Using Career Sites to Create a Positive Candidate Experience

Jul 16, 2009

A positive candidate experience translates directly into more referrals, more hires, and better quality candidates. The experience most candidates have with an organization usually starts in one of two ways: they either receive a call from a recruiter or a friend who tells them about the organization, or they go to the career site for information and to look for open positions.

The recruiter’s opening remarks, telephone or face-to-face style, and assumptions about the candidate forge the initial impression a candidate gets of the organization. And as they say, you can only make a first impression once! If it is a poor one, you will most likely lose the candidates, and perhaps the referrals they could have made.

Rather than relying on a recruiter to create the candidate experience, smart organizations will strive to provide a consistent and constant experience that is independent of any individual, and that experience will be centered on the career site.

Over the next decades it will become a requirement that every organization have an interactive career site that will be the portal for candidates at any stage of the hiring process to provide feedback, information, and to develop and grow their relationship with your organization. Some organizations have started on this journey, including Deloitte, Microsoft, and KPMG. They have put together websites and online events that are targeted at their most desired candidates and create positive impressions. But, most career sites are weak at creating any impression at all and are just fluff.

For most organizations the candidate experience process is weak, broken, and badly in need of being rethought. As more and more candidates are from Gen Y, they expect to see dynamic, interesting, and authentic career sites that provide specific information. They are much less focused on talking directly with a recruiter or with developing a face-to-face relationship. Yet, recruiters are notorious for believing that the only possible way to know people is by “pressing the flesh”: meeting them in person, calling them on the phone, or having lunch or dinner with them. While these are all useful and time-tested, it is also possible to get to know people and build relationships using the Internet. By using technology to extend out from the small number of people it is possible to meet and know face-to-face, a recruiter can become vastly more effective.

Building electronic relationships with no personal contact is not only possible, it may even be desirous. Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric, has said that human relationships are declining in the selling of goods and services. What he means is that telephone and face-to-face connections between corporate buyers and their suppliers is rapidly being supplanted by Internet and email conversations. The same is also true of relationships with customers. Amazon, Dell, Lands’ End, and other retailers have developed sophisticated tools to build and maintain long-term relationships with their customers.

Here are six ways to build a more positive candidate experience into your career site.

  1. Move your thinking from a career site to something more like a social network. Turn your career site into a social network by using tools such as Ning to create one, or engaging the services of an organization such as Standout Jobs that specializes in recruiting networks. This will automatically give you many of the features I describe.
  2. Have recruiters write blogs. Blogs have become the voice of authenticity and provide the most credible information. Candidates become attached to specific bloggers and keep coming back, which results in them having a relationship and deeper understanding of your organization than they could have gotten in any other way. Even though we have been blogging for years, only a handful of recruiting sites have a blog aimed at candidates. The most well known is Heather Hamilton’s at Microsoft. Most of us have let legal issues and the difficulty to overcome internal bureaucratic processes stifle the use of this potentially excellent communication and relationship-building tool.
  3. Make the site adapt to the candidate’s needs. Build in choices so that candidates who are analytical can get data, facts, and charts while those candidates who are more verbal get similar information in text or pictures. Creating various forms of the same content is a clever and effective way of adding what seems to the candidates a personal touch to the website.
  4. Hold webinars. Periodic online seminars, or webinars, can be used to build traffic and create some opportunities for people to learn what your organization does and how they might fit into it. There are a number of webinar firms that offer inexpensive software that you could harness for this purpose. These can be recorded and offered later as podcasts.
  5. Hold a contest. Promoting contests and games can also be a useful way to generate excitement and build relationships. People respond to trivia games, contests, and online minisurveys. They like the instant feedback and the ability to do something rather than just read. These contests are also a way to get people to come back over and over again to your site. Each time they return is another opportunity to recruit them — or at least to have a conversation with them and keep them excited about your organization.

The point of all this is to give candidates authentic information when they need it in a way they respond to. A good career site is not just a listing of open positions but also a carefully thought out and targeted marketing tool. By spending your budget dollars to develop a dynamic career site, you can lower your overall sourcing costs, increase candidate volume and quality, and build your organization’s reputation.

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