Candidate Experience


Talking Talent Leadership Profile

A Q&A with KATHRYN MINSHEW of The Muse
Co-Founder of The Muse

Trend Writer

Around 15 to 20 years ago, the first millennials entered the workforce – frustrating and sometimes frightening the baby boomers and Gen Xers who hired and managed them. Since then, the world of work changed, and millennials grew up and advanced in their careers. In that same time, Kathryn Minshew moved from her roles at McKinsey & Company and the Clinton Health Access Initiative and founded The Muse, a career platform headquartered in New York City and used by more than 75 million people to research companies and careers.

Kathryn also authored “The New Rules of Work,” which made it to The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) national bestseller list. She has spoken at MIT and Harvard, contributed to the WSJ and Harvard Business Review, and appeared on TODAY and CNN. She has been named to SmartCEO’s Future50 Visionary CEOs and Inc.’s 35 Under 35. Additionally, The Muse was named one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World in 2018.

Kathryn is an expert on the workforce transformation she observed and helped drive as a millennial herself. But now, the process is beginning all over again as Gen Z starts entering the workforce. We talked with Kathryn about how these new workers will influence the way companies attract and retain the best talent.

What are the similarities and differences between current workers and those entering the workforce?

It’s a really interesting time right now because the workplace is in flux. While I’m not a big believer in the idea that the millennial generation is fundamentally different, there are a few trends I’m seeing in The Muse’s community and the employers we work with.

First, there’s a strong interest in flexibility and work-life balance. The younger generations are pushing employers to recognize their work based on output and not the number of hours sitting at a desk. I actually think that change benefits us all.

Secondly, a lot of younger workers are willing to relocate for the right job. We surveyed The Muse community, which is very young and diverse with two-thirds under age 35, 55% women, and 50% non-white. We asked them, “Would you relocate and consider moving for the right company and role?” An overwhelming number – 89% – said yes.

As millennials went from entry-level works to the biggest cohort int eh labor market and now into leadership roles, we saw the conversation change. How do you expect the conversation about Gen Z at work to change?

There’s one pattern I’m very confident will play out, which is that we’ll see a bunch of people predicting the end of the workplace as we know it. Then, over time, some of the hysteria will quiet down, and people will realize that we’re all fundamentally more similar than we are different. A few years ago, there was a lot of, let’s just say, pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth about millennials. Now, many of those same millennials are managers and some of them are becoming executives.

The workplace has changed. Companies are forced to compete for talent. There is a bigger emphasis on connecting the overall purpose and mission of a company with the individual roles of workers.

When I look at the changes that I believe we’ll see with Gen Z, there’s the classic one – which is that Gen Z is very mobile first. So, I think we’ll see less and less tolerance for legacy technology products and more of a push for the adoption of consumer-grade products. Gen Z is starting to look for workplace tools that are built on data and personalized for their needs.

How will employer branding change?

I think we’ve evolved through a number of phases of employer branding, starting with what I call phase zero, where companies just posted jobs online without any marketing or information. Then, phase one was stock photos and companies trying to pretend they were perfect, using jargon like, “We’re a team of innovators committed to excellence.”

Now, we’re in phase two, in which companies are realizing the need to be more authentic. With Gen Z, we’re going to see an increasing trend toward personalization. Platforms and tools that can provide a more personalized experience are going to win. That’s something I’m very focused on at The Muse.

I think there are platforms out there today that deliver volume, but give you very few opportunities to really build a relationship with talent and explain your company, your values and your opportunity. My money is on the platforms that are allowing different channels for candidates and job-seekers to research companies and for employers to build relationships – and, of course, I count The Muse among them.

Employer brand is ultimately just brand, right? It’s not like you get to have a consumer brand and an employer brand that don’t interact with each other. Employer brand has the potential to be powerful, but only if you recognize that it’s a piece of your larger brand and the lines between your applicants, candidates, employees, customers and users are blurring in the modern world.

Ultimately, I think the holy grail for employer brand is going to be giving candidates more information and a better experience up front. That leads to tangible business results through better and longer-retained hires.

How will employers change their retention strategies for Gen Z?

