A Tale of Two Career Sites

It was the best of times, it was worst of times, it was the age of the personal touch, it was the age of the mass message, it was the epoch of connections, it was the epoch of distance, it was the season of transparency, it was the season of opaqueness.

Or so Dickens might have told it, had he been his company’s head of talent acquisition in the modern era. It sometimes feels so strange to see such change driven by technology and attitudes and yet still have it held back by “the way we’ve always done it.”

To that end, let’s play the classic tale out just a little, of two companies and their careers sites, each in the same time and space while still holding very different ideas of how technology should be used to draw the best candidates. I promise to leave out any French aristocracy or allusion from my tale. I’m pretty sure it will be bereft of any literary merit, but it might help highlight the differences between two very different approaches.

Let’s begin by looking at Company A, which has a pretty standard career site. That means that it’s a tiny slice of the consumer web site, more likely to be found by using Google than by looking for the link buried in the footer. [Hey! Look at your analytics. What percent of your career site traffic is coming from your corporate site? Is it less than Google is bringing in? Ouch. You should look into that.]

When someone finally does find the career site, it’s a somewhat outdated design some might charitably call “safe.” The image may be a picture of a horizon or a maybe a stock image of people working, giving every visitor exactly no information about why this company is different from the hundreds and thousands of companies with the same imagery and design sense. [Quick: does your site have any recent pictures of current employees working for you? Ouch.

The page has a few links, maybe a paragraph or two of text, or testimonials that were probably written when Bush held office (the first Bush) and used and re-used over and over since then regardless of the changing nature of the brand or the changing nature of the roles seeking to be filled. [Just checking: you’ve rewritten your career site text in the last two years, haven’t you? Ouch.]

Deeper clicks reveal content that seems explicitly built to actually deliver as little real information as possible, like a press release translated into Japanese and retranslated back, and then sent through a team of lawyers. It’s a Potemkin Village of content, looking like content to the casual eye but revealing nothing of value beyond the veneer. Who is this company? What do they value? Who are they really looking for? What will their experience be like? What qualities will be desired and promoted? A candidate will never know until they do more research over at LinkedIn and Glassdoor. So by not providing information and content, you have created a vacuum, forcing candidates to read all the positive and negative things about you on Glassdoor to learn who the company really is. [Print out all the content on your site and give it to a complete stranger. Ask them anything about your company and see if they can answer you. Then go see the last time you did any kind of content audit on your site.

There’s a job search tool, which leads to what looks like a completely different site, one that seems to exist exclusively in 1998. There’s a company logo at the top, but after that, it’s a white page with black text for the job description and form fields to apply. Given the fact that the job description for this job hasn’t been rewritten in more than five years, you might expect it to say “optimized for Netscape 4.7” at the bottom. It has all the brand alignment of a Dell at an Apple store. It’s practically begging all but the most desperate prospect to run away to the sunnier shores of the competition, leaving those sad souls who stay with a few hours of pointless data entry. [You’re a very smart person with experience, skills and talent. Would you ever fill this thing out?]

But since 30% of your traffic arrives on a mobile device, none of those people will bother to apply. [Check your numbers: what percentage of traffic to your career site home page is mobile and what percent of mobile actually applies? Ouch.]

The saddest part is that when someone does actually apply to a specific position, the company sends a clearly automated email saying that the resume has been received, and when there’s a match, the company will contact you. Company A, who usually prides itself on excellent customer service, is acting as if this potential employee is a little more than a waste of HR’s valuable time. While it will bend over backwards to wish a customer a great day, it seems desperate to get the prospect to go away and leave it alone. There’s no next step, no contact information, just a palpable sense of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Let’s hope that when you hire this person, they don’t treat the company’s customers the same way. [Go apply for a job on your company’s site. Once you’re done, is there someone you can email a question to? Or even a phone number?]

