Leadership

Is your careers site driving away candidates?

A pleasant job application experience is your best chance of making a great first impression on candidates. Is yours up to par?

careers sites
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Leadership

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You never get a second chance to make a first impression, as the cliche goes. If your careers site is outdated, difficult to navigate or otherwise unappealing, you could be driving away top talent.

"A high-quality career site is a competitive advantage in seeking talent. Our research shows that the average candidate will spend less than 60 seconds on a career site before deciding if they want to pursue a job with that company, so it’s important that a career site be strategic and impactful," says Jason Berkowitz, vice president of client services, Seven Step RPO.

It's helpful to think of a career site in the same way you'd think of an online dating site, according to Berkowitz. Recruitment, like dating, has three stages: first, you are wooing candidates; then screening them for a fit; and if you decide they are “the one,” you are offering a chance to engage in a long-term relationship.

"First, you get the date, then you scope them out to see if a relationship is a possibility, then you move on to a more serious relationship – maybe you'll end up married to each other. It's important that your career site address each of these three stages of the recruitment process. You have to remember the initial 'wooing,' or 'selling' component, and not focus simply on the screening part of the application process," Berkowitz says.

Make it fast, simple and easy to use

One of the fastest ways to scare away great talent is by having an outdated, clunky and boring career site. Since this is often the first time candidates are interacting with your company, you need to make every aspect count.

[Related: 10 apps to take your job search mobile ]

"I know that most people think of financial technology companies as being bland and boring thanks to the corporate atmosphere. But nobody wants to attract bland and boring candidates. A good career site can help overcome that perception, thus attracting the right candidates -- if it's done right. One of the main things to consider is that almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays. Is your site mobile-friendly? If not, you've already lost a lot of candidates," says David Goldin, CEO of Capify, a company that provides working capital credit to businesses.

"The best career sites are built with responsive design, so they look good and are fully functional on any type of device -- desktop, mobile phone, tablet etc. A career site that only works on a desktop, in a certain browser or with a certain plug-in like Flash or Silverlight is a huge no-no. If a candidate sees a message that their browser isn’t compatible or they have to download a plugin, you are going to lose a lot of people," adds Berkowitz.

Don't bury the lead

In addition to being easily accessible via any browser or any device, ease of navigation is key, especially when it comes to searching for and finding open positions. Make sure your job listings aren't difficult to find -- you want candidates to see them without having to put forth a herculean effort. "If you bury your job listings three or four clicks deep into your site, you are going to lose a lot of people. We always advise clients to have the job listings either present on the main career page or, at most, one click away from the main career landing page," Berkowitz says.

Don't make applying for a job hard work

OK, your site's accessible, it's easy to navigate, and candidates can quickly search for and find open positions. But what happens to the user experience when candidates leave the career site and move into the application process and the applicant tracking system?

[Related: How to write an effective job description ]

"This is an element many sites get wrong. You have to make sure your integration with an ATS is seamless and painless so you don't lose the candidate with repetitious, tedious processes here. I've seen applications which are 11 or 12 pages long and take a long time to complete -- that's going to cause a lot of candidate drop-out," says Berkowitz.

Candidates want this process to be easy and fast, they don’t want to feel like they are spending all day applying for jobs, or even worse, spending all that time applying to just one job. The best solution to this problem, according to Goldin, is to ask candidates to do a little as possible. "Nobody should need to fill out a ten-page form. Just make sure your site has the capability for candidates to submit a resume and/or cover letter, and they’ll leave with a positive impression right off the bat; they didn't have to jump through hoops just to apply," Goldin says.

Avoid stock photography – showcase real employees

Your culture and your brand are one of the most important elements of a career site. An easy way to highlight your organization's great work environment, perks, benefits and culture is to paint a real image of what life in your office is like.

[ Related: How to get the job when you're overqualified ]

A company's brand is an important way to make a connection with a potential employee, so make sure you're emphasizing this personal touch. "We always recommend our clients use photographs of real employees on their career site instead of using stock photography. It's easy for a candidate to tell one from the other and real employees are much more authentic than stock photos," Berkowitz says.

