I recently read a news article about a Southwest Airlines flight attendant who had a young, female passenger with down syndrome. While speaking with the passenger during the flight, the flight attendant learned she had dreams of becoming a flight attendant. So, the Southwest employee started making calls, and just a few days later the young woman served by her side as a “flight attendant” assistant for a leg from Sacramento to Seattle, making her wish come true for a few short hours.

There was no incentive involved here for Southwest Airlines. There was nothing that would make investors swoon. There was no way that doing something like this for a passenger was in the employee’s job description. But at the same time, after reading this story, I was more likely to appreciate the Southwest Airlines brand, even if I’d never flown with the airline before.

Southwest Airlines turns down thousands of employee applicants each year because in order to recruit only those capable of upholding their brand. The company is highly supportive of individualism and empowerment—and taking action, like this flight attendant—which is why they’re able to maintain a strong employer brand. An employer brand refers to what employees and prospective employees say about your business and their work experience when you’re not around. In today’s competitive talent market, effective branding can create a sustainable competitive advantage for companies-and make a significant difference in who is interested in working for you.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss five suggestions, offered by Jeremy Eskenazi, a speaker, author and founder of Riviera Advisors, on how to leverage your employer brand.

1. Asset Assessment. Be honest: what are your strengths and weaknesses? How large is your company? Do you need people who thrive in an intense corporate environment, or do you want people who prefer a more stable career? What benefits do you offer? Is there opportunity for advancement? It is crucial to know this information and be able to articulate it clearly.

2. Employee Involvement. What is your organizational culture? Is it vertical, with top-down direction and little front-line input, or are decisions made on a broad, collaborative basis? Is there opportunity for creative thinking? Be aware of how your employees are interacting and empower them to share the story about how their individual efforts are contributing to something greater.

3. Competitive Assessment. What other organizations can your candidates work for? You need to know who your competitors are and what they offer. If another company offers higher wages, can you compensate with profit sharing or better benefits? Are there opportunities for you to be creative about your offering based on what your competitors are packaging for candidates? Stay ahead of the curve and provide benefits that are appealing to your employees and are not outshined by those of competitors.

4. Brand Positioning. You need to know where your organization fits in the overall market. Does your company compete on price, or are you targeting the upscale market? Are you known for promoting from within? Does your company have a reputation for treating women and minorities fairly? The comments left online are a good starting point for this, as are any internal surveys you run.

5. Brand Expression. This is the collective result of all the brand signals that are present in the marketplace and are picked up by consumers and candidates. Every element of your employer brand needs to be in alignment. For example, if you claim to care about the environment and candidates are offered Styrofoam cups when they arrive for an interview, you’d be surprised how much that can alter perceptions of your company and what you stand for.

In today’s competitive global economy, these five steps can help you find the candidates you need.

Source: Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, the author of RecruitConsult! Leadership and the founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique recruitment/talent acquisition management and optimization consulting firm. Eskenazi is helps global human resources leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies.