How to Craft a Clear Employer Brand

A Conversation with Jodi Burke, VP of HR

Chad Harrington
18 February 2016

Having worked in human resources in the entertainment industry for the likes of Sony and Paramount and in the auto industry with Honda corporate, Jodi Burke made a major shift when she moved into healthcare. 

Jodi Burke, VP of HR, City of Hope Image credit: City of Hope

Jodi Burke, VP of HR, City of Hope
Image credit: City of Hope

She now serves as the Vice President of Human Resources for City of Hope, one of only 45 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. 

The challenge for her in healthcare recruiting today is not the “lushly landscaped gardens and open spaces” of Los Angeles into which her team hires new recruits. 

The challenge for her team in healthcare recruitment today, Burke says, is the changing healthcare environment which includes legislative changes.

This blog will give you:

  1. A relevant example of corporate messaging
  2. A vision for clear employer branding
  3. Steps toward honing a clear employer brand

By reading this blog you will be better equipped to overcome challenges you face in healthcare recruitment with a clearer message.

Overcoming the Challenges of Healthcare Recruitment

We asked Jodi Burke what their team has done to overcome the two challenges of recruitment from current changes in healthcare. 

Burke said the key is clarity. The takeaway is to make your message as an organization very clear.

So how do you make an employer branding message clear?

1. Be authentic

“The key thing is it has to be authentic, because there’s always aspects of your culture that you’re trying to convey, which are the reality of what it is. Then, there may be elements of aspiration of what you’re trying to achieve or what you’re evolving toward. Ensure that you’re authentic.

“When I’m interviewing people it is not helpful for me to sell them on a picture that does not exist here. I’d rather be candid about the things that are our challenges and the things that are really great about our environment. Because if I sell them on something that doesn’t exist, the outcome is they come here and it’s not a fit and they will leave.” 


2. Hone employer values through focus groups

“When I came here to City of Hope, if you asked 20 different people what the values of City of Hope were, you’d get 20 different answers. And they were all similar; it wasn’t disparate; it wasn’t that people didn’t really understand the culture, but they just kind of articulated it in a different way. 

“One of the things that we went through was distilling down our values, and we did that by doing focus groups with employees and understanding their lens on the organization. And then, articulating what those values are. 

“The value of that process was that we really understood from an employee perspective, what their experience was, what made them happy to be here at the City of Hope, what were the behaviors they felt important for themselves and their colleagues to model. Then, we use that as part of our value proposition to candidates, and we use it as the common language for when we’re bringing people into the organization and enculturating them and helping them understand more deeply about our culture.”

3. Use multiple means to get that message out

“When we’re talking about different audiences and tapping into them, you can’t just define your message and send it out in one format—you’ve got to really modify it for your audience.

The mission of City of Hope: “to transform the future of health care by turning science into a practical benefit, hope into reality.”

“There’s different reasons why people come to City of Hope. The overarching reason is the mission, and it’s curing cancer and it’s treating patients. That manifests itself differently for different people: If you have a nurse, she probably has a different view of her tie to the mission versus someone who is doing cancer research in a lab. The nurses probably focus on patient care and getting a good outcome for that patient, and the researcher is focused on a broader, global issue of cancer.

“So it’s having a consistent message that’s authentic, but also modifying it for your audience so that it resonates with them specifically.”

What does clarity mean for talent acquisition? 

"We need to be very specific about where we’re headed as an organization and defining what those skills are that we need. Again, they have to be applicable to what we need today, but also what we think we’re going to need in the future. So really being clear about that is important, not only for us as we look at candidate profiles and what profile will be successful in our environment, but also part of that too, as I mentioned, is being able to articulate that to candidates that are looking at our organization and helping them to understand what we’re looking for today and what will be expected in the future. All of those elements are key."

Profile of City of Hope

  • Voted for 2015-16 as a best hospital for cancer treatment
  • 15 sites throughout LA: One medical center (Hospital in Duarte) then community practice sites elsewhere
  • City of Hope is growing and has many career opportunities in numerous fields such as nursing, research, allied health and business support.
  • “Founded in 1913, City of Hope is one of only 45 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation."
  • “Located just northeast of Los Angeles, lushly landscaped gardens and open spaces surround our leading-edge medical and research facilities in Duarte, CA. City of Hope’s community practices bring premier care to local communities in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties.”

My reflections on employer branding in healthcare

Burke says her goal for her Human Resources team is answering the question, “How do we support the people who are carrying out the mission of City of Hope?” 

Again, the mission of City of Hope is “to transform the future of health care by turning science into a practical benefit, hope into reality.”

How does City of Hope support their mission? It starts with clarity and moves out from there.


Chad Harrington is the Content Director at Relode, the human-powered job posting. He writes on all things hiring. Contact him through email. Follow Relode on Twitter for all blogs and company updates.