Adidas will be going live at the end of August with a corporate careers site it’s convinced will be an “industry disruptor.”
It took a year and a half for adidas to put its new site together, with help from Carat (which is now Freestyle Interactive). Steve Fogarty, adidas North America Recruiting Captain, was the project leader. Other major stakeholders included adidas Group Global Head of Recruiting Steve Bonomo; Reebok Recruiting Manager Tara Gallone; and TaylorMade Recruiting Manager Kate Hinshaw.
Fogarty, who with Bonomo is speaking at ERE’s conference coming up in Florida, is underwhelmed by what he sees in corporate careers sites. (He does like, however, the U.S. Army’s recruiting work — “they put genuises behind it, Fogarty says” — helped by a huge budget and support from McCann Erickson. He’s also fond of Microsoft’s Hey Genius campaign, and what Cirque does with its high-profile entertainment jobs.)
Anyhow, Fogarty found that most companies either brand themselves well, but make it hard to find what you want on their career sites, or they do the flip side of that: offer a truckload of information but the brand is lost.
In a recent issue of the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, as part of an in-depth article on branding, Fogarty said that the best-marketed products don’t let the customer forget the brand:
Absolut Vodka is one of the best examples of this. The Absolut bottle has a distinct shape. Every single ad over emphasizes this shape by creatively integrating the ad into the shape of the bottle. When you walk into a liquor store, whether you are looking for Vodka or not, your eyes always go to the Absolut shelf …
Let your creativity run wild. How can you develop advertising and marketing campaigns that burn your brand positioning into the minds of your candidates?
On top of that, the sites, he finds, are rarely genuine: usually, they’re loaded up not with actual employees speaking candidly, but with stock photos, carefully calculated to check off the right diversity boxes.
The adidas recruiting department got the company’s marketing department to let it borrow, so to speak, some of the star athletes who are adidas sponsors. “Our employment brand,” adidas recruiters told adidas marketers, “is as important as our consumer brand. You give us an athlete and we’re going to shape what they do. We’re going to script what they do.” In other words, canned, generic messages from athletes that didn’t relate to employment wouldn’t be pigeonholed into a recruiting site.
Adidas doesn’t want candidates to think of athletes as the demigods they’re often portrayed as in the media. At this company, a superstar is someone you might actually meet through your job. Says Fogarty: “We take athletes off their pedestal so they become more like you and I.”
A trio of these adidas sponsors will be featured prominently for candidates who land on the new site. There’s Candace Parker, of the Los Angeles Sparks’ WNBA team, Ben Watson, from the New England Patriots, who is associated with Reebok, and golfer Natalie Gulbis, pitching the TaylorMade brand. Current employees, talking about their jobs, are also featured prominently.
Right now (with the old site), adidas has one group website representing all brands. Fogarty says, of the new site, that “Instead of saying the group supersedes the brand, the group is symbiotic and made up of the brands.” So if you want to work for TaylorMade, you’re immersed in a golf-careers site. The parent company adidas group, Fogarty says, “should be thought of as the collection of brands.”
Fogarty believes the site will work because it won’t fall into the trap so many career sites do. Companies have been playing up their “best company to work for” and “employees are our greatest asset” catchphrases that aren’t really differentiators. They clutter up their career sites with confusing navigation, boring corporate-speak, the stock photos we mentioned earlier, and unnecessary multimedia.
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Focus group participants, in fact, told adidas they didn’t want tons of cluttered information thrown out them right away when they land on the site. So the site, Fogarty says, will “serve up information as it becomes relevant. Only when it’s narrowed down to the thing you are most interested in will it give you the majority of information on that particular area. Most candidates don’t care about 50 bells and whistles. They want it to be easy. I really don’t give a &*()& how my refrigerator works. I just want my food to be cold. The technology shouldn’t be apparent on the site. It just should work.”
“Companies run together for me,” Fogarty says. “Even the best of the best out there aren’t doing it well. Google does great at marketing tactics. I’ll give them all the credit in the world for that,” he says, referring to such things as clever recruiting billboards. But Google, Fogarty says, largely failed to use its real differentiators, such as employees’ ability to spend 20% of their time on experimental projects.
Adidas’ version of the famous Google 20% rule — in other words, adidas’ employee value proposition — is a focus on sports and in particular on athletes, as people you can get to know and not merely worship, and how that is part of the adidas employment experience. If a job candidate leaves the site feeling like they could, if hired, someday get to shoot a hoop or two with Candace Parker, adidas will have succeeded.
We’ve said before that companies often redo their career sites, and leave the job descriptions boring. Fogarty wants to avoid that. It has created what it calls a “brand book” for recruiting leaders in every country. It’s basically a presentation showing, among other brand examples, samples of what the company wants to see in a job description. “We will hold the recruiters accountable for writing good job descriptions,” Fogarty says. “Right now that accountability is a little loose,” he says, with so much work being done on getting the new site up, among other things. “It’s a huge focus for us,” Fogarty says of job descriptions. But, he says, a good job description doesn’t make up for a bad job. “Is the job itself crappy?” he asks. “I’d rather have the job right than a perfect job description.”
Indeed, Fogarty wrote in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership:
Our hope is that a top candidate who may have browsed the site and then left without action in the past is compelled and inspired now to apply. No matter how great your brand positioning is, your candidates won’t come back if your jobs suck. This is where you need to work up front to ensure your organization’s jobs are scoped correctly and you are writing compelling job descriptions.
Adidas is still working on the site and the way it coordinates with its back-end applicant tracking system from Jobpartners. Originally scheduled to go live in the Spring of 2009, it should be ready later this month.