Your Corporate Website Is Boring Applicants

The Current State

In general, most corporate careers sites vary from boring to downright embarrassing. The vast majority of those in existence are essentially online brochures that are not very convincing or even informative. They currently serve as little more than a wrapper for a series of data entry screens that get applicants to enter the information required by the firm's applicant tracking system. Their current purpose seems to be to simplify the workload of recruiters and not to service applicants, answer their questions, or to "wow" them.

As competition for talent escalates on a global basis, organizations that seek to thrive by attracting top talent will need to radically rethink their approaches to leveraging Web technologies to support their recruiting strategy. The corporate careers website has tremendous possibilities, but its current development seems to be hampered by low expectations, excessive benchmarking (see, their careers page isn't any better), and a lack of vision on the part of HR leaders.

Corporate careers sites progress at a glacial speed. Advanced careers websites can allow a firm to provide in-depth and personalized information to potential applicants. In addition, the Web also allows the firm to provide multilayer information to potential applicants to satisfy any level of curiosity. Unfortunately, the majority of current corporate careers sites don't take advantage of the Web's multitude of selling capabilities (see the list of advantages below). Fortunately, HR leaders can learn what is possible from the many great non-HR websites exactly what it takes to deliver a compelling, value-driven experience to the visitor.

16 Reasons Why the Web Is a Powerful Recruiting Sales Tool

There are many reasons why the Web is a superior way to provide information about the firm and its jobs to potential applicants. The advantages over newspaper ads, brochures, posters, etc. include:

  1. It is current. It can be updated instantly with new information at a very low cost.
  2. It fills the senses. Unlike print media, the Internet can leverage striking visual displays combined with sound and video to deliver an engaging sensory experience. In short, it can make you feel like you are actually there at the firm, even though you are 10,000 kilometers away.
  3. It provides global access. The Web is the only recruiting tool that can actually reach the entire worldwide population of potential applicants. No amount of cold calls from a stable of recruiters could reach this population. No newspaper ad, magazine article, recruiting brochure, or poster could also ever be seen by such a large population, 24/7. For access, it's simply number one.
  4. It can provide many layers of information. Depending on the interest level and time availability of the visiting person, the options regarding the level of detail or level of information offered to the visitor can be extensive. The level of detail options offered to each visitor can range from a short "It takes just 10 seconds to scan" bullet point to "As much detail as you like" by providing, for example, a PDF of a 30-page research study written by your firm on the same topic, for those who really want more in-depth information.
  5. The format can vary from the narrative to the visual. The Web allows you to vary the format that the information is presented in. Ranging from information provided in simple text format to links to other sites, still pictures, audio podcasts, videos, or even to real-time interactive discussions, the format options are amazing.
  6. It can be interactive. It can be powerful because it can offer interactive features that engage the visitor. These features include live chat, video games, questions and answers, virtual meetings, or even employee blogs, all of which can be compelling.
  7. Information can be targeted. Information can be narrowcasted or customized to meet the unique needs of visitors from different demographic groups or geographic regions. Information can also be tailored to meet the unique interests of both the active job looker and those not currently in a job search.
  8. It can help build relationships. The Internet allows you to easily build long-term relationships with people who initially are not very interested in your firm or a new job. Relationships can be strengthened by sharing e-newsletters with potential applicants, through blogs, and with employee profiles.
  9. It costs little. Once built, maintaining a well designed site is relatively inexpensive.
  10. It highlights your technology capabilities. By providing a website with the latest technology features, you can demonstrate, better than any words can, that your firm "walks the talk" when it comes to using the latest technology and Web tools.
  11. It offers multi-language capabilities. Information can easily be presented in multiple languages to serve a global audience.
  12. The message is consistent. Because a careers website is managed by a single HR manager, it is easy to find out what message is being sent out, as well as to ensure that a consistent message is being presented across business units and geographies. This central control also allows the firm, should the need arise, to shift the message quickly to fit changing talent market conditions or to counter a competitor's recruiting actions.
  13. Details can be provided inexpensively. At almost no extra cost, any amount of information about individual jobs or the firm can be provided. While in contrast, newspaper ads or job boards charge big bucks for any additional exposure.
  14. Linking is easy. The site can provide easy links to credible information provided by neutral third parties at no additional costs, such as award sites, benchmark or case studies, or articles that highlight the firm.
  15. It can be fun. Brochures and newspaper ads just can't be fun. A website can provide fun things ranging from video games and Dilbert strip links to virtual tours and top 10 lists to attract the interest of non-job lookers and those who want to work at a work hard/play hard firm.
  16. Word spreads fast. Because people who visit your site are already on the Web, it's relatively easy for them to virally let a large number of their colleagues and friends know about the "wow" features that they have just discovered.

