Crafting a Compelling Employer Brand for University Staff Recruitment

05 May 2024      Martin Higgs, AUDE Communications and Campaigns Manager

In the current climate, Higher Education institutions are increasingly facing challenges of attracting and retaining top talent. To support university recruitment and attracting the right candidates, one way to capture an institution’s reputation as an employer, incorporating its values, culture and overall employee experience is through employer branding. For universities, building a compelling employer brand is essential not only for attracting talented individuals but, also for creating an inclusive and innovative community. This article has been written by the team at ahead of the UHR Conference 2024.

A university's employer brand should reflect and promote its culture and values, allowing candidates to get a clear sense of what it's like to work within the institution from the moment they encounter its brand. 2023 jobseeker survey showed 66% of professional service jobseekers and 49% of academic jobseekers chose a reputation as a great place to work as the most important factor when considering a new job.

Additional important preferences for jobseekers included:

  • A reputation for being inclusive and encouraging diversity and equality
  • A reputation for great research and/or services
  • A reputation for great people

Therefore, highlighting aspects such as research opportunities, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and support for professional development can help set a university apart for prospective candidates.

When shaping an employer brand, universities should be forthright about their expectations, benefits and growth opportunities. Allowing this transparency develops trust and helps candidates make informed decisions about whether the institution aligns with their career goals and values.

Usually for jobseekers, their initial interaction with an institution is through a job advert. Jobseeker advertising preferences from the 2023 jobseeker survey showed that apart from title, salary and location 42% prefer a job advert that contains information about the employer as well as the role, with over 25% also selecting career development and training information, and details on non-salary benefits as part of their top five important things to see in a job advert.  

Universities should portray their culture, values, and work environment to candidates, showcasing what sets them apart from other institutions. This could involve highlighting unique research opportunities, commitment to diversity and inclusion, career development, or a supportive faculty development program.

An effective employer brand can extend beyond traditional recruitment channels, and utilising platforms such as social media, university websites and job boards enable institutions to showcase their unique selling points, attract and engage potential candidates.

At we support clients promoting their employer brand across our social media channels. Working directly with university marketing and HR teams we create personalised projects to support boosting university profile and live vacancies. We also run regular campaigns targeting relevant audiences including academics, professionals and potential PhD candidates promoting the Higher Education sector.

Another aspect of employer branding for university recruitment is employee advocacy. Encouraging employees to share their experiences can provide valuable insights for jobseekers and these staff members can be powerful ambassadors for the institutions, sharing their experiences and career paths. Showcasing these success stories of staff members who have thrived within the university community can inspire confidence and attract like-minded individuals.

Candidate experience should also be a priority for each universities’ recruitment process. From the initial application to the final interview stage, every interaction should be thought, personalised about and reflective of the institution's values.

Further jobseeker insights showed over 50% find long application processes and not hearing back from jobs applied for as a frustrating part of the job seeking process. With interview preferences showing the majority of jobseekers (59%) preferring the first interview to be conducted via video call, with the second interview to be in person and in the town or city where the role is based (70%). Considering jobseeker preferences providing timely feedback, clear communication, and a positive interview experience can leave a lasting impression on candidates, even if they are not ultimately selected for the position.

Building a compelling employer brand for university staff recruitment requires a strategic approach that aligns with the institution's values, engages candidates through authentic storytelling, leverages digital platforms and promotes diversity and inclusion. By investing in their employer brand, universities can attract top talent, enhance their reputation, and encourage a thriving community of faculty and staff dedicated to advancing Higher Education.

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