Top Career Websites Make Connections with Applicants

By Steve Bates Jan 6, 2014
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Job applicants are demanding more than ever from employers and from companies’ career websites. Those sites must be easy to use, accessible through mobile devices and foster a relationship with job seekers, experts say.

A new report by CareerXroads, a staffing-strategy consulting firm based in Kendall Park, N.J., finds that Fortune 500 corporate career sites have improved significantly since the consultancy first started tracking them, but many still have a way to go to maximize their effectiveness. As technology and job seekers’ expectations change, applicants—and talented people who are browsing career sites in anticipation of future job searches—may veer from companies whose career web pages do not result in a positive experience.

“Technology has made recruiting easier; companies have made it more complexthere’s no reason for that,” said Mark Mehler, a co-author of the report and co-owner at CareerXroads.

Experts say the best career sites:

  • Are easy to use. The “Careers” or “Jobs” button must be prominent on the corporation’s home page. Applicants should not have to click many times to reach the job description or other destination they seek. A one-click “Apply online” button on the careers landing page can be very effective.
  • Are accessible through mobile devices. Many people search for jobs on their phones but apply through PCs or tablets. Increasingly, however, applicants want to complete the whole process via their mobile device.
  • Are authentic. Slick professional videos and paid models won’t work anymore. Let actual employees tell the company’s story with video they’ve shot from their phones.
  • Follow the job candidate. Through rapid responses to applications and through outreach, such as employer participation in social media groups, businesses should try to establish and nurture a connection with each site visitor.

Many U.S. employers have displayed “an obstinate need for filtering out candidates, instead of filtering them in,” resulting in huge losses of potential talent, observed Shally Steckerl, president of the Atlanta-based Sourcing Institute, an online-courses provider.

Said Philippe Noelting, founder of Qwalify, a recruiting agency in the Kitchener, Canada, area: An organization that lacks a good career site and strong outreach will find itself back in “the dark ages of recruiting.”

Make It Mobile

The CareerXroads report, Fortune 500 Corporate Career Websites: How Far Have They Evolved?, explains that most large companies are “more job seeker-oriented” on their career web pages and are “revealing more about their culture, their workers, specific jobs and the steps job seekers must navigate to get them.”

However, the report notes that many companies do not provide enough resources or make it easy for candidates to find these resources. Lists of coming events, newsletters and information about jobs visitors might want to apply for are among the recommended resources.

Some employers “treat job seekers more as commodities than individuals,” and many “are not keeping pace with the shift to mobile,” notes the report.

Mobile technology is advancing rapidly, but applicants’ expectations are growing at least as fast. “You can’t just build [a career site] and forget about it,” said Matt Adam, executive vice president and chief talent strategist of NAS Recruitment Communications in Cincinnati. Optimization of sites for mobile devices is critical.

Technology helps in other ways, too. “We’re seeing companies targeting their audience and realizing how much that career website is an extension of their brand,” said Kevin Nanney, vice president of products for social media recruiting tech provider Jobvite in Burlingame, Calif. The career site “has become the ultimate marketing tool for recruiting.”

But it must be authentic and avoid vague claims, such as the company provides “a world of opportunity.” “If it feels too corporate, then people won’t be too interested,” advised Jen Powell, a San Francisco-based market awareness and brand cultivation lead for consulting-services firm Deloitte.

Power of the Applicant

According to some experts, the fundamental relationship between employer and applicant is changing. The candidate’s power is being boosted by an improving economy, the vast amount of information available about companies, and the continued development of social media. Applicants share information with friends about job openings and reveal their impressions of employers and career sites.

Not all career-site visitors have the same agenda, so businesses should “provide something that allows them to stay interested at the level they choose,” said Adam.

A candidate perusing a career site wants to determine “what’s in it for me” without spending a lot of time searching the site, explained Jeremy Eskenazi, SPHR, managing principal of Riviera Advisors, a recruiting and staffing consulting firm in Long Beach, Calif.

Experts say providing fresh content is less important than helping site visitors find exactly what they need. Job seekers highly value transparency about the recruiting process, including what happens after an application is filed. Some sites display a “candidate’s bill of rights,” which outlines what applicants can expect and how they will be treated through the application process, said Eskenazi.

Talent communities—groups of people with common interests, such as technology jobs—can be tapped or created by employers to foster strong connections with potential employees. Yet, only about 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies have recruiting links to social media sites, according to the CareerXroads report.

Every large company needs a social media recruiting expert, emphasized Jay Floersch, a recruitment-process outsourcing solutions architect for Aon Hewitt, based in Kansas City, Mo. “The business case for this is outstanding.”

Deloitte is among the companies cited by CareerXroads as having an effective career website. The corporate home page features a prominent “Careers” button; clicking on it opens an attractive landing page that needs no scrolling. The firm’s emphasis on working mothers and military veterans is apparent.

Yet, Powell noted, Deloitte can’t rest on its laurels, which is why it’s working to make its site more mobile-friendly and to improve its use of talent communities.

2014 Recruiting Resolutions

Heading into 2014, there are several relatively simple ways to make recruiting through career sites more effective, experts said.

“Make sure your job descriptions are concise,” recommended Susan Martindill, marketing director at online employment service Simply Hired in Sunnyville, Calif. Long ones, as well as those filled with arcane acronyms and jargon, can’t be searched effectively.

“Evaluate every resume and every application,” said Floersch. “In many ways it’s easier to implement this at small to midsize companies than at large companies.”

“Be more honest,” suggested Todd Raphael, editor-in-chief of ERE Media, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Show people what it’s like to work at the company—the good and the bad.

“Focus on the job seeker,” said Nanney. “What is the experience they are going through?”

Steve Bates is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area and a former writer and editor for SHRM.​

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