On the other shore lies Company B, which has decided to invest in talent acquisition not just with money, but with time and passion

This company seems to think that if they work to hire better fits to the company, lower turnover costs and increased productivity will more than balance out the costs. By treating prospects like valued customers, they will see more of the best people applying. And by providing a well-oiled content and social channel, potential prospects will feel confident that questions will get answers, and that prospects will have a more complete picture of the company.

It’s a very different world, indeed.

When a prospect goes to the corporate home page, the link to the career site isn’t hidden in the footer, but in a more obvious place on the site. It might even be as prominent as a product the company is trying to sell.

When you click on the link, the prospect gets an attractive site that engages with the prospect about who the company is, who works there, and what it’s doing right now. Only after getting the prospect excited by the idea of working for Company B does the site ask if the prospect is interested in learning more. It’s a site that uses its own marketing knowledge to fine-tune its messaging strategy so that it isn’t blasting the prospect with offers as they walk in the door. It is enticing and educating the prospect before allowing the prospect to make their own decision about whether to more forward or not.

The content itself starts with large set pieces like a five-minute video of intern life at the company and a longish article written by Company B’s leadership that was recently published in a magazine. Mixed into that are smaller, more social items like pictures from around the various offices, quotes from various levels of the organization, and mentions of company employees doing amazing things outside the office. The message is that prospects will be among interesting, smart and ambitious people when they start work here. All the content has a date on it, highlighting its freshness, and links to different social channels where the company is active. There’s no fear that visitors will click and never return, because every social channel has plenty of calls to action to drive traffic back here.

When the prospect has been wooed sufficiently and is looking forward to applying with Company B, the job descriptions are well written, providing information about the location, the department, the role, and the other people working in similar roles. There’s a map that lets them see how far away the office is from their house, what the commute will be like, and probably where they will be eating lunch. With so much information, the prospect feels less like they are applying for a job as they are joining a fan club.

The application doesn’t feel like it’s taking place in a time warp or even in a completely different web site. It feels like the next obvious step in the dating process. Heck, the applicant doesn’t even have to do much – just connect with LinkedIn and have their application information input automatically. The application process takes less than two minutes.

And when it’s over, there’s no change in tone. The wooing doesn’t end. With connections to social channels, applicants can reach out to recruiters and ask more questions or even refer friends and contacts to them.

Follow @thewarfortalent on TwitterIn this tale, I wonder: where would you rather live? And where would your next 10, 20 or 100 hires rather apply?



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1 Comment

  1. Andy Kerney

    James, this is a really good analogy that highlights the reality that exists in this space. I worry (in fact heavily suspect) that there are more Company As out there than Company Bs because when someone comes across a really fantastic careers site, full of innovation and content, as well as delivering a great candidate UX, its talked about as the exception rather than the norm.

    I see a gaping chasm for all organizations though and it never being talked about. A careers website, good or bad is just that, a website, a destination point once you have hopefully attracted your target audience. All efforts are going into that backend so that once the jobseeker traffic hits the site, theres something to engage or ultimately convert. Companies I talk to are frustratingly hung up on the amount of traffic their careers site can get, the SEO required to ensure their jobs get known about and viewed. If they’re posting to numerous job boards and social channels, why are they so obsessed with the traffic their own site gets. I just do not get it, it’s the obsession with quantity over quality and its where I see the huge black-hole. In every facet of consumer life, its about attraction first, engagement second and finally conversion and jobs are no different. Companies are trying to use their careers site to do all 3 when they should actually be breaking them into their individual parts and putting equal effort in to each piece. Attraction is not done through the careers site; jobseekers that have gone to it specifically by choice and not through a job link are by default attracted to your company. This is probably a low number hence why companies spend vast amounts of money advertising their roles.

    Attraction is done in the shop window, the social channels, job boards, everywhere a company thinks their audience is. Yet I feel its an overlooked piece of the talent acquisition jigsaw. I completely agree and hope that the Company As wake up and take a good, hard look at their careers site and think about the experience it delivers but even more think about the experience theyre delivering at the very front of the house, because its probably even worse.

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