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Better Recruiting on Corporate Web Sites

April 29, 2002

Smaller companies that once used their all-important corporate Web sites to merely list job openings are taking things a bit further.

They’re using their career and employment sections to describe jobs, explain the culture, and tout the benefits of the local community. It’s no wonder, because a 2001 study by CareerXroads showed that nearly 16 percent of hires come through a company’s Web site, which is a lot more than come from the four largest online job boards.

In addition, CareerXroads principal Mark Mehler says, job-seekers often see an opening at a job board and then go to the company’s Web site to apply. It’s yet another reason why you should make your site as inviting as possible.

A good career section can also entice passive job-seekers who visit a corporate site for other reasons, perhaps because they’re interested in the product or service you offer. Recruiters Network has found that employment sections are generally the second most visited area of a company’s site.

Not just a list of jobs
The Brattle Group is a small economics-consulting firm that only recently began using its Web site as an important recruiting tool. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, company, which has just over 100 employees, hadn’t been posting jobs. Its recruiting section merely stated that it was seeking candidates. But that wasn’t always true, and recruiting manager Megan Dunn says it caused problems when people applied for nonexistent jobs. So when the firm recently decided to upgrade its Web site, improving the recruiting section became a priority.

The new Web site not only lists open positions but also has pictures of employees and descriptions of their projects and backgrounds. The Brattle Group regularly recruits college grads for research-analyst jobs. Dunn says, "Rather than sell in a flashy way, we talk about the research and the kind of work they’ll be doing, and where people go next, since most analysts come in for a two-year period." Dunn says it’s important to keep the site as professional and fact-based as possible, and to make expectations clear. The Brattle Group’s marketing department was behind the site upgrade and has worked closely with the HR department on the recruiting section.

Dunn doesn’t think the Web site will ever eliminate the need for on-campus recruiting, but she feels that it will complement it by providing candidates with solid information. "We hope this will lead to more effective interviewing by attracting candidates who already know what we do," she says. "Now, we still get candidates who say, ‘I want to be an investment banker or a management consultant,’ when that’s not what we do."

Small companies can leapfrog
The Brattle Group shows that you don’t have to be a big company to develop a good recruiting section. As a matter of fact, CareerXroads’ Mehler says small and medium-sized companies have advantages over larger companies. "Smaller companies have the capability to manage Web sites faster," he says. "They can give the job-seeker more of a flavor of their culture. They can respond quicker because they don’t get as big a volume. At larger companies, decisions often have to go through committees, and you have to wait in line to get work done."

CareerXroads cofounder Gerry Crispin says that "small companies may not have the flashiest technology, but they’re better able to tell the truth, tell it simply, and deliver on whatever promise they make. They have the ability to really leapfrog across large companies."

But Crispin says most companies still don’t get a passing grade when it comes to their recruiting section. He describes five core components of a properly constructed site:

  • Rich, relevant content
    "The content has to be relevant to who I am as the audience -- not to the company, but to me," says Crispin. "Whether I’m a college student or an expert programmer, I want to find out what’s in it for me. Otherwise, I’m bored."

  • Good navigation
    The careers or employment button should be prominently displayed on the home page, and you should be able to apply for a job with no more than three clicks.

  • Clear delivery of the company’s brand image
    You should be able to close your eyes and see the brand.

  • A sense of community
    Crispin says, "If I’m an excellent candidate for a job that won’t be open for three months, are you inviting me to stay in touch, or allowing me to stay in touch with you? Otherwise, if the job’s not there, I’ll go away and never come back." A good site should also tell candidates how to develop the skills to become a top-notch candidate if they’re not already one.

  • Prompt feedback
    Inexpensive technology makes it simple to thank people as soon as they press the submit button.

Crispin says the recent rise in unemployment has caused some companies to revert to an attitude of "You should line up for this job." But with baby boomers heading toward retirement and fewer workers under 35, a surplus of good candidates is a short-lived development. "In 12 to 18 months, the war for talent will heat up as never before," he says. "Corporations will face very serious problems if they’ve not been working on these issues in the interim."

Glenn McGillivray, senior HR specialist for Intuit Canada, agrees. He says that even during the worst economic downturn, it’s a candidate’s market when it comes to good talent. Intuit Canada, headquartered in Edmonton, is a 350-employee subsidiary of a global financial-software corporation. Its Web site is a crucial component of its recruiting strategy. McGillivray says, "You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your site, but you need to spend enough to keep it accurate and looking professional."

Quotes scrolling up the screen
About a year and a half ago, Intuit Canada upgraded its site and began using a job-posting and résumé-tracking application developed by Allegro Associates. It enables HR personnel to post jobs themselves, avoiding the delays that some companies encounter when they have to submit changes to their IT departments. Managers can also check applications and let HR know which candidates they’d like to interview.

McGillivray says it saves a great deal of time and is so effective, in fact, that job-seekers who submit paper résumés are asked to apply online. The system also allows HR to keep tabs on good candidates for future positions. Buying this kind of software isn’t mandatory if you’re building a good recruiting site. An alternative is to ask your IT department to develop simple tools for screening and responding to candidates.

McGillivray says small companies have to realize that job-seekers from all over the world may be looking at their Web sites. "It doesn’t have to have all the fancy links and gadgets, but it has to be accurate. If you don’t have a professional-looking site that works properly, people perceive that the company must not be professional."

Branding is also crucial. McGillivray says HR worked with the marketing department on the look and feel of the site. Besides the usual information on benefits, Intuit Canada describes its operating values and culture, with pictures of company barbecues and recreational activities. Quotes from employees scroll through the screen, talking up the value of an Intuit career. A link to Edmonton’s attractions helps out-of-towners learn about the area.

Selling the benefits of Alaska
Selling the community as well as the company is also critical for Alaska’s Providence Health System, which recently upgraded the recruiting section of its Web site. The shortage of health-care professionals is a challenge for all hospitals, but imagine the added difficulty of recruiting in Alaska. Manager of recruitment and employment Susan Denison says Providence decided to target people interested in outdoor activities.

Providence could have said something defensive like "despite the distance to Alaska, this is a good job opportunity, with good pay." Instead, the site says this: "The Alaska you have always imagined, our vast outdoor playground offers you snowcapped mountains, boreal forests, streams filled with fighting fish, wilderness, bears, glaciers, moose, and much more just a short distance from our homes."

Providence started advertising on nontraditional Web sites, with everything linked back to its own site. "Our whole goal is to drive people to our Web page," Denison says. "They can find out about us, our core values, and click on the job postings."

Denison says that upgrading its site has sped up the hiring process by cutting down on the "mounds of paper applications." It has also decreased the number of phone calls from job-seekers asking for information. That saves the hospital time and money. Most important, it has increased the volume of applicants, which is a huge payoff in an industry with well-publicized shortages of nurses on every continent. Denison says more than half of its hires now come through its site.

It’s about them
Making your recruiting site effective revolves around making the application process easy, keeping job listings updated, and developing a relationship with the candidate. That’s the advice from Jim Hay, manager of e-marketing and business development at the Tiburon Group, a recruitment consulting firm. He says, "You don’t want to discount even one résumé. You can never afford to alienate potential customers."

Hay also says the more information companies provide, the less work they have to do, and the more likely they’ll find a candidate who fits the position. You should outline requirements, give salary ranges, and write job descriptions that are more comprehensive than ads or internal postings. Hay says, "The most important thing to consider when you’re designing a career section is to think of the person you’re trying to attract as your customer."

Workforce Online, May 2002 -- Register Now!

Copyright Marc Tyler Nobleman