Putting your best foot forward on the web

5 best practices for effective corporate careers websites
By Paul Dodd
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/25/2011

Career websites are often generic, uninteresting and difficult to use. It’s a shame because, for many jobseekers, a company’s careers site is the first point of contact. They’ll land there during a job search or pull the page up after receiving a call from a recruiter.

There are five steps to developing an online presence that enhances recruitment goals and attracts the right candidates.

Understand the target candidate groups: Too often, companies jump into developing a careers site (and other recruitment-related online real estate) without first considering the target audience. “Potential candidates” as a category is too large to be useful — especially as the needs, attractors and interests of potential employees differ widely.

As a first step, an organization should examine recruitment trends for the past three years. What roles or departments recruit most often? Where are the greatest recruitment successes? What roles tend to be the hardest to fill? This information will help an employer understand its audience, the candidate groups it is already reaching and the candidate groups it needs to attract.

If it’s not clear what interests and attracts the key candidate groups, an employer should turn to its best resource: current employees. A quick employee survey with rewards for participation — or even a few informal conversations with key members of internal teams — can provide a wealth of information to direct strategy.

Focus on employment differentiators: A careers site isn’t the place to discuss a company’s accomplishments, the value it provides to clients or the products and services it offers — this information should be displayed throughout the main website. The careers site is the place to showcase why a company is a great employer.

While benefits and compensation play a part in this positioning, the focus should be on what sets a firm apart — especially from competitors. This can include unique features of the culture and work environment, special programs or team activities. The careers site should also talk about the opportunities for advancement, development and career growth.

When considering benefits, explaining what employees receive may be secondary to what they contribute. Employers can create an emotional connection by showing the value employees bring to the company and the differences they can make.

When re-reading the positioning text, ask: “Is this really why employees love this firm and the work they do?” “Have I captured why I love my job?”

Provide evidence to support the messaging: An employer may have a “dynamic, team-focused environment with a culture of excellence” but candidates tune out generic words and phrases. Instead, demonstrate the company’s corporate culture, environment and differentiators with a range of material.

Traditionally, this has meant photos of employees at corporate events (rather than stock photography), quotes and employee testimonials. These techniques are effective but multimedia can bring the work experience to life. Use video to capture employee testimonials, show a “day in the life” of an employee or give a virtual tour of office locations. Conduct interviews with different employee groups about their work experiences and release them as a series of podcasts. From blogs to webinars and online roundtables, there are many opportunities to present a corporate culture that will attract candidate interest.

But remember: Multimedia material should provide a glimpse into the real working environment, without all the edges polished away. Candidates are especially wary of material that seems scripted, unrealistic or over-produced.

Design a site that’s easy to use — for the company and job candidates: Careers site development can be a tug of war between the needs of HR, IT and marketing. Pick battles wisely — above all else, the site must add value to the recruitment process.

This means it must be easy for recruiters to post jobs and make updates as needed. Jobs should also automatically expire or be easy to remove. ­(Candidate frustration in applying to jobs that have already been filled can damage the employment brand.) The site should also assist in managing candidate communications. Consider providing automatic acknowledgements of applications, the opportunity to sign up for the company’s career newsletter or generic phone numbers or email addresses candidates can use for followup.

When developing the site structure and candidate-focused material, consider the process from the candidate’s perspective. User-friendliness is paramount — if the site is too difficult to navigate or essential information is hard to find, candidates are likely to turn elsewhere. It should be easy to search for open opportunities and submit an application. Information on what candidates can expect at each stage of the recruitment process (including estimated timelines, if available) should also be front and centre.

Optimize the site for best results: The technology used to support effective careers sites varies widely, from customized software suites, website content management systems and manual links to an applicant tracking system. The best solution is always dependent on an organization’s size, recruitment volume and existing technological capacity.

Regardless of the solution chosen, organizations must ensure the full careers site (including individual job postings) is search engine-optimized. If the internal expertise for search engine optimization doesn’t exist, consider hiring an outside firm to keep the site and its opportunities at the top of the list for key searches.

Tracking visitor behaviour is also an excellent way to gauge the success of material and obtain valuable information on how candidates navigate through the online pages. By examining the numbers on a regular basis, a company can continually refine the material for greater effectiveness.

While a successful recruitment strategy requires a wide range of candidate attraction and engagement techniques, including social media, a well-designed and implemented careers website can be the backbone of an online recruitment presence.

Paul Dodd is president, CEO and co-founder of Head2Head, a recruitment solutions firm based in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 440-2030.

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