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5 Changes BrewDog made to Fix its Candidate Experience

3 min read.


Lois Payne Lois Payne



Employer Branding

BrewDog has had a bumpy ride. After a scathing open letter from former staff members detailing the toxic company culture went public in 2021, the beer behemoth’s employer reputation was left in a precarious position. Something had to change.

Thankfully, with some dedication from its people team, the brewery was able to recalibrate, improve candidate experience, reduce time to hire and boost retention rates, all while rapidly scaling the business by 50% in a matter of months.


Here are five lesser-known tips from Matt Gough, Head of People Operations at BrewDog to help you strengthen your employer brand.

1. Automate

This is one of the biggest things that BrewDog has worked on over the last few years to improve its candidate journey and set up the recruitment process in an efficient and sustainable way.

According to Matt Gough, almost every stage of the recruitment process can be automated in some form, and to continue to do things manually rather than leveraging ATS (applicant tracking systems) is madness.

BrewDog’s people team is small (around six people for the whole company), so these few people need to focus on using their skills and knowledge to enhance employees’ journeys with the business, instead of doing the processes that could (and should) be done by automated systems.

After implementing more automation into its processes, BrewDog was able to reduce time to hire by four days, which works out at around 6000 days a year.

2. Put yourself in the candidates' shoes

When looking at your candidate journey, it’s important to assess things from every angle. Gough recommends getting to grips with how outsiders view your process and adjusting from there.

“And don't just do it yourself,” he advises. “Sit down with your hiring managers, go through your application process and see how slick it is, see where those barriers and pinch points are.”

He also recommends going through it with people who aren't in your business, such as friends and family.

“Ask for 20-30 minutes of their time to apply to a job of yours, get new, unbiased feedback on what your process is like from people who don't have a reason to say that “it's great” and “you guys are amazing.”

3. Give hiring managers autonomy

With a small team of six people across the world that handle the employee experience from “hire to retire”, there is no way that BrewDog would be able to recruit even just for one new site opening without delegating.

That’s why the team have focussed on giving hiring managers control over their own recruitment processes.

By empowering managers with a new system they can all access, managers can be more involved in choosing the people they want, at the right time and for the right pay rates.

“Some of that has given them a tiny bit more work to do,” Gough explains. “And yes, there's a little bit of buy in, there's a little bit more about explaining why you’re doing that, but once it’s done, they see the benefit to it, they can see turnover coming down, and they're starting to fill their vacancies with people who they absolutely 100 percent buy into. And they're doing it on their own terms, which is brilliant.”

This has massively helped BrewDog to reduce its average turnover from a 90-day perspective as well as a 12-month perspective.

4. Flip job adverts on their head

Traditionally, job listings focus on what a company needs from a candidate. They reel off a long list of responsibilities, requirements and desired skills before getting to their benefits.

BrewDog saw a spike in results when they strayed from the status quo.

“We've flipped it entirely so that the very first thing they see is what we're going to give back to them,” Gough says. “You might have a 2-page job advert full of things about the role and things you want a candidate to know, but the first two lines of that should be your benefits and what you’re offering. That makes you stand out among the other 20 job adverts.”

Since making this change, the pub chain has seen a 90% increase in application numbers for bar work.

This technique is just a quick attention-grabber, though. It’s not enough to increase attraction on its own. But, Gough explains, when used in conjunction with the culture, vision and value proposition it gets people genuinely invested in the role.

It drives them to “click into the job, instead of just clicking Apply.”

5. Celebrate your people

Something wasn’t working with BrewDog’s social media efforts. Initially, it was only posting on the LinkedIn account to celebrate its great, punky beer, but the team quickly realised that this wasn’t going to cut it; it wasn’t the content talent needed to see.

“It was really flat. It was really generic. It was just words on a screen,” Gough says.

After sitting down with managers, bartenders, and brewers, the team was able to better get to grips with the company experience, understand what made BrewDog’s offering so unique and hone the employee value proposition.

Now the organisation has a new approach. “We're trying to celebrate - celebrate the great people that we have, the journeys that we can offer them, and to try to bring those to life for people outside of the business.”

A final word

As an industry, hospitality has naturally high attrition, but the steps above have helped with BrewDog’s retention rates sit at a respectable 65-70%, compared to the average of 90-100%.

You might not be able to remove every single barrier that affects your candidate experience, but Gough encourages people leaders to think about how they can target the most important ones.

“How do you minimise those barriers?” he asks. “How do you make sure that you find the biggest barrier that's impacting people the most, that you can impact quickly? And what can you do about it?

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