How to build an employer brand in tech that attracts the best engineers

Peter Simic

If you are anything like the average customer, you’d much rather purchase a jar of traditional Italian marinara sauce with heirloom tomatoes than a can of store-brand stuff.

Tech professionals have a similar approach when choosing where to work. Just like you’ll find the same ingredients in all marinara sauces, skilled engineers know they can get a good salary and PTO almost everywhere.

Therefore, you need to find other ways in which your company can stand out and attract top talent. Employer branding is one of them.

By planning your employer brand carefully, you’ll be able to present your company in a good light and attract the best engineers. Our seven tips will help.

Build your employer branding strategy

Before you start creating job advertisements or social media campaigns, you should develop a detailed employer branding strategy. That way, you’ll have a guideline to help you direct all other employer branding efforts.

Let’s start with an example to illustrate the significance of thinking the branding strategy through.

Netguru, a software development company, wrote a 50-page culture book examining what makes their company a great place to work.

The strategy they adopted, therefore, emphasizes company culture, the element they consider sets them apart from other companies in their space.

Source: Netguru

Rather than writing we have a positive culture on the careers page and calling it a day, Netguru dedicated time to creating a comprehensive guide with examples that prove how great the company culture is.

Did writing the book take more time and effort? Absolutely.

However, this move allowed Netguru to present the company as an organized employer that practices the values they preach.

This is consistent with employees’ positive reviews of the company, such as this one.

Source: Glassdoor

The culture book is just an example of a well-thought-out branding strategy element. Of course, there is more to employer branding for tech companies, but you have to start somewhere.

Here’s what else TalentLyft suggests including in the employer branding strategy:

  • Set your goals
  • Identify your ideal candidate
  • Define your employee value proposition
  • Define the promotion channels
  • Measure the results

Although all these steps may seem like a lot of work, it’s worth remembering that the employer brand ultimately affects revenue—at least that’s what 96% of employer companies think.

So, if you don’t want your employer image to be all over the place, it would be wise to gather your marketing, HR, and engineering departments to create a strategy that will make the best engineers not only browse your website but also want to work with you.

Create appealing ads to target engineers

Gone are the days of announcing your company is hiring engineers and waiting for applications to fill your inbox.

To grab the attention of skilled engineers, you have to compose an excellent job description and target the right audience. These marketing efforts can even help you build employer branding along the way.

If you’ve already recruited developers, chances are you used LinkedIn at some point.

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While the platform is a powerful recruiting tool, it’s worth remembering that IT professionals there get twice as many job offers compared to other users.

Because of that, many engineers get annoyed when they receive irrelevant or low-effort messages.

In fact, irrelevant job offers are the thing engineers dislike the most about the recruitment process, according to a 2021 CodinGame survey.

Source: CodinGame

If you want to achieve the opposite effect, you should have a relevant strategy prepared when you reach out to engineers, either privately or publicly.

A good example would be this Microsoft advertisement targeting software developers.

The intriguing advertisement didn’t provide all of the information straight away; devs first had to solve an equation to get the contact info.

Such creative ads help employers differentiate themselves from their competitors and make the company more memorable.

Of course, nobody wants to spend an hour trying to find the employer’s email or phone number, so make sure your eye-catching ad, if you decide to create one, makes it easy to spot them.

A different direction you can take to create appealing ads is to illustrate the benefits of working with you.

Mentioning a competitive salary is a good start, but engineers can get that anywhere. Instead, you should focus on what makes you unique.

However, you should keep your creative outlets professional, or you’re risking a marketing fail.

In 2018, Nederlia, a recruitment company, tried to recruit QA engineers and other tech roles with a series of infographics about life and work in Barcelona.

Source: Nederlia

According to Nederlia, the campaign failed miserably because candidates felt that the information provided wasn’t well-researched enough.

Still, the company learned some valuable lessons about targeting engineers, so not all was lost.

All in all, if you want to attract skilled engineers, you have to know how to target them in a relevant, appealing way. Remember that all your job ads directly contribute to your employer branding, and keep things professional. 

