Recruiting has fundamentally changed with the rise of the social web and technology. Candidates expect to easily access information about your company through a variety of resources, as well as more personalized communication, interaction and transparency. Candidates scrutinize your company in new ways and make more informed decisions than ever before.

This means you must work smarter to meet your candidates’ needs without knowing when they’re ready to make a decision or influence someone else’s. Today, it’s more important than ever to build a strong employer brand and provide a positive experience for candidates to compete for top talent. And that means you have to be just as detail-oriented and scrutinize every element of your organization’s employment experience. Just like a candidate would.

In comes the moment of truth…

At exaqueo, we take many employer brand lessons from consumer marketing, coupled with our collective in-house talent acquisition and HR experience. One key element is how we think about the candidate experience: the product of all interactions between an organization and a candidate over the duration of their relationship.

When evaluating your candidate experience, it’s important to consider two key things:

1) What influenced the candidate along the way from the very first moment they heard about your organization or brand and where that influence occurred (both online and offline).

2) The moments when the candidate interacts with your brand and forms or changes an impression as a result.

The first, exaqueo refers to as “Source of Influence” and the second, Procter & Gamble coined as “Moments of Truth (MOT)”. We’ve written before about sources of influence being more powerful than sources of hire. But what about moments of truth?

Let’s review marketing's five MOTs so we can understand how to shape a meaningful candidate experience throughout the employer brand lifecycle:

  • The less than Zero Moment of Truth (<ZMOT): Refers to the time between an event in a customer's life and the point at which they decide to research a purchase.
  • Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT): Refers to the research which is conducted by a consumer online about a product or service after encountering the stimulus and before taking any action (i.e. searching for reviews before making a purchase).
  • First Moment of Truth (FMOT): Defines the first interaction between a consumer and a product on a store's shelf or in real life. It’s what people think when they see your product and the impressions they form. Typically, it takes three to seven seconds for consumers to decide whether or not to buy a product.
  • Second Moment of Truth (SMOT):When a consumer purchases a product and experiences its quality, as per the promise of the brand, over time. It will either deliver a delightful and memorable experience - or not. It’s also how your company supports consumers in their efforts throughout the relationship.
  • Third Moment of Truth (TMOT): A consumer’s feedback or reaction towards a brand, product or service (i.e. consumer becomes brand advocate and gives back via word of mouth or social media publishing). The product experience catalyzes an emotion, curiosity, passion, or even anger to talk about the brand. These shared moments become the next person's ZMOT.

So, what does this mean for employer brand, recruitment marketing and talent acquisition?

ICYMI: the candidate is in charge.

You may often believe that you are falling behind on the latest-and-greatest HR technology or you are trailing behind your competitors in social innovation. The truth of the matter is you are only behind the candidate. If you’re still trying to manipulate candidates to apply and get them to behave your way -- in a an environment where they have as much or more information -- you’re bound to fail.

To get closer to candidates, your job is to be there when they are looking for insight about your company. And, realize that you won’t often have total control over the information they will find.

You likely know this already. You don’t have control over what a candidate sees, reads and learns. But, do you understand the ecosystem where candidates look for information? Do you understand where they are most likely finding and researching jobs?

Moments that matter impact your employer brand.

As employer brand leaders and recruitment marketers, it’s critical to understand the candidate’s decision making process. That’s your only hope if you want to influence those decisions given all that is outside of your control. That’s really important when you’re thinking about how close a candidate gets to your organization. At exaqueo, we call it candidate intimacy.

By analyzing each MOT along the candidate journey, you can look for areas of opportunity to build and maintain positive relationships with candidates. After a candidate experiences some sort of trigger or stimulus event (e.g. loss of job, unhappy at current employer, recently graduated, etc.), there are some simple ways candidates may interact with your employer brand.

For example, conducting online research via Google or on Glassdoor = ZMOT, conversations with an old colleague about your company then applying to a job = FMOT, interacting with the recruiter/hiring team during the interview process = SMOT, and becoming engaged during onboarding = TMOT.