Retention is directly linked to how much information people receive and how accurate that information is before they come through the door. We’ve seen companies that work with The Muse increase retention when they’re more transparent about what it’s like to work there.

Many people earlier in their careers are looking for clarity and guidance around what the future holds. Companies that are successful in retaining millennial and Gen Z employees often lay out very explicit career paths. Employees can see what milestones they need to hit to get promoted to the next level and what those steps look like. By documenting a clear career path, younger employees can understand what the future will look like if they invest in your company.

What is one piece of advice you have to share with employers?

When I started The Muse, I had this deep belief that both job-seekers and employers would be better off if they found matches based on fit. Even the same person might look for different things at different points in their career. I want The Muse to help create fit – to help individuals research companies and careers, and help employers hire great people on the strength of their employee experience and employer brand.

If I had to pick just one piece of advice on how to do that, I would say focus on storytelling. Humans love stories; we can connect with them. So, think about employee storytelling – whether that’s telling stories on your career site, through The Muse or through another channel. The more you can communicate the uniqueness of your opportunities and your organization through the real human stories of people who work there, the more successful I believe you’re going to be.

Listen to the companion podcast at

The AA: Building an Employer Brand from the Ground Up

Client Relationship Director

How could one of the UK’s best-known and most-trusted brands have no employer brand presence?

It might seem hard to believe, but that was the situation the AA faced when it approached PeopleScout’s Talent Advisory practice to develop a new employer brand.

In the past, the AA had been affected by inaccurate perceptions of who they’d be as an employer. With 15 million members and more than 7,000 colleagues, it’s the UK’s largest motoring and breakdown cover organization. However, being known for doing one thing very well was proving to be a barrier to candidate attraction; people thought the only jobs they had to offer were their famous roadside roles. That was far from the truth, but the AA was struggling to attract the talent it needed for its wide range of career opportunities.

The AA needed to challenge misconceptions and engage a much broader audience. And, with a bold new employer brand message at the heart of an ongoing series of innovative attraction campaigns, this is how the AA and PeopleScout did just that – with award-winning, record-breaking results.

Ready for Change

Back in 2016, the AA’s talent acquisition team faced a number of challenges.

Before the arrival of Craig Morgans as its Director of Talent Acquisition, Emerging Talent & Employee Experience, it had no senior talent expert at an influential level. There was no robust workforce planning, a lack of innovation in candidate generation and an inconsistent approach to selection.

On top of that it had no discernible employer brand. And, at nearly four years old, its careers site suffered from a clunky candidate journey and outdated visuals, compounding its problems with engaging the right talent.

A change in thinking was needed. The AA had to find more imaginative ways to reach and engage target audiences. At the heart of it all was a plan to develop the employer brand with a strong, authentic, central message that would underpin all attraction and engagement activity.

The AA partnered with PeopleScout to develop its dynamic employer brand message. One that would challenge perceptions, do justice to its innovation as a business, and bring the AA culture and diversity of opportunity to life.

Getting the Message Right

We undertook in-depth research to analyze the AA’s culture, offering and opportunities, to articulate the “give” and “get.” Carrying out extensive employee interviews enabled us to understand the key differentiators of all roles in the contact center, road operations and corporate job families. We also looked outside of the company to get a fuller idea of the market positions of competitors and understand what the public thought about the AA.

We developed the emerging themes into pillars that we could validate with real stories from the business, and that could support an engaging, creative approach. We refined our thinking to a proposition that really encapsulated the spirit of the AA. Leading everything was a message that we’d heard over and over.

Working for the AA, people thrived on going the extra mile to help customers with unexpected challenges – and across a surprising variety of opportunities.

This insight became the AA’s employer brand core message: Ready for ANYTHING?

It also acted as the perfect counterpoint to its corporate brand message to customers and members which is Because Anything Can Happen.

Putting Our New Platform Into Practice

As the gateway for people to understand the opportunities that might be right for them within the AA, the careers site was the obvious starting point for rolling out the new employer brand. And, by launching with this digital shop window, not only could we get the brand experience right, but we could also give the site a much-needed technical and UX overhaul.

