I feel like I have spent what seems like thousands of hours shoveling through mountains of talent research – reading surveys and reports, analyzing occupational data and uncovering popular employment trends and hiring challenges in a variety of industries.
Improving the candidate experience sticks out as one of the biggest talent acquisition challenges for employers these days. But luckily, there are many ways to overcome this challenge and one of them is to eliminate using hit or miss recruiting approaches and invest in a little market research to influence your recruiting strategies.
Organizations marketing their products and services typically invest in market research to collect insight that help them understand consumers. They dig deep to gather information on consumer demographics, needs, behaviors and expectations so they can make better business decisions and reduce risk around developing new products or services, opening new locations or improving customer satisfaction.
The same holds true when it comes to attracting the best and the brightest talent to your organization. Candidates are your customers and your company is the product. Investing in talent research can not only help strengthen and enhance decision making when it comes to your recruiting strategies, but will also help create a better candidate experience, from the attraction phase to the onboarding process and beyond.
So what can you unearth when you start to dig?
- A better understanding of the talent you seek
This one seems obvious. But you must have a good understanding of the talent you seek in order to craft appropriate recruiting messages and create a strong connection. Where are potential candidates located? Are you familiar with their demographic make up (age, gender and race/ethnicity)? How difficult is it to hire for your desired talent segments? What motivates certain talent to apply for a job or choose an employer? A lack of basic talent knowledge and poor messaging could be driving good candidates away from your employment brand. Answering these questions will help you develop more accurate candidate profiles.
- Recruitment market insight
You can lay the groundwork for a great candidate experience, but it won’t mean a thing unless you’re recruiting in the right places. Once you’ve discovered the best locations, understanding the make up of the local recruiting market is essential. How many potential candidates are in the local market? What is the local unemployment rate? What other companies are you competing with for talent in the local market?
- Up-to-date talent trends
Being on top of talent market trends is something that should be one of the driving forces behind your plan for providing a great candidate experience. The talent landscape is changing before our eyes. Every day, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65. As they begin to retire, they are expected to leave large talent gaps in many industries such as healthcare and manufacturing. At the same time, Millennials are continuing to make their mark in the workplace. In light of these trends, how does your career site speak to recent college graduates or Millennials? Are you communicating with them in the right media channels?
- Competitive advantage
Comparing your candidate experience to your competitors – from your career site to your onboarding process – can help you hone in on what makes you different. But have you identified your true competition and what they are doing to attract talent? You might think that your only competitors are those that compete against your company’s products and services in the consumer marketplace. However, the list doesn’t end there. Additional digging can reveal competitors that haven’t even been on your radar screen. These are companies that hire for similar skill sets and talent pools, but may not be in your industry. Once you’ve identified them, find out how they are positioning themselves for talent. What job boards are they using? What markets are they recruiting from? What job titles are they using? Real-time competitor intelligence is only a click away.
While much talent insight can be found by simply Googling, a deeper understanding can be obtained through a variety of data sources, including business sources that provide real-time talent intelligence. Some employers even use surveys or focus groups to determine where certain talent segments search for jobs and find employer information. Have you ever considered surveying a group of applicants to ask about their experience applying to one of your job openings? Have you ever enlisted a team to audit your career site or your recruiting process to find out what it’s really like to go through the experience you offer candidates?
The key to improving your candidate experience is to do your research first. With all the valuable insight and research methods available today, I’d hate to see employers miss out. Don’t be afraid to break ground!
With over 18 years of experience, I am devoted to providing our HR clients with customized recruiting research that supports their internal sourcing strategies and workforce planning initiatives. As manager of NAS Insights, I have worked with clients in a variety of industries such as healthcare, manufacturing and finance.
My goal is to stay up to date on the latest recruiting, sourcing, industry and occupational trends that impact the recruiting space, including those that pertain to diversity, campus recruitment and veterans.
Your company’s career site is still the go-to place for job seekers. According to the “Candidate Experience 2013,” 69%  of job seekers used company career sites as part of their pre-application, information gathering process.
It’s a critical portion of your candidate’s journey in discovering your job opportunities and learning about you as an employer. For 98% of employers, the career site is considered the “’go to’ channel for engaging and communicating with employment prospects.”
Search engines are an ideal traffic channel for your career site.