Focus on growth, not requirements

In today’s fast-paced world, nobody is going to read an overly descriptive job post. Candidates want to know the basics of the role -- the job title, the department, how many years of experience are needed, the salary range and whether they'd be a good fit culturally. Goldin recommends leaving long, detailed descriptions of daily responsibilities and tasks for the interview.

That emphasis on culture, brand and on opportunities for growth is why Sarah Nahm, CEO of Lever, an application-based sourcing, recruiting, hiring and ATS provider, says her company has completely removed “requirements” from any of the firm's job descriptions. Instead, Lever focuses on how candidates will grow within the role, and what the firm's mission and values are.

"You should emphasize the opportunity for the job seeker, and how they can grow, rather than just 'have a job.' This is much more effective than having a checklist against which people have to match themselves and you end up with candidates whose strengths and accomplishments are a better fit for your firm," Nahm says.

When you're writing these types of descriptions for your site, focus on what a candidate will accomplish within the first three, six, nine and 12 months on the job -- what success will look like and how they can contribute to that. This is especially important when trying to attract passive candidates, Nahm says.

"We've heard a lot that people saw our jobs page and they weren't even looking for another job, they weren't even seriously considering applying, but because of the way we presented the opportunity, it made them want to apply," says Nahm.

Nahm adds that collaboration between the hiring manager, supervisors and the recruiting partner can help develop a powerful, attractive job description that defines the most important priorities of the company and the role. "A lot of job descriptions are just cut-and-paste from someone who's previously done the job, or from your competitors. That doesn't help, since each candidate and each role is unique. So make sure you're looking at exactly what the priorities are, what's interesting and promising about your company, the role and the business," advises Nahm.

Don't confuse perks with culture

One thing that trips up many companies is failing to distinguish between perks offered and a company's culture. Job seekers understand that, just because an organization has a ping-pong table might not mean they're a great place to work.

"The true driver of culture is your mission, values and corporate impact on the world. By all means, emphasize your perks -- if you have free food, foosball tables, flexible work arrangements, casual dress -- but make sure that's not the only thing you say about your culture and your purpose. If you value a flat organization, if you believe in letting employees set their own hours or book their own travel and expenses, that says a lot about trust and independence," Nahm says.

Watch your language

Did you know the language in your job posting could be repelling half of your candidate pool? A study by the American Psychological Association, "Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality" found that a lack of gender-inclusive wording in your job descriptions influences women to opt out and not to apply for open positions, even if they're qualified.

The study uses as an example a typical job description for an engineer and highlights the difference between “feminine” and “masculine” wording:

Engineer Company Description:

  • Feminine: We are a community of engineers who have effective relationships with many satisfied clients. We are committed to understanding the engineer sector intimately.
  • Masculine: We are a dominant engineering firm that boasts many leading clients. We are determined to stand apart from the competition."

The study results showed that women were less inclined toward the jobs with masculine wording, compared with the same types of jobs using feminine wording. This inclination persisted, even though these gender words composed a small fraction of the total words in the job advertisement. "This is one way to tackle the diversity issue from the very top of the funnel. We need new strategies to address a diverse audience and attract diverse candidates right from the moment of posting a new job, and using language of inclusion is a great way to start," says Nahm.

Be analytical

Finally, it's critical to build in tracking and reporting mechanisms to make sure your career site is delivering. If it's not, solicit feedback and see exactly where and how you can make it better. "It's important that user behavior and referral sourcing be tracked. The only way to properly track ROI on your sourcing and advertising efforts is to have source tracking built into your career site," Berkowitz says.

A job site is not just about the job postings, it is a reflection of the culture and environment, mission and values of your organization. Following these tips can help you refine your approach, improve your image and give you a competitive edge when finding talent.

This story, "Is your careers site driving away candidates?" was originally published by CIO.

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