Only Smart Human Resources Professionals and Recruiters Need Apply

August 30, 2012 at 6:41 pm 1 comment

by Larry Engel

No, I’m not referring to a job opening at MENSA. I’m talking about applying to any job opening at your own company.

Seriously, have you ever put yourself in an applicant’s shoes, visited your career site and applied for a job with your own company? I’ll wager that fewer than 20 percent of HR professionals and recruiters have ever done it. It’s called performing a Job Applicant User Experience Audit. And it’s important.

Why? Because your career site may not be as engaging or candidate friendly as you assume it is. Your ATS isn’t even designed to accommodate applicants—it’s designed to manage your forms and data. So maybe nobody has really thought about the candidate experience. And you need to think about it, because even in a tough job market, you’re likely to lose the very best candidates—the ones you really want and need—to your competition if your site and your application process are not reasonably engaging and easy to use.

After all, how much money do you spend on employment branding? How much do you spend on attracting qualified applicants for specific positions (advertising, hiring events, job postings, email, etc.)? Isn’t it a shame that, after you’ve put so much into getting job seekers to your site, many great candidates abandon your application process because it’s just too time consuming and onerous.

Where your career site may be going wrong

How good is your candidate experience? If your site isn’t engaging, packed with useful and interesting information that offers a peek inside your company and your workplace culture, potential candidates may leave your site and go to a site that’s more welcoming. If your navigation is confusing and job seekers can’t find the information they want…they will visit your competitors’ sites instead. Ouch.

Then, there’s the application process… When it comes to recruiting talent through their websites, most companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). The purpose of the ATS is to handle job applications and manage candidate data. This focus on the data management needs of the employer, rather than on the quality of your applicant user experience (UX), means that applicants are at the mercy of an ATS system that isn’t designed to meet their needs—at all. Unless you go to your career site, and search and apply for a position, you have no way of knowing whether your company offers a good job applicant experience…or not.

That’s why smart human resources professionals and recruiters apply for jobs on their own career sites.

How can you ensure that those great candidates stick around?

Here’s the short answer: You improve your career site in ways that will make the candidate experience engaging and the application process as easy as possible.

My own job search experience

I was recently in a job seeking role (before joining NAS), and had the pleasure of being a job applicant UX tester for a short time. One of things I noticed right away—when applying for positions at companies large and small—was that most companies provided a pretty bad job application experience. I would estimate that 70% of the companies I looked at provided a bad experience, and 20% of those offered such a poor experience that I decided not to apply at all.

On one career site, I was able to access the main employment branding pages, which was good. However, as soon as I entered their ATS and tried to do an actual job search, an error message popped up stating I couldn’t visit that part of their career site using either the Chrome or Safari browsers. Wow! That means over 30% of traffic to their career site is made up of potential candidates who cannot search and apply for jobs! I have to wonder if the folks in their HR department know that.

Another career site I came across had me jump through so many hoops in the application process that I eventually gave up and left the ATS…after 25 minutes of filling out forms. They actually had a 20-question survey geared toward personal information. It had nothing to do with screening for work experience or abilities. Nor was it a Predictive Index-type questionnaire. Do I want to work for a company that recruits this way?

No. I really don’t.

Find out how your career site is working: the Job Applicant User Experience Audit

If you don’t know how your career site and ATS treat potential candidates, you should. And finding out is actually pretty easy. You just need to spend some time as an applicant. Go to your own site, look for the information you’d want to see if you were looking for a job. Then, go to your ATS and fill out an application. It’s called a Job Applicant User Experience Audit, and it’s the only way to really know whether you’re engaging talent or driving it away.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Be prepared to spend some time—typically, half an hour should be fine. If the audit takes longer than half an hour, you may want to consider optimizing the process to provide a better applicant experience.
  2. Have your current resume, which you saved as a Word document, and three references handy.
  3. Think like a job seeker. What information do they expect to see? What information do they expect to provide?
  4. Be sure you make lots of notes as you go through the process.

Here are a few questions you’ll want to keep in mind as you go through your company’s online application process:

  • Is your site’s navigation clearly laid out and intuitive to use?
  • How can an applicant upload his or her resume—what methods (cut-and-paste or something else) and formats (doc, pdf, etc.) are acceptable?
  • Can the applicant use his or her LinkedIn account to apply?
  • Can the applicant indicate how he or she heard about the position?

When you’ve finished the audit, you’re sure to have come up with at least a few new ideas and discovered some areas that need to be improved. Your next step should be to contact your career site webmaster to find out how to move forward with those improvements. Also remember, for technical issues, you’ll probably need to contact your ATS administrator.

Knowledge is power…so be smart! Apply for a job with your company today.

Larry Engel, SEO Strategist

As SEO Strategist for the the NAS Interactive Division of NAS Recruitment CommunicationsLarry Engel oversees the research, design and implementation of search engine optimization (SEO) methods for client career sites. His recruitment agency experience includes 12 years in account management, 5 years as a Certified Google Advertising Professional (AdWords GAP Program) and 2+ years’ concentration in SEO. Larry also has OMCP Master Certification in Social Media Marketing (SMM) and recently completed a mini MBA in SMM from Rutgers University.

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Entry filed under: Career Site Development, Contributor, Larry Engel. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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