There are a variety of ways to reach a career site – but studies indicate that as much as 85% of candidates rely on search engines like Google or Bing to research jobs. Often, those search results lead to search aggregators like Indeed or job boards like CareerBuilder.
Frankly speaking, you want job seekers, especially those using your company name, to find you and completely avoid these highly competitive environments and go directly to your career site.
In recent years, Google has gone to great lengths to improve website rankings in order to better serve their users. This has led them to create a complex algorithm to determine webpage rankings within their search engine results pages (SERP) – changes that can ultimately benefit you.
Search used to be about keywords – now it’s about value and intent.
You’ve probably heard about Panda and Hummingbird – two of the most recent waves of changes to Google’s search algorithm. Without getting into technical details, the main point of these changes was to help ensure that search results provided more value.
Panda was an update to Google in response to search results that were getting overrun with “bad information” – sites that had little or no original content or contained copied content by other people.
Tweaking the algorithm wasn’t enough; Google wanted an overhaul.
Last year, Hummingbird was a total search engine overhaul – in a blog post at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan recommended thinking of it as taking the engine out of your car and putting in a new one. Google is now less interested in the specific words used in a search query and more interested in the meaning or intent behind the search.
There’s a trend here.
Useless information is bad.
Information that matches the searcher’s needs (not just their specific words) is good.
While the exact details to the algorithm used to rank websites change multiple times in a year, there are some definite things that will lower your ranking significantly in search engines in general, and with Google specifically.
In fact, if you do enough things poorly, Google may remove your career site (or at least pages of the site) from their search directory completely. Below is a look at five dangerous techniques that may result in Google banning your site.
1. Bad or Outdated SEO Tactics
The number one way to have your career site banned from Google is to use a variety of bad SEO tactics. This can include:
- “Keyword stuffing” – Loading the same words into a page multiple times until your content makes no sense or reads unnaturally. For example: “Are you looking for a job as a project manager? If you’re looking for a project manager job, look no further. Our project manager jobs are the best career move for project managers. Feel free to watch a testimonial about our project manager jobs from our project managers.” Both candidates and search engines will hate you for doing this.
- Poor or manipulative internal linking – Internal links (links from one page in your site to another page in your site) are important SEO signals, but they’ve been abused in the past. Your site needs a clear internal link structure. Fortunately, good link structures also provide a better candidate experience – with NAS’ ACTIVATE, we’ve seen our optimized structure provide an experience that educates job seekers, while getting them to the right kind of opportunities quickly AND gives search engines the structure they want.
- Focusing on volume over quality – This can take many forms: link exchanges, article marketing to flooded “article” sites with tons of poorly written content, blog comment links, press release abuse and more. Ultimately, any SEO strategy that focuses more on sheer quantity of links coming to you without paying attention to the relevance of the site sending the link, the quality of the content containing the link and the quality of the page where the job seeker arrives.
Years ago these tactics were used quite often to help people increase their website ranking. But today, these same SEO strategies will make your site appear to be spam and get it banned from the search engines.
2. No Value in Career Site Content
As mentioned above, Google has also cracked down on websites that provide no real value to the internet user. This means that your website content must be clearly designed to help visitors and provide them with useful information.
Avoid pages that have no content or contain very few words.
Sites that have short content (fewer than 200-300 words) that provide little value are ripe for a search engine penalty. While the content does not have to be stellar, it does have to be useful to the reader. Even short content – content that answers a specific question or helps guide a user to the information they need – can be valuable, just look at Twitter for example.
Just make sure your content is original, well-written and high quality. Simple, right?
3. Promise Content – Then Don’t Deliver It
Expectations are important. Whenever someone clicks on a search engine listing, they have an expectation about what they are going to see next – the information they will receive. If you set expectations for one thing but then provide visitors with something else on your website, you risk two problems:
1) The user will arrive and leave immediately (or bounce, as in bounce rate), and
2) Google will notice and reduce the page’s value in search results.
For example, if someone comes through a link promising to show Network Engineering Jobs, but then arrives on a page saying there are no jobs available, Google will remove the page from its index.
Why? Google and the user both expect you to live up to a promise – especially in the case of an expectation about job listings. If Google arrives to a notice of “no jobs,” you’ve let Google and the user know that the page contains no information of value. There are ways to finesse this so you can satisfy Google AND the user – there are also ways to do this that just frustrate the job seeker.
