At Microsoft, an Apply-From-Your-Phone Tool Is Top Priority

Sep 20, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Buoyed by the early returns from the launch of its mobile-optimized career site, Microsoft is working on what for some companies is a major goal of mobile recruiting: a way for candidates to apply for jobs straight from a mobile phone, without going to their computer later in the day. The apply-from-your-phone experience is a “top priority” of the Microsoft team, one that is being pursued as its other work on mobile recruiting goes on simultaneously.

The company joined the early movers in mobile recruiting this year with the launch of its mobile career site. Those movers, among many others, include PepsiUPS, adidas, McDonald’s, Intel, Citi, and Sodexo. Microsoft had started working on the site last summer, 2011, and had brought on Punchkick Interactive for help. On the Microsoft side, the players included Heather Tinguely, as well as others in recruiting, staffing marketing, and the global talent labs division.

There was some interesting discussion within the Microsoft walls: just what is it that people want on a mobile phone, when considering employment? Do they want stories about the workplace? To search for jobs? To hear through videos about the experience working there?

As the team worked on the new architecture, it scaled up, and then down. What I mean is it first decided (around the beginning of 2012) on a more grand plan for the user experience on mobile phones, something to help people decide where they best fit at the company, and then opted for something more simple, something you can see when you look at the mobile site on your smart phone.

Tinguely says Microsoft was “weeding out what is really mandatory and focusing on what is necessary for a simplified user experience.”

It spent a lot of time on the back end; getting job descriptions to work on a mobile phone, for example — to synch with the back end of Microsoft’s system to track candidates. It was a “game of integration,” Tinguely says, “the technical granularity of making it work on a phone.”

Punchkick and Microsoft worked closely together, for months. It’s more simple than slick. One goal, says Tinguely, was a “Microsoft style, Microsoft experience.” The site went live in March for those who went straight from their phones to the careers URL; by August, internal redirects had been done so that if you went, say, from your phone through parts of the site and then to the careers site, you got the mobile-friendly version.

Tinguely says traffic has been “fantastic” — about 83,000 visits monthly. There is, she says, “a lot of activity right now” but final statistics on who’s being hired will have to wait. About a quarter of traffic to the mobile Microsoft careers site is coming from emails people open up on their phones. Those emails come from Microsoft’s “talent network” (what’s at some companies called a “talent community”). The “talent network” is a big source of hires to Microsoft. If you follow the logic, odds are decent that some hires are coming from mobile phones.

But, again, she says the fact that people need to go their computer and apply is a big issue and a “top priority” to solve, she says. “The next question for us is really going to become ‘what is the minimum amount of information we need from that mobile candidate to make it easy to allow them to apply? Do we need 50 bits of information, or can we parse that down to 10, and get 40 later?'”

“We’re looking to integrate social features to allow ‘apply’ to happen,” she says.

What that last sentence means is this: to apply for a job with a phone, it helps if you already have something online — like, for example, with Sodexo applicants and their profiles. “Anything you look at where somebody has to have a file on their computer doesn’t make sense,” Tinguely says. “But with the cloud you can get around that.”

Another way around that, beyond having a profile up already on a Microsoft career site, is by having one already on a site like LinkedIn or other social media site. That’s the way Microsoft may go. “Really it’s just like you would with any CRM integration,” Tinguely says, “wiring up the fields you get from social, plug them in your fields.”

I mentioned above the Microsoft debate about what it is people want to do on their phone. There’s also that other hot debate: whether candidates want to download an application or not. While Microsoft works on its mobile-friendly career site, it is also in the very early stages of a separate career-related application you’d download, one likely to include more than just a job search and job listing. Expect a recruiting-related game, or perhaps an augmented reality tour of Microsoft.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.