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Now Is a Good Time to Take the Measure of Your Career Site

by
John Zappe
Jan 31, 2013, 5:27 am ET

click here buttonsAll across the U.S. retailers this month are doing something you should be doing. They’re counting stock and taking inventory.

They do this for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is to know what’s selling, what’s not, and how fast. Scan codes and computerized inventory management keep track of things day in and day out. Hand counting verifies the data.

Now is a good time for you to do likewise and verify your data. No doubt you know the number of hires, the time to hire, hopefully the source of hire, and likely the full cost of hire. Those are the kind of metrics every recruiter should monitor regularly.

The inventory I’m referring to here is the performance of the company career site.

Just what do you know about how well it is performing? If you were an e-commerce vendor, you would absolutely be tracking visitor counts (and repeat visitors), bounce rates and conversion rates, and abandonment rates. To see where you’re losing customers, you would want to know exit pages. To know how visitors found you, you would be checking the entrance pages and the keywords they plugged into search engines.

But you aren’t in e-commerce, so do you really care about all these metrics? Absolutely. Every one of these bits of bytes is a performance measure telling you whether your career site is doing what you and the candidates you want to hire expect.

A few months ago, Nick Leigh-Morgan listed a number of suggestions to make a career site more inviting, easier to navigate, and honestly informational to help potential candidates decide if the company might be right for them. His column, rightfully, attracted a great deal of interest and promises from recruiters to make the changes he suggested.

Did they make a difference? Armed with those e-commerce metrics, you can tell fast enough whether they did. The value of using web analytics (as these metrics are known) is that they allow you to track career site performance daily, even hourly if you want. Just a few days after making a change to your site you’ll know whether or not it’s doing what you wanted it to.

Let’s take a look at some of these metrics and how you can use them. Keep this in mind: no single metric should be used to make decisions. Each needs to be considered in context and in conjunction with the other data.

Bounce Rate — This is one of the more underused, yet valuable metrics you should be reviewing. It tells you how many visitors landed on some page of your career site, then left without going anywhere else. Because people inadvertently end up on a site, or were looking for something else, a bounce rate below 40 percent is considered very good.

Bounce rates have to be considered together with the entrance page and keywords. You want to know where people are landing when they come to your site and whether these pages have inordinately high bounce rates. You might find the homepage of your site is the most common entry page and it also has the highest bounce percentage. Now look at the keywords your visitors used. Does your homepage deliver what the visitors were looking for? That may explain some of your high rate of exits.

Entrance Pages –  As noted above, this is a visitor’s first page. Don’t be surprised to find your homepage may not be the most common entrance page. That distinction might very well go to your jobs listings, if they happen to be on a page of their own. Seeing where visitors begin their journey through your site should clue you in to what they consider important, and where you should be concentrating more of your development effort.

Clickstream — This is a fairly sophisticated analysis which tracks the path that visitors take as they go through your site. These reports tend to be complicated and involved, so I suggest looking at the data ranking pages first (entrance), second (first mouse click), and third (second mouse click). For all but the most complex of sites, it’s not worth your time to go beyond that level. What you are looking for here is to see where visitors go next after they land on your site. A clickstream analysis will tell you how long it takes a visitor to find what they want. A two-level analysis won’t give you as thorough a picture as the more detailed report, but it will provide evidence of  what visitors are looking for and how hard it is for them to get there. This should suggest changes like simplifying navigation or a scroll of new jobs right on the leading entry pages.

Conversion Rate — You may already be tracking this, calculating the number of unique visitors to your site against the number of applications from the site. What does this really tell you? Nothing useful, in my opinion. More useful is tracking more granular detail. I think it would be much more valuable to know what percentage of individuals applied for a job after reviewing some relevant part of the site. At a minimum, I’d want to know what percentage of visitors who reviewed the jobs listings went on to apply. More valuable would be knowing what percentage of visitors applied after looking at the “About Us” (or equivalent) section.

Abandonment Rate — Is your application process too complicated? The simplest process is one that asks for so little filling-in-the-blanks detail that it takes only a few minutes to complete. One of the more complicated applications — from a top 100 best company, no less — had 144 questions to answer. Seeing what percentage of people begin the process of applying but quit before submitting it tells you how difficult it is simply to apply. The more challenging the process, the higher the abandonment rate. And consider the kinds of candidates most likely to quit — those who already have a job so aren’t desperate enough to jump through your hoops.

Visitors — Personally, I have never quite understood the excitement over unique visitors. These are people who make a first visit to your site. I want to know about repeat visitors; these are the folks who are showing me more than accidental or casual interest in what I’m offering. Both numbers are useful, but by identifying those visitors who have returned for a second or third look, I can develop something just for them. It might be as simple as a “welcome back” note, or as sophisticated as opening an online chat opportunity for them to speak directly with a recruiter. I’m not discounting unique visitors; everyone is a unique sometime. And knowing how that number is changing gives you insight into how well your external marketing is working. But repeat visitors are the “Likes” of your career site.

Image courtesy fotographic1980 / FreeDigitialPhotos.net

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. Jason Ginsburg

    This is a great analysis. HR is considered a “soft science” and it seems that, for some reason, recruiting is thought of in “soft” ways, as well. But as John points out, there are metrics. You can even go one step further and poll applicants, interviewees, or even just random job-seekers, to see what they think of your career site. At Brandemix, we do a lot of employer branding, including quant and qual research, and one of the things we hear most is that the application process/form/site is too difficult, or it involves putting in the same information twice. Help yourself out by streamlining and maybe even getting away from services like Taleo so you can brand the entire application process.

  2. Josh Tolan

    Great points! Your career site is often the first point of contact many job seekers will have with your company. If the site isn’t set up optimally you might be losing out on top talent who get tired halfway through your application process. These are the people who need to be able to send in their traditional resume or video resume, because these are the people who can move your company forward. Looking critically at the metrics of your career page will help you make the tweaks and adjustments your organization needs in order to bring in better talent.

  3. Keith Halperin

    Thanks John. Very sensible. Who will be doing this data collection, compilation, and analysis? The webmaster? Recruiters don’t have time for this. As I’ve mentioned before, a certain amount of metrics are vital and these may be those. At the same time, don’t get your recruiters away from our job: putting quality butts in chair quickly and affordably.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  4. Megan Stanish

    John – Great article! I appreciate the clarity with which you detail not only which metrics are good to assess but also why. I’m a big numbers geek and could swim in data just for fun, but clearly numbers are just numbers until they’re put into a context that helps us make decisions (in this case business decisions).
    Thank you so much.
    Megan

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    [...] Now is a good time to take measure of your Career Site by John Zappe (@ERE_net) [...]

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