Don’t sacrifice Candidate Experience for search results.
There are some systems that attempt to side-step this by creating pages targeting specific job seekers (e.g., Network Engineering Jobs) even when there are no actual job listings on the page. Instead of showing Network Engineering Jobs, they fill the pages with irrelevant job listings – avoiding a Google penalty, but completely frustrating the job seeker by providing them with Administrative Jobs or Supply Chain Jobs.
For now Google may be fooled by this type of tactic, but the job seeker still gets a bad experience – and a bad association with your employment brand.
4. Not Mobile Friendly
With the surge of mobile users on the market, it was only a matter of time until the major search engines would expect companies to provide mobile-ready content on their site. For years now Google has been telling people that web sites that haven’t been mobile-optimized will experience search exposure penalties, and now they are making good on their promise. Google has already begun changing search results based on mobile-friendly websites as well as the device people are searching on. Different devices give different search results – and non-mobile optimized sites risk dropping out of search results.
Mobile engagement with career sites and the job search process isn’t coming into focus – the future is crystal clear: according to the recent “State of Mobile Job Search Survey” by Glassdoor (May 2014), “Nine in 10 (89%) job seekers report they’re likely to use a mobile device during their job search in the next 12 months.”
Not only does this affect your ranking on the search engines, but it can provide you with a larger engaged audience. This is particularly vital for career sites, because more candidates are exploring new career options on the mobile phone versus their work or home computer.
Mobile is about making users happy – and that makes Google happy.
Google advises to “improve the mobile web, make your users happy, and allow searchers to experience and experience your content fully.” Job seekers agree, 65% of workers who search for jobs via mobile devices will leave a website if it is not mobile-optimized; 40% leave with a negative opinion of the company.
5. Buy Links
You can’t buy love, and you should never buy links.
For years, Google promoted the value of link building as a way to build your search exposure. More links meant more people liked your content – each link was a vote. The more “popular” the site linking to you, the more valuable the “vote.” There are a lot of additional details about “link juice” and page rank that control how this works, but that’s the essence of it.
Of course, it’s a lot of work getting people to link to your site just the right way with just the right words for Google to pay attention to your web pages.
Why spend time getting valuables links to your page when you can just buy them?
For a while, building link volume through paying for people to place these links on their sites seemed like a simple solution. But it was always frowned upon and over time, Google has taken to penalizing sites for engaging in anything that even resembles buying links.
Keep a close eye on any third-party services you use to ensure they don’t engage in this behavior. Save the money you were going to spend on links and spend it on content instead. JC Penney didn’t keep a close eye on its SEO vendor and ended up getting penalized by Google and characterized by a New York Times reporter as “the most ambitious attempt [of link spamming he’s] ever heard of.”
If you do buy links, don’t promote it on Twitter!
If for some reason you want Google to penalize you, go ahead and buy links. However, you should make sure the people you do business with don’t use Twitter or other public environments as the ideal place to negotiate renewals. As the Twitter conversation below shows, link purchasing isn’t just for small businesses and shady operators – lazy marketers at big companies like T-Mobile do it, too. You, however, should not.
6. Distribute Article Spam
With all this talk about “Content is King” and the importance of good content marketing, it’s important to remember a few lessons from an SEO tactic called “article marketing.” Not very long ago it wasn’t uncommon for marketers to create or buy low-cost “spun” articles and stuff them into as many article directories as possible. Think of it as a slightly legitimate form of link buying. I mean, you’re writing content, right?!?
Well, not so much.
Google used to care about quantity.
Article marketing thrived for a while and in many ways was a primitive form of content marketing. But it relied too much on creating content for the sake of keyword-heavy link building. The articles often provided barely any information of value and oftentimes couldn’t even be read – a result of “spinning” the copy to create hundreds of versions of the same piece. The idea was to have hundreds or thousands of versions of the same article pointing to the location you wanted to promote.
Now Google cares about quality.
It didn’t take long for Google to catch on – these articles filling up directories and other sites were worthless. Remember, useless information is bad and these articles don’t give people what they need – good information. Google wants quality information that gives users real value.
The end result – if you’re creating articles or blogging for your company, they have to be high quality and actually useful for your reader. It’s good for Google and good for your reputation with job seekers.
