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Build an Employer Value Proposition for Today’s Candidate

As the centerpiece of your employer brand, your EVP plays a vital role in attracting the right candidates and ultimately, hiring the right people to lead your business to success. Here’s exactly how to do it. 


Similar to how a product or service’s reputation is determined by the consumer, your employer brand comes down to how your company is perceived as an employer. It has the power to attract the ideal candidate but also will dictate your reputation amongst existing employees, customers, within the community and amongst shareholders.  

How do you go about developing an employer brand? Through developing a solid employer value proposition (EVP).  

What is an EVP?  

An employer value proposition (EVP) is the overarching guideline to what both an ideal employee and the employer bring to the relationship. A properly crafted EVP will ensure that both parties have goals that are aligned and can help guide important business decisions.  

Establishing an appealing internal and external employer image requires an understanding of the audience that it is trying to reach, and specifically what will resonate with them. Only with this information, can the company begin to define its unique employer value proposition (EVP) that it offers to top talent. Without it, the employer brand cannot be established and effectively promoted.  

Why You Should Care 

Simply put, it impacts your startup’s bottom line. When employees feel valued and invested in your company, they are happier. Happier employees have been proven to be more productive. More productive employees mean a better ROI for your company.  

And if that doesn’t convince you, the job market will. The power has shifted (and continues to shift) to the candidate (but we don’t have time to get into that right now, so click here to learn more). Top talent has their choice of incredible companies and if your message isn’t speaking to them, they will click right by. An EVP is paramount to ensure your talent pool remains filled with the right people for your business’ success.  

The Five Step Process for Creating a Successful EVP 

While Pivot + Edge offers a full-service experience for startups to ensure proper EVP development and implementation of employer brand findings, we are giving you all of our tips for you to do it yourself—and if you find yourself stuck…well, you know where to find us.  

Step 1: Assess the current situation. 

We are starting off with a very simple step: gather everything that you have. This includes everything from job posting templates used in the past to company mission statements. This information will be extremely important for understanding any misalignment between the employees’ perception and the employer’s goals and the right types of questions to ask in your EVP research interviews. 

During this step, also take the time to review all social channels being used: LinkedIn, Google My Business, Facebook, Instagram, Glassdoor, etc., paying close attention to what is currently being said about and by your company.  

Step 2: Assume nothing.  

Even if your startup has values you feel are lived within the company, it’s important not to assume those are still accurate. 

Although employee surveys to determine overall feelings regarding values can be helpful, they cannot provide the in-depth perspective that a candid conversation with an employee can produce. This is an area that you may want to outsource (shameless plug, hire Pivot + Edge to do this for you) as your employees need to feel comfortable to express concerns and their honest thoughts without fear of repercussion.  

Depending on the size of your startup, our recommendation for the number of employees to be interviewed (and whether an additional survey is necessary) differs. It is important the employees selected for EVP research are diverse and representative of the best talent on your team—you want more people just like them so let’s find out why we have them in the first place.  

Your startup needs to understand what value it offers to current and prospective employees. To truly understand the nature of your best people, you must become familiar with the beliefs and key drivers that appeal to them the most. Documenting this research into an ‘employee persona’(a marketing term used to describe a fictional person who best represents your target customers) will help you build a picture of what your top talent looks like. . However, for your EVP, instead of customers, your persona will be of the ideal employee.  

Once you have your persona, you’ll have a better sense of where to look for them, how to approach them, and how to promote your employer brand to them. To get started, consult with members of your executive team to better understand their take on the ideal employee. Use this information to identify between three and five of your top performers, which you believe are the best fit with the company’s culture and are highly competent in their role. Schedule some time with them to understand:  

  • Their motivations 
  • Their career aspirations 
  • Their core values 
  • The reasons why they continue to work for your company 
  • What do they tell their friends about your company? 
  • Where do they socialize? 
  • What social channels do they use?

Step 3: Compile everything.  

