Employer Brand and Talent Acquisition: Partnering for Success

Erin Mastel joined Grace Blue in 2021 as a Director in the US. Before joining, she worked at global professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) as Americas Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing Leader.  In 2017, she was asked by EY Brand and Talent leaders to build a Global Employer Brand function from the ground up, including org design, recruiting and talent attraction strategy. She was responsible for leading efforts to attract top talent in 150 countries globally and supporting the delivery of EY’s ambition to be the world’s most favoured employer and her team’s focus included global employer brand, recruitment marketing and media relations strategy.

Erin shares her observations and tips for both employer brand leaders and talent leaders and recruiters on how to best partner for success.


For most of my career I’ve been a marketer. I spent about a decade at a boutique integrated agency and then another 10 years leading employer brand for a Big 4 professional services firm.

And then suddenly two years ago I found myself in executive search here at Grace Blue. Over the past two years I’ve had the great privilege to work with some of the world’s most innovative marketing and communications companies. I’ve had the opportunity to help them deliver on their talent strategies, placing talent to help transform and make them fit for task for the next several years. I’ve also had the chance to better understand some of the challenges they’re facing in the market in terms of attracting and retaining great talent.

In my past life in professional services, I partnered with a truly world class talent team, working with my recruiting clients to deliver employer brand and recruitment marketing programs to support them in achieving their goals. We did amazing work together–work of which I’m immensely proud and which moved the needle in terms of employer attractiveness. In that time, I did my very best as a marketer to understand and address the recruiting team’s challenges, but the past two here at Grace Blue have given me a different perspective, and above all a greater empathy for what front line recruiters face on a day-to-day basis.

In short, as an employer-brand-professional-turned-front-line-recruiter, these past two years have been truly eye-opening. In that spirit, I want to share some observations and tips for both employer brand and talent leaders and recruiters on how to best partner for success.

For employer brand teams:

Cultivate as deep an understanding for the pain points of your company’s recruiting team as you do for your target candidate audiences. On a day-to-day basis, recruiters contend with so much that isn’t always visible to the employer brand team or even, for that matter, in their remit to address. From the challenges of engaging passive candidates and answering difficult questions they ask in interviews to a lack of clear feedback on candidates from hiring managers, today’s recruiter is part sales expert, part therapist, and part negotiator.

As an employer brand professional, go beyond the typical stages of the candidate journey to understand what the recruiter’s pain points are at each stage. You undoubtedly understand what the candidate needs at each stage to say yes, but a deeper understanding of what the recruiter needs to ultimately sell a particular job and close the deal with a candidate can break open new possibilities for your work to have a greater impact.

Get a LinkedIn Recruiter license and ask the recruiting team to take you through some actual searches. Candidate personas are a great start, but they are largely hypothetical. No candidate will ever truly match your ideal persona, especially now when, thanks to The Great Resignation and its aftermath, people have taken so many unexpected career pivots. Learn how recruiters source real candidates and get a feel for what they look for in profiles. Understand what kinds of candidates don’t typically respond to recruiter outreach so that you can better support their efforts to engage these candidates more effectively.

Ask about their thought process as they’re assessing talent, because that will give you deeper insight into the kind of candidates they’re truly trying to attract.

Mine your content from LinkedIn profiles and thought leadership produced by top candidates. For each type of role your company hires, look at the top candidates identified by your recruiting team. What kinds of articles do these candidates write? What are they sharing on LinkedIn? What issues and areas of interest do they care about? What conversations are they having? Add all of this into your content strategy because your company’s content calendar may not necessarily match what your top candidates are talking about—when they’re talking about it.

Sit in on candidate screening calls regularly. I can’t stress this enough. There’s no better way to get a view into the candidate perspective than hearing for yourself the kinds of questions they ask recruiters about company culture, career advancement, DEI programs, and commitment to sustainability, etc. I know without a doubt that candidates are asking questions into which you as a marketer might not necessarily have visibility…specific questions that go beyond your packaged content. Some of this might come back to you from the recruiting team, but some might not. Employer brand professionals are incredible storytellers, and with real questions and concerns shared by actual candidates at the heart of your content, your stories will be that much more powerful.

Get real. Uncomfortably so. Like the best brand awareness and product marketing campaigns, employer brand and recruitment marketing efforts focus on all the best things: mobility and advancement opportunities, a supportive culture, work life balance, a focus on DEI, etc. But every company is on a journey and no employer has fully solved all these complex challenges. Candidates want the REAL picture. They want an honest assessment of work life balance and culture. They’re skeptical of the pictures you put on social media that show only the good…especially when they have a network of people who’ve worked at your company and are getting the inside story from them.

Recruiters need to be able to talk warts and all to candidates to present an accurate (if aspirational) picture. They need to build credibility with candidates but that’s difficult to do when they’re working from talking points designed by the employer brand team to paint only the ideal picture. Employer brand teams in my experience always advocate for the ability to provide candidates with an authentic, transparent message, but are often hamstrung by employers who are reluctant to acknowledge challenges. Both talent and corporate brand leadership can help here, partnering to support recruiters in establishing trust and having open, up-front conversations with candidates about the good and challenging aspects of a particular role.

For recruiting teams:

Allow your employer brand team to ride shotgun with you. Recruiters are often managing dozens of candidates at any given time, keeping them warm and engaged and moving them through the process while also working with dozens of hiring managers, compiling reports, and so many other competing priorities. The employer brand team wants more than anything to help you succeed but needs input from you to do that. Make the time to continually educate your employer brand team on the actual art of recruiting and give them visibility into your process, your challenges, and the opportunities they have to be a great partner to you.

Leverage the employer brand team’s storytelling abilities at every stage. Employer brand teams are gifted storytellers with deep empathy and the ability to home in on what matters most to candidates. Share the questions candidates ask and the comments they make, using real life examples and profiles of real candidates. Work with them to test and improve different approaches to JDs, day-to-day communications, talk tracks, and cold outreach. While you’re helping them understand what it’s like on the front lines with candidates, they can help you brush up on the art of storytelling in the context of real conversations with candidates.

Give the employer brand team visibility into the challenges they can help you overcome—both internally and externally. Are you having a hard time advocating for nontraditional talent with hiring managers? Or rockstar talent who, with the right investment, could be game changing for your company? The employer brand team can help overcome those challenges by working to help educate and influence internally.

Give your employer brand team all the data. Who is most often declining offers and why? What types of candidates are the hardest to engage? When does your outreach work and why? Share the output of your talent mapping exercises, your longlists, your input from hiring managers. All of this data will help your employer brand team better target the right audience with the right message at the right time.

Understand that the employer brand team can’t be everywhere, on every channel, all the time. Employer brand budgets are limited, and teams—even at large companies that hire thousands of people every year—are typically incredibly small in comparison to the resources of corporate brand and marketing. Trust them and ask what they need from you to focus their efforts on where they can have the most impact and solve the most common and pressing challenges.

The market continues to change daily and competition for top talent is still incredibly fierce. To win, a strong–and perhaps more symbiotic–partnership between talent attraction teams and employer brand teams is critical.

I’d welcome any additional thoughts or comments from recruiters or employer brand professionals out there. What are your tips for how to make this crucial partnership even better?


Want to know more about employer brand and how to partner with recruiters to secure the best talent? Then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Grace Blue team.