As in print publications, recruitment advertising on the Internet usually has several objectives. Obviously, the first and most important is to locate high caliber candidates for an organization’s open positions at the lowest possible cost. Often, a second objective is to build the public image of the organization, both as an attractive employer and as a high quality provider of goods or services. And increasingly, at least in cyberspace, yet another goal is to cut the time and effort involved in identifying prospective candidates so that recruiters can devote more attention to evaluation and selection. In order to meet these objectives, recruitment Web-sites must capture eyeballs. In other words, they must generate both initial and sustained traffic by visitors to their site. First, they have to promote their location on the Internet as an attractive destination for the kinds of people an organization is seeking to recruit so that these prospective candidates will visit the site the first time, AND then they have to provide an experience at the site that is interesting, educational, entertaining and/or worthwhile enough to get those prospective candidates to return to the site over and over again. Market share is one way to measure a site’s effectiveness in attracting visitors, but there are other factors which should be considered, as well. Indeed, a strong promotional campaign will often get a person to visit a site one time (which is clearly important), but it is the site itself–its design–that will determine if they ever come back. Barb Ruess, the Director of Marketing at E.Span (www.espan.com), puts it this way: “There were three key tenets to our site’s design: functionality, which made it easy for visitors to get to where they wanted to go on the site; graphics, or the look and feel of the site, which made it easy to use and enjoy what they found there; and content, which gave them a reason to pay us another visit.” All of a site’s visitors are important (and measured in market share) as they make up the pool of prospective candidates who will read a recruitment ad, but repeat visitors are the engine of successful recruiting. They are the “loyal audience” to which a site can offer employers ccess… consistently and with confidence, whether an ad is posted this week or next year. So, what determines the number of repeat visitors to a site and the level of their loyalty? Basically, people come back to a site when it satisfies two criteria: (1) they get what they want and/or expect and (2) they enjoy themselves in the process. And the only way to determine which sites meet those criteria (and hence, represent a good potential return on your investment) is to walk awhile in the job seeker’s shoes on the “information superhighway.” For both active and passive job seekers, the key to the first criterion is great jobs with great employers. In other words, one of the most effective ways to evaluate whether or not candidates will visit, stay for any length of time at and return to a site–and thereby give your recruitment ad a chance to work–is to determine the company your organization will keep at the site. Ask the sites you are considering for a list of those organizations which have recruited with them in the last 90 days and for the kinds of jobs (i.e., occupational field, skill level, salary) they posted. Then ask yourself, whether those opportunities with those employers would attract the kind of candidate you are seeking. If the answer is yes, move on to the second criterion; if the answer is no, move on to another Web-site. The only way to evaluate a recruitment Web-site against the second criterion is to pay it a visit on-line. Indeed, I recommend that you never place an ad on a site until you have “test driven” it from a job seeker’s perspective. If you don’t enjoy the experience, chances are the candidates won’t, as well; and when that happens, your ad will either get ignored, or worse, your organization’s image will be tarnished by its association with the site. Here are some other issues you should consider when visiting a site: HOW EASY IS IT TO OPEN THE DOOR? Although seemingly a small point, ease-of-entry can have a huge impact on whether a site is major on-off ramp on the Internet or a back road with much less traffic. As more and more people begin to visit cyberspace for the first time, a site’s appeal will be based on such factors as the length and complexity of the site’s name (e.g., compare www.disserv3.stu.umn.edu/COL to www.occ.com, and it’s easy to figure out which is more “candidate friendly”) and how long it takes to download the site’s content (i.e., you can forget about it if the site takes more than two sips of coffee to move its images and words from the Internet to your–or a candidate’s–computer). HOW EASY IS IT TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S THERE? Is the lay-out of the first page of the site intuitively obvious to the first time visitor? Does it clearly identify the different sections or areas of the site (e.g., for job seekers, employers) and provide easy access to them? Does it provide a Table of Contents or a “site map” for each or all of those areas so that visitors can quickly determine what’s available on the site (for first time visitors) and what has recently changed there (for repeat visitors)? HOW EASY IS IT TO GET WHERE YOU WANT TO GO? Does the site provide good navigability? For example, if you click on a word or image to go to one area of the site, there should be a clearly identified way to return to your original location. A good Web-site design will make it easy to go “forth AND back.” It will also provide a way (a) to return to the first or home page of the site, so that you can start all over again if you lose your bearings within the site’s content and (b) to move from one major content area (e.g., the database of job openings) to another (e.g., the database of resumes).
Peter Weddle is the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. Described by The Washington Post as "... a man filled with ingenious ideas," he has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, National Business Employment Weekly and CNN.com. His most recent books include Circa 2118: What Will Humans Do When Machines Take Over and A Prescription for the Soul: A Historical Novel About Boomers & the American Dream, both of which are available at Amazon.com. An Airborne Ranger, Weddle is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has attended Oxford University and holds graduate degrees from the Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.