Use storytelling to build your brand

Just like you use storytelling to advertise your company to clients, building your employer brand around a narrative can help you attract engineers with values similar to yours.

Due to the nature of their job, software engineers are sometimes perceived as robotic creatures operating on zeros and ones.

Some tech companies tailor their job ads accordingly, thinking that their concise presentation of facts will be seen as appealing.

However, hardly anybody is immune to a good story. Let’s take a look at two different takes on writing a job ad for a team lead.

Facts

Facts within a story

We’re looking for a team lead with four years of experience in Kotlin to manage our Android team. $150k OTE, unlimited vacation.

We’re looking for an Android team lead to manage the team creating apps for medical nonprofits. $150k OTE, unlimited vacation. If you have at least four years of experience in Kotlin, we’d like you to help us deliver products that make healthcare more accessible to the community.

Only one sentence more makes the approach structured around the nonprofit story sound more impactful.

A great thing about storytelling is that there’s no one way to do it; you can direct your narrative however you want.

Whether you talk about your company’s history, the purpose of work, or anything else, you’ll show that your brand is more than the revenue you make.

For instance, Toast, a payment solution for restaurants, bases their company values on hospitality. They even use vocabulary related to food when crafting their job ads.

Source: Toast

On the other hand, Microsoft weaves their employer narrative around the people working there. After all, real stories about employees are an invincible tool in storytelling.

Source: Microsoft

To sum up, what you choose to tell stories about is less important; the way you incorporate storytelling into your employer branding matters more.

Whether you write about bread rolls, your grandmother struggling with ordering groceries online, or the ways your company is changing the world, your ad will seem more compelling to the engineers you want to attract than by just listing perks and benefits.

Prioritize diversity

With more people becoming aware of social issues in the tech industry, more companies are striving to diversify their workforce, and you should too.

In addition to providing your company with more perspectives and innovation, prioritizing diversity will also get your employer brand a couple of points.

If you browse engineering career pages of Google, Netflix, Meta, and other tech giants, you’ll notice that each company has a section dedicated to inclusion and diversity.

Here are just some of the employee resource groups at Netflix.

Source: Netflix

Unlike many instances of HR jargon, diversity is a word denoting a quality that employees actually want to see more of.

In fact, 60% of US workers approve of business leaders speaking up about social and political issues.

Source: Shake

So, what can a tech company do to promote diversity?

Let’s take a look at Accenture’s inclusion and diversity campaign to see a real-life example.

Accenture, an IT services company, helped their own employees share struggles they encounter regarding diversity.

By listening to the voices of real people, the company got to know how exactly they could improve the workplace.

Source: Youtube

Some of the specific actions Accenture took to make their company a more enjoyable place to work include:

  • Specialized training
  • Networking support
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Mental health resources
  • Equal benefits
  • Dollar-for-dollar pay equity

As you can see, all of these actions can easily be implemented into a company of any size.

They may require additional resources, but if you want to build great employer branding, you have to prove you’re taking care of your employees by delivering on your promises.

Promote your company on campuses

Tech companies planning for long-term success often include hiring or mentoring engineering students in their employer branding.

This approach lets them show they’re willing to invest in their people, but also find excellent engineers before the competition recognizes the emerging talent.

Recruiting students and recent graduates is becoming increasingly popular across all industries.

The percentage of employers planning to hire new graduates has risen by 27% since 2021.

Source: Shake

While students may not have too much work experience, they are eager to find their place on the market. They are highly motivated and bring new knowledge and ideas to the table.

In addition to online events, one of the best ways to reach out to future engineers is during campus visits.

Even large tech companies such as Google regularly participate in campus events and conferences.

Google, for instance, uses these events to showcase their scholarship, internship, or even employment opportunities, all of which contributes to their employer brand.

Source: Google

If you decide to promote your company on campus and work with students, you have to be willing to invest time in mentoring your new engineers.

Credera, an IT consulting company, has a system for transforming undergraduates into professional consultants.