The new site was launched in February 2017. Creating an engaging, interactive and easily navigable user experience, it’s built around rich content, inclusive photography and video interviews – enhanced with numerous responsive, interactive elements.

Since then, the site has evolved, with new elements added over time. As well as showcasing the Almost every role you can imagine employer brand video, the site engages and informs visitors with stories of current employees and realistic job profiles, all of which combine to bring the story of being Ready for ANYTHING? and working with the AA to life. Meanwhile, the AA social hub also brings the worlds of social media and blogs into the site, providing an at-a-glance, continuously updated feed of all things AA.

More recently, we’ve added new features, to give site visitors an even more immersive experience – including an insightful, 360˚ tour and assessment tool, plus some interactive 3D imagery to add depth to the visual impression. is a site designed to surprise, inspire and educate.

The Chatbot that Shows the Human Side of the AA

The Ready for ANYTHING? tone of voice was woven into the site and became the voice of the first-ever appearance of the innovative AABot – a cheeky, wisecracking chatbot that guides users on life at the AA. Demonstrating technological innovation as one of the first of its kind, AABot was an efficient way to serve visitors the content they were after. Equally important, AAbot represented the playful side of the business, showcasing the fun culture that people hadn’t associated with the AA before.

For visitors to the site, this was an unexpected and charming way of bringing the employer brand to life.And, together with the improved candidate journey and overall experience, it was a rousing success; site traffic increased 320% and applications increased 266% during an 18-month period. Visitors are engaging with the site longer, too, with page views up 12%, bounce rates dropping 8% and a 10% increase in pages viewed per session.

Tapping the Energy of the Internal Audience

As important as it is to engage an external audience, an employer brand also has to reconnect and be embraced internally to mobilize the existing employees as active advocates. AABot’s charm was used internally, featured on the walls and windows of AA offices and reinforcing the expect the unexpected messaging of the employer value proposition (EVP). #ReadyforANYTHING? also became increasingly popular with employees who played an active role in bringing in great new colleagues.

Did You Say…Canine Consultants?

This new sense of playfulness and surprise would then underpin our next step toward changing perceptions. Having effectively used honest video of employees to convey job opportunities, we wanted to now use video to grab the attention of passive audiences, as well as entertain and educate them.

We developed a script that highlighted the diversity of roles the AA offers, creating pretend roles such as Canine Consultants, Rapid Response Pizza Officers and Outer Ozone Patrollers to interrupt the long list of real AA roles. We shot the entire video in a single, continuous take within an AA office, and made sure to feature real employees. AA colleagues were enthusiastic advocates of the content, with more than half of the entire AA workforce watching the video and sharing it widely. The result? The video increased careers site visits by 16%.

Getting Out Into the Community

With the success of the video, we became bolder. We’d learned that pushing boundaries helped us succeed in changing the perceptions of passive audiences. So, we decided to take our message to the streets.

We suggested an experiential event for a number of reasons. We wanted a way of raising general community awareness of the AA easily, effectively and creatively. Using a broad-brush public approach, we knew that that anyone we engaged might also know others who’d be suitable and interested. We wanted to create an event to take the AA’s employer brand message and see just who was Ready for ANYTHING?. Whatever we did would have to be a great fit with the AA’s fun and friendly culture.

In September 2018, we ran two live events in the city centers of Birmingham and Newcastle, UK, areas where the AA has a big presence as an employer and lots of roles to fill. We grabbed attention of passersby in the proud tradition of game shows, inviting audience volunteers on stage to take on a series of increasingly messy mystery challenges. Wasabi toothpaste, a barefoot Lego walk and gallons of slime came together with a celebrity host in a pop-up competition to bring the spirit of Ready for ANYTHING? to life.

There were lots of laughs and big prizes – and our strategy paid off. The communities local to our contact centers were made aware of the AA as an employer with a really fun culture, visits to the careers site surged, and month-over-month application numbers increased significantly. After the Newcastle event, applications rose from 576 to 1026, with 12 hires. In Birmingham, applications rose from 898 to 1341, with 13 hires. And, this was all starting with completely passive audiences.

