Mobile Recruiting: mSite vs. Native Apps, By Ed Newman

Over the last six months as I have fully immersed myself into the world of mobile recruiting one of the first things I learned about was the difference between an mSite and a native app. I have found that there is a lot of confusion out there on this subject as well as some strong opinions, so I thought it would be worthy of a discussion.

First the definitions:

mSite – Also known as a mobile web app, or mobile optimized web site. It is essentially a web site that will detect your device and render the content in a way that you can easily read and navigate. There is no app to download, just the browser on your smart phone.

Native App – A native app is software that you download to your device and there will be a specific version for each operating system and/or device. Because the native app is stored locally on the device they can generally be developed with richer functionality and can perform better.

As mobile recruiting emerged, several early adopter companies started out by building native apps, but the current school of thought is to build the mSite first.  Here are a few reasons:

  1. An mSite will work on any mobile device with a web browser and with a single app you can cover all the bases.
  2. If you build a native app, and your website is not optimized, how will anyone find out about the app? Job seekers will not be searching the app store for a company specific career site app, they will be using google.
  3. Active job seekers are typically pursuing several different employers, and the likelihood of them downloading an app for each company is not very high.
  4. If you are looking for empirical data, I am aware of one large company that went from 50 applicants per month on a native app, to 900 applicants per month with the mSite.

But does that mean you should abandon the native app strategy?  There are many people who think it is a waste of time to develop native apps. And if you simply build a native app to provide the same functionality of your career site, then I agree. Unless you are a very large company with a huge candidate fan base, a standalone native careers app is probably pointless. But native apps are an opportunity to do something completely different.

Native apps are where you should join forces with the business.  Where the consumer brand and employer brand should collide to create a new kind of synergy. In our study of the Fortune 500, we found that more than 50% of the companies had some sort of consumer or customer oriented native app, but only one of them has a link to careers.  This is a lost opportunity. When building native apps, we should stop thinking in silos.

Mobile recruiting is still in its infancy and there is no doubt that building an mSite should be your first priority. But mSites are only the beginning. Once you have solved the interface problem, you will need to start thinking about how you will create a more engaging and contextual based experience for the user.  I think native apps will be a key driver in achieving that goal.

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