Your Corporate Website Is Boring Applicants (Part IV of IV)

Features That Bring the Firm to Life and Make the Firm Appear Genuine

Most careers sites provide little more excitement than reading a paper brochure. One of the goals of the website should be to include information that brings the firm to life and makes the work experience seem genuine (e.g., real or more believable). This information differs from "wow" features in that these elements are more down to earth and focus more on the operational aspects that a potential employee might be interested in. Some of these elements have also been mentioned in other parts of this article, so the purpose of this section is to show how, in combination, they can make the firm appear real or genuine.

  1. Understand the Company's Direction. This element provides the potential candidate with some insight into where the company is headed. It might include the company's stated goals and announced geographic and product expansion plans. It also lists the firm's strategic partners. It might also include a link to the annual report.
  2. Profile of the CEO. Applicants often want to know if the CEO for whom they will work is a real or down-to-earth person. Providing a profile of not just his work history, but also of his hobbies, community work, and recreational interests can make the company's leader seem more genuine. The website can also include links to his or her recent speeches or even a video of what the CEO says when welcoming new hires.
  3. Understand the Company's Employees. In order to ensure that the potential applicant gets an insider's perspective, links to blogs written by company employees are provided. Employees who have positive profiles on social networking sites could also be listed.
  4. Understand the Company's Products. This element highlights the company's product lines. It profiles some innovative products and their features and provides links to product specifications. Dates and locations of product demonstrations and announcements are also provided in case the individual wants to experience the products firsthand.
  5. Know the Company's Customers. This element provides information on the customers who buy the firm's products and services. This information can be powerful if it demonstrates that your firm's products and service offerings are so good that the best firms use them.
  6. Exciting Equipment and Facilities. By highlighting unique and advanced equipment and software, you can excite individuals who are focused on the tools that they will have available to them. In the same context, unique or advanced facilities can also be profiled.
  7. Exciting Projects. By providing profiles of recent major projects, you can give potential applicants insight into the type of projects that they might have an opportunity to work on.
  8. Detailed Information on Employee Benefits. Rather than the generic list of employee benefits that most websites provide, links would allow the individual to learn additional details about specific benefits. In addition, your firm's benefits would be compared directly to those of competitor employers using a side-by-side chart. If the company's salaries are, on average, above mid-range, this information could also be provided.
  9. A Special Focus on College Students. The careers page should highlight (or provide a link to a separate university page) topics that are of special interest to college students. Information should be targeted specifically to current students, recent graduates with undergraduate degrees, and graduate students.
  10. A Special Focus on Different Generations. If your firm buys into the concept of generational differences, the website should contain links to segmented information that uses the language and focuses on the needs of the different generations.
  11. A Focus on Retirees. If your organization is targeting recent retirees for either part-time or full-time work, there should be profiles of employees who represent this group. There should also be links to information that would be relevant to this group of potential employees.

Features That Assess Job Qualifications

Few websites have the capability of quickly assessing the qualifications of individuals while they are active on the company's site. However, implementing this capability allows the website to customize the information provided and to change the application process to expedite those who are determined to be highly qualified. And, even though it's often difficult to get applicants to provide you with qualifying information without incurring a percentage of early drop-offs, the problem can be reduced if you continually excite them at every step of the application process. Key elements of this qualifying feature include:

  1. Assessing Their Fit. Advanced websites don't just assess an individual's qualifications. I also assess the individual's fit with the organization's culture, values, and way of doing business. This element can include a self-assessment tool that would allow the individual to determine for himself whether this was the right organization for him. If it's a required assessment, the need for it must be justified and it must be completed in less than two minutes. You can also let potential applicants know that if they are a match, their applications will be expedited.
  2. Technical Skill Assessment. It's becoming increasingly more common for firms to conduct technical skill assessments online. However, you must excite your applicants with a great employer brand or an exciting careers website if you expect most of them to take the time to go through a skill assessment process. You can certainly make it optional, allow for self-assessment (so that they can self-select out), or you can let individuals know that a good score will move their applications immediately to the top of the pile. Online simulations and games are good choices because they can be in themselves exciting. You can also link to sites that offer technical assessments.
  3. Judgment Assessments. You can provide careers page visitors with "what-if" scenarios, and assess them on the steps they take (or don't take) in response to the scenario's problem or opportunity.
  4. Mini-Questionnaire Interviews. Future websites will have the capability of providing the candidate with an opportunity to sit through a mini-interview. This online feature is essentially a short multiple-choice questionnaire that lasts under five minutes. It can be an optional feature or candidates can be made aware of the fact that a high score on it guarantees them at least a telephone interview.

Features That Provide Feedback to Candidates

Most websites are one-way communication tools. That impersonalizes them and makes them less effective. So, it's important to provide immediate and accurate feedback whenever possible if you want candidates to believe you're being honest with them. Some of the elements of this feedback feature include:

  1. Instant Feedback. Little excites potential candidates more than immediate feedback indicating they are the type of person that your firm is looking for. Positive feedback encourages them to stay on the website and to eventually take the time to apply for a job. If you decide not to provide feedback to every applicant, the website should, at least for highly-qualified candidates and those applying for hard-to-fill jobs, automatically provide positive feedback whenever the candidates provide information that indicates that they meet or exceed the firm's expectations.
  2. Live Q&A. Websites can have the capability of live chat, in which questions can be posted and answers can be immediately typed in by someone on your recruiting staff. This ability to get instant answers to "your" questions sends a clear message to potential applicants (even if they don't take advantage of this feature) about your responsiveness and your interest in them. Other Q&A options include "next day" responses and posting frequently-asked questions on the site.
  3. Probability of Success Feedback. At any time during the process of providing information, individuals could be notified of their approximate likelihood of getting an interview (e.g., "Based on the information you have provided so far, you have an 85% chance of getting called in for an interview"). This probability is relatively easy to calculate based on the qualifications of previous applicants for jobs that were granted interviews.
  4. A Phone Link. When highly-qualified candidates or those who apply for hard-to-fill jobs visit the website, they could automatically be provided with a telephone number or a VOIP connection to a recruiter (or your call center), so that they can get an immediate and personalized response. (For example, "Mr. Woods, we'd love to have you on our golf team. Can you call this number immediately so that we can talk further?) Text messaging can also be used to communicate with potential applicants who are not currently on a computer.
  5. Feedback After They Apply. Even after applications are completed, the website could provide e-mail updates to let candidates know where they are in the hiring process, and, on average, how many days until a final decision will be made.
  6. Referral Feedback. Candidates from employer referrals should get immediate feedback when they enter the website. The feedback should make them feel welcomed (they are prized because one of your employees prescreened and presold them on the company). Immediate and periodic feedback encourages employees to refer others based on the positive experiences that the colleagues they referred received.

Elements That Build the Relationship over Time

When you are attempting to attract either potential candidates who are currently employed or top performers who are in high demand, you should realize upfront that there is a low probability that you can even interest them in jobs on the first contact. Most of the time, these highly sought-after individuals must build up a level of trust before seriously considering a company. The best approach, whether you're utilizing a website or not, is to build a relationship with them over time. A website can help you begin to build this relationship. The key is to use their visits to your company's home page, product page, or careers page to get their permission to keep in touch. Not everything that your firm does to build a relationship will go through a webpage, but it is an important starting point. Some of the relationship-building approaches that can be utilized include:

  1. Send Them an E-Newsletter. Provide individuals who visit your website with the opportunity to opt-in and to give you permission to periodically send them a "friends of the company" e-newsletter. The purpose of the newsletter is to keep them informed about what's happening at your firm. It can contain information about new products, exciting projects, and other things that help build their respect for your firm (such as Google's "friends of Google" e-newsletter). You should also encourage them to sign up to receive company blogs or podcasts.
  2. Push Information on Updates to Your Website. No more than once a quarter, let them know about exciting features and information that you've added to your corporate website. Then, encourage them to visit and solicit their feedback.
  3. Push Opportunities to Attend Corporate Events. With their permission, send them invitations to corporate events in order to aid in the process of them getting to know you. Consider inviting them to new product announcements, executive speeches, internal corporate training classes, or even corporate parties.
  4. Provide Them with Your Products. You can send them trial or sample products or product discounts. This helps build the recruiting relationship because if they learn to like your products, it increases the odds that they will consider working at your firm.
  5. Push Jobs Announcements. This is the most job-oriented element of the relationship-building options. Ask for their permission on the careers or jobs page to periodically send them information and a link to the jobs that are directly relevant to them. Don't overdo it or you will lose them.