Given the many advantages and the relatively low cost, it makes one wonder why so much of the corporate HR budget is currently spent on newspaper ads, brochures, posters, and slogans, instead of this more powerful tool. Perhaps it is HR's fear of technology or just that old habits are hard to break.

It's also important to note that contrary to popular practice, leveraging Web technologies is not a one-size-fits-all game. Which technologies are used and how they are deployed should change, based on your branding and recruiting strategy, the profile of the talent you are targeting and the organizations that you compete against for talent.

Visualize the Corporate Careers Site of the Future

The following list introduces website features that are possible using technology that exists today. While no corporate careers websites or their follow-up jobs page exhibit more than a handful of them at the present time, these are the features that you should be adding to your corporate webpage as your courage increases. The keys to selecting the right features for future site revisions is determining if they provide value to the visitor, are so powerful that they allow the visitor to "know the people" at your firm, and convey the energy and excitement at the firm.

18 Categories of Website Features or Capabilities

  1. The careers page is easy to find on the lead-in page
  2. Immediate "wows" to get their attention
  3. Quick identification features
  4. Initial classification of the visitor
  5. Features that provide personalized information
  6. Personalized features and expedited treatment
  7. Features for attracting employed top performers
  8. Features for attracting active job seekers
  9. Other information-gathering elements for all visitors
  10. Careers page features that sell them on the firm
  11. Jobs page features that sell visitors on this job
  12. Features that make it easy to find jobs
  13. Features that bring the firm to life and make the firm appear genuine
  14. Features that help assess job qualifications
  15. Features that provide feedback to candidates and that answer their questions
  16. Elements that help build the relationship over time
  17. Geographically localized features
  18. Other things to do related to the site, including metrics

Elements That Your Current Corporate Careers Site Probably Doesn't Have…But Someday Will

There are 127 suggested features or capabilities for the corporate careers website of the future. The best websites will, of course, have all the featured categories but not necessarily all of the elements from each category. If you think for one minute that these features are unrealistic or not necessary, you are probably part of the problem, as each already exists in some form on a website already.

The Careers/Jobs Site Is Easy to Find on the Corporate Lead-In Page

There is no careers or jobs page that has a chance to impress if no one can find it or if the minute that they do find it, there is simply no compelling feature to retain their interest. Here are some of the elements your corporate lead-in page must have if you expect to get a high click-through rate to the careers and jobs page behind it.

  1. On the Home Page. The link to your careers/jobs page must be clearly visible on the corporate website's home page.
  2. 10 Seconds to Find It. The jobs link must be easy to spot within 10 seconds.
  3. Fast Loading. When clicked, the link must load fast (within 15 seconds).
  4. No More Than One Click Is Needed. No more than one click should ever be needed to connect to the careers/jobs page. Multiple clicks mean a dramatic increase in page drop-offs.
  5. Job-Related Information on the Home Page. The corporate home page should contain at least one compelling bit of information that is relevant to a job seeker. This job-related hook is necessary so that the potential candidates don't drop off before even clicking on the careers/jobs page link. An example might be an image indicating that your firm is recognized as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" by Fortune Magazine.
  6. Links to Other External Sites. Not everyone will visit your careers page by way of your corporate home page. Obviously, you need links directly to your careers page on frequently visited niche and large job boards. However, you also need to survey your best performers in key jobs to identify what industry, business, and functional and general websites they visit on a regular basis. Attempt to put a link to your careers page on as many of these frequently visited sites as you can.
  7. Product Link. There is a careers/jobs page link on the firm's products and customer service pages.
  8. A Jobs or Careers Page Choice. When feasible, the company's home page should give visitors a chance to go to the careers page (with information about the company) or alternatively, go directly to the jobs page (where job openings are listed).
  9. An Accurate Search Feature. When jobs, careers, openings, positions, or other job search related words are entered in the search engine on the corporate home page, the jobs page must either appear at the top of the search results, or the page needs to open automatically.

    Immediate "Wows" to Get Their Attention

    The first thing you have to do when the careers/jobs page first opens is to grab visitors' attention by wowing them within the first 30 seconds. A "wow" is a piece of information or a website feature that is powerful enough to cause an individual to say out loud, "Wow." In order to qualify as a "wow," this element should be compelling enough so that they're willing to provide some basic information like their names and e-mail addresses. Under this "wow" feature, here are some of the elements that your page should contain.

