What’s the Difference Between Employer Brand & Consumer Brand? Ask AOL!

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—your consumer brand and your employer brand are NOT necessarily the same. Even if students are familiar with your consumer-facing brand, you’ll still need to work to show them what it’s like to actually work at your company.

This is certainly the case with companies like AOL, whose continued growth and expansion may not be on students’ radars.

We caught up with Chris Lesser, Lead of AOL Talent Sourcing Programs to learn about how AOL continues to build their brand on campus and strives to make the distinction between their consumer brand and employer brand.

Chris Lesser

Can you give us a brief overview of your company?

Size: Approximately 4,500 employees globally

Location: Worldwide with Headquarters in NYC. Other major offices in Baltimore, San Francisco, LA, Boston, Dulles, London, Dublin, Tel Aviv, and more.

About Us: At AOL, we’re in the business of making the Internet better. We’re a Brand Company, committed to continuously innovating, growing, and investing in brands and experiences that inform, entertain, and connect the world. The home of a world-class collection of premium brands including industry game-changers such as The Huffington Post, StyleList, and TechCrunch, AOL creates original content, allowing over 250 million visitors around the world to access the best collection of journalists, artists, and musicians on the web. Plus, in addition to innovative advertising technologies within AOL Platforms, we’re providing advertisers, agencies, and publishers the very best that digital advertising has to offer. We’re not just embracing the newest online technologies, we’re creating them.

Who are you responsible for recruiting?

Our team recruits currently enrolled students and recent college graduates in the US. We recruit a very diverse array of backgrounds including social media and editorial, business, marketing, analytics, engineering, computer science, and advertising.

How many graduates do you tend to hire in a typical year?

We hire over 300 Interns, Fellows, Pages, and Apprentices per year and have a history of converting about a third into full-fledged permanent positions.

What type of recruiting schedule do you work on?  

We hire for full-time positions on a rolling and as-needed basis. We hire interns for the fall and spring semesters and offer a summer internship program. We hire Sales Apprentices and Huffington Post Fellows on a rolling basis.

What types of recruiting activities do you participate in during a typical year?

Our typical recruiting activities include site visits, information sessions, conferences, networking events, résumé reviews, panels, club visits, career fairs, and various other activities that connect us with students, faculty, and staff.

For example, this past April, we were at the NYU Arts & Entertainment Industry Expo, the USC Annenberg Career Fair, the Fordham Careers Networking Night, and hosted Columbia University students for an onsite visit.


What are some of the challenges associated with university recruiting? How do you address them?

We receive an extraordinarily high volume of interest in our roles, which puts a heavy load on our team to review everyone. Additionally, many applicants lack the 1–3 years of experience our entry-level roles require.

Both challenges add up to a quantity vs. quality problem.

To address this, we’ve focused on more direct sourcing and partnering with specific clubs and student organizations that have historically yielded successful candidates for roles.

What are some of the advantages or benefits to university recruiting? How do you maximize them?

University recruiting has provided some great benefits. For one, our recruiters have the opportunity to hit a very large number of students/post-grads at once during on-campus recruiting efforts.

We’re also able to provide excellent brand education for alumni and undergraduates through our efforts. And, university recruiting gives us the opportunity to cultivate great young talent into full-time AOL employees and grow them within our company.

We’ve maximized these advantages by holding industry events, campus events, and partnering with internal teams to develop in-house programming events for our current and prospective Interns/Fellows/Apprentices/Pages.

What do you wish you’d known about university recruiting when you’d started?

That success is not directly correlated with how much money you spend on campus; creativity and meaningful interactions with students will always win the war for talent.

We believe that continued engagement pays off. In fact, we’re pioneers in creating and building talent communities to keep students informed about our business and our industry. Newsletters, social media groups (Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, Twitter followers), and event cross promotions are just some of the ways we keep the community involved and engaged.

What role does your consumer brand have in your university recruiting efforts?

Brands like Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and StyleList garner a ton of undergraduate and post-graduate interest. And while individual brands sometimes speak louder than our overarching brand, AOL is extremely well known and has a very large reach as well.

Our consumer brand and employer brand do differ. AOL has evolved quite a bit in the past five years and people haven’t necessarily caught up with the amazing things we’re doing in the content, video, and advertising space to provide great consumer experiences.

Our employer brand is really centered on creating a culture that helps us continue to support and enhance our consumer brand. Our employer brand is focused around the authentic employee experience—the reach of our work, the creativity, our Values, our culture—the reasons why people join and stay here.

The next step: Chris talks about the importance of building talent communities to stay in touch with students and inform them of all the exciting things that are happening at your company. Do you already have a talent community in place? If so, create a plan for the types of content that you could share with its members. If you don’t have one in place, be sure to check out our post on talent communities.

Find out more about AOL’s university recruiting on Facebook, Twitter (AOL Interns and AOL Community), LinkedIn, and on their blog.

Images courtesy of AOL. 


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