The Social Side of Talent Engagement

Before working with PeopleScout, the AA had no employment-specific social channels although research shows that candidates expect to be able to shop prospective employers on social. So, we launched separate social media channels for recruitment, recognizing that both the audiences and messaging would be very different from the AA corporate and customer-oriented channels currently in place.

Based on the channel demographics and content structure, we initially selected Twitter and Instagram, and spent the early part of 2018 scoping out a launch program with content pillars, content calendar, internal sponsors, and training for the PeopleScout social media team to give them full responsibility for managing and curating content.

The key advantage of having a team devoted to the AA careers social channels is being able to capture the immediacy that’s vital with any recruitment content – and with built-in knowledge of the AA’s employer brand and talent agenda.

Social media has also played a key role in the promotion and delivery of our most recent projects: the augmented reality app-based #wheresbotbeen campaign and competition, as well as Ant Middleton’s 24-hour, live interactive challenge – our biggest, boldest campaign to date.

24 Hours to Prove You’re Ready for Anything

The Ant Middleton 24-hour, live interactive challenge was easily the most ambitious project of our partnership. Aligning with the AA’s long-lasting connection to the armed services, as well as embodying the Ready for ANYTHING? brand, this campaign was boosted by a relevant celebrity influencer and engaged the general public through live streaming and social media voting.

Six brave employees were chosen to take part in this 24-hour challenge, living and breathing the Ready for ANYTHING? spirit – following the former Special Boat Service soldier through a series of grueling challenges in the Lake District wilderness.

The final lucky half-dozen were chosen from hundreds who responded to an internal communications campaign and applied to take part, in what was highest engagement level ever for a story on The Hub (the AA’s intranet).

We wanted the public and AA colleagues to really root for our chosen contenders during the event, so to get the interest level rising, we filmed their life stories, ready for sharing on social media. They spoke eloquently and compellingly on camera about their lives. We got first-hand stories of drama, heartbreak, courage and transformation.

These videos were posted across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and they clearly made a connection with people. At the start of the event, colleagues and strangers alike were rooting for particular contenders.

The event began at 4 p.m. on July 25, 2019. The next 24 hours were packed with unpredictable drama. Events were live-streamed, the pace was relentless, and the AA people got into it just as much as the watching public – commenting, voting, watching and sharing across social media.

We decided to involve the audience throughout. In an unusual twist, viewers could select tasks for the contestants while watching the live stream on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on the dedicated site we built for the campaign, Selections varied by type and toughness of tasks – such as rafting versus quad biking, or a swim at dawn versus a planking marathon – keeping audiences engaged throughout the 24 hours (although we did allow the participants to sleep!).

The whole show was streamed to AA contact centers, garages and the corporate office, and thousands of AA employees tuned in, acting as social media cheerleaders and social media amplifiers.

The real key to employer branding isn’t advertising, it’s brand advocacy – employees embodying, celebrating and supporting the values and EVP of the organization with genuine enthusiasm. That’s what we achieved with Ant Middleton’s live outdoor adventure.

Venturing Into Another Dimension

Using 3D animation and augmented reality (AR) technology, our next project took Ready for ANYTHING? into new territory, with a fun-packed, bespoke-built AR app launched at experiential events.

Keen to embrace new technology to develop innovative ways of boosting brand engagement, the AA asked us to create a fun, unexpected and interactive experience that would help them reach a new audience.

So, we looked at the increasing use of AR to change the way audiences connect with brands. And, we considered how we could use it to engage a passive audience – mainly families, as flexible working patterns at AA contact centers can work around their lives – and increase the AA’s potential talent pool.

When it came to what we’d build our AR experience around, there was a clear direction to take – the AA chatbot, aka AABot, seemed like the perfect character to take us to the next level. Until now, AABot had existed only as a 2D cartoon head. So, we gave him a 3D animated body and made him the star of his own AR app – AABot Drop – compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

We created a fun, interactive installation featuring the AR trigger images, in the form of postcards from AABot, at the Manchester Trafford Center and Birmingham Bullring shopping centers – close to the AA’s Cheadle and Oldbury contact centers.

