Employer Branding – How we convince top applicants to join our team


75% of candidates inform themselves about the online presence of the respective company before applying. Companies with a strong employer brand see 50% more qualified applicants, hire 1-2 times faster, and have 43% lower hiring costs. These are just a few examples of the countless statistics highlighting the benefits of building an employer brand.

At FLEX, we began to delve into this topic intensively in 2021, initially with the idea of sustainably filling our intern pipeline. Our initiatives quickly proved successful, which is why we now successfully employ these measures for all positions, thereby assisting our People Team in recruiting exceptional employees.

We now receive feedback from many applicants that they had already heard about us before their application process and that our employer brand stands out as likable. The return on investment (ROI) from this effort has proven to be several thousand percent with minimal time investment.

How does a company get more qualified applications?

The problem: Interns for our team usually come from top-tier or target universities and have a resume that allows them to easily apply to any company, from prominent corporate enterprises and the latest unicorn startups to consulting firms like McKinsey and Co.

As a young private equity fund, our goal is to be seen as a potential employer alongside these established corporate brands. Our strategy for enhancing our employer brand is based on three core principles:

1. Unique Selling Proposition: Not better, but different.

At the beginning of every communication strategy lies a clear positioning. The golden rules of positioning are:

Not better, but being first.
If you can’t be the first, create a new category and be different.
Almost every fund or consultant uses the color blue for their logo and website. At the end of 2020, we changed our FLEX logo from the traditional blue to “Fire Pink,” along with a corresponding shift in our positioning. Our goal was to establish ourselves as a transparent, communicative, and approachable private equity investor and employer in the industry.

We now see ourselves as a next generation private equity investor – in terms of our investment approach, but also in terms of our corporate culture. As an employer, the Next Generation approach is reflected, for example, in the fact that we train young employees, interns and graduates, whereas traditional funds only hire senior employees. We believe that you don’t have to have worked as an M&A advisor for five years to be able to do deals. We have very flat hierarchies and give early responsibility and the opportunity to make a big impact. I don’t know of any other private equity fund that is active on Instagram, or regularly invites its own or portfolio staff to do expert interviews and share insights. With us, it’s not just the partners and top management that are visible, but each and every employee.

We are rethinking private equity. We are – compared to our industry – younger, more flexible, more modern and louder. We are relaxed but professional, have office dogs, wear sneakers and rarely suits.

We don’t want to fight with the big names in the finance and consulting industry to see who is the better company. We just see ourselves in a different category.

We are the next generation in private equity and thus pioneers – or at least the first fund to communicate this loudly.

2. people want to work with people

Of course, the company must be convincing on a professional level, but it is just as important for a potential candidate that the company can also convince on a personal level. The more insight you get into questions like “Who would be my supervisor? What kind of people work there? What is the daily work routine like? Can I imagine working there? Who are the partners? What kind of deals do they do?” the easier the application process will be for both parties.

We tried different formats to communicate about our Next Generation positioning and to attract potential employees to us. So far, various video formats, expert articles and interviews, Instagram content, LinkedIn content, and recruiting events have proven to be relevant for us. These formats allow us to communicate what makes us tick beyond our job ads:

From our company values to our colleagues, their somewhat diverse backgrounds for our industry, their hobbies, experiences and most exciting FLEX projects, our shared activities from team events to Friday drinks, our beautiful office, our way of working and our approach to sustainability – this is FLEX.

It is especially important to us that we primarily allow our colleagues to speak, so that they can authentically and freely communicate what it is like to work at FLEX. People want to work with people.

Even if the idea of shooting videos was not necessarily met with leaps of joy at the beginning, they are an unbeatable medium for building an employer brand. In the meantime, this value is also seen internally, so that all employees kindly make themselves available for short film sequences. In our internship experience videos, for example, authentic, very likeable testimonials are created every time, which we as a company could never come up with in this way.

“My personal highlight was being part of a party of our portfolio company Egoditor in the first week. It was very cool to get to know the portfolio company and the people behind it and also to do something relaxed together with the FLEX team again.”

“My personal highlight is definitely the company culture in the FLEX team. Private equity is usually an industry that doesn’t have the best reputation, but I can definitely say that I always come into the office happy and glad.”

“At FLEX, you are considered a full team member even as an intern. So I was able to pitch interesting investment opportunities after only a short time.”

We see candidates convert better in our interviews because it means they’ve already had contact with our company.

3. become visible

A career page that is revised every two years is no longer enough to convince potential employees. To stand out, a company must be alive and regularly share with the outside world what is happening internally. This is how you inspire candidates. For us at FLEX, that means our employees are regularly featured on LinkedIn and Instagram through our employer branding content. LinkedIn generates the most reach for us through the company account and the personal accounts of our Managing Partners. Our partners’ accounts regularly generate between 2k and 13k impressions on posts introducing our new employees, as well as intern videos, team event photos, and open positions.

The topic of personal branding has also become increasingly important on LinkedIn. In addition to building a personal brand and the associated goal of standing for a specific topic and achieving high visibility among the target group, the topic of personal branding is also a very important but underestimated lever in recruiting.
Managing directors and executives who position themselves with their expertise via LinkedIn, for example, can directly convince potential applicants of their personal and professional qualities and arouse interest in a collaboration.
Employees who appear in social media as part of the employer branding measures also benefit from the publication of their self-written expert articles on their learnings or similar with their personal brand. We will address this topic more intensively in the future.

More insights on building a personal brand from experts Philipp Westermeyer, Kati Ernst, Felix Haas and Oliver Kohl can be found in our knowledge section.

We have uploaded our videos to YouTube from the beginning. On the one hand, we want to be visible for relevant keywords in the world’s second largest search engine, and on the other hand, we want our videos to occupy more space in the organic search results on Google. For example, three of our videos are currently displayed in Google searches for our brand, one of which is a video about an important but unfilled position.

Instagram is our newest channel. In our self-perception, we didn’t see ourselves on Instagram at the beginning and didn’t assume our target audience there either. Nevertheless, our account with only 70 followers (minus 20 FLEX people) has received 9 qualified applications to date, resulting in two hires. Proof that we will continue to try new things.

As a conclusion, I promise other companies that want to build an employer brand that it is possible to communicate their own corporate culture to the outside world with little effort. Neither Instagram photos of team events, nor short videos taken with smartphones cost a lot of time, but are very effective tools. Involving all employees for one expert article or Instagram post per year quickly creates excellent content. However, it is important to define a positioning from the outset that represents a clear differentiator in the industry and to communicate along these lines.
Through the various points of contact, applicants can gain an impression of the corporate culture at the very beginning of the application process and convince themselves of a cultural fit or perhaps consciously decide against it. This has a direct, positive impact on the conversion rate.

The fact is, the more you show about yourself as a company, the more potential candidates you can attract, inspire and efficiently guide through the application process.

To follow the development of our employer brand or to gather ideas for your own employer brand, follow FLEX on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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