A look at leading companies identifies best practices for recruiting through corporate Web sites

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|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

I

n the competition to find and hire the best people, online recruiting has emerged as a powerful and strategic tool — and its potential is only beginning to be realized.

Companies that understand how to play this game strategically, using the Web in alignment with traditional recruiting tools, are winning.

One of the keys to online recruitment is the development of an organization’s corporate Web site into a powerful recruitment portal. Boston-based Cambria Consulting examined what 140 high-profile companies are doing with their Web sites in the quest for talented recruits, identifying best practices for Web recruiting. The goal of the research is to help human resource professionals understand how to utilize this powerful medium to attract and hire the best possible candidates.

Best practices

The research identified seven features as crucial for an organization’s Web site:

•A site layout that is easy to navigate and provides interesting information regarding corporate culture.

•“Job cart” function allowing candidates to search and apply for multiple openings.

•Resume builders and other supplementary job-search advice.

•Detailed but concise descriptions of career opportunities.

•Graphics that are attractive and easy to read.

•Personal search engines that allow applicants to create personal profiles in the company’s database and later return and update the data.

•Self-assessment quizzes to help steer college graduates towards appealing career paths.

Room for improvement

Several findings from the research suggest immediate “fixes” for common Web site pitfalls. Below is a checklist of features that all e-recruiting strategies should include:

•An easily locatable career section of the corporate Web site, preferably accessible from the home page.

•An up-to-date list of job openings.

•Standard, easy-to-read job descriptions that include tasks and skill requirements.

•Easily accessible information about the company.

•An interactive link to an HR contact, not just a phone number or mailing address.

•A clear and concise application process.

•A search engine that enables candidates to target specific interests and preferences.

Job descriptions

The Internet offers nearly unlimited space for job postings. The best job descriptions include:

•A standardized format.

•A top box of basic job requirements followed by details of the company.

•Descriptive job titles.

•Easy to read, well-organized paragraphs of actual tasks and organizational roles required.

•Links to more detailed information about the company.

•Hard and soft skill requirements, with meaningful indications of the levels of experience required.

•A keyword search to aid users in navigating through the job descriptions.

Search function

The best search functions offer:

•Three or more categories to narrow a user’s job description searches (e.g., location, job function and a keyword search).

•A personalized search agent that saves a candidate’s profile and uses this data to alert the candidate to new job openings.

•A job cart allowing users to apply for more than one job at a time.

•A skills assessment tool (either objective or subjective) to facilitate the user’s search among job categories and career preferences.

Resume pasting

Resume pasting allows an applicant to respond directly to job openings on a corporate site. The various methods of pasting were examined. The research found:

•Web-savvy companies allow candidates to cut and paste resumes to an application page or offer a hot link to a recruiter’s e-mail address.

•86 per cent of companies researched allow for some online response to job descriptions.

•Several companies require applicants to format a resume in ASCII text, so that it can be scanned into a database.

•To reduce the risk of downloading viruses, many companies are utilizing a cut-and-paste option for attaching resumes.

General application

The general application allows candidates to fill out an online job application directly from the career page. This section frequently asks for basic contact data as well as additional information to supplement an applicant’s resume. This might include preferences such as location, department or salary.

The best pages offer pull-down menus where applicants can supply information about themselves and what they seek in a job without manually filling out the forms.

Responding to specific openings

Some Web sites allow candidates to respond directly to specific positions either through a link or an e-mail address. To assess this feature, researchers applied directly to online job openings.

Best practice sites provide detailed job descriptions, a “job cart” option that allows candidates to apply for more than one position, and the ability to forward job postings to a friend.

Usefulness to employer

The research assessed the effectiveness of the information that companies are gathering on their Web sites. The most effective sites:

•Compile specific information from online applications, scannable resumes and search engines to help recruiters find the most appropriate applicants for open positions.

•Collect additional data in the form of self-assessment of skills, job preferences, work style, and so on, that can be analyzed to identify most likely candidates.

•Use tools that link the application process to the rest of the assessment and hiring process.

Overall ease of use

The best sites offered:

•Strategic search options and pull-down menus.

•Thorough job descriptions.

•A “job cart” to enable candidates to apply for more than one job at a time.

•Self-assessment tools to help candidates decide which jobs to apply for.

Linking to external job placement Web sites

Many companies list their current openings with online career search Web sites and hundreds of these job boards are in existence in North America. (See Canadian HR Reporter’s semi-annual Guide to Recruitment and Staffing. The most recent Guide was Sept. 25, 2000; the next will be published Feb. 26, 2001.)

Of the 140 companies examined, 29 per cent use one external job placement board, 18 per cent use two and 10 per cent use three or more.

Reaching campuses

Internet recruiting is pivotal to sourcing college hires. Nearly every college campus is hardwired to the Internet, and virtual recruiting enables corporations to reach college campuses without having to send representatives to every school.

There are two effective e-recruiting ways to reach this population. The first is to create a link from the corporate career page to a page specifically aimed at recent graduates. The second is to identify which job placement Web sites college students are using and place a company advertisement there.

Traditional techniques

Best-in-class companies are gaining an advantage over their competitors by making highly effective use of e-recruiting to attract job candidates to their career pages and assess their suitability for a variety of positions. However, this is not to imply that e-recruiting is a stand-alone recruiting tool. At best-in-class companies, it is integrated into an overall recruiting and selection strategy which includes, among other things, sophisticated behavioural and skills assessment, interviews by people trained in modern interviewing techniques and additional means of identifying needs and sourcing candidates.

For more information visit Cambria Consulting a www.cambriaconsulting.com.

How leading recruitment Web sites were identified

The Cambria survey reviewed 140 corporate sites, selected from:

•Fortune Magazine’s “Top 50 Companies To Work For;”

•Fortune Magazine’s “America’s Most Admired Companies” (top 50 reviewed);

•Fortune Magazine’s “Fastest Growing Companies” (top 10 IT firms reviewed);

•the top 10 executive recruiting companies (based on total placements and revenue);

•six high-profile college recruiting companies (based on prior Cambria Consulting college recruiting research; and

•attendees at an August, 2000 e-recruiting round table hosted by Gunn Partners.

Researchers examined each company’s Web site from the perspective of a potential candidate, assessing it against a set of structured criteria. On average, 30 minutes was spent evaluating and collecting data from each site. The overall evaluation was based on ease of navigation, the relevance of information provided and response tools. Researchers explored the sites as if they were looking and applying for a job. The study developed specific criteria for assessing corporate career sites and then rated them in a number of categories, summarized in the article above.

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