly affect the success of your recruitment efforts.

As Industrial Placement schemes continue to gain popularity – we thought it would be interesting to review their impact on graduate retention rates. Particularly, since most firms offer industrial placement students the promise of a graduate role upon completion of their degree.

With 2018 set to be another year of economic growth and increased business investment, alongside increasing employee turnover as the Baby Boomer generation seek retirement, it is expected that the student and graduate market will face a growth in demand.

At this time of year, we are right in the middle of Graduate Season! And, there are a vast number of graduate applicants, right? So, how come there will be hundreds of graduate roles left vacant at the end of the process this year?

There many different aspects that attract graduates to your organisation, but what if you could attract the best talent a year before they graduate, whilst enhancing their soft skills.

We recommend using Industrial Placement students to fill your graduate vacancies. Not only can you make them more employable and suitable for your organisation through a year of pre-training, they are more likely to come back to your organisation after they graduate! Keeping you a year ahead of your graduate recruitment campaigns.

Let’s hear it from the experts!

First off, let’s hear it from Universities who know the ins and outs of graduates.  Aston University recently informed us that 30% of companies offer their placement students a job after graduation. This supports the placement programme to be an efficient and cost-effective way for employers to recruit graduates. What more could you want?

Graduate roles are important to organisations – as they are the future of our workforce. Therefore we need to retain our best talent!

If an industrial placement student returns after graduation, they will be provided with a clearer insight into your company, its structure, mission statement and expectations of their job role. So effectively, they are only progressing from where they left off – with reached expectations reducing the chances of a costly drop out after training.

With this in mind – Aston University sets its sights on enrolling 100 percent of its student body in a placement year by 2020. Universities are continuing to promote the importance of securing an internship in order to secure a future graduate position.  Meaning that as recruiters, you will be handed returning Industrial Placement students on a plate.

So, what are the advantages to employers?

As the graduate market continues to be the major source of future talent for firms, it is important to gain a recruiting advantage by creating an industrial placement scheme which is cultivated to the developmental needs of the student:

  • A chance to take on lively, competent, energetic young people;
  • The opportunity to survey some of the best students before they graduate;
  • A cost-effective solution to short-term staffing and project work;
  • During their final year, students may carry out an employer inspired final year major project, which can be of benefit to both student and employer.

So, what is the difference between an internship and graduate recruitment process?

One large multi-national logistics organisation that recruits both graduates and interns run exactly the same process for both. They find that there is no needs to create a duplicate recruitment process other than to bear in mind that interns have slightly less experience than graduates when assessing responses.

And they explain that there is no need to repeat the process when hiring an intern back in a graduate role – they are already set up for their graduate position. The quality and tenure of the graduates that were previous interns are higher. This is supported by the extended, structured training process of the internship or industrial placement, with the returning graduate coming back to the organisation with already developed soft skills such as teamwork, and communication, and probably some basic professional skills too.

When interns are provided with a positive snapshot of your business then they will be more loyal and inclined to want to return after their work placement. This also helps to reduce graduate drop-out during your recruitment process.

Of course- there are so many more reasons why you should use internship programmes to recruit your future workforce. We have only discussed some of the benefits and how they can impact your business in the long run when recruiting graduates.

Work placements can help you set your graduates up for years of success in your company if you give them an exciting insight into your organisation. Did you know that 59% of graduate hires for the top undergraduate employers comprised of previous placement students and interns?

Providing undergraduate placement programmes allows valuable insight into your workplace and employee culture, often increasing the chances of your placement student’s return after graduation.

If you would like any further information on placements or graduates programmes – get in touch with Cohesion today.


It’s easy to plough through hundreds of applications and recruit the cream of the crop, right? What’s not so easy is actually getting hundreds of candidates to apply for your vacancies. This is where your recruitment advertising becomes absolutely fundamental.

Some may argue that your employer brand is what attracts your candidates, and that’s either good enough to do so, or it’s not. But, surely that would mean only a handful of organisations receive the best applicants?

As with everything – it’s about how you market it. It’s about how you package your vacancies. It’s easy to forget that recruitment is a two-way street and, whilst a lot of high-quality candidates will be automatically attracted to global organisations – any company can sell themselves to the best talent. However, you need to know how.

1. Ask yourself “so what?”

Okay, your organisation won an award – so what? How is that going to benefit your candidates if they choose to apply for your vacancy and, subsequently, join you? As I said before – it’s easy to forget that recruitment is a two-way street. Bragging about who you are, and the awards you’ve won, won’t attract the best candidates. Because, well – the award you won isn’t going to benefit them.

Whenever you’re writing job descriptions and summaries of your organisation – empathise with your ideal candidate. What will they want to gain by working in your Finance department? What skills will they acquire? Will they get involved with any important events?

2. Ask your current employees

If you asked all of your employees today what they’d tell their friends about working for your business – do you know what they’d say? Do you know what really wakes them up in the morning and drives them to get to the office early? Could you tell me what makes your employees not want to leave?