So, if I can’t do all that – what should I do?
If you want to have your site banned from the Google search engine, you can easily make all of the mistakes listed above. In no time, you will have a difficult time locating your site on Google. If on the other hand, your goal is to create a successful career site that will provide brand and career opportunity exposure, remember that Google recognizes VALUE.
Keep your content relevant to the job seeker’s interest and needs while paying attention to observing proper technical SEO practices. Give users a good experience – make it easy to find the information they crave and the job opportunities they want. If you do right by your job seekers, you will be doing right by Google as well.
 Candidate Experience 2013
Ohio and NAS – Great places to work!
Glassdoor.com just announced its 2014 Employment Satisfaction Survey, and it’s no surprise that Ohio has all three major cities in the Top 40 (at least, it’s no surprise to anyone who lives here).
I moved to Cleveland two years ago. What really impresses me about the area is that it’s steeped in history, the majority of the population still has a great sense of community, and we get to take advantage of the great amenities of “big city” life: major league sports, the symphony, theater, concerts, world-class museums, etc.
Another amazing aspect of Cleveland is how friendly people are…especially the ones I work with here at NAS. Sure, we have our fair share of work to do – our company is growing like crazy. However, everyone here is very professional and takes their jobs seriously, but we also have fun at work.
My job at NAS Recruitment Innovation also happens to be very emotionally rewarding, too. We partner with companies, building out and updating their career website technology. It offers the opportunity to work on projects that help people find jobs, plus we get to work with some of the biggest brands in the world – most of our clients are on the Fortune 500 list.
Like the Glassdoor Employment Satisfaction Survey displays, the work environment NAS has here in Cleveland is really something that employees at other companies could envy. Two years ago, NAS moved its corporate office to Rockside Road in Valley View, just off 77 and 480. Not only is this new location great for an easy commute and access to great food options like Starbucks, Melt, Potbelly, Chipotle and the Winking Lizard, but it’s also across the street from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the historic Towpath walking/biking trail. It’s not unusual to see several employees on the Towpath and park trails during lunch or after work.
NAS has monthly parties, as well – either for holidays or what we call “Thirsty Thursdays.” Recently, the USA vs. Germany World Cup match was put on the big screen and pizza was provided so everyone could cheer on Team USA. These are just some of the perks that help create a great work environment.
With NAS’ business booming, we have several job openings in IT and Inside Sales. If you or someone you know wants a great place to work, where you’ll make a real difference, check out the open positions NAS has below.
Feel free to click through and apply, or forward this article to a friend.
Are you not getting the results you want from your current online job posting? Does it seem like no matter how many times you post a position, you cannot attract the qualified candidates your company needs? Larry Engel, Patty Van Leer and I were discussing this ubiquitous challenge the other day and determined what are the most important actions you can take to address this situation.
You’re about to discover three specific tips from you can use to improve your online job descriptions. These changes can help make your job postings more effective for job seekers and search engine exposure.
Why search engines?
Tip #1: Consider the Search Engine to be your first job seeker
85% of candidates use search engines like Google or Bing to research jobs.
Search engines are a huge job seeker resource – exposure on search engines means exposure to job seekers. But typically, job aggregators and jobs boards dominate search results, especially for generic search terms like “administrative assistant jobs.” For terms like this, the typical employer has virtually no chance to compete for exposure. The numbers are against you.
Among other things, search engines reward sites that have a large amount of useful content. Aggregators and job boards have content out the wazoo (that’s a technical term, by the way) – for example, Indeed has over 3 million search results related just to the phrase “administrative assistant.” How many administrative assistant openings do you have?
You are in a battle to own your brand.
But it’s more than just the job titles that aggregators and job boards want to leverage and “own” – they want to use your company name also. For example, when people search for jobs using your company name, it’s common to find that Web services have created thousands of pages using your company name to help their pages rise to the top of the search results. So candidates follow a link because they are interested in a job with YOUR COMPANY and are presented with not just your openings, but those of your competitors as well. Your brand value has just been hijacked. The good news is:
You can take back your control for the most critical search terms.
Tip #2: Fix your Job Titles
Your job titles are confusing job seekers – and Google.
A 2012 Monster survey of 2,030 job seekers revealed that 64 percent of respondents said they would not apply if they didn’t understand the job title.