Once you have completed your interviews, surveys and gathered messaging previously or currently used, it is time to compile everything. This way, your startup will have a better understanding of what aspects are aligned and where shortcomings might be.  

Now, it’s time to create a persona of your ideal employee—based on your best people and those who you want to attract. Understanding how and why candidates search for jobs is key to attracting and engaging people at the right time. Being aware of what kind of candidates you are courting–both active and passive–is essential to understanding what a candidate is looking for in their next role.  

While drafting your personas, it’s important to keep an open mind. You’re looking for a good culture fit, not just a clone of your top employees—if this isn’t approached correctly, you run the risk of stifling diversity. Once you settle on your personas, you have successfully found your target audience and you can begin to tailor your message. 

Step 4: Look for the patterns.  

An EVP is a careful combination of what a company would like its values to be and what the values of a company’s current, star employees actually are. Nothing in an EVP should be developed at random. Imagine you are writing a book report and for every point or theme you attempt to prove, you must provide supporting quotes from a multitude of places from within said book. 

Your conversations with top current employees will be your source for proving the top three to five values of your company. Why three to five? Anything below three lacks a differentiating factor, anything over five will get lost and will not be fully lived by employees.  

There are many, many types of employer brand wheels that can help you determine what your ideal employees value most. If you are struggling to find evidence of a specific factor, often times that is not a strong enough differentiator to be among your core values. 

Your EVP should be the foundation for all external and internal communication with talent. Optimizing it means ensuring that you have included attributes and communication themes that are attractive, credible, sustainable, and that allow for differentiation in the long term.  

It’s important to put emphasis on your purpose rather than the perks you offer. Your brand is most powerful when it invokes a feeling that your target audience resonates with. A hesitation that many candidates face when considering a new position is not knowing what it’s actually like to work for the company they are applying to. Not sure how to communicate your company culture – check out another resource from the Pivot + Edge team here. 

Step 5: Make it sound good.  

Without sounding too blunt, if it doesn’t sound like a place you’d want to work, neither will your ideal candidate. That being said, one of the main purposes of your EVP is to be unattractive to the wrong candidate; therefore, your brand values and messaging should not sound good to everyone. Being specific and accurate will help improve the hiring process and improve employee longevity.  


Statement 1: ‘We offer unlimited time off.’  

Statement 2: ‘As a team we work hard until the job is done but in return we respect employees’ personal time and ensure a strong work-life balance with unlimited vacation time.’ 

Statement 1 is enticing to everyone, unlimited vacation time, who wouldn’t love that!? Statement 2 however suggests to a potential candidate that they might need to work longer days, evenings or weekends to make sure the task gets done on time but that the company values time off as well. One statement sounds good to everyone; the other will help weed out candidates who want to work the traditional work week and go home on time every day.  

Candidates want to know what it’s like to work for the company and if they will feel a sense of purpose while working there. With an articulated, credible, EVP, new generations of exceptional talent will be drawn to your company by your compelling employer brand. You won’t just attract good employees—you’ll attract the best fits for your team.  

Your EVP must come from research and the understanding of how potential candidates currently view your company in the marketplace. By appropriately reflecting your company’s culture and values, and what it’s like to work there, you will be more likely to attract talent who share similar values and who are likely to be satisfied in their role for a longer period of time. Your EVP should be a simple overarching statement that will become the essence of your employee experience and employer brand commitment. 


By taking the time to truly understand your business needs and defining your ideal candidates (based on business needs, culture fit and critical competencies, your in-depth understanding will ensure your communication to them will be more effective. Furthermore, giving your team a chance to tell their story will provide a window into your culture, get people talking, peak interest and create excitement amongst the talent pool around working for your company. A holistic communication, marketing and talent sourcing plan is required to ensure your company is getting the right kind of talent on board, aiming to establish a perception amongst your stakeholders and talent pipeline of your company as an employer of choice. 

For everything you need to know about developing an employer value proposition (EVP) for today’s startup candidate, download our free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Startup Employer Branding or schedule a time to speak with our team about our full-service offering today.  

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