How Employer Branding is Incredibly Similar to Dating

Here’s an image your employer branding brain is waiting to capture: employer branding is like dating – so much like dating.

Let me explain because the logic will deepen your laughter lines.

In employer branding and dating, first impressions and gradual, genuine connections pave the way to long-lasting relationships.

I want you to explore how the principles of dating mirror effective employer branding strategies, particularly through the lens of the Magnetic Employer Branding Method™️, a pioneering approach tailored for the information era.

Employer Branding Is The First Impression: Starting Conversations

Imagine you’re at a vibrant party.

You engage in light, intriguing conversations with several people but only exchange numbers with those who spark a particular interest, if any. These days, you have to be careful about whom you give your contact details. After all, plenty of takers do not equal plenty of quality.

Not in contacts, conversations, comments, or content. Most of the blah-blah in your bubble seems totally rubbish and a waste of time, making it more difficult for you to recognise who you want to stay in contact with.

This initial interaction in employer branding is equally crucial for any hopes of future contact.

When you first meet someone new, do you want that person to take over the conversation and start promoting themselves or their work to you?

Absolutely not.

You don’t want them too deep or heavy in the conversation, either. Small talk is what you expect at this stage. Light-hearted chat and laughter are enough.

That’s why the first impression is the worst time to start promoting your vacancies or anything else you might want from your new acquaintance unless you want to see their backs moving on very quickly.

Employer branding starts with creating first impressions through light-hearted small talk.

The first phase is about creating interest and curiosity, letting potential candidates—or “dates”—get a sense of who you are (as an organisation) and decide if they want to spend any more time chatting with you.

Employer branding is about leaving an impression that makes others want to reconnect with you and are delighted to see you – or content – the next time

Employer Branding is Building Awareness: Establishing Mutual Interests

Okay, you had a lovely time at this dinner party last night. You were placed next to a wonderful person who was fun, thoughtful and a breath of fresh air in how they showed interest in getting to know you.

They left you curious because, unlike most people—or employers—you meet like this, they did not try to get anything from you, not even your phone number. Hmm, what if they were not interested in you at all?

Now, that is going to make you even more curious about them. Thank you, social media and Google Lens. You’ll do a bit of research to find out more about this person (or organisation).

Hmm, it looks like we have some common interests, and we also have mutual acquaintances, interesting and promising!” you think to yourself.

A few weeks pass, and you see this person again by chance! They are speaking at an event you attend, and you agree with what they talk about. Their views, perspectives, and messages resonate with you.

After the event, there is a cocktail hour. You bump into each other and continue your light-hearted conversation from where you left.

You find yourself so intrigued by this person because they seem unbothered to want anything from you but to get to know you better. How refreshing!

That same evening, you start following them on social media, and they do the same right back.

Social media allows you to keep tabs on them, learn more about their interests, views, values, and beliefs, and like what you learn. You look at their pictures and content and become convinced you want to meet with them again.

The next step in dating – and employer branding is to deepen the connection.

This doesn’t involve a hard sell of your qualities or achievements.

Rather, like discussing shared interests on a second date, this phase focuses on mutual values and beliefs.

Conversations might centre around how your (company’s) vision for the future aligns with their career aspirations and life goals.

Now that you are better acquainted, you will know whether you want to continue dating this person (or company).

Your following dates and encounters continue with the vibrancy of new connections and the curiosity to seek mutual interests, likes and dislikes before you are ready to go exclusive.

Employer branding is truly like dating here, too. You continue to cultivate this budding relationship, offering regular touch points to learn whether you make a good match. You ensure things stay light and fun until both are ready to cross that bridge.

Getting to know someone takes time, and you are in no hurry to commit to anyone now. When the time is right, you will evaluate your need and interest to get exclusive with this person.

What would quickly turn things sour is this other person pushing you to the commitment or decision-making stage faster than you are ready.

Just like in employer branding, you’ll date casually as long as it feels good and until it’s time to make that deeper connection with this one or someone else.

Employer Branding is Growing Affinity: Building Trust and Engagement

As the relationship deepens in dating (or employer branding), individuals become more open to sharing their personal stories. As trust begins to grow, you feel more comfortable showing vulnerability.

Similarly, interactions become more personalised in the affinity phase of employer branding.

Personalised interactions may equally involve one-on-one discussions of more personal and vulnerable topics or more personal addresses to individuals in the target audience.

Your audience might interact more frequently with your people or content online and offline, participate in social media discussions, or attend events you host. They may also advocate for you and want to become an external part of your tribe wearing your business gear.

In the dating game, this is where you become exclusive, start spending more and more time with each other, make it “Instagram official”, and give each other matching bracelets to wear.

This phase is about fostering a sense of belonging and trust.

At this stage, employer branding turns passive followers into active participants—your brand ambassadors. They’re interested and committed and ready to advocate for your organisation and be as close to you as possible, much like introducing a significant other to friends and family.

Employer Branding is Gaining Value Conversions: Making the Commitment Valuable for Both Parties

I believe employer branding is pointless unless you can prove it to deliver business-worthy value. If you think about all those steps before this point, you hopefully have given more than expected from the other party. But now, it’s time to make sure your commitment and investment in your audience returns value.

What is business-worthy value?

Not the number of followers on LinkedIn or any other social media or how many impressions your most recent post received. Business-worthy value is not even your victorious winning of an employer branding award – unless you can turn that exposure and sign of trust into business-worthy value.

What is the returned value in the dating game?

It is a reciprocation of your admiration, loyalty, companionship, support, camaraderie, affection, and love. It is that feeling of coming home and being able to be the real you. You are welcomed and loved unconditionally just the way you are. You feel you are on the same side, sharing mutual values, goals, aspirations, and desires for a future now yours together.

Value conversion occurs when individuals are ready to take the ultimate step: moving in together, getting engaged, applying for a job, accepting a position offered, and being welcomed joyfully to a place that feels safe and inspiring.

This is the culmination of building a relationship based on mutual respect, trust, and shared values. It’s about committing.

Maintaining the Relationship

Just as in a long-term relationship, the journey doesn’t end with “I do.”

After someone joins your organisation or marries you, the focus shifts to retention and deepening the commitment, ensuring you both choose each other repeatedly.

How does one maintain the employment relationship?

In my opinion, the same way as one maintains a personal relationship. You continue to build trust and stay loyal to each other. It’s not a game of me-me, but what works best for us sometimes requires compromises for mutual benefit.

We work on all relationships, ensuring ongoing engagement and recognition and providing a fulfilling environment for each other to blossom or heal. As our values, expectations, and shared goals align, we respect and treat each other with the best intent; our relationship has room to grow.

Sometimes, we find that those values, beliefs, and expectations no longer match. This happens in life and at work. Even though, in dating and building a Magnetic Employer Brand, the journey is about making meaningful connections that last—as long as they are meant to last.

In all relationships, how we end things impacts how we continue to perceive each other and how others perceive us through our experiences. I have never ended a personal or work relationship on a bad note by my own will. I’ve always told my employees never to burn bridges behind you, as you will find them in front of you one day.

By applying dating principles to your employer branding strategy, you can transform potential candidates’ perceptions of your organisation, turning initial interest into a lasting commitment.

This approach isn’t about filling positions; it’s about attracting the right people who will thrive in and enrich your company culture and organisation.

So, just like in a good relationship, make every interaction count and build those connections that turn your relevant talents into loyal employees one day.

Learn more about this exciting “dating game” of employer branding from episode 180 of our Building a Modern Employer Brand podcast.

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