Two years ago, I applied for a job at a very well-known retail company. I was applying for some web or marketing job, and I had to run the hour-long ATS application gamut. The futility of having to re-type my resume into a system (again!) – hoping that it wouldn’t fail on some level, that I wouldn’t have to re-re-type every word – made my job search process feel like an ordeal.
But at the thank-you page, instead of getting bland pabulum about how super-excited this brand was to review my resume, I got something completely different. I got a marketing message asking: now that I had filled out a job application, would I like to go shopping? They even included a 10% off coupon.
How effective do you think it was to pitch a sales message at someone who just survived the ATS application? It seemed to say to me, “Hey, you’ve just wasted an hour of your life with us, so why don’t you spend some money now as well?”
Tone deaf doesn’t even begin to cover it.
But this was a site in which the marketing department clearly owned the career site and called all the shots. It was an extension of the corporate store. And while marketing can do an excellent job driving buyers to a store or e-commerce site and convincing them to buy, it’s simply not the same as what you need your career site for. Where marketers want to convince a browser to spend some money, you need to convince them to change their life.
So when people ask me if marketing should own the career site, or if the career site should be part of the corporate site, that’s the story I tell. But there are other reasons why you shouldn’t let marketing own your career site.
Two Very Different Use Cases
People who are looking for product information are looking for two things: information about the product and reasons not to buy the product. Unless they are buying an expensive watch, a car or a home, they assume that the research and decision process will take a few minutes to complete. How much time do you need to select a robe, a book, a vacuum, a drill or a yoga mat? Ecommerce sites are geared towards getting people to see the information they need to make a decision as fast as possible so that they don’t lose momentum.
Compare that to a career site. Only entry-level applicants will value “speed of application.” All the rest of the people are looking for a compelling reason to apply. The shopper came in inclined to buy, but the higher up a career ladder one goes, the less that’s true of prospects. Valued prospects need to understand what they are getting into, the pluses and the minuses, before they hit apply. They wouldn’t be valued prospects if that wasn’t true.
Look at the silver bullet of marketing. You can drive significantly more interest and more sales by launching and promoting a 50% off coupon for your store, product or service. It’s not that there’s no corollary within talent acquisition; it’s that such thinking is counterproductive. Talent managers want fewer but better applications, not more.
Clearly, how Marketing and Talent approach issues are not only different, but nearly at cross-purposes.
Marketing Rarely Prioritizes HR
Having been born into the marketing tribe (yes, my parents left me in a basket by some nice marketers in the woods to raise me), I know that most marketers prize three things: sales, awards, and buzz (usually in that order). You’ll notice that Talent Acquisition has no bearing on those goals. Driving more applicants will not drive more sales, the awards for best career site are not in any of the magazines they read, and people simply don’t get excited about a great career site.
Consequently, HR and Talent Acquisition’s needs fall far down the list of things Marketing cares about. This shows when you need an update to your site. When you make a change, does marketing learn your publishing cadence, or do you have to work within theirs?
This also means you won’t get the best and brightest eyes and hands working for you. You’re far more likely to get the “the new guy/girl” who hasn’t been brought up to speed on the rest of the site or brand. HR becomes the training wheels for them to learn what works. Please note that no one has ever won the Tour de France (or any bike race) while still wearing training wheels.
Differing Brand Perspectives
How many of you have an Apple device? An iPad or iPhone or even a Macbook? Based on Apple’s most recent filings, it is now one of the biggest companies in the world, building products desired by people all over the world. The clean and easy-to-use look and feel influences the computing, telecom, electronics, music and film industries. Some new cars are clearly influenced by the work Jony Ives and his design team have done in recent years. People who like Mac products aren’t just preferring them – they fall in love.
Compare that to Apple’s more complex employer value proposition, which knows that such amazing devices are the product of long hours and late nights. While they might be in love with the outcomes, they may also find that love tempered by a lack of home life.
What a consumer thinks about a brand and what a prospective employee thinks about a brand can often be two different things. And if marketing is going to lean towards highlighting their consumer or brand messages, that means employer brand messages get pushed down or even out.
The power of a strong employer brand doesn’t just drive the number of applications, but the initial interest and engagement with the brand. A strong employer brand means that you will be able to offer less money to a candidate in order to convince them to come on board, that you can shorten the time to hire, and lead to lower turnover. Marketing doesn’t value these key performance indicators, meaning their site will be designed to drive their own KPIs (sales, length of visit, repeatability, etc). Having marketing own the platform doesn’t just have your KPIs relegated to second-class status, but that there may not even be a process by which to measure them.
Navigation and URLs
Have you noticed that most corporate and brand sites, when they link to the career site, usually do it in the footer – in the most out-of-the-way place they can think of? And would you rather ask people to type in jobs.brand.com or brand.com/departments/hr/career? From a very logistical and tactical level, hosting the career site within the larger brand site is a great way to get missed or forgotten.
Passive candidates, or at least less active ones, cant be expected to jump through hoops in order to find jobs. It’s up to the career site to provide the shortest path between a candidate and the material that will compel them to apply. Forcing them to wade through corporate messaging and platforms just gives that valuable passive candidate an excuse to leave without applying.
Clearly, letting marketing own your career site means you lose control of your own destiny. You can build a site that abides by marketing’s brand look and feel, but having it held within the marketing department not only makes your job harder, it can actually be counterproductive.