Using the AABot Drop app, people could see AABot’s animated postcards come to life – either on their own phones, or the iPads we supplied. AABot lives up to the spirit of the AA’s EVP, Ready for ANYTHING? in six animated AR adventures, from space and deep-sea exploration to crowd-surfing his own rock gig. Animations end on a careers message, driving to

Downloading AABot Drop also gives users interactive, animated images of Bot to play with and position in fun and unexpected places. Sharing their images using #wheresbotbeen, people could enter a competition to win holiday vouchers. Promoting the app and competition across social media got more people involved – and amplified our message. Bot’s postcard trigger images and #wheresbotbeen photo gallery are now housed on the AA careers site – along with app download links – supporting longer-term engagement beyond the initial competition.

Both events saw good interaction with both young people and families – two key AA contact center demographics. The Manchester event boosted careers site visits by 869%, with applications up 40% week-over-week. After the Birmingham event, careers site visits increased by 535%, with applications up 820% week-over-week.

With hundreds of app downloads and ready for more, we plan to run further AABot Drop-based campaigns with updated AABot scenarios. So, much more than a one-off AR adventure, this can help promote the AA’s employer brand and opportunities to an even wider audience during a longer period of time.

Taking the EVP 2,620 Miles Further

The AA also sponsored adventurer and influencer Anna McNuff’s Barefoot Britain challenge. As someone who champions the idea of being Ready for ANYTHING?, Anna undertook the mammoth task of running the equivalent of 100 marathons barefoot through all kinds of terrain, weather and unexpected challenges to inspire young women. She wants to encourage them to have the confidence to step out of their comfort zone – to see just how much they can achieve when they reach for what seems impossible.

A series of short videos sharing her adventures, along with Anna’s own social posts and support from PeopleScout, have helped to raise brand awareness and promote AA careers to more female talent.

Groundbreaking Activity Leads to Record-breaking Results

Since the launch of Ready for ANYTHING?, the AA’s internal employee and social media engagement, site visits and application numbers have soared across all brand-led activity. This strong employer brand, combined with a desire to innovate and brave campaign execution, has enabled the AA to move from 60% agency use to less than 5% in 30 months, saving nearly $9 million per year. Meanwhile, the AA’s Ready for ANYTHING? attitude helped it to win 17 recruitment industry awards in two years, including Best Employer Brand at the Recruitment Marketing Awards 2019.

And, of course, the AA is always ready to do more.

“This is transforming how we engage candidates, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a true partnership. PeopleScout has risen to our challenges with some genius, wacky thinking!”

Craig Morgans, Director of Talent Acquisition, Emerging Talent & Employee Experience

Putting the Cult in Company Culture

Senior Employer Brand & Communications Strategist

Hi. My name is Vanessa, and I have an addiction to 1Rebel.

Despite having no real desire to exercise five years ago (beyond a very self-indulgent, free yoga class at the Hoxton hotel every Saturday), I joined 1Rebel as a founding member after just a handful of classes.

The triple concept gym that offers Ride (spinning), Reshape (weights and running) and Rumble (boxing) from 6 a.m. each day was – and still is – the only thing that gets me up before dawn. When you consider how unmotivated I was before, this is no small feat. So, what is the attraction? While the next-level equipment and the opportunity to take your morning shower with the Spice Girls blaring through the surround sound was noteworthy, the real pull was the employees. From a front of house team who remember your name and sign you in before you get to the front desk to the instructors who can make you feel like you’re the only person in the room, there’s a real sense of belonging.

Over the years, instructors have become friends and the space itself has become a place of emotional significance – especially for my sister and I, who, with busy and often conflicting schedules, sometimes only find time to sit next to each other on a bike on a dark Wednesday morning.

I should note that in 2015, Casper ter Kuile, a Ministry of Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, co-authored a report titled “How We Gather,” which looked at how brands like SoulCycle and CrossFit have replaced the role of traditional religious institutions, particularly among younger people who feel isolated in their digital lives. I get it. 1Rebel trainers have changed over the years (I still mourn the loss of some of my favorites), but the brand ethos and loyal community have remained constant, and that’s what makes it work.

