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The Search for Mobile Recruiting’s Holy Grail

by
Todd Raphael
Jul 27, 2011, 5:10 am ET

A number of the big-name innovators in talent acquisition — the Sodexos, the PepsiCos, and others — are all trying to find a smooth way to get candidates using smart phones excited about a job at their companies, to apply for jobs without having to navigate a corporate careers site on the phone, all the while staying compliant with government rules, and not wreaking too much havoc on the employer’s applicant tracking system.

Matt Jeffery, who wrote that article on ERE that went quite viral, says his employer, Autodesk, is among the leaders in the mobile race. More on Jeffery and what his company is unveiling in a minute; first a look at how we got to this point.

A page from the Autodesk iPad version

What the amorphous term “mobile recruiting” has meant to many people so far is encouraging candidates to send a text message companies about jobs, like UPS has done, or the tinkering around with a careers website to make it show up better on smart phones, like companies such as Hyatt have done. Randy Goldberg and the Hyatt team are looking into having candidates submit some quick information on themselves using a cell phone, so they wouldn’t have to type in a whole resume or application. But right now, Goldberg believes that having candidates actually apply for a job using their cell phone would be quite a hassle for a candidate.

Most everyone tends to agree — including many folks you may have heard of who have an interest in mobile recruiting, people like Geoff Peterson, Craig Fisher, Gordon Lokenberg, and Chris Russell.

Lokenberg has helped Deloitte-Netherlands with its mobile recruiting. “There are a lot of apps out there that are mostly shortcuts to an Internet career site of the company,” he says. “That makes it hard to navigate.”

“The technology’s not 100% there,” says Peterson. “You’d have to have your resume already loaded up online and have a link to share, or something else like that. In theory (applying straight from a mobile application) can be done for sure, but do I see a lot of being done now? No, I don’t think so.”

“I’ve seen promise from a few different companies,” says Fisher. “But I’ve never seen a working product yet.”

Many of the applications out there are for certain groupings of people, like Lokenberg’s application created in 2009, which works only for companies that are a part of his database, and is called “Shake Your Job.” Or, Monster’s mobile application, for candidates to apply with the Monster accounts. LinkedIn says it does not yet have an “apply now with LinkedIn” mobile-phone application; Russell believes that in general, as LinkedIn makes its moves, it “should speed up the innovation around mobile applying.”

Anyhow, multiple recruiting departments I’ve talked to over the last few months are working on this, with help from various technology vendors. Among those many vendors is a small husband-wife Ohio consultancy working on an “apply now” mobile application, whose work is so private that it doesn’t want its name to be mentioned.

Pepsi, one of the innovators in the mobile arena, was aggressively working on an apply-with-a-cell-phone project, the company told me in the spring, though a spokeswoman tells me it’s not there yet. A little-known UK firm called AllTheTopBananas is its vendor of choice, a company that raves about the success of Pepsi’s mobile efforts to date. AllTheTopBananas has only about 13 employees, mostly developers. It started off in April 2007 as a job aggregator, sort of like a British version of Indeed or SimplyHired in the U.S.

AllTheTopBananas notes that “from the first 60 days from the apps going live, a soft launch only in the U.S., with the apps only being featured in only two places, on their careers website and in the app stores, PepsiCo had received over 3,500 downloads. Out of the 3,500 downloads, 85% of the candidates had job alerts set up on their device for targeted jobs they are interested in. When tracking the candidates who came from their apps, they have hired two new employees and have 10 in the recruitment process. Again, this was within the first 60 days of launch.”

Sodexo, not yet naming the vendor it’s working with, expects to launch its mobile application in about a month, allowing candidates to search and apply for jobs on their phones.

For Sodexo, among the challenges has been the three types of candidates in its current system (internal candidates, external candidates, and Sodexo Alumni) with three different experiences. “This has been a complicated process,” says Sodexo’s Arie Ball, “but in the end we expect candidates, including our internals with simple sign-on requirements, to be able to apply from their mobile device and answer screening questions. I believe we will have the only app with access from three unique portals to offer different candidate experiences.”

And that brings us to Jeffery, who started talking to the same company that’s working with Pepsi, AllTheTopBananas, when Jeffery was working at EA. Jeffery took a job at Autodesk in March and AllTheTopBananas began work on a mobile application for Autodesk, a project that took about three months. Jefferies says Autodesk’s application will be a “game-changer” and may be available as soon as this week on Android-system phones.

