Microsoft is Building An Ambitious, New Global Recruiting Site

Apr 9, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Microsoft has embarked on an ambitious overhaul of its recruitment marketing that is matched only by an equally ambitious overhaul of its recruitment technology.

When the decision was made a couple of years ago to update its talent acquisition system by tying together all the company’s far flung offices with an SAP system, Microsoft decided it was a good time to rework its global careers face. As happens with companies that grow from a bright idea to a 100,000 worker worldwide enterprise in barely 30 years, Microsoft’s recruitment efforts had sprouted dozens of online iterations for different countries, different regions, and even for different business units.

Bewildered candidates looking for opportunities around the world had to visit multiple sites since there was no central jobs listing. Behind those career sites were different tracking systems, making it challenging for Microsoft to manage promising candidates.

Even in the U.S., where centralized recruiting has been the rule, Microsoft’s online recruiting presence has become so bloated that candidates can become lost in the navigational maze. The sheer breadth and depth of the content can become an obstacle itself, causing information overload that could keep job seekers from getting to what they wanted to know.

In the words of the woman whose job it is to bring order, and consistency, and, yes, excitement to Microsoft’s global recruiting presence, “We wanted a consistent global message for Microsoft; consistent storytelling and improved transactional capabilities.”

Margie Medd, Microsoft’s director of employment branding, says the work to update the software company’s online recruiting began about two years ago, when the company decided to invest in a new talent acquisition system. It made no sense, she explains, to roll out a global ATS, “but then have all these separate sites.”

Thus was born the recruitment marketing initiative that Medd leads. Her team includes recruiters, recruitment marketers, web developers, a validation group, and representatives from some of the countries where Microsoft has a recruiting presence. Not all of them work on the project fulltime (about 10 do that), but all of them have a part in developing the new Microsoft global careers site.

The team followed a methodical path, setting business, and marketing goals. First on the list was to present a consistent global message, perhaps a natural for Medd, whose first career was in marketing. No less important was to improve the user experience, making job searching and applying simpler, and more logical.

Not only an office software provider, but a burgeoning entertainment business, Microsoft also wanted a candidate wow factor; career site elements to “impress and inspire them,” says Medd. “We were looking for a much more modern voice.”

The end game of all this, Medd notes, “is increasing the throughput of qualified candidates,” and, she adds, “telling our employment story for ourselves. This is our brand to manage.”

We didn’t explore with Medd the recruiting challenges Microsoft has been facing in recent years from the likes of Google and the “name” startups, but the Redmond, Wash. giant has lost talent battles to these companies, as well as to hundreds of less-known startups. Even though it’s got a successful game unit (Xbox 360) and the much-maligned “blue screen of death” is mostly a fading memory, Microsoft’s recruitment marketing, at least the part you find when you search for “Microsoft jobs,” is uninspired. The U.S. homepage is busy. The message fuzzy.

There’s no doubt the company realizes that, as Medd observes, “We have been underinvesting in telling the company story. We’ve let others tell our employment story for us.” On its pioneering View<my world> site there’s a page that begins:

“Microsoft is one of the world’s best kept secrets.
That sounds funny when you’re talking about a company nearly everyone’s heard of. But the truth is, most people don’t know the whole story about what it’s like to work here. And you should, because it’s a good story.”

That will all change when the first of the new career pages is unveiled this summer. Focus groups and employee surveys, including “a healthy dose of recent hires,” gave Medd and her team a sort of mantra for their work: “We have talented people doing amazing things.”

In the new site, these people will be telling their stories in videos. “It will be dev to dev,” she says, meaning one software developer talking to another. Or one project manager talking to another. “There is a desire for authenticity,” says Medd, adding that the videos won’t be scripted or “scrubbed. They will be true to the experience.”

Job seekers will be able to search for any Microsoft job anywhere in the world from one place. They’ll be able to learn of jobs that meet their qualifications and their interests, via the improved keyword matching capability of the SAP system. They’ll also be able to quickly find out more about a job or a division, thanks to easier and clearer navigation, and less wordiness.

“Everything,” says Medd, “will be new.”

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