A recent study by the research firm YouGov found that one in five millennials believed they had no friends. Similarly, a new report published by the American Psychological Association showed that depression in 18-  to 21-year-olds had climbed more than 46% between 2009 and 2017. Brands are wise to be aware and tap into this, and it explains why inclusive group exercise is leaving exclusive “no pain, no gain” gyms in the dust. “Don’t side-eye the person on the bike next to you; you don’t know what their journey was to get here,” said a 1Rebel trainer in one of her classes. I am confident that 1Rebel will continue to be a success as the brand lives and breathes its values.

What Happens When the Brands We Feel A Deep-Seated Connection To Behave “Off-Brand”?

That’s what happened to 1Rebel’s competitor SoulCycle. With promises like “find your soul” the brand thrived by focusing on transforming customers’ minds as well as their bodies. Instructors would speak of enlightenment, transcendence and higher purpose, with many of them giving riders advice and guidance in their wider lives.

When the SoulCycle chairman threw a political fundraiser in 2019, many SoulCycle customers opposed the decision and said they felt betrayed. Because of the introduction of politics into what members expected to be a non-partisan space, many cut ties with the brand. Week-by-week attendance at SoulCycle in the U.S. dropped steadily in August 2019 and dipped by 7.5% in the first week of September, according to data analysis firm Earnest Research.

There are plenty of examples of companies that rally the troops through their brand. For instance, there are the Chinese makers of air conditioners, Broad Group, who still chant their daily anthem, “I love our clients and help them grow their value,” and Japan’s Yamaha with their 1980s company song.

Along the same lines, the 2019 article “Is Your Corporate Culture Cultish?” published in Harvard Business Review described the weekly get-together of a leading U.S. tech company. Company-imposed “cheer” pops up again here – although, this time, it was a bit more contrived, with employees chanting the name of the company three times, all dressed (like the CEO) in matching black and gray. The author, curious about the employees’ enthusiasm, was prompted to explore the lived reality of the people working there. It became clear that people didn’t really have a life outside of their work. Many were divorced or separated. “One executive said that he only went home to change clothes, adding that he might just as well stay at work using the facilities in the wellness center,” the author wrote.

It’s the perfect example of a company that is externally portrayed as an employer of choice, but the internal reality is something quite different.

If a Brand is Leveraging an Emotional Connection, It Needs to Practice What It Preaches

This is possibly even more important for employees of a brand than it is for their consumers. After all, they are the people influencing, creating and building your product. There’s no shortage of research proving the relationship between company culture and performance. By hiring employees based on their ideological alignment to your company mission rather than their raw skill set, you can begin to build a brand loyalty seen in the consumer world.

This is something that IBM has a legacy of doing well. A 1973 global survey of IBM found that, despite national and regional nuance, employees had more in common than they had expected; they behaved and acted similarly. The researcher Geert Hofstede concluded that organizations had a personality, meaning that the character of the organization was constant even when employees come and go. This “character” – which exists to a greater or lesser extent at all organizations – is what we now refer to as company culture, which, in its simplest form, describes “the way things are done around here.”

So, What Can Employers Learn About Company Culture from Cult Brands?

Develop an employer value proposition (EVP) that shows everyone the give and the get for being part of your mission, as well as an employer brand that brings it all together.

This helps candidates and employees understand the emotional contract of your organization. It helps the wrong people self-select out of applying and gives your employees something to believe in – whether that’s encouraging more people to exercise, bringing healthcare to millions or developing the technology solutions of the future.

Assess candidates against the company vision and values, rather than just competency.

When values are well-embedded in an organization, they help people make decisions that are right for the business and encourage the behaviors that will help you achieve your mission. It’s easier to up-skill employees than to change what they believe in, so recruit those who have the right behaviors to succeed, rather than those who have done a role before. Even though colleagues and managers will move on and new people will join, if the ethos and values are embraced, the culture will remain.

Shape your incentives and benefits to reward mission-related achievement, reinforcing the behavior.

Benefits and rewards typically recognize individuals for personal achievement. If your business success is reliant on entrepreneurship or collaboration, find ways to identify and recognize those behaviors instead of arbitrary targets.

Build a community around your brand.