Jeffery believes the Autodesk application will be the first where people can apply directly from the phone without a resume. But, he says, that’s the least of it. Far more importantly, Jeffery says, is that the application is a “one-stop shop” to Autodesk tweets, Autodesk YouTube videos streamed through the application, Facebook wall comments, a gallery of work by Autodesk employees on the company’s software, and more. He wants to engage people, excite people, make them inspired about Autodesk, and believes the application does just that, more than just being practical or functional.

But back to the practical: candidates visiting Autodesk’s careers pages on a mobile phone will be asked if they want to download the cell phone application. They can search (see scrollable file at the bottom of this post) for Autodesk jobs with their mobile phones, and can view them on a map. Then, after downloading, the “push notifications” feature saves the previous search created by the jobseeker to the phone, so when Autodesk has a job that matches the saved search, the jobseeker is sent a text message letting them know.

So if they search for, say, San Francisco engineer jobs, even if they don’t type any information in about themselves, Autodesk will push future job openings to them through the application on their phone. If they’re interested in applying, Autodesk will ask for candidates to enter only basic information, such as name, current position, and contact details from their phones. On its end, Autodesk will need to then go in and put that information into its applicant tracking system. And, it’ll contact that candidate later to ask the candidate, perhaps now from their desktop or laptop, to enter some more complete information in the Taleo system, beyond what had been captured during the brief mobile phone visit.

This is all phase I, Jeffery says. Phase II will include more content, more “stickiness” and “gamification.” Autodesk’s application doesn’t include the segmentation I mentioned earlier that Sodexo is working on (internal employees, external employees, and alumni).

AllTheTopBananas, meanwhile, is working or has worked on mobile applications for other major big names including Nestle, RIM (Blackberry Careers), Match.com, and Oracle. Three major multinationals, one based in the UK and two in the U.S., are considering signing on with the mobile-app maker. Each company wants something different built; not surprisingly, AllTheTopBananas’ Commercial Director Cristian Bradshaw tells me the firm is “non-stop busy.”

Autodesk Careers on iPhone

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Ren Beaulieu

    Thank you for this article I hope you will follow up with the secret details to come. I have recently discovered Doyoubuzz where anyone can create a web page with their resumé and therefore forward the URL to a job offer. This seems to be easy enough for the mobile strategy. This company also offers a HR-XML code for a companys website so the candidate won’t have to fill in the requierd forms. This seems to be à European innovation. Have you heard anything of this innovation in North America ?

  2. Todd Raphael

    Ren, thanks for the information; no, I don’t know it well. Matt Jeffery’s application isn’t a secret and the slides tell a little about it, and should be available to download depending on your mobile phone of choice, if you want to check it out. Pepsi’s work to date is no secret either. Sodexo is still working on mobile recruiting, as I mentioned – so theirs is no real secret, just a work in progress for about a month.

  3. David Johnston

    Interesting read and a topic which was discussed at some length on LinkedIn recently, with regards to whether you develop an iPhone, Android app or mobile website. All the Top Bananas have been doing some great work recently and each app uses more and more functionality to improve the candidate experience and levels of engagement.

    It is going to be very interesting to see the Autodesk site/app as I’m sure it will be packed with exciting functionality.

    Consistency of experience is one area which continues to improve. With a lot of mobile sites/apps the only way I can apply (short of trying to complete an long application form) is by emailing myself with a link, at which point I’m directed to the ATS career portal without any of the rich user experience I have just experienced on the mobile. Effectively I’ve gone from web 3.0 to web 1.0.

    OK, I may be so engaged that I apply, but what if I need to just have another look at the video of the Finance Manager or read a little more about the team. There is no link, no calls to action no further engagement.

    Whereas if a company take a holistic approach to their career website and look at the experience from end to end, you create a career site, integrated with the ATS so that vacancies are on the career site, not just the ATS. This means that content can be linked with vacancies (in case the visitor wants to find out more when viewing a vacancy); you have a mobile platform which can either allow a quick reg or email me the vacancy and I’m embraced in a much richer experience, which will improve conversions.

    Recruitment marketing is about joined up thinking, its not about mobile, social, web, PR, SEO etc as individual silos, it should be about how each integrates and provides the user with a seamless personal content rich experience. This one of the reasons I am genuinely keen to see the Autodesk mobile platform, as based on Matthew’s experience I would expect a more joined up approach than with early platforms.

