(7 minute read)

They say a leopard can’t change its spots. Sometimes, though, it’s necessitated. Species evolution, environmental change, new predators entering the ecosystem. While it’s probably a little extreme to suggest anything in the tech world is ready to gazump your careers website, it’s high time the traditional approach had a makeover. And the reason is simple. Your candidates are demanding it. While there may be no fearsome predators lurking around the corner, the environment has changed and your target species have evolved.

For years now, it’s been widely accepted that the most vital part of any recruitment marketing strategy is your careers website. It’s the destination to which all other activity is driven. Social media posts, advertising, even the goal of any ambient or experiential marketing campaign is designed, ultimately, to steer candidates to a careers site. And the reason is obvious. It’s your domain, where you control the message and can convince (or dissuade) candidates to apply for your roles.

In this respect, nothing has changed. Candidates still need to go somewhere to explore opportunities, decide if that company is the right fit for them and their skills, and to apply. What has changed is your candidates’ behaviour, and that means you need to be willing to change too. As is so often the case the devil is in the data.

From monitoring the candidate journeys of over 282 million users across more than 300 careers sites that we have built for our clients across the world, some fascinating insights have been gleaned. The data told us that a candidate’s first thought in arriving at your careers site tends to be ‘is there a job for me here?’. The articles, blogs, videos and testimonials that you have scattered about the place are secondary to the jobs, and for those candidates just keen to find a role and apply, some of that important content is not even being explored. While these are the findings from our existing clients’ sites, it’s important to measure, test and analyse your own careers site to determine how your candidates are interacting with it and, by extension, you.

This trend oscillates from sector to sector, and it is particularly pertinent for high volume roles such as retailers, but it is behaviour that is being fuelled by an ever-extending candidate journey. Many people (incorrectly) assume that candidates simply stumble upon a careers website but, in actual fact, they have been driven there by marketing or by their existing brand awareness or perception. It stands to reason that with some existing context to lean on, one of their top priorities will be to identify whether there is a suitable opening for them.

Many candidates are hitting ‘apply’ without interacting with anything other than a job description.

TalentBrew data

First thought = find job

In addition to this ‘first thought = find job’ mentality, the data also showed that for the majority of active job seekers, the first page they experience when they land on your careers site is a job description. Invariably, that’s because they’ve arrived by clicking through from Google (where 67% of all job searches begin, according to NORAS job seeker survey) following a search or by clicking on a job posting from a job board or social media post. Indeed, before delving any further into the numbers, it’s worth flagging that many employers’ jobs are not optimised for SEO. When two thirds of job searches begin with a search engine that’s potentially a huge amount of organic (free!) traffic you’re missing out on. For more on solving that, our TalentBrew software provides one possible solution. Anyway, back to the data. What we’ve found in analysing these journeys is that many candidates are hitting ‘apply’ without interacting with anything other than a job description. They’re coming back later, but typically only to conduct research before an interview.

And yet the plot thickens further. The average job description is 522 words. At a typical reading pace of 200 words per minute, that would take the average person 2 minutes and 27 seconds to complete. However, the data from millions of users tells us that the majority of candidates are spending no more than 1 minute and 30 seconds on the job description page. So they’re reading no more than 300 words. That’s a shortfall of 222 words that may contain important information.

They are the figures. But what does it all mean?

The vast majority of candidates have, by the time they arrive at a job description, already looked in to your company on the vast array of other channels available to them, such as review sites, social media and professional networking sites. For the most part, they want to know if you’ve got a position for them now, so a job search is their first port of call, either on Google or your careers site itself. The first piece of content that they are truly exposed to is your job descriptions. Once they’re there, they’re not spending enough time on the page to consume that information and are therefore making a decision on whether to apply or not based on potentially insufficient detail. Not only should they be reading more of the job specification, but they should really be exploring some of your consideration-building content to inform their decision and educate them further about the company. After all, can you really fit every useful bit of information into 522 words? More pertinently, why would you want to? Video content and visuals are proven to be much more engaging and facilitate more conversions.

Candidates’ behaviour is changing, and it’s up to employers to mould their offering to accommodate those changes or risk receiving ill-informed applications from potentially ill-fitted candidates. Or, more damagingly, it could mean missing out on the right candidates because they simply didn’t see the content that was needed to convince them to apply.

So, what’s the answer?

Make sure all the relevant content dotted about your careers site is presented to the candidate where they are. That means showing it to them at the job description level. Most job descriptions are wordy and cumbersome to read. With the data telling us they’re becoming an even more critical part of the candidate journey, they need to be reinvigorated and enlivened, both in terms of the way they are formatted and the content they offer. The right content needs to be surfaced at the right time and in the right place, right where the user needs it. Right?

To give you an example, AT&T’s job descriptions for their technician roles embrace this new candidate trend (the job link is live as of the time of posting, but a search for another ‘installation technician’ role will yield the same experience if the role is no longer live at the time of reading). An infographic-type approach to rewards, benefits and success profiles removes the need for the candidate to scan a text-heavy version for those details. Glassdoor reviews of AT&T are included too; we know candidates are going to check you out on these sites anyway, so why not save them the time and keep them on the pages you want them to be? Interactive day-in-the-life videos for the relevant role are included, as are company stories that apply to those roles and cultural pieces such as #LifeAtATT. (Full disclosure – AT&T is an existing AIA Worldwide client who use our TalentBrew talent marketing software platform.)

Today’s candidate expectations are higher than ever before because of the enhanced consumer experience they get at other websites. If you’re not presenting them with the information they need, where and when they need it, you risk losing them.

European Marketing Manager

Ross manages TMP Worldwide’s marketing efforts across Europe. He is responsible for all online and offline activity in the UK, France and Germany, including devising the agency’s content and social strategies. He manages all other online properties and is responsible for analysing performance across all channels, enhancing the agency’s offering accordingly.