Geographically-Localized Features

If the corporation has openings in many locations, the careers site should have a feature that changes the information that is provided to the visitor to fit the region or country where the potential candidate either is currently located or where he or she wants to work. In addition to the geography-specific features mentioned earlier, here are some additional localization features to consider:

  1. Electronically Identify Their Locations. Start the localization process using their IP addresses to identify where visitors are coming from.
  2. Provide a Local Information Option. Whether or not the location can be determined, visitors should be offered the option to quickly identify their locations from a drop-down menu or map, and then immediately have the screen change so that it now provides localized information and jobs.
  3. Multilingual Capabilities. Make sure that all of your sites have multilingual and translation capabilities.
  4. Consider Regional Subpages. Some organizations choose to develop separate webpages that focus entirely on a particular country or region. Make sure that the information on these targeted sites is tailored to the unique needs and cultures of the candidates in that region.
  5. Facility Information. Make sure there are links to information about features of the local facility, the city, and its surroundings. Also, include information that might be relevant to the family of a new hire who is moving to the region.
  6. Localized Pay and Benefits. Include a link on your corporate or regional pages that allows individuals from around the globe to view and understand the local salary structure. It's also important to educate both locals and expatriates about the different benefits offered in this particular geographic region.

Other Things to Do Related to the Site

In addition to developing these actual features, there are some other things that you need to do in order to build a successful website. They include the following:

Metrics and Program Assessment

In order to identify website features and elements that work and those that don't, it's important to gather metrics and to assess results.

  • Measure the volume and the performance of those hired as a result of the site to determine if the website produces superior hires compared to other sources.
  • Ask new hires during orientation what attracted them and caused them to accept. Identify whether the website was a major contributing factor and, if so, what features were positively or negatively received.
  • One of the key metrics to use is one adapted from sales; it is called the conversion rate. It measures the percentage of participants in one stage that advance to the next stage of a predefined sales process. You should also track the percentage of all visitors who actually complete an application.
  • Track where candidates come from and go to (using a cookie) after they hit your site to see if you are attracting the right people.
  • Survey a sample of your visitors in order to identify your site's positive and negative features and to get a better understanding of what features should be added.
  • Track the percentage of visitors that drop off and how much time passes before they typically do so. Follow up with surveys to find out why.
  • Run an ROI analysis to identify the economic value of the website.
  • Use mystery shoppers (such as employees or vendors) to periodically visit your site to test to see if the sorting and other features actually work as designed.
  • Measure the satisfaction of website users (applicants, hires, drop-offs from the site, recruiters, and managers) and use the information in order to improve.

Miscellaneous Things to Do

In addition to metrics, there are some other things you should do in order to develop a world-class corporate jobs site. They include:

  • Before beginning the recruiting process, conduct a survey of top employees in order to identify what they would look for in a website and what frustrates them on a careers website.
  • Identify the websites (of any type) that your top performers visit the most and attempt to have your careers site link to them.
  • Realize that as corporations become more global, companies become larger, and travel becomes more difficult, remote hiring will become the norm. And, as a result, recruiting will require more remote (not face-to-face) finding and assessment tools, so include them in your site at the very beginning.
  • Form an advisory group of top performers to help you design and improve the website.
  • Get your site ranked or written about in leading publications, blogs, and websites (such as CareerXroads) in order to increase traffic.
  • Have your site evaluated by outside experts and targeted candidates. Make sure that it is unique and that it isn't your typical jobs page.
  • Compare your website to that of your direct talent competitors. Continually improve it to ensure that it gives your firm a competitive advantage. Where possible, design it so that it is hard for your competitors to copy it.
  • Link your company's "who's-who" database (a list of previously identified and highly-rated individuals) so that it can match the names of those who hit the website. When a match occurs of a previously identified target candidate, the website should morph to treat them differently.
  • Make sure there is a process to thank candidates for applying, and be sure to notify them when they're no longer being considered. In your database, forever store the names of key highly-qualified candidates and applicants for hard-to-fill jobs.
  • Consider offering a small gift or payment for submitting a qualified resume for a hard-to-fill job.

That's it. A "wow" careers site is a lot more than a simple front end to an ATS application. It is a mechanism to communicate and service a population of people that may someday work for your organization. Too many companies take the design of their careers sites too lightly, asking more about what it can do for them versus what it can do for candidates. A great effort takes resources, time, and lots of dedication. Best wishes in your next redesign.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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