  4. Steven Rothberg

    One of the foremost thought leaders in mobile marketing for recruiting is Michael Marlatt of Microsoft. He’s organizing at one day conference in San Francisco on this topic. Join us on Friday, September 30th. It should be awesome. http://www.mrecruitingcamp.com/

  5. Keith Halperin

    This looks interesting….
    I suggest a “Gold Standard” for (inbound) M-Recruiting:
    A candidate logs on, finds the job s/he wants, applies for it, and logs off within 90 seconds.
    Todd & Folks: has anyone come close to this to your knowledge?

    Cheers,
    Keith

  6. Steven Rothberg

    One of the biggest problems, Keith, with applying to jobs using mobile phones is that the vast majority of employers insist that candidates provide a Word, PDF, RTF, etc. resume as part of their job application. Very, very few people know that they can save such a file to their smartphones and very, very few of those know how to do it and very, very few of those would be inclined to do it. So the problem isn’t so much candidates being able to find and read job postings on their mobiles but instead the problem really is getting them to apply to them.

    I’ve given a lot of thought to this and talked with a lot of leaders in the industry and am convinced that third party recruiters are going to lead the way with mobile recruiting by getting away from requiring resumes. Candidates will be able to express an interest to a position by checking boxes and drop downs to help the headhunter understand their skills, education, etc. If the headhunter is interested, they’ll ask for a resume and the candidate will likely email that from their desktop/laptop computer.

    Corporate employers will likely move slower as the thought of allowing people to apply without a resume is unfathomable to many of them and simply won’t be possible given the applicant tracking system driven process most have today. But when they see over and over again that they’re losing the best candidates to organizations which allow for applications without resumes, you’ll see more and more employers understand that resumes aren’t really necessary to start the application process. This will take years. I’m not predicting this is going to happen anytime soon.

  7. Ren Beaulieu

    I have been looking around for info for the HR-XML protocol. It seems to be a world wide effort to standardize the transmission of HR information over the web. So in therory and in practice, I can send my HR-XML code to the HRIS system of the company and all my application information will go into the right boxes. That’s less than 90 seconds and less trouble than check boxes and dropdowns !

  8. Jeremy Hoffman

    I think the app approach is missing the mark. I just went to the autodesk website on my android phone got automatically redirected to a mobile version of thief website which had no button to view careers. I went to the full version of the site then careers- current openings. At no time did it talk about a mobile friendly version of the career site or an app to download.

    I think the best approach is to avoid the download and re direct a candidate to a mobile friendly version of your career site. I think hyatt is on the right track. We do something similar yet a bit more streamlined visit one our customers http://www.donan.com on an android or iphone to see.

  9. David Johnston

    Ren, that’s basically how Burning Glass, Daxtra, Actonomy et al transfer data once a CV has been parsed. I believe this is a similar process Madgex use with job boards to download a profile from LinkedIn, so the technology is there. Ironically the recruitment industry software companies have more options for this type of integration than the ATS market, but the drive for mobile has accelerated from the corporate arena.

    The first mobile site I was involved with was a small sales recruitment consultancy and that was 3 years ago, but apart from the larger consultancies the smaller consultancies need to be able to justify the cost.

  10. Ian Alexander

    I love the idea of streaming your employer brand content via mobile app. Great example of engaging potential employees where they are and, if nothing else, making sure the “impression” is not wasted and your brand is reinforced.

  11. Shawn Turner

    Good article, however what I have really failed to see anyone elaborate on and detail are 2 things: 1) OS updates 2) user experience. We are looking at a mobile solution from a vendor (we’d be their first app/site) and the thing that attracted us to this vendor was the fact that they have technology that can tell what version of Android, IOS, etc. (even if you have an old flip phone or RAZR) the user has and can *optimize* the experience and view for that particular hardware, regardless if it is a tablet or smartphone. Plus, this company will, as newer versions of IOS or Android or Windows (see Mango, released today) come out, upgrade the site **AT NO COST** to be compatible with the future iterations of the operating systems/hardware being released. That way, your cost isn’t spent having to constantly update your mobile solution, which I don’t even know if AlltheTopBananas can even do, with only 14 developers on staff (or anyone else for that matter)

    The other thing is the user experience. If you look at metrics, mobile recruiting is a in-n-out type process. This is not something where you can expect to hold a candidate’s attention for 30 minutes. So information has to be easy to find, accessible, relevant and load quickly. Which is where the user experience comes into play. Any hiccups in any of those will cause you to lose candidates and not get the requested information.