At a time when trust in corporations is declining and social media algorithms make it more difficult for your followers to see your content, employee advocacy is vital. On average, employees have a network that’s 10 times larger than your company’s follower base. What’s more, brand messages are shared 24 times more frequently when distributed by employees as opposed to the business account. Engaging employees throughout your EVP process naturally builds brand champions who can leverage your brand. Encourage them to share examples of your brand values on social media and be advocates when talking to suppliers or clients, or attending conferences and events.

But, above all …

If you are going to stand for something as an organization, make sure your actions align with your words.

Just as believers can build a brand, they can also tear it apart.

Creating A Compelling Employment Offer

Head of Candidate Generation

Talent acquisition teams and hiring managers are always on the hunt for candidates who check all of the boxes: the five-star talent with all of the right skills and experience to excel in a role, but who also fits the culture of the employer. When these candidates are screened, interviewed and assessed, they pass each phase of the process with flying colors, leaving hiring managers eager to extend an offer of employment. However, there is one catch: will the candidate accept?

When you make an offer to a candidate, you hope they want the position as much as you want to hire them. But, sometimes, you nurture a great candidate through the entire recruitment process only for them to have a change of heart. Candidates declining job offers can be disheartening for recruiting teams – and costly for organizations trying to fill vital open positions. In this article, we’ll cover candidate expectations and key points in the employment offer process, as well as explain how to connect with candidates on a more personal level.

Meeting Candidate Expectations: Then & Now

Candidates Expect an Inviting Company Culture

In the past, candidates applied for positions without knowing or expecting to know much about an organization’s inner workings or culture. As a result, when candidates were extended an offer, an organization’s culture played less of a role in whether they would accept the position.

But now, candidates want to know about the work environment and company culture so they can assess whether they think the organization is a good fit. Help candidates get that information by having a section on your careers page that provides cultural insights into your organization, and include videos and images that display what it’s like to work for you.

Candidates Expect Greater Transparency

It used to be that a candidate applied for a job, sent in their resume and waited patiently for a response from the employer. All too often, candidates were left in the dark regarding timelines, with few ways to find out where they were in the hiring process.

Now, candidates expect rapid responses to their inquiries and greater transparency into a potential employer’s hiring process. Therefore, make sure that you inform the candidate about when they can expect an offer or rejection and deliver on it. This shows that the organization is respectful, responsible and disciplined. Plus, if you make transparency a core piece of your recruitment strategy, you can improve your offer acceptance rate.

Candidates Expect More from Your Employer Value Proposition

Your employer value proposition (EVP) is the distillation of what you offer candidates and what you expect in return. In the past, organizations relied heavily on brand recognition and compensation as their primary EVP. But, more than ever, candidates expect flexible work options, formal succession planning, mentorship programs, open communication and real-time feedback to be part of an employer’s value.

Before candidates reach the offer phase, make sure you have clearly communicated what makes you different as an employer. When candidates understand your story and how you view your role as an employer, they can get a picture of what they can expect if they accept your offer.

Plan ahead to ensure that candidates have information about the team they’ll be working with and the types of projects they’ll work on. When appropriate, you can also create an opportunity for the candidates to meet their future coworkers during the recruiting process.

Compensation, Benefits & Perks

Presenting benefits and compensation begins with your job postings. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, more than half of the respondents listed salary (67%) and benefits (63%) as top factors they looked for in job ads. By listing the salary range, benefits and perks this early on, you are less likely to lose a candidate at the end of the process solely because the salary and benefits offered are less than they are willing to accept.

When making a job offer, begin with an in-depth discussion with the candidate to determine which benefits and perks they value the most; it may be possible to create an offer package that is personalized enough to meet their needs. Furthermore, it’s important to know the difference between a perk and a benefit, as they are two different categories of non-wage compensation items.


Benefits are best described as a form of non-wage compensation that complements salary. Health insurance, transit assistance, stock options and retirement contributions are some of the most popular benefits offered by organizations.


Perks are above-and-beyond offerings that may sway a candidate to value one organization over another. Think about these as the “icing on the cake.” Perks at work may include a company car; retail discounts; summer hours; gym memberships; standing desks; and off-site, team-building activities.

