4 Best Practices for Building Great Careers Sites

By Roy Maurer Jan 6, 2016
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Candidates expect more than a list of jobs and contact information from your company careers page. Enforcing brand identity, crafting job postings as marketing opportunities, using pictures and video to tell stories, and personalizing the experience for applicants are all ways to make the most of your site.

“Careers pages are becoming increasingly important as a source of hire,” said Ben Slater, vice president of growth at Beamery, a recruitment marketing technology company based in London. But getting significant value out of your careers page can be tricky, he said. “The online attention span of candidates is incredibly short. Your page needs to grab their attention, engage them and convince them to apply.”

Many careers sites are “just plain bad,” said Christian De Pape, head of marketing at Recruiting Social, a social sourcing recruitment firm headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. “And that’s unfortunate. People expect high-quality web experiences whether they’re purchasing a product, shopping for a service or considering a company as a potential employer.”

Here’s how employers can create careers sites that attract, engage and convert visiting prospects into excited candidates:

Enforce brand identity. Before guiding candidates to apply, make sure they know who you are. According to 2015 LinkedIn research, 62 percent of professionals across 26 countries ranked employer brand—the company’s reputation as a great place to work—as the deciding factor when applying for a job.

Careers pages need to offer genuine insights into company culture and values, Slater said. “People want to know what kind of company they may end up working at. Help candidates understand your company culture by using team photos, employee testimonials, a list of benefits and perks, and learning opportunities.”

A peek into company culture also helps candidates pre-qualify themselves and should ultimately “help you avoid hiring people who are bad cultural fits—and should help boost retention,” he added.

De Pape referenced Airbnb’s careers site as one of the best at branding. “From the opening value proposition, right through each following section, this site is all about showing the user why Airbnb is the place they want to work.”

Sell the company. An effective careers site needs to convert “just browsing” candidates. The vast majority of candidates who head to your website are somewhat passive, Slater said. They’re there to find out more, maybe even to browse the opportunities available, but few are ready to apply, he said. “The best way to start converting candidates is to cut bland job descriptions and jargon, and focus on making your opportunities sound interesting and exciting.” In other words, make sure the information on your site will have an impact.

Job postings should be written like marketing copy, Slater said. “Don’t waste the applicant’s time with endless job requirements and corporate buzzwords.” Use power words and calls to action to get your message across directly and clearly, he added.

De Pape advised keeping careers page content concise. “Think about how much you’d be willing to read from your phone while waiting in line.”

Highlight employees’ career growth, displayed via testimonials from current workers, or through career growth maps like this example from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Use creative media. Pictures, video and graphics can all help engage candidates. De Pape recommends using real photos of the workplace and employees when possible, and if needed, filling in the gaps with “carefully chosen, authentic-looking stock photography.”

Alternatively, you can make your employees into brand ambassadors, and build your careers site around the photos and content they share, like what Earl’s Kitchen & Bar has done.

Consider the applicant experience. Focus on the potential applicant, De Pape said. “Careers sites are most effective when they’re all about the reader … you want them to feel like you’re talking to them. Your job board should not be front and center. Tell a story first, one that inspires the right potential applicants and dissuades the wrong ones. Then present them with your list of open roles.”

De Pape added, “The trick, though, is to know your audience. Who are you looking for? What do they care about? Develop a persona, and write your copy like you’re speaking just to that one person and what matters most to them.”

Finally, don’t let the application process itself kill all the hard work that went into designing a great careers site. “If you’re going to the trouble of building a beautiful and engaging new site to funnel talent into your pipeline, please make sure that when they do arrive, eager and ready to fill out your application, that it doesn’t send them away screaming and pulling their hair out,” De Pape said.

Make the “apply” button stand out, Slater said. “Try floating widgets that make it easy for a candidate to start a conversation.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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