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The Importance of Candidate Experience - part 1

In the current climate, you can understand that many people are currently unemployed. These people vary from fresh new graduates, to laid off experienced professionals, to potential go getters from school. However, having more potential future employees around doesn’t change the fact that companies still want the best candidates.

In this day and age of the rising influence of social media and online recruitment, it is understandable that these people’s application process of choice is online. However, one observation that they have made again and again, which seems to be a very important contributor to whether they apply for a job or not, is the quality of the company’s careers website. A couple of my friends suggested that I have a look and perhaps write a post about it.

From looking around myself, I am sometimes amazed at how put off I am by badly designed application pages or slow loading, completely different looking vacancy pages. I can understand how little things like clashing fonts can be enough to put a candidate off applying and this has really brought home to me the importance of candidate experience.

With this in mind, I am going to write a series of posts which outline some factors that affect a candidate’s experience when navigating around a careers page. A positive candidate experience can make the difference between a fantastic candidate applying or giving up and going elsewhere.

This week, I’m going to look at branding.

Branding

There is nothing more frustrating for a jobseeker when they click on a careers page and a new tab opens up, which stays blank for five minutes while it loads and when the new window eventually shows itself, it looks nothing like the company home page you have just come from. The layout is sloppy, the company name looks like it’s been slung in as an afterthought and the fonts are completely different from the pretty complimenting company colours you have just been looking at. At this point, I shut the tab and go elsewhere.

Even if the careers page is outsourced and designed/run by another company, simply making sure the company employment brand is still prominent on the careers site can really make the difference – the bounce rate on a poorly branded careers site can be significantly reduced merely by making sure that little things like layout and font colours and styles are the same as your home page. I’m sure if people tried navigating from their home page to their careers page themselves, they could not fail to notice what’s wrong and see how off putting an unattractive, badly branded page is. Sometimes even if the careers home page is beautifully done, companies don’t make the effort for the vacancies or job searching page. It seems madness to me that though companies have done all the hard work of attracting the candidate from their home page, they then undermine all that focus by completing losing your employment brand. A lot of companies seem to completely ignore their vacancies or application form pages but surely this is just as important as the careers front page as you want your candidate to stay on the site and apply for a job.

A lovely example of company branding is Virgin Trains. After attracting the candidates, they keep their employment brand strong throughout the process and there is no noticeable difference between any of the pages as you navigate through.

Phew! Next week, I’ll be looking at application forms.

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Comment by Emily Stevenson on March 31, 2011 at 11:45am
Thanks for the comment, Morgan. I completely agree - let's hope the bad ones sort themselves out!
Comment by Brian Larson on March 31, 2011 at 12:01pm
I agree.  I would even take it a step further and say that It's all about the UI (user interface).  Only two simple words, but a lot goes into it...or as you point out, a lot needs to go into it if you want optimized results.  Branding is certainly a big part of a good UI, as is efficiency, ease of navigation and optimized flow from one call-to-action to the next call-to-action.  You can have the best content available on your site, no matter what the subject, but if your user interface is lacking you are essentially turning visitors, buyers or in this case, candidates away from your site and pushing them to competitors for the same traffic.  Put another way, a poor UI is like having a great product or service to bring to market without a delivery channel to get it there; and yes, branding should always be a part it.  Good info Emily and thanks for the post!
Comment by Emily Stevenson on March 31, 2011 at 12:28pm
Thanks Brian - UI is so important! I intend to do a whole series of these about candidate experience so I will definitely add good user interface to my list.
Comment by Luke Toland on March 31, 2011 at 1:26pm

There was a great article over on ere.net where they highlighted a report from CareerXRoads. The latter reviewed all of the Fortune 500 career websites and found only 8% had a best-in-class rating. The rating was their own methodology. Their criteria is that the career portal is:

mobile-accessible, they offer information about specific jobs and the work environment, navigation is clear, contact information is readily apparent, they engage candidates in two-way conversations via social networks and talent communities, and, though the evidence supporting it is “a mile wide and an inch deep,” they make efforts to say “why a candidate should come and stay."

 

It strikes me that so few companies consider candidates as mere afterthoughts. These are the people powering your business. So many candidates still join companies through job boards and career portals. Making a bad impression doesn't generate feelings of goodwill towards the company.

 

Likely the reason so many companies don't place much effort into these portals is because candidate expectations are low. Unemployed Job seekers don't often have the luxury of refusing to enter an application because the site was not user-friendly. Companies know this and therefore don't expend much effort into improving their marketing image. However, they ignore the experience at their peril - there are plenty of job seekers who hold a job but don't have to jump immediately. If you've held a job, chances are you're a pretty good candidate to begin with. Turning these people off is the opportunity cost of not making a great candidate experience.

Comment by Brian Larson on March 31, 2011 at 4:01pm
Good points Luke.  The impact of mobile is HUGE.  More people are accessing these sites through mobile devices/smart phones now than through PC's...and the disparity is growing rapidly.  This change in preferred access to the web has happened nearly two years earlier than the experts predicted just last year.
Comment by Emily Stevenson on April 1, 2011 at 4:11am
Completely agree, Luke - even in the current climate where there are more people looking for jobs, companies seem to forget that they don't just want any candidate, they want the best candidate. Even if they do work hard at attracting them, it seems silly to me that they're willing just to throw it away in the employment brand! Companies will continue to lose good candidates until they look at the reasons why their talent pool is so small and why their unsubmitted application forms/bounce rate from vacancy pages are so high.

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