Non-Traditional Perks & Benefits

A survey released by TriNet found that 91% of respondents at small- and medium-sized businesses view non-traditional benefits as an important aspect of their job satisfaction. According to the survey, non-traditional benefits include perks such as flexible work schedules, commuter benefits, unlimited paid time off, paid volunteer time, remote work options and more.

If your organization offers non-traditional perks and benefits, leverage them to sweeten job offers. These days, candidates are becoming less concerned with salary alone and more concerned with overall compensation – including a better work-life balance and greater workplace flexibility. If your organization offers employees access to a gym, the option to work from home or other alluring perks, make sure to mention these when discussing benefits with candidates.

Entwining Benefits & Employer Branding

Fusing your benefits package with your employer brand gives your benefits program a distinct identity and purpose aligned with your core values. It’s something that candidates should be able to recognize in every aspect of your benefits presentation. In particular, your benefits mission statement should be clear and concise, but also unique to your organization. Strive to make it a natural extension of your broader organizational values. For instance, if excellent customer service is an area of focus at your company, craft your benefits mission statement to highlight how your benefits seek to anticipate and meet the needs of employees.

A financial services client of PeopleScout’s is one example of blending employer branding and benefits. Specifically, the client provided a comprehensive and generous maternity leave policy for expecting mothers. However, when communicating its maternity leave policy, the benefit wasn’t featured in a way that effectively highlighted the company’s commitment to supporting new parents. While informative and to the point, this approach to educating employees about the policy was misaligned with the client’s employer brand of empowerment.

PeopleScout worked with this client to craft new and more brand-aligned communications about the maternity leave policy. The new messaging shared in the excitement of expecting employees, while also highlighting the challenges expecting mothers faced in the workplace. Employee communications about the maternity leave policy centered on the values of empowerment and support for employees – inside and outside of the organization’s walls.

Engaging & Communication with Candidates During the Employment Offer Process

Initial Conversations

Once you’ve decided on a candidate, don’t waste time reaching out and sharing the good news. Otherwise, the candidate may accept a position elsewhere or develop a negative attitude about your organization if they are left waiting too long.

When you contact the candidate, discuss the details of the job offer. If the candidate is satisfied with your offer, ask for verbal acceptance and let them know a formal offer of employment will be sent shortly.

Follow-Up & Keeping Candidates Warm

After verbal acceptance of your offer, stay in contact with the candidate to keep them engaged and interested in the role. When following up, don’t be overly eager or too pushy; instead, allow the candidate some time to think about your offer. While the candidate considers your job offer, stay in touch through the candidate’s preferred method of communication. The purpose of your follow-up correspondence should be to reinforce your enthusiasm about having the candidate join your team.

Follow-ups with new details about the offer, like “You will be working at X location” or “Would you prefer to work on a Mac or a PC?” allow you to stay connected while relaying information that is relevant to the candidate. What’s more, keeping in touch enables you to continue to build a positive relationship with candidates after the offer.

The Official Offer Letter

An offer letter represents the final stage in your recruiting process and is the legal document that defines the employment relationship between your organization and the candidate. For those reasons, it is critical to get it right.

Think of the offer letter as a formal invitation for the candidate to become an employee of your organization. Like any invitation, your offer letter should send a warm and positive message to the candidate. Articulate a friendly, welcoming tone and indicate your anticipation of the candidate’s future contributions to your organization. The offer letter should inform candidates of their compensation and benefits, as well as include a description of their role and responsibilities.

Consider creating multiple templates for offer letters, especially if you have distinct categories of employees. Then, personalize them to match the candidate and to ensure that each candidate receives the right information for their situation.

Organizations that want to fill open roles with qualified and talented employees need to approach recruitment in the same way that sales and marketing teams approach engaging and closing clients. Look for creative ways to show why your organization is a great place to work.

And, finally, solicit and provide feedback to candidates; this communicates that you value their input and that your organization – like the candidate – is using the exchange as a teachable moment meant to foster growth, which is an indicator of a positive workplace culture. By focusing on your brand, culture and benefits, as well as keeping in touch with candidates, you’ll maximize your ability to land – and keep – the best talent.