The job title is possibly the most important aspect of your job description because it is the first thing the online job searchers will see. In fact, online job searchers use the job title to determine which jobs they want to look at closer. If your job title is confusing or unclear, you are likely to miss out on some of the most qualified candidates. It is best to be as specific as possible and make sure the job title matches the job description.
Don’t be clever.
Some companies like to come up with their own witty or fun job descriptions as a way of encouraging their staff in the workplace: Retail Jedi or Brand Evangelist. While this may be fine in the workplace, these unique job titles should not be used for online job postings. This will only confuse many job seekers, and according to the statistic listed above, more than half of them will not apply. It is best to create just a simple job title that makes it clear what type of position you are offering: trade in your Jedis and Evangelists for Sales Associates and Brand Managers.
Internal and organizational job titles mean nothing to job seekers.
ATS’ are often filled with job titles that fulfill internal staffing and organizational needs. Here’s a typical job title from an ATS system: “Sr. System Admin III.” Right from the start, you can see that this job title is most likely straight out of the HRIS system and is not optimized for job seeker search behavior. A very a simple way to improve the search results and traffic for this job is to spell out all of the words/terms in the job title.
When creating job titles, remember that you want to match the set of search terms that would most likely be searched by job seekers. Use complete words with their proper spellings – that’s how most job seekers search and those are the words the search engine needs to find. It’s a little bit of SEO you can easily and quickly do yourself that will make a huge difference in helping job seekers find your open positions online.
How to fix a title like “Sr. System Admin III.”
Search engines don’t guess at what you mean — they only look at what you actually say. Make sure you spell out entire words. In this job title, the word “Sr.” is a problem. If someone searches using the word “Senior,” your job posting probably isn’t going to show up in the results because you’ve used the abbreviation “Sr.” in your job title.
Replace “System” with the plural form “Systems.” Most job titles on career sites and job boards use the plural, because by adding the “s,” you can capture traffic for both forms of the word—Systems and System. If you happen to use the word “System,” and a candidate searches for “Systems,” your job posting will not appear.
The same logic applies for “Admin.” By using the full word, “Administrator,” you’ll be able to capture traffic for both “Administrator” and “Admin.”
Ultimately, you would normalize to an ideal title of: “Senior System Administrator,” or “System Administrator” – Senior.
You can make exceptions, of course, but limit them to common acronyms and industry-specific abbreviations – and understand that you won’t be included in search results for those who spell out the whole word (or words).
These changes are easy to make, and can help increase exposure and traffic for that particular job.
Tip #3: Reorder Your Job Description Content
If you are like most companies, you want to promote your brand with your company name and most likely include an “About Us” or company overview paragraph in each of your job descriptions.
While this overview section is often placed at the beginning of a job description, that placement might actually be hampering your job posting’s click-through rate (CTR) from certain sets of search results. For example, search engines will display the first 160 or so characters of a page’s body text (unless a specific META description has been designated by your webmaster for that page). For some of your applicants, this may not be a big deal, but others will move on to the next search result for a different job that better describes the actual position in the first few lines – this is especially true for highly competitive job titles that return many pages of search results.
Don’t take a chance on what information will appear in search results for your job listings.
What you should do instead: Keep the company overview section – but put it at the end of your job listing. Be sure to write an engaging first sentence that restates your job title and includes relevant keywords to grab the attention of potential applicants as they scan through hundreds of similarly named job title search results. Repeat the job title and experience credentials as they serve as keywords that Google sees as relevant, rewarding you with higher results.
These are just a few tips for creating a job description will help you better inform the job seeker and promote search engine exposure. It will also help increase your chances of taking back control of your brand on search engines while obtaining qualified candidates for your company. You should always evaluate every job title and job description prior to posting them online to ensure they meet these standards.
 Careerbuilder 2013 Candidate Behavior Study – December 2, 2013
Photo by Kate Hiscock
Kevin Hawkins has provided integrated marketing solutions and digital insights to a diverse roster of NAS clients spanning multiple industries. With 15 years of experience in Internet development and consulting, media planning and segmented audience targeting, Kevin approaches solutions from both a strategic and technical perspective to produce solutions and strategies that integrate Social Network Marketing, SEO/SEM, site development, mobile marketing, video development and more, with end-to-end metrics tracking performance.