Isobel Clarkson

Employer Branding with Isobel Clarkson

Date Published:
December 1, 2020

Head of People at Propeller, teaches us how to put the magic into hiring.

In our latest Giants Weekly session, we were joined by the Head of People at Propeller, Isobel Clarkson to learn how to put magic into the hiring process. Isobel covers the process at a granular level, then zooms out to focus on two ideas: that hiring is selling and that ultimately it will reflect the reality of your brand. Watch Isobel’s presentation in full below, or read on for our key takeaways.

The hiring process

“It’s easy to get lost in metrics, processes and the finer detail, but you have to remember the big picture” Isobel says. Her advice is to focus on these three things: why, who, how.


Why are you hiring? It sounds obvious but is often neglected. By defining why you are hiring, the candidate is much more likely to succeed as they know what is expected of them.


Define what skills would make someone excel at the role. Pick two or three essential skills, then judge candidates by these. It’s important when scoring that you allow for individual deliberation first as the power of groupthink is strong.


A clear process is essential. Propeller defines their process by a talent acquisition phase, a challenge (take-home problem), technical interview, topgrade interview and then references. The challenge is a good proxy for how much the candidate wants to work for you whereas the technical interview is a good proxy for their ability to think on the spot. These are two different traits you are measuring. The topgrade interview is a 90 minute session where you map the candidate’s entire career. Onerous as it is, it ensures you make the right decision before hiring. “Can you wait while something is still on fire to get the right person?”

“At the end of the day, you are not filling a role, you are building a business”
- Isobel Clarkson

Hiring is selling

The reality is that the best candidates have other job offers, this means the HR function must be a marketing one as well. Here are some tips to develop a superior HR ‘product’ :

  • Use founders/investors/mutual contacts to help you sell. E.g. Get your contact to take the candidate out for coffee and talk about why it would be great to work at your startup.
  • Use speed to your advantage: Your hiring process should be no longer than 2-weeks, speed is the best way to beat the tech titans like Google
  • Having diversity on the hiring panel helps to secure diverse talent
  • Use WhatsApp to message candidates and make them feel comfortable
  • Use metrics to judge effectiveness e.g. ‘100% of offers accepted’

Building your brand authentically

Your employer brand will bend towards reality. In the long run, marketing materials and fancy career pages will not mask what it is actually like to work for your business. People are the most important asset to building your brand. At Propeller, they managed to hire a renowned industry expert early on, attracting more engineering talent who wanted to work with them. This helped Propeller quickly develop a reputation for being a place to work with top performers.

As Isobel points out, great hires are the best way to attract more great hires - so thinking of your Employer Branding strategy as just that - a strategy - will ensure you’re building a strong team rather than just hiring your next role.

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