The report lists the top 25 job sites among the Fortune 500 from the perspective of job seekers. Companies making the list this year include conglomerate 3M, financial services company Goldman Sachs and Internet firm Yahoo.
"Only 10 percent of the Fortune magazine list offer an experience that truly enhances their staffing goals," Gerry Crispin, co-founder of CareerXroads, said in a statement. "On average these firms are offering a significantly better experience—attracting top candidates and extending the gap between themselves and their competitors."
Career Web sites play a crucial role these days given the way people use the Internet to hunt for jobs, says recruiting consultant Shally Steckerl. He likens the job portion of a corporate Internet site to the company lobby, where candidates traditionally went to apply for a position. For that reason, the career site has to be high quality.
"You never walk into a lobby that’s a stink hole," he says.
But companies often do not do a good job with their job sites, partly because sites are caught in a tug of war between the IT department’s tech requirements and the marketing department’s focus on brand consistency.
"Nobody’s thinking about, ‘What does the candidate want?’ " Steckerl says.
To gauge career sites in terms of the experience they provide to job candidates, CareerXroads considered how well sites target specific kinds of candidates, engage visitors, inform job seekers and respect them.
Kendall Park, New Jersey-based CareerXroads has published a study like this every year since 2003, with the exception of 2007.
One trend this year is the use of video on corporate career sites, says Mark Mehler, co-founder of CareerXroads. Among the CareerXroads top 25 sites employing video is Bank of America. Visitors to the career page of the financial services giant are welcomed by a "video host"—a woman who provides an overview of the site. Job seekers can take steps on the page such as clicking to play a video about the company.
Procter & Gamble’s career site has a section called "P&G Life," in which employees of the consumer products titan talk about life at the company in video clips.
It’s important for firms not to hype themselves in such video segments, Mehler cautions.
"You make it real," he says. "Don’t make it glitzy and glamorous."
Other ways to engage visitors include case studies, contests and pictures of employees, Mehler says.
Smart targeting tactics may include providing a section on the careers site for ex-military personnel, he says. A link for "transitioning military" can be found at the careers site of defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
"When you are launching your next career, from the military to the private sector, it helps to have someone in your corner who knows the way," the site reads.
When measuring the level of respect given to job seekers, CareerXroads examines career sites’ privacy policies.
Communicating with applicants is another way companies show respect to job seekers—or fail to do so. CareerXroads research indicates corporate America has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to communication with online applicants.
The consulting firm applied online for jobs this year at each of the 100 companies on Fortune’s America’s Best Companies to Work For list, using a name that should have tipped off any recruiter who had ever seen Pinocchio: James Knee Cricket. Only 18 organizations sent notices that the job had been filled.
That figure was higher than in previous years, Mehler says, but far from ideal. "Eighty-two companies kept Jim in limbo," he says.
When it comes to informing job seekers effectively, Mehler cites Microsoft as a standout. Resources available through the site include a "great" careers newsletter, he says
"Microsoft is very good because it has multiple ways to getting to information," Mehler says.
Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Ford are the only three organizations that have made the CareerXroads top career site list each year of the study.
Not everyone has a high regard for Microsoft’s site. Recruiting consultant Lou Adler says the site fails a basic test. "You can’t even find a job at Microsoft," he says.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Adler says two big keys to corporate career sites are a user-friendly design and the likelihood that people can find the sites through search engines.
"You’ve got to be found if somebody is using Google," he says.
A number of firms these days help companies with so-called "search engine optimization" services.
It might seem odd for companies to put attention on their corporate sites and recruiting efforts at a time when many of them are in financial trouble and in some cases cutting jobs. But firms have to keep on the lookout for talent to rebound, Mehler argues.
"They’re laying off on the right hand," he says. "They’re hiring with the left."