April 25 , 2019

RIP – Announcing the Death of the Corporate Careers Website

Five years ago someone asked if the adoption of social networks would lead to the demise of job boards. It was a great question, one that forced a number of people to ask: “Why would they? What value were they not delivering? How should they evolve?”

Today there are more job boards than there were five years ago, some of which are attempting to be more social, just as the social networks themselves are looking at how best to serve the employment space. While the job boards have demonstrated a steady pace of evolution, corporate career sites have not. Yes, the graphics are getting better and widgets here and there are displaying live feeds from social media sites, but in the end they serve up the same loathed experience they did five years ago.

Corporate career sites have never been compelling enough to capture an audience. Despite huge advances in content management, content aggregation/curation, and content sharing, most sites remain little more than a thin veil for the ATS-delivered online application. The always informative Doug Berg of Jobs2Web once shared in conversation that all research indicates someone desperately seeking new employment will ignore all content and go direct to whatever link is labeled with a variant of “apply now.” Knowing this, is it still worth it to build out pricy, glossy career sites no one is paying attention to when other avenues to apply are emerging?

I say emerging, because studies now show that about 20% of candidates find their opportunities via social networking, nearly 30% via employee referral, 25% via job boards, and another 10% via direct sourcing. On average, that equates to 85% of the external candidate pool arriving at the application from an origin point other than the corporate career site. Add to that university programs, event-based efforts, and occasional agency usage, and it’s clear the corporate career site is a questionable spend at best.

I’m arguing they don’t need to survive, and I don’t think those in the employment advertising world would be sad to see career sites disappear even though they are a huge source of revenue. The traditional career site costs a lot and is wrought with problems and shortcomings. Most career site development initiatives start out with unclear goals and an even more vague evaluation. If you’re interested at all in the future of recruiting, looking at the factors that are leading to the demise of corporate career sites might help you spot other “dinosaur” practices in recruiting and save your organization millions.

Reasons Why Corporate Career Websites Are Becoming Irrelevant

Just like job boards, some variant of corporate career sites will exist for years to come, but here are 20 reasons their value will continue to dwindle.

  1. There are superior ways to gather information — with the growth of social media, it is now much easier to find out what you want to know about a firm and its jobs. You can learn almost anything you want, including things an organization knows are true, but would never admit. Sites like glassdoor.com and jobvent.com provide an insiders view, and Glassdoor even provides you with a preview of the interview questions, interview answers, helpful tips, and what to expect during the interview process. Only a handful of corporate websites provide any description of what to expect during the interview. It’s even possible to find side-by-side comparisons with competing firms on external sites, something you’ll never find on a corporate site.
  2. Out of date with corporate HR budgets slashed, the design of corporate websites frequently remains unchanged for three to five years, during which there is virtually no content curation. The information on websites is painfully old, especially compared to the current information that is available on the Internet and through social media.
  3. There is nothing there for the non-job seeker – it’s no secret that 100% of the features and information found on most corporate career sites are designed for the “active” job seeker. Most career sites provide no value (i.e. learning best practices, becoming a better professional) for a working professional not searching for an immediate opportunity to visit.
  4. Authenticity — applicants want authentic and believable answers to their questions, and let’s face it, every word on a corporate career website is pure propaganda.
  5. The black hole — with a high rate of unemployment, the volume of resumes that a firm receives stresses the available resources. Because so many individuals apply for jobs they are obviously not qualified for, most recruiters are unwilling to spend much time searching the database of those that directly apply.
  6. They are referral killers the highest quality hire and volume of hires almost always come from employee referrals, a recruiting channel that is aided significantly by advances in social media. Research with early adopters of social media revealed a significant fact: when social efforts point contacts back to the career site your chance of conversion to an applicant are less than 1:10.
  7. They aren’t mobile friendly – a surprisingly large number of corporate websites cannot be accessed from a mobile device (the most powerful recruiting communications tool on the planet). Recruiting leaders that ignore mobile should be waterboarded. It’s unfathomable that creative agencies continue to leverage flash based navigation (invisible to most mobile devices) when HTML5 works.
  8. Honesty — potential candidates want to know about both positive and negative factors, but no one in legal or PR would let a single negative bit of information survive on a corporate-controlled site.
  9. Painful to lurk on – the abandonment rate (the percentage of visitors that leave a site prior to completing a profile/application) on corporate websites is 92%. Yes, you read that right. While most of the abandonment can be attributed to lack of compelling content and features, some of it can also be attributed to the huge gap in experience between career sites and other service-oriented commercial websites. The pictures are staged, the videos lame, and the news obviously written by an idiot. Absent are believable stories and compelling reasons why your organization is “different.” Zappos has learned how to tell stories on their site; you should check it out.
  10. Painful to apply for a job – often the process of filling out the application or posting a resume is painfully slow. (If I can custom order a new luxury car with hundreds of configuration options in minutes, why can’t I apply for a job in the same amount of time?)
  11. You can apply other ways – even if you decide to apply, you can easily apply for most jobs without ever visiting the site, because the same jobs are listed on numerous job boards.
  12. Many don’t have the features that candidates want – a significant percentage of corporate career sites lack blogs, videos, podcasts, and the live chat features that can often be found outside of the site.
  13. You can’t ask questions – career sites are designed for one-way communications. Corporations tell you what they want you to know. The best that most sites can do is to offer “canned” questions and answers, yet you can ask a variety of questions “live” and get answers on Facebook, Twitter, and Internet forums.
  14. Not global — in a world now dominated by global recruiting, most career sites are still primarily focused on the country and the language where the company is headquartered. Although jobs might be listed by country, the available information about the company’s facilities and jobs is likely to be painfully insufficient.
  15. Diversity is a joke although every corporate career site mentions diversity and has the obligatory diversity picture, most never provide targeted information relative to the specific interests and needs of diverse groups.
  16. Access to employees is not allowed – many corporate sites provide no employee profiles. However, those that do limit access and provide only one-way communications. None have the courage to provide the whole name of the employee being profiled and a means of contacting them.
  17. The job descriptions are vague — they are brief, incredibly dull, and they provide little information about the projects you will be working on and the team you will be working with. Most websites of course provide no avenue for getting more details about the job, the projects, or the team. If you don’t know the correct corporate job title for the job you are seeking, it may also take you an eternity to find the right job for you.
  18. No Amazon-like features – on a commercial site like Amazon, the visitor gets “prompts” informing you that others who have bought item A also bought item B. The “others like” feature if it was available could alert you about similar jobs that you haven’t considered and other information that you might not have viewed.
  19. Direct sourcing makes a website less necessary — as a higher percentage of corporate hires come from direct sourcing approaches (where recruiters proactively identify and target individuals), there will be less need for unsolicited applications.
  20. Uniformity and consistency drive away innovators — it is a common recruiting goal to attract the innovative and creative. Unfortunately, the level of consistency and uniformity is so pronounced on corporate career sites that anyone with an ounce of innovation or creativity in them will realize right away that this organization doesn’t tolerate variations and diversity. The words on the page might actually say innovation, but the monotonous page design and site layout sends a clearer message of massive corporate restrictions.

Final Thoughts

There are many defenders of corporate career websites, most of whom have a financial interest in their survival, but even they cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence that suggests the money spent on them might be better spent on other channels of communication/engagement. If you continue to buy into their value, you should be prepared to evaluate and prove their effectiveness at getting the people you need to apply to actually do so, because the vast majority of commonly used website metrics tell the opposite story.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, the glory days of the corporate career site are over.

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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