As candidates’ behaviors evolve, so must the ways in which your employer brand engages them. < Click to tweet!

By optimizing each MOT, you will elevate your employer brand. Essentially, each MOT is an opportunity to make either a favorable or unfavorable impression on and satisfy or dissatisfy your candidates. The ZMOT, especially, is your opportunity to implement strategies and tactics to show up at the right place, at the right time and with the right content. It’s a tipping point in the candidate journey.

In today's always-connected world, how will you continue to win moments of truth? Here are six tips for you to consider as you elevate your strategy:

1.     Make a moments map

Identify a set of candidate moments you want to win or can't afford to lose. Examine all phases of the candidate journey to map moments and identify the ones in which people find inspiration, learn about your organization (or others), apply to jobs, or anything in between.

2.     Understand candidate needs in the moment

For each moment you want to win, put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Ask “what would make this easier or faster? What content or features would be most helpful for this moment?” Use search trends and insights to uncover and understand the moments that matter.

3.     Be present in the moments that matter

Do you know how many candidates are searching for your company, your industry or related job titles? In how many of those searches do you show up? How many times do they choose you, and why? Most importantly, how many times does your competitor show up, but you don't? You can't compete for talent and improve the lives of candidates if you're not present in the moments they need you most. And at the end of the day, what matters more?

4.     Have something interesting, relevant and engaging to say

Candidates are seeking answers to specific questions. If you don’t supply them, others in their network, including your competitors, will. If you’re not visible when they are doing their homework, they will find other companies that are. Links to job openings are not enough to hook candidates.

Your ads should provide an experience that's as informative as possible: links to rich content on your website, opportunities to engage on social media and watch videos about your people or culture, are just some examples. And, keep in mind that the content you push out should be authentic, meaning it should be differentiated and will not appeal to everyone -- just the best-fit talent who you want to attract.

5.     Optimize across the journey

Candidates move seamlessly across screens and channels. Does your employer brand deliver seamlessly in return? Don’t let competing objectives or department silos stand in the way. To account for today’s complex, fractured journeys, focus completely on the candidate and organize around moments. If you’re having trouble getting stakeholders on board, run small pilots or experiments to show the impact of those moments.

6.     Measure the impact

To what degree does ZMOT influence awareness, consideration and apply conversions? While the return on investment for certain moments may not yet be directly measurable, train your team to use credible estimates to ensure nothing is falling through the cracks. 

What are you doing today to ensure a positive candidate experience throughout the employer brand lifecycle? Employer brands that are committed to the MOTs win critical moments and stand to gain a competitive advantage.

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Want the extended version of this post? Visit the exaqueo blog featuring insight from our team on industry news and trends, our research, client work and lessons learned.

Craving more employer brand strategy? Come say hi to my colleague, Shannon Smedstad, and I at the upcoming #EBrandCon in Chicago this May! Shannon will share how to craft a killer EVP in her session on May 17 from 11:30 am-12:15 pm. Plus, she’ll be moderating an awesome panel discussion about applying lessons learned from consumer marketing to employer branding and recruitment marketing on May 17 from 4:00-5:00 pm. See the #EBrandCon conference agenda for details here. Hope to see you there!

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Kathleen O’Brien spent her entire career in talent acquisition marketing and strategy. As a subject-matter expert in the employer branding space, she has 9+ years of hands-on experience leading recruitment marketing and talent strategy at both a mature global F500 corporation and privately owned high-growth firm. Her passion is powered by her experience and bachelor’s degree in marketing from Virginia Tech. Today, Kathleen is a Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting and creative and digital execution. Originally from Fairfax, VA, Kathleen sits on exaqueo's 100% virtual team from her office in St. Louis, MO. Get the real resume over on LinkedIn or say hi at @kathleen_eliz.


Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research and recruiting strategy offerings.