If your answer to any of the above is ‘no’ – go and ask them. You should especially ask any employees that are currently working in the role, or a similar role, that you’re in the process of recruiting for.

Doing so will help you to build an honest image of what it’s really like to work for you. This can then be communicated in all of your recruitment advertising.

3. Bring your business to life

To really make an impact with your recruitment advertising – you should be using it to tell a story. Bring your business to life by showcasing the employee culture. Using video as a medium of recruitment advertising shows a true reflection of who you are, and why other employees love working there.

You can use videos when recruiting any demographic. For Future Talent – why not record previous apprentices and graduates talking about their experiences, and why they’re glad they chose to work for you? The beautiful thing about video is that you can physically see emotion. This will engage your ideal candidates, because it gives them something to relate to.

4. Get Social

There are so many different forms of Social Media available nowadays, it can sometimes be quite difficult to choose which one is best for you. In short – they’re all the best for you.

Using a number of different Social Media platforms will help you to reach a much broader audience than if you’re selective with them. In the UK alone – Facebook has more than 32 million users; LinkedIn boasts over 21 million users, and; Twitter sustains a very strong user base of around 20 million people. You should be able to find your ideal candidates somewhere in there – surely?

You can use each and every platform to reach your audience. What’s more important is my next point…

5. Be Consistent

It’s absolutely imperative that you establish a clear message in your recruitment advertising. According to the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association – “clear brand messages across all recruiting channels and methods helps recruiters match candidates with culture.” Everything about your business should be crystal clear from your brand message, and this should be maintained all of the time.

In some ways – it can be quite dangerous losing this consistency and changing your brand message. Why? Well, by pure coincidence – at the moment in time that the inconsistent message airs, it could be found by hundreds of potential applicants. And, to make matters worse – the majority of those candidates could be completely wrong for your business.

It’s not worth the risk. Maintain your consistency, and keep your brand message the same in all of your marketing.


It’s a lot more difficult than you think to attract your ideal candidate to apply for your role. In April of this year, according to Trading Economics – there were 770,000 jobs available. It’s highly likely that a fair amount of those will be looking for the exact same candidate you are. You need to be making yourself stand out – not just in your employer branding efforts, but in all of your recruitment marketing efforts.

According to a survey conducted by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) in December 2016 – almost half of UK employers are expecting a skills shortage when recruiting in 2017.

With the above being noted – recruiters are having to rethink their strategies in order to attract the seemingly ‘hard to come by’ candidates.

So, we’ve pulled together our top 3 tips on recruiting during a skills shortage:

1. Recruit for values

Tackling the skills shortage isn’t entirely about attracting and recruiting candidates who already have the skills you need. In many cases – it can be more beneficial to hire candidates whose skills are transferable to your organisation, and have the potential and ability to pick up and learn the skills you’re missing.

Values-based recruitment is a recruitment method that’s used extensively in the Care sector (an industry that sits very high on the skills shortage scale). However, the idea also applies to recruitment across all sectors. It’s an approach adopted to help attract and select inexperienced candidates (not necessarily at entry-level; the lack of experience could just be in your sector), whose personal values and behaviours align with those of your organisation.

2. Invest in Future Talent

Graduates, School-Leavers and Apprentices all fall within the remit of Future Talent, and recruiting them can be a strong method of future-proofing your skills and filling your gaps.

Future Talent want to learn, meaning you can teach them any of the skills that you want and need them to have to become a valuable asset to your organisation. Not only this, but further investing in your Future Talent with ‘buddying schemes’ gives them time with your experienced employees, who can share their knowledge.

3. Increase your Online Presence

Technology is improving leaps and bounds every single year, and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

These improvements have provided recruiters with more tools than ever to reach out to and engage with their candidates – your talent pool is bigger than it ever has been. Increasing your online presence and taking advantage of all online platforms will put you directly into contact with the candidates that you want to speak to, whilst building awareness around your employer brand.

Shout about who you are online – your candidates will hear you.

To give you the best possible chance of filling all of your vacancies with the skills you need – you should look to implement a number of different recruitment methods. Sticking to what you’ve always done can be dangerous.

It’s important to remember that, especially during a skills shortage, you don’t always need to recruit employees with years of experience, because experience doesn’t always demonstrate skills or ability. But, at the same time, you don’t want to be solely recruiting inexperienced candidates who don’t have the potential to learn what you need.


In the summer of 2015, Associated British Foods UK Grocery (ABF) made the strategic decision to partner with Cohesion Recruitment to deliver their Graduate Recruitment Programme.

Michelle McDonald, Client Relationship Manager and Deborah Edmondson, Talent Director at Cohesion tell of their aim to find the best future talent for the business, whilst providing a market-leading candidate experience.

Associated British Foods is a diversified international food, ingredients & retail group with over 124,000 employees and a presence in 48 countries. The UK Grocery division is made up of a number of food businesses, and across the seven graduate schemes provided, the breadth and variety of candidate requirements is considerable.