    Our vendor has the capacity to test the site/app being built on over 45 unique devices, some of which are nearly 3-4+ years old. Again, at the end of the day, I don’t care if someone drives a 2011 BMW or a 1979 Ford Pinto, as long as they have the *SAME EXPERIENCE* and satisfaction of coming to my mobile site. That is what is key. And if your solution can’t do that or doesn’t have that functionality, you might as well not even be in the game.

  12. Kristen Fife

    For me, the biggest stumbling block in the US is going to be OFCCP/compliance. Especially with GenY who want instant results with little work, only the big players like Monster and maybe LI are going to have the integration with corporate job boards and apps.

  13. Steven Rothberg

    You’re absolutely correct, Kristen, that OFCCP is a major problem as most of the larger employers out there have decided that the only way for them to be compliant is to force all applicants to apply through the employer’s web site. Many third party recruiters don’t fully appreciate how different that makes the sourcing process as the corporate recruiters can’t go to LinkedIn, run some searches, contact some candidates, meet them for coffee, and extend offers to them. If the corporate recruiters did, they’d be opening their employers up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions of dollars in fines from the OFCCP. Remember that it is up to the employer to prove it is compliant and that means being able to show the OFCCP auditor every search and the search results you saw when you do resume searching and that includes LinkedIn searches. Headhunters just don’t worry about that as much as corporate recruiters do.

    Similarly, if a candidate sees a posting on Monster and applies directly from Monster, is that compliant with OFCCP? It might be, but many employers have decided not to take that chance so force the Monster candidate to go to the employer site to apply so the Monster candidate has the same experience as the candidate from a diversity site, Indeed, CollegeRecruiter.com, etc. If all the applicants go through the same process, the employer is less likely to lose the audit.

    The LinkedIn universal apply button and other such mechanisms seem to make it more likely that the employer will lose their audit even though the button should increase the quantity and quality of applicant.

  14. K.C. Donovan

    Steven – love your passion and expertise on the subject…just a thought, if the TPR world will be the leaders of using mobile, then two things may happen…

    One, is that the mobile recruiting process will fizzle because the TPR slice of the recruiting industry is miniscule and mobile won’t catch enough marketshare to matter…

    Two, it will be so successful that TPR’s roll over corporate recruiters and essentially put them out of business…(not a likely scenario).

    As with anything forward looking, we really have no idea how things will pan out, but with computing absolutely morphing to smaller platforms (phones and tablets), you can bet that active job seekers and app developers will find a way…

    Now how about the 75% of the market that aren’t actively looking and only do so sparingly if at all? …better make sure these apps are intuitive and don’t make you think how to us them!

    Just a thought…

  15. Keith Halperin

    @Steve: Thank you. That was informative. The interface I’m conceiving keeps resumes, etc. for now, but makes it extremely easy for applicants to send. The problem is that the company website needs to make it extremely easy at their end, and that may take some work, particularly since most companies seem to care little about the easy of application through any means.

    @Ian: I think you hit upon a major issue. As an applicant, I don’t care about community, relationships, videos, tweets, RSSs, updates- I want to get a good job RIGHT NOW. However, the company and its branders want to have all these “bells and whistles” to make me “stick”. To please everyone, it seems like you might need to have at least two sections: an “Express Section” where I can get in, apply, and get out in under 90 seconds, and a “Premium Section” where I can explore the wonders of the community to my (and the branders’) heart’s content.

    @ Kristen: I’m a Boomer and I also want my application experience to be instant results with little work. I want the company to show me that they think I’m important enough not to waste my time on a lot of “HR-cracy” (My word, but you can use it.). Also as a recruiter, if I see that a job is hard to apply to, it’s probably also hard to hire for- symptomatic of a bloated, dysfunctional hiring process.

    Keith “Remember the 90 Second Rule” Halperin

  16. ashley steinhausen

    Steven:
    I’ve given a lot of thought to this and talked with a lot of leaders in the industry and am convinced that third party recruiters are going to lead the way with mobile recruiting by getting away from requiring resumes. Candidates will be able to express an interest to a position by checking boxes and drop downs to help the headhunter understand their skills, education, etc. If the headhunter is interested, they’ll ask for a resume and the candidate will likely email that from their desktop/laptop computer.
    Our company has developed (US Patent pending) exactly this. It works very well and is being used in Hong Kong at the moment. We also have had successful projects in China. http://www.dazhi.mobi

    Shawn:
    Totally agree. Mobile is not a cut down version of a PC. The interface and user expereience has to be totally rethought-which we have done:)
    The other thing is the user experience. If you look at metrics, mobile recruiting is a in-n-out type process. This is not something where you can expect to hold a candidate’s attention for 30 minutes. So information has to be easy to find, accessible, relevant and load quickly. Which is where the user experience comes into play. Any hiccups in any of those will cause you to lose candidates and not get the requested information.

