Why companies should use podcasts to recruit top talent
The early days of podcasts fit into two broad categories: two people having an in-depth conversation (Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss et al) or a stylised journalistic narrative (Serial, Radiolab etc.).
As the medium gains in popularity and barriers to entry lower, there’s room for companies to use podcasts to connect and engage with an audience that was previously difficult.
In this post, we’re going to talk about its power in employer branding, analyse how Netflix does this so well, and give suggestions on how you can do this too.
Why is employer branding important?
There are several benefits of companies developing a strong brand for current and future employees (more here):
Help retain employees
Attract new employees
Reduce recruitment costs
Employees become ambassadors
Improve employee engagement
Not to mention the benefits it has for the broader business - customers like to buy from companies they admire.
Whether it’s a concerted effort or not, all employers have a brand. The content a company communicates signals its values, and will attract or repel employees accordingly. With investment and a strategy, a company can elevate its branding and reap rewards.
Podcasts for employee branding
People’s relationship with podcasts is different to other media.
The fact that content is not competing for attention on a news feed means that it doesn’t need to be as flashy and sensationalist, and instead can develop conceptual ideas through a medium where people will give their attention.
Good podcasts are:
Authentic: hearing people speak can capture the real essence of what it’s like at a company, compared to other media that can feel choreographed
Insightful: diverse opinions can be discussed, debated and explained in depth
Intimate: allowing someone in your ears engenders a genuine connection to the host
Low barrier: people can listen whilst doing other things meaning they don’t need to carve out 10+ minutes to solely watch a video/ read a longform article
Conveying the culture of a company is tough when so much happens behind closed doors. As we’ll see, podcasts can bring these stories to life in a way that makes people want to listen.
WeAreNetflix does this really well
In 2018, Netflix launched the podcast WeAreNetflix. The company was (is) on a big international recruitment drive and wanted to control the narrative of what the company culture is like. With exposés of internal culture turned sour (see WeWork, The Wing, Elliott), this latter point is becoming increasingly important.
Each episode is a deep dive into a specific area of the business. The host (a Netflix software engineer, Lyle) interviews the head of a particular department and they discuss “the Netflix approach” to general business problems.
I believe that this podcast is one of the best forms of employer branding for two main reasons.
1. Genuine value to people who DON'T care about working at Netflix
Interviews last 30-60 minutes giving the host and guest enough time to really go deep on the specifics of how projects are run, and innovative/ contrarian approaches the company takes.
These are valuable insights that make the episode appealing for anyone working in that industry or curious about how it works.
The result is that almost any working professional is a potential listener, rather than creating content for just those people who are actively seeking out working at the company. Invested professionals become spokespersons for the company even if they will never work there personally.
2. Well-crafted episodes that are good enough to share
The structure of each episode follows roughly the same format
Whilst this is still relatively simple, there has been enough effort to hook the audience with a well-produced intro, communicate genuine value and leave the listener feeling like it was a worthwhile investment of time.
When the quality and insights are particularly good, listeners will feel compelled to share it with others. Recommending a podcast, or indeed anything, is risky because if the recipient thinks it's bad, that reflects poorly on you. Conversely, if they really like it, they’ll think highly of you.
Based on the originality of the insights and quality of the production I wouldn’t be surprised that WeAreNetflix listeners discover episodes through a recommendation.
With a bigger pool of relevant content that can be shared, more people get to hear about the Netflix company culture than if content was created only for those actively interested in a job at Netflix. This amplifies the reach of people engaging and thinking about what it’s like to work there, about ultimately considering themselves, or friends for jobs there.
Applying this model to your own organisation
The key is to create content that is going to be interesting to your target audience regardless of whether they are currently considering working for you. You want the content to be shared in the bigger pool of interest.
In simple terms
Identify audience segments that you want to attract
Plan topics addressing key concerns of this target market
Create content that delivers this, infused with benefits to your company culture
This then forms part of your funnel for attracting top talent to your organisation.
Netflix is looking to attract experienced hires in almost all areas, meaning topics are fairly diverse. If you have a narrower focus (e.g. laboratory scientists) then creating a podcast series around areas the best laboratory scientists are concerned about (e.g. laboratory innovations; how to be the best lab scientist) will perform this function.
Broadly, the following topics can applied to most industries:
Career development in industry X
Starting up in X
Biggest mistakes to avoid in X
Keys to professional success in X
Achieving work-life balance in X
How to do this for graduate recruitment
Recent graduates are a slightly different case, as they haven’t yet “settled” on an industry area. The principle of how to make a general interest podcast they would want to share with peers still remains the same though.
For this, I would recommend series based on general concerns someone new to the workplace would have. For example:
What does a [customer success manager/ HR professional/ accountant] actually do?
How to plan your career
How to stand out when applying for jobs
Episodes would be told through the lens of what it’s like to work at your company allowing you to thoughtfully convey your values and attract the best people, but the primary focus would be to educate your audience on something they care about. As much as you’d like to be the case, people are more interested in “How to plan your career” than “How to plan your career at [company]”.
Employer branding is an exercise in attracting top talent to your organisation by being effective in your communications. You can do this as follows:
Create general purpose educational content: which means people who had never considered working for you will get value from your brand
A podcast works best: to build an authentic connection with your audience and to talk about conceptual ideas over a longer attention span
Ensure it is high quality: compelling narrative, engaging presenter, flawless audio, mixed/ edited to hold listeners’ attention. The yardstick should be “is this good enough to share”
Create a funnel: from discovery to recommendation/ job application to track your results
Once we establish a strong podcast production set up, we can repurpose the content to be suitable for other channels (i.e. short videos for Instagram) meaning the reach is amplified without having to recreate content from scratch.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this read. If you’d like to discuss using podcasts at your organisation, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org