  10. Firm Information. It provides "wow" firm information like significant growth in stock price, the industry rank of your firm's sales, awards won, listings of well-known customers, or any information about the firm that proves that you dominate your market or industry.
  11. Product Information. It profiles and provides examples of your breakthrough new products, product features, technologies, or innovations.
  12. Something Funny or Interesting. The careers page contains something that is funny, such as a humorous top 10 list or listing of famous people that use your product.
  13. A Memorable Web Function or Technology. The careers page should give visitors a chance to experience an exciting capability of the webpage. A memorable function might include a "boss button" that you can push/click on the screen that immediately changes the screen to an Excel spreadsheet (so that if your boss walks in, he or she won't know immediately that you are searching for another job). Another example of a memorable function might be an offer of an instant video skateboard virtual tour through the facilities with superstar Tony Hawk. An "offer" is the critical word here. You don't want to require the visitor to view multimedia content upfront (because slow download speeds can increase higher drop-off rates). Instead, the user should be able to control the launching of multimedia content. In every case, the level of technology on the site must match the technology brand image of the firm.
  14. Information about the Hiring Process. A "wow" feature can excite the visitor about the job search process itself. For example, the site could inform visitors about the average time-to-hire in order to demonstrate to them that if they take the time to apply, you will act quickly on any application.

    The key here is to never assume you have a "wow" feature or bit of information. Instead, test it to find out for sure. Also assume that "wow" features will get old quickly, and that such features will need to be changed regularly.

    Quick Identification Features

    If you successfully wow visitors, you should then be able to request some basic identifying and classifying information from them. This needs to take less than a minute to complete and will enable you to start profiling them even if they drop off the site. The quick identification features should contain some of these elements:

  15. The Visitors' E-Mail Addresses. Capture this first, so you can contact them later if they drop off in order to find out exactly why they dropped off. This feedback can help you improve the site to reduce future drop-offs.
  16. The Visitors' Names. If you can capture their names right away, you can use this information to conduct a search of your firm's who's-who database to see if these visitors are matches on your firm's "most wanted" list. In addition, once you have the names of people who initially had an interest, you can later conduct an external Google-type search to find more about the people in cases where they drop off before giving you their resumes.

    Initial Classification of the Visitor

    Next, the site should try to gather information through a series of optional checkboxes that can be used to classify and prioritize the visitor. The number of checkboxes that a firm uses depends on whether it has decided to give priority or special information to individuals who fit into certain categories. If provided, this information can automatically allow the website to change the information provided so that it is more relevant to the category that this individual falls into. This information can tell you quickly whether the visitor is worthy of immediate special attention (e.g., he is a customer, former employee, or referral). Some of the elements that you should consider under this classification include:

  17. High Level of Experience. Have a checkbox where they can note their number of years of professional experience. In most firms, individuals with more than 10 years of experience in the industry would almost always be worthy of an interview.
  18. Their Current Firms. Include a checkbox to identify if they currently work for a desired firm or other company. Obviously, individuals who currently work at targeted firms would get a higher priority.
  19. Interest in a High-Priority Job or Region. Use a checkbox where they can mark whether they are interested in a high-priority or hard-to-fill job (from a list of high-priority jobs). If they are, information designed to excite them about a high-priority job might be provided. In addition, candidates might get an on-screen note that lets them know that for this job, you will act quickly on any application. There could also be a checkbox that would reveal whether they are living in a hard-to-hire geographic region.
  20. A Current Customer. Consider a checkbox where visitors can identify themselves as current customers. If so, they might receive a higher level of customer service and responsiveness so that, if they're not hired, you don't lose them as customers.
  21. Targeted University. Have a checklist where they can choose which university they last attended (from a list of desirable universities). If they attended a target university, their application might be expedited. Students who are close to graduation could also be allowed to check a box that would identify their interest in internships or college-hire positions.
  22. Employee Referrals. If visitors are referral candidates from an employee, they are identified and classified for special treatment, in part because employees expect their referrals to be responded to quickly and treated with respect.
  23. Calculate Their "Probability Scores." After the classifying information is provided, the website should calculate their "probability scores," an indication of how likely it is they could be hired by your firm.

Join us next week for a look at features that provide personalized information and treatment, as well as features targeted towards top performers and active job seekers.

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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