  17. Wolfgang Brickwedde

    Holy Grail of mobile recruiting is found!

    Since last year, Deutsche Telekom in Germany is providing a real mobile recruiting app, where candidates actually can apply on the move. They can use what they want (specific CV URL, LinkedIn Profile etc. anything that has an URL)and apply directly from their mobile device (currently Ipad and Iphone, their are working on an android version). The app has been downloaded 20.000+ times. The recruiters at Deutsche Telekom have mixed feelings about this new way to apply, but are ok with it for a first selektion.

    If anyone needs more information, let me know. Official info is currently available in German only, but I could check wether they will produce something in English.

  18. Julia Friemering

    I agree with Jeremy that the app approach is missing the mark, and that instead companies should make their career site mobile enabled. Our applicant tracking system, myStaffingPro, provides free mobile enabled search screens to all of our standard clients. Using the mobile portal, candidates can search for positions and APPLY! However, don’t take my word for it, see it for yourself by applying at our demo site http://mkiosk.appone.com.

  19. Michael Vangel

    I agree with Jeremy and Julia that the app approach may be missing the mark. Not everyone necessarily needs to go that route.

    In August 2010 UPS launched its cross-platform, cross-carrier, cross-model fully compliant mobile friendly site where job seekers could view videos of actual UPSers, search for and apply to UPS jobs all from a handheld device. What’s more it is tied directly into UPS’s ATS where candidates are automatically tracked by source. In that way here is no candidate self-reporting or recruiter bias regarding attributing source.

    It has been working well (a minimum of 600 hires directly through the mobile website in 2010 alone and even stronger results in 2011) and there was no app needed. Todd Raphael of ERE (the author of this column, too) did a nice write-up on it a couple of months back http://www.ere.net/2011/02/15/ups-says-its-now-delivering-hires-not-just-fans-and-followers/

  20. K.C. Donovan

    O.K. – this seems to be a typical situation where technology tells the users what they need…(yup, I’m on my soapbox now…). All of what is being considered on this thread is for ATS mobile access…this is not mobile recruiting, this is streamlining an application process for mobile – Huge Difference!

    A video of a CEO or an employee telling what its like to work in their company and a view of a job ad or posting is not going to get me interested, or any of the other 75% of the workforce that isn’t job needy. Mobile RECRUITING will begin when apps are written that provide a company story, the texture of the company culture, ability to join a targeted Talent Community, ability to engage directly with employees and what 100′s or 1000′s of employees think about their company (not 1-2 plants)…and certainly not because some SW that allows someone to apply for a job through a smart phone is available…

    Glad to see that ATS “process” is moving to mobile, it should make things more accessible to active job seekers…wonder when a developer is going to really tackle mobile recruiting…

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  24. Nick Morgan

    One of the funny things about ATSs is that there are some really good free ones out there like http://www.ikrut.com which is absolutely free and yet companies are still locking themselves into expensive annual contracts. It’s no longer true to say you get what you pay for and whilst they won’t yet have a mobile facility that is as seemless as working through a compter, it still makes no sense to to pay when you don’t have to. Take a look at iKrut and you’ll thank yourself you didn’t sign up to one you have to pay shed loads for.

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    Maddle is a branded html5 recruitment solution including:

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    -apply on line
    -corporate or job video (or photoslider if you don’t have a suitable video yet)
    -QR code to mobilize your print media
    -connections to your social media/LBS/Google Maps
    -shortened URL for SMS/TXT messages
    -video services in 17 countries

    Just have a look:
    http://www.maddle.nl
    or visit e.g. http://www.sonos.de >> Jobs
    (1) on your desktop AND
    (2) on your smartphone
    to see how it works with ATS and mobile.

    Examples:
    1. USA http://www.maddlejobs.com/backbase/job/enterprise-business-representative
    2. UK http://www.maddlejobs.com/kraftfoods/job/sales-executive-uk
    3. ALASKA http://www.maddle.nl/node/107
    4. FRANCE http://www.maddle.nl/maddle/job/responsable-commercial-rh-france
    5. NETHERLANDS http://www.maddle.nl/rabobank/job/klantgedreven-adviseur

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