Inside Out Emotion Poster

How Emotion Spreads Employer Branding Like Wildfire

Authored by Anne-Marie Orrock and originally guest published on

Emotions drive our behaviour day in and day out.






When it comes to candidates career decisions, emotions play a large role in the actions they take, or don’t take. 

Talent acquisition teams responsible for employer branding and talent content delivery need to discover the driving emotions of future candidates. You need to dig deep. Offer the candidate the possibility of being in a better position, not only from a career perspective, but emotionally. 

At an Oracle HR Executive breakfast, speaker Greg Savage, a global recruitment expert says that “employers need to predict candidates intentions” (in the same way marketers do) by tracking candidate behaviour. That behaviour is driven by emotions. When developing content for your social platforms and online talent communities, you need to develop content that strikes at the core of their sense of achievement (or lack of), ego, belonging, and self-expression.

Tick, Tock. You’re Racing The Clock!

In the surging sea of available content on line you have about 3 seconds to capture candidates attention. It is a frighteningly fast period of time to set a tone and hook an emotion. Whether it be influencing via curiosity, humour, or shock. The reader is having a corresponding emotional response, with either satisfaction, joy, or surprise.

All employer brand content needs to have a strategic purpose. With social recruitment branding it may be in two directions:

  1. If the goal is to increase general employer brand awareness, building relationships or a community,  or sharing practical information, then your content needs to trigger the emotions that compel consumers of your content to share it.
  1. The goal may be driving candidates to take a higher action of applying for a job role. A greater level of psychological ‘sales tactics’ is required within your content structure to activate the emotional response, or belief, that the candidates current level of pain, problem or dissatisfaction can be met and resolved by applying to an alternative career option.

Differing content is needed for active candidates versus passive candidates. Active candidates may typically have stronger ‘intentions’ than passive candidates. Their emotions may be based on frustration, fear, and dissatisfaction, which is ‘activating’ their search for an alternative job. Passive candidates may be more emotionally driven by curiosity, ego, and exclusivity (that they are missing out on something). Your content needs to elicit a ‘yes’ response by both pools of candidates.

Emotions That Share

Studies at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania were seeking to find the common triggers across highly viral content that compelled people to share. They discovered that the most common elements that occurred in the very early stage of the content were:

  1. Shock or awe – images, facts, sound or data that shock content consumers.
  2. Positivity – people felt entertained and were left feeling positive or good, and want to spread the feeling.
  3. Fear or anger – people will seek justification for their emotions, especially with anger and will share to gain group consensus with their anger. Similarly with fear, people care for others and seek to help other avoid pain. 



Knowing how the brain reacts to emotions and the emotions that are more favoured gives you competitive opportunity to capture attention and lure your candidate readership further into your content. It provides a foundation to get them ready to take a particular action you want and need.


How To Keep The Music Going

Our brains are constantly flipping between emotion and logic. Once the initial emotional hook has delivered the desired emotion, whether you employ humour or fun, or relieve fear  and anxiety, the practical side of the brain starts to kick in. It asks ‘Why am I still here?What benefit will I get by staying?’  This is when you need to present more useful, and practical aspects of your social recruitment branding content. The candidate is now seeking value from the content.

At this point you need to discern what is of value to your candidates with practical content that acts as a connector to your employer brand messages.

How do you keep the music going?

  1. Create a demographic and candidate avatars to work out where you target candidates hang out on social media. Use good analytical tools to determine the sites and type of content they are interested in. Survey and interview existing candidates and employees to understand their online paths.
  2. Develop a psychological profile of your culture. This goes beyond the ‘formal’ values of your organisation, but digs deeper to understand the informal values. What type of humour is shared? What problems are shared. What angers, frustrates and compels them to take action? Values fall into categories of control, superiority, development and philanthropy. So by understanding these areas you can create relatable content around them. For example, if the demographic you want to attract to your culture is strongly aligned with the value of development, you may want to share stories of learning, progress, and success through development. If it is about family values then share content around stability, nurturing, belonging, supporting each other, and showcase actual, real employee families.
  3. Keep on track with your profiles and values. Consistency is vital here. The final key is to develop trust. When developing a relationship with a talent community over time, you need to build trust via consistency. If your employer branding content themes are constantly chopping and changing, it sends confusing mixed messages that don’t instill a sense of trust. Candidates stop sharing when they don’t trust or something seems off beat.

Whilst it is important to track, analyse, and monitor content it can sometimes be easy to get pulled down the rabbit-hole of the latest tools, technology, and analytics around content. Remember most of the time the decision candidates make to make a move in their career is largely an emotional decision, rather than a logical one.

Keep your focus on tapping into those emotions with your social recruitment branding content. Create a compelling vision for your candidates that life will be better working with you. It will boost your employer branding content results, and deliver higher quality applicants.

Connect with Anne-Marie on Twitter at @amorrock