Disclaimer: I am not a professional writer. I am just a young person that has been working with organizations in HR, and a passionate about growth hacking. Your feedback to this article is more than welcome, and I hope you enjoy it


I was 18 years old; I had just joined university, and one day walking around the campus I saw this massive event happening. It seemed interesting, there were a lot of people going around, so I decided to enter the venue. Inside, there were many booths with different logos, a lot of people giving away goodies, and then I met some friends who told me what was happening. This friend’s exact words were: “This is the event of the year for us! You can just go around in some booths and get food or gifts if you talk a little to the people who are there”. That was my first ever interaction with a job fair.

Almost 10 years later, here I am, consulting organizations on how to engage with and reach their target audience. I have seen and heard a lot, from organizations who had 20.000+ applicants to their graduate programs, but could not fulfill all the opportunities, to organizations who had an amazing culture and working environment but did not even get enough applicants. From all these conversations I had in the last 6 years, the biggest challenge I saw in employer branding is how to achieve results through the activities performed, as well as tracking ROI . That’s exactly what this article is about.

Being very blunt, the challenge is not about the activities performed, but the mindset that has been built around employer branding as a concept. We often believe that just by having a nice career webpage and going to events, as well as establishing relationship with universities, we will achieve our goals. The reality is, sometimes we do not even know who our target audience is, or what we want to achieve by doing what we are doing. It becomes a common practice, and we keep on doing it because we don’t know what else to do.

One more thing I have learned in these last five years working with different types of organizations is that often building an employer brand is seen as a long-term and hard-to-measure project. For this reason, not a lot of effort is put into it, and we end up seeing the same ideas and sometimes even value propositions all around.

For this reason, I want to bring the topic of employer branding under a different perspective, especially in regards to its importance for overall business success and how it can be more effective, trackable and simple. And that’s where growth hacker marketing enters.


Let’s begin with a question:

If your employer branding strategy was a startup that needed to be launched in a year from now, where would you start?

Would you wait until you have your product completely clear before launching? Or maybe you would just give different tries on the way? Which kind of approach would you define for making sure your product gets to customers? What about your target audience, how would you define them?

Quite overwhelming, isn’t it?

This is just a matter of a mindset and building a process around it. And that’s how growth hacking works: It supports you in achieving your business goals in the simplest and cheapest way.


But wait… What is this whole buzz around growth hacking? What does it mean?

“Growth Hacking is a business strategy that throws out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaces it with customer acquisition techniques that are testable, trackable and scalable. Its tools are e-mails, pay-per-click ads, blogs, and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity and money. While traditional marketing chases vague notions like “branding” and “mind share”, growth hackers relentlessly pursue users and growth – and when they do it right, those users beget more users, who beget more users.“

-Ryan Holidays


If we were to make a parallel between those terms and bring this to HR, we would say that our users are the talent we want to join our organization, and that growth is the number and quality of people we attract and hire.

That means that, if we want to bring customer acquisition techniques that are “testable, trackable and scalable”, we need to know that sometimes getting 5k applicants to our trainee program and managing to convert all of them into employees is better than getting 15k applicants and hiring none. It also means that we do not need to spend an exorbitant amount of money in all sorts of events and activities all over the world – we need to be able to define and invest in our target audience who will do that for us if we manage to provide them value to share to their network.

What are some basic steps to follow?


Step #1: Understand your current state and where you want to head

Firstly, you must know where you stand. How is your organization seen by your target audience? Are you offering what they expect, or is there a gap on needs? More than that, what was the last time you talked to your target audience to understand what they need and expect? If you haven’t done that, how are you even sure that what you have to offer is something that they are searching for?

A very simple framework for that is called Empathy Map.  An empathy map is a creative way to better understand how your target candidate perceives the world. You can find a step by step guide here.


Step #2: Align your delivery to what you promise

That may sound very simple, but employer branding is not only about getting out there and promising the best environment in the world if this is not the reality.

The golden rule here is that great marketing doesn’t fix a broken product – which means you can get a good amount of talents at first, but if they are not your real talent and/or satisfied, things can go down.  

The best decision you can make here is to improve your programs and your employee experience in order to fulfill a real need for a defined group of people – the talent you want for the organization according to your organizational culture  – no matter how much tweaking and refining it takes.

Some interesting questions to be answered are:

Who is this specific program/position for?

Why would this talent decide to work with us?  

What would make our ideal talent become eager to join our company?

What would make our target and current talent in the organization refer to our organization as a top employer?


Step #3: Cut the “job fair mindset” and go straight to the source

This is one of my favorite parts of applying the growth hacking concept to HR. Let’s say that now you understand your target audience, and that you know what they are interested in. Which kind of activities can you perform to engage them in a cost- and time-effective way?

We can start by asking the following question: Who from your target audience are the most likely to engage with you and share with their circles? These people are what we broadly call “early adopters”. After you have them onboard, they will not only help you improve your strategy, but also share it within their networks. And that’s where you get recognized.

Since you studied the behavior of your target audience, you now know what they listen to, what they read, etc.  Then, who are the bloggers/influencers/other organizations that can help you reach your target in a more efficient way? The idea is to reach out to these influencers directly, providing them content and value  to share. If you provide good content or value, they will feel like sharing it, too, and this is a win-win situation with little or no investment involved. If you have a winning idea to make them share even more, better. For example, the reason why Dropbox was able to grow from 100 customers to 100k in one day was their referral system: when a customer refers a friend, he/she gets 250MB extra space for free. Have you thought about doing something similar if a potential candidate refers someone to your programs?



Step #4: Be open to iterate and improve on the way

Sometimes I talk to companies who want to wait until they have everything perfectly before they launch an idea or even their employer branding strategy. That delays the process and makes you lose a lot of opportunities. Don’t wait until everything is100% ready! Get feedback on the way, otherwise you will never get things moving!

In that sense, it’s also very important to have an open channel with your audience where you can get on-time feedback and iterate on the way. This includes not only having a space in your social media channels, but also running surveys and interviews periodically to get insights from them.


Step #5: Take it forward!  

Growth hacking is a mindset, and it’s all about understanding your audience, providing the right value to them and making them happy.

In a nutshell, no matter what you are doing, start with assessing your current state and build a simple plan. In two years, how do you want your talent to see your organization? What are the actions you need to take to get there?  Who do you need to reach out to? Who do you need to partner with?

When it comes to planning your actions, you can simply apply the basic principles of backwards planning, always keeping your target’s needs in mind.


I hope this article helped you to demystify a little bit of what growth hacking means, and how you can apply it to employer branding. As you might have noticed, growth hacking principles can be applied in all HR practices, so I would love to hear your insights and feedbacks so that we can keep this discussion going. And if you get lost on the way, don’t forget: Growth-hacking is more of a mindset than a tool kit.


Written by Dafne Sartorio


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Coffee addict, world citizen, digital marketer alw

Coffee addict, world citizen, digital marketer always looking for new creative outlets.