They start with career fairs and continue with training the best candidates.

An important element of Credera’s strategy is providing constant support to their interns, helping them get rid of the imposter syndrome as they learn along the way.

Source: Credera

Now a data architect at Credera, Tom Kelm started his career when he was a junior looking for internship opportunities at an engineering career fair.

The internship taught him a lot about new technologies, but also about handling failure.

He is now a valuable asset to the company and a testament to their employer brand centered around investing in the community.

All in all, campus events can do wonders for your employer brand and help you reach undiscovered talent.

For more creative ideas about recruiting devs, check out our article here.

Emphasize learning opportunities for your engineers

Not many engineers want to work with companies that haven’t updated their tech stack since 2010.

To become a competitive employer, your branding has to demonstrate that your engineers get opportunities for learning and working with new technologies.

If you think a bigger salary is the primary motivation for engineers who switch jobs, you’re in for a surprise.

In fact, salary only comes in third place in surveys.

The most important element that developers consider in a job offer is the opportunity to solve interesting technical challenges or problems.

Source: CodinGame

This piece of information tells us that top engineers probably wouldn’t be interested in implementing a payment gateway for the millionth time.

Instead, they want to flex their brain muscles with more demanding, and therefore more rewarding work.

This is why some companies, such as Meta, emphasize the opportunity to work with innovative technologies in their employer branding.

Source: Meta

However, not all tech companies deal with groundbreaking technologies, yet that doesn’t mean they’re automatically seen as less desirable employers.

Engineers are motivated to learn and upgrade their skills regardless of the method. In case your engineers rely on standard tools, you could offer to sponsor their learning efforts.

For instance, you could cover the costs of participating in programming conferences, hackathons, or talks.

The money you spend on education is not necessarily a cost; it’s more of an investment because it helps your engineers get more skilled at their jobs.

You can also facilitate learning by paying for learning materials.

Atlassian, for example, supports the growth and development of all employees by providing a learning budget.

Source: Atlassian

That way, each engineer can choose their field of interest and continue to develop their skills.

So, if your company offers learning and development opportunities, don’t be afraid to advertise them. This will help you attract engineers with a thirst for knowledge.

Turn your team into brand ambassadors

No marketing strategy can beat authenticity.

To achieve a transparent employer brand, you should let your team showcase what the inside of your company looks like. Each of your employees is a potential brand ambassador—so let their voices be heard.

Did you know that half of the employees occasionally post about their employer on social media?

Moreover, 33% do that without the employer’s encouragement.

However, rather than relying on often unpredictable social media posts, your employer branding stands a better chance if you create a structured outlet where your team can share posts, and showcase the life at your company in the process.

Let’s look at some examples to see how.

Buffer, a social media management platform, distributes Kindle readers and free books to all new hires.

Employees discuss books on Slack, and the company regularly posts team recommendations.

Here you can see the COO’s last, current, and future read.

Source: Buffer

By publicly writing about their employees’ interests, Buffer displays the human side of the business, making the company more appealing to candidates.

Microsoft, the company we mentioned earlier as a brand that excels at storytelling, has a similar approach to turning employees into brand ambassadors.

We aren’t talking about the merch with the company logo, though.

Microsoft has an Instagram account dedicated to showcasing what their employees do outside of work.

So, rather than writing stats about paid time off, they let people see how the employees really spend their time.

Source: Instagram

As you can see, you don’t have to order custom-designed apparel to turn your staff into ambassadors.

A more authentic approach is to make your company an excellent place to work and then share content that occurs spontaneously.

Conclusion

There’s a reason why Google, Netflix, and similar companies rarely have to reach out to people to work with them.

These companies are examples of great employer branding, meaning that the best engineers usually come to them.

Of course, building an employer brand is an ongoing process, even for tech companies that already have an established brand.

We’re aware that our tips may sound like a lot of work.

Because of that, it may help to remind yourself that the more time you spend building the employer brand, the fewer resources you’ll need to attract skilled engineers in the future.

So, if you want to attract top talent, you should start growing your brand today.