Colin W. Kingsbury, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Colin W. Kingsbury, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Colin returns to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board this week with a new article on improving your corporate career site. Colin W. Kingsbury is the president and co-founder of HRM Direct, a leading SaaS provider of applicant tracking and onboarding systems to mid-sized organizations. Colin brings a lifetime of experience from both in and outside of the software industry, having previously held positions in product management, software engineering, sales, and as a newspaper journalist with expertise in knowledge automation, and has consulted on technology and business practices for Northrop Grumman, Boeing, General Electric, and the US intelligence community. Full Bio

Eliminate the Black Hole –Improving Your Corporate Career Site

by Colin W. Kingsbury

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about corporate career websites–and specifically, how to make them truly inspiring and captivating to jobseekers. If it seems like a terribly dull subject, well, that’s precisely the point.

Even the best sites — the ones filled with pages of lush multimedia content, built with luxuriant budgets and dedicated staff- place only a superficial gloss on the problem. All it takes is one or two clicks for a jobseeker to transport herself from that world of fantasy and into the bowels of the company’s ATS, where impersonal job descriptions and bureaucratic application processes dishearten even the most enthusiastic applicant.

The problem stems from a mindset that sees websites as another form of broadcast media, like print or TV advertising, rather than a truly interactive opportunity.

This can be seen on a much larger scale in the competition between Facebook and MySpace. Many thought Rupert Murdoch was crazy to pay $580m to acquire MySpace in 2005.  But with Facebook’s value today well into the tens of billions while traditional broadcast media struggles to merely hold position, it could have been the deal of the decade. Instead, MySpace failed to keep up with Facebook’s growth and ultimately ceded its longtime audience leadership to the onetime niche competitor in 2008.

While it’s hard to pin this on any single factor, I think it’s fair to say that Facebook brought a different architectural mindset to the game.  Facebook is led by programmers and Silicon Valley VCs, while MySpace is headquartered in Beverly Hills and owned by a corporation built around broadcast news and entertainment. MySpace’s approach is that media is something consumed by an audience.  Facebook sees software as something that provides features for users.

Today, most of the excitement now centers on social media, which delivers the very personal and interactive experience that corporate websites lack. Should they replace the corporate website, or relegate it to second-tier status as nothing but a place to fill low-value jobs and march people through the formalities of applyin

I don’t think so.  While Facebook and Twitter do enjoy powers of scale and vast audience reach, so did (and do) third-party job boards–yet no one these days is talking about Monster or CareerBuilder replacing the company career website. The corporate site remains the premier avenue for companies to define themselves in the eyes of jobseekers.  However, what we need to do is bring some of the key elements of social media to the staid and static corporate career site. Here are a few ideas of how this might work:

1.  Add Interactive Features. Social media offers interactivity, where most career sites are essentially online versions of what might as well be newspaper ads. Years ago, eBay added an “Ask the seller a question” feature that allows potential buyers to send a question to the seller, who can answer the question, and optionally post the answer publicly on the listing as well. It’s a simple way to be less of a brick wall to jobseekers without subjecting recruiters to an onslaught of personal emails and phone calls.

2.      Make It Personal. Social media is powered by user-generated content, while career sites are often entirely top-down. One of the hardest tasks recruiters face is writing job descriptions that are both accurate and engaging. Imagine instead, if each job listing on your website had a series of Facebook-style mini-profiles of several people to let an applicant see what having the job would be like.  Include the department head, someone currently in the job, and perhaps a peer or two, accompanied by brief statements about that job and why it’s important, exciting, challenging, or otherwise awesome. Not only do you get a much richer picture of what the job is about, you a very authentic and immediate sense of the company and who actually works there.  This deeper, more personal, view is critical to capturing the attention of truly extraordinary candidates.

3.      Make It Worth Their Time. Social media is powered by the promise of engagement, while corporate career sites are notorious for being black holes. Currently, we ask candidates to spend precious time registering and filling out applications. Maybe they’ll get a response. Instead, what if we offered people a carrot for applying, or for giving us their business card?  For example, tell us about yourself, and we’ll introduce you to the hiring manager by providing a detailed bio, personal statements, and an opportunity to post questions or comments. For jobs that get hundreds of applicants, this might offer ways to help those candidates differentiate themselves. For jobs that are lucky to get a dozen, this could provide a much stronger reason for someone to apply or share his contact information.

Do all these ideas make perfect sense for every company? Surely not.  My goal is not to provide a blueprint, but rather, a few charcoal sketches for inspiration. The significance of social media is less about being on Site A or Site B because “everybody’s on it,” than it is about finding ways to create truly interactive and personalized online experiences. Embrace that, and the candidates will surely follow!

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