We know that the graduate market is becoming increasingly candidate- led; graduates have more choices and opportunities, and offer reneging is on the increase. Candidate engagement is also at the top of everyone’s agenda. According to the AGR Annual Survey 2016, the time from application to offer is becoming longer and longer (currently sitting at 10 weeks), and companies are finding that their best candidates are dropping off the radar. Cohesion and ABF were therefore aligned so the delivery of a first-class recruitment process from application to offer would not only make the organisation more attractive to candidates, but also engage candidates in the process early on and, in doing so, potentially reduce reneging of offers.

Download our free e-book on employee engagement!

Sustain; maintain

The ABF recruitment process is a testament to the fact that using more modernised, interactive techniques allows recruiters to keep graduates engaged throughout the recruitment process. In many processes, graduates don’t actually speak to a member of the recruitment team until the final stages – but it’s the early stages where individual and personal engagement can make the difference. Offering the chance for applicants to communicate with members of the team, whether by telephone, email, text or via social media, helps to build engagement with the employer brand.

Being there to answer any candidate questions or queries makes the recruitment process more ‘human’.

Candidates begin their journey by completing a swift, engaging, mobile- enabled application form – the length of which has been reduced, with all unnecessary fields removed to make it as easy as possible for candidates to apply.

We’re strong believers that information typically asked for in application forms can be picked up and asked about later in the process – why risk losing high- quality applicants by putting them off at the first hurdle? If diversity is on your agenda – not actually knowing any of the personal details of the candidates, aside from their contact information (for obvious reasons), can do your diversity figures a world of good. Collectively, ABF and Cohesion broke the application form down into its minutia, and agreed on the information that was actually needed to get the candidate through the initial stage of the process.

The candidate journey, at every stage, is supplemented by regular communication between the candidate and the recruitment team. This means that candidates are never kept in the dark about their application, and know where they are in the process at all times. We want them to do well, and will go out of our way to support them at every stage. There are so many different ways to communicate with candidates – consider how you can be creative with this.

For example, partway through the recruitment process a Twitter Q&A was held by the recruitment team, and some of the current graduates at ABF. This allowed candidates to ask questions of those who have experienced the recruitment process and can relate easily. For us, this received an enormous amount of engagement – could it work for you, too?

Guidance videos on how to excel at assessment centres were embedded in emails, and the recruitment team proactively contacted candidates who had started but not completed a stage of the process. All of the above helps to make the journey from application to offer as stress-free for the candidate as possible. They receive the support they need to enable them to give the best account of who they are.

The ABF assessment centre, designed specifically for each scheme, is the final stage of the process. Candidates take part in a number of exercises with assessors from their chosen function, as well as members of the HR team.

The exercises are functionally-relevant, and candidates report an appreciation for the insight into the reality of working in specific roles. The assessment centre also reinforces the ABF culture of focusing strongly on people and ensuring there’s a ‘human touch’ throughout. In order to help the candidates to relax and perform at their best, we run a meal and overnight stay beforehand with the assessors and recruitment team.

Of course – preparation is the recruitment teams’ buzzword in the run-up to the assessment centre. Every candidate receives a personal preparation call, to brief them on what to prepare for the assessment centre, as well as what they should expect on the day.

To contribute further towards the positive candidate experience, in an attempt to reduce anxiety when waiting for decisions post-assessment centre, we focus on giving each candidate their outcome and full feedback within 24 hours of the assessment centre.

After every stage of the process, regardless of whether or not the candidate is successful – they are given extensive feedback on their performance. This constructive feedback helps them to do better in the next application process that they find themselves in – whether that’s with ABF, or not.

Candidates leave our process, regardless of the outcome, with more knowledge about how to do better next time – their feedback tells us they appreciate this hugely.


Overall time to offer plays a massive part in how engaged candidates are during the recruitment process. With the pull of the various brand in the ABF family, we receive in excess of 100 applicants per vacancy on average and, therefore, work hard to bring candidates through the process as efficiently as possible.

Of course, we always look to shorten the time candidates are in our pipeline, and good forward-planning and diary management allows us to do this. We also actively challenge each stage of our process to make sure we’re as open and accessible as possible for all candidates who want to apply.

Right from the beginning of the process, candidates know that we are open to engaging with them to discover their individual strengths and behaviours – not focusing on their academic results alone. In partnership with Cohesion, ABF are able to build relationships with candidates right from the start – we believe this helps us to keep them more engaged throughout.

Of course – we’re not immune to having our graduate offers reneged on. However, we can be confident that this isn’t due to a lack of candidate engagement throughout the recruitment process.

The ABF recruitment process revolves entirely around people, the ABF culture, and the ‘human touch’. Candidates will likely apply for the role because they’re attracted to our brands, but we believe that they choose to accept our offer because of the people they have met, and the inclusive, warm culture that permeates throughout the entirety of the recruitment  process.

For ABF, engaged candidates translate directly into engaged employees – this is why it’s paramount that we get our recruitment process right.

This article was published by the AGR in their Graduate Recruiter Magazine

If you’d like to know more about how to engage employees, click here to get in touch with us to see how we can help you or call us on 0121 713 8320