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Best Question to Discover Your Employer Brand

2 min read.





Employer Branding

As an employer brand researcher, one of your main goals is to uncover the authentic employee experience within an organisation.

It's easy (and pointless) for companies to present a glossy, soft-focus view of their culture, focused on all the perks and benefits. Do that, however, and you will never create a team that is aligned with your organisation’s strategic objectives.

And that means increased regrettable loss, expensive recruitment overheads and losing your best people to competitors.

Enhance Your Employer Brand

Learn From Employee Experiences

The job of an employer brand strategist in workshops and interview sessions is to unearth the real truth about an organisation and its culture and, in particular, what motivates its workforce to overcome the unique set of challenges, big and small, that come with every role.

It’s not so much about hearing gripes about the coffee machine that doesn’t work properly, the unreliable IT or the troublesome commute, it’s about personal stories, personal motivations, and emotional connections.

There's so much more depth beneath the surface. So, when you find a seam full of emotion, here’s how to mine the gold from it.

In sessions interviewing employees and leaders, always start by asking a version of this key question: "If it was your job to dissuade somebody from joining this organisation, and you couldn't lie, what would you say?"

It's an almost magical prompt. When invited to be bluntly honest, people suddenly want to talk. The floodgates open wide. You will hear openly about the relentless deadlines, the lack of work-life balance, the dysfunction that gets brushed under the rug. It's never all sunshine and rainbows.

This is the good stuff - the real employer brand gold. It creates safety and signals that criticism is welcome, which builds the connection and trust needed for vulnerability and authentic sharing.

After the venting, ask: "Okay, that sounds really tough. What's your greatest advice for someone starting here on how to survive and even thrive?"

Then we transition to tapping into people's pride, celebrating strengths and resilience. The same person complaining a minute ago starts proudly sharing all about their capabilities to handle challenges. You will hear inspiring stories of grit, growth, camaraderie and persevering through adversity.

Finding the Heart of Your Organisation

Finally, ask: "Given everything we've put on the table, the good and the bad, why do you stay?"

This is when we get to purpose, impact, belonging - the heart of the culture. People share emotional stories of fighting through the hardest parts of the job because of belief in the mission, love for team-mates, drive to keep growing. Many end up crying as they tap into the profound meaning that the work brings them.

And in all honesty, that’s exactly the reaction you’re reaching for. The best measure of a session like that is how many in the room end up with tears in their eyes after telling you a very personal story.

In an hour, you will go on a journey from sarcastic criticism to vulnerable truth-telling and on to grateful reflections on fulfilment at work. Forging real human connections. That is employer brand gold.

Asking "What would you say to dissuade someone from joining?" and genuinely wanting to hear the answer, unlocks authenticity and emotion. It reveals the shared struggles and triumphs that show the organisation's soul.

This is how you strike gold to tell the real employer brand story.

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