HR Magazine - August 2000: Get Job Seekers To Come To You

By Michelle Neely Martinez Aug 1, 2000
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HR Magazine, August 2000

Vol. 45, No. 8

The staffing section of your organization's web site is the centerpiece of an effective online recruiting strategy.

Three years ago, only 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies recruited via the Internet. Today, 75 percent of those employers do so, using their corporate web site as a primary tool to connect with both active and passive job seekers.

It has been a natural progression in the recruiting process, as more and more people make “surfing the net” a daily ritual. Currently, more than 5 million resumes are posted on the Internet.

In a recent survey by Seattle-based e-business consulting firm Hanrick Associates titled E-Recruiting: Using the Internet to Win Top Talent, new college and professional school graduates viewed the Internet as critical to their job search. More than 90 percent of respondents used the information posted on online company staffing sites to prepare for job interviews.

“Job seekers typically have an idea of the company they would like to work for and the geography of their search,” explains Steve Labate, manager of recruiting and staffing at GE Power Systems in Schenectady, N.Y. “It’s logical they will start their search on that company’s home page. It’s also logical to conclude that job seekers will use the corporate web site as a secondary site to get more information about the company after learning of an opening on a mega-site.”

How can you more successfully attract active and passive job seekers online? Publicizing your corporate web site, then making it easy to navigate and information-rich, are prime factors that will lure more job seekers.

GE Power Systems, a global leader of power generation solutions, has used the web to advertise its job postings since 1997. “Initially our web presence was limited to listing open positions on our corporate web site — — which automatically fed intranet and Internet career sites,” explains Don Bendetti, HR manager for energy products, projects and commercial operations at GE Power Systems.

As GE Power Systems’ business strategy became strongly linked to e-commerce last year, HR quickly began work to create a distinct career site.

After several months of design work, the site made its debut in January. A key site feature is the “two-click rule,” says Labate. In other words, it should take only two clicks of the computer mouse for a visitor to retrieve sought-after information. “This strategy allows visitors to navigate the site much quicker and easier depending on their specific career needs,” Labate says.

Another feature of the site are three job-seeker category buttons titled “Experienced Professionals,” “Entry Level” and “Military Officer.” The point-and-click buttons lead viewers to specific career information for their level.

“These navigation buttons were recommendations from employee focus groups and are built into the design to educate visitors on the different types of career paths available,” says Bendetti. “For instance, by clicking on ‘Entry Level,’ a visitor can learn about entry-level training programs and actually read about the experiences of a current program member. The ‘Military Officer’ section was a natural inclusion, since we actively recruit junior military officers into key roles within our business.

“It is critical to provide easy and quick navigation, avoid slow-loading graphics, educate visitors about the company culture, highlight key openings and, most important, attract the best people,” says Bendetti.

If users don’t have a resume handy, GE’s site also features an online resume builder.

Increasing Traffic

An employer can have the best web site around, but if people don’t know about it, the impact is non-existent. It’s all about driving traffic and bringing people to what you have done.

Studies show that people find web site addresses through other web pages, search engines, directories and friends. The first step in making your corporate web site more accessible is to register its address with the Internet search engines such as AltaVista, Excite or Yahoo. Search engines let users type in queries and find web sites, and registering your site with search engines helps ensure that they can guide users to you. Registration is typically free with most search engines. Also, add your web address to all printed marketing materials to attract candidates to the site. And don’t forget to put your web address in newspaper classified advertisements. By doing so, you give job seekers an easy way to learn more about the specific job being advertised, as well as other career opportunities.

Next, go beyond the web site. Take advantage of being able to “link” to other sites, such as professional associations that could draw people to your job postings. Another idea is to run banner ads on other web sites—sites such as chat rooms, news groups and job boards of interest to potential candidates—to attract them to the careers portion of the company’s web site.

Establishing portals that feed into the corporate web site is another way to increase traffic, explains Tom Ferrara, CEO of CareerEngine Solutions, a New York-based company that builds and maintains career sites for corporate clients as well as for search firms. A successful step for many of Ferrara’s clients has been to establish partnerships with major colleges and universities. Here’s how it works: When viewers connect to an educational institution’s career sections, they are able to hit a “click-here” button to learn more about the job opportunities at XYZ company.

Tracking Results

Initially, organizations measured the success of their online presence or links with specialized recruiting sites by the number of “hits” on their web sites. But, hits are not really an accurate measure. You want to be able to count the number of individual visitors, or “unique visitors,” which is a metric generated by server log software that logs individual e-mail addresses. Two more accurate measurements are:

  • The number of pages viewed because it will allow you to judge how valuable the site is to people. Check the ratio of pages viewed to the number of visitors to see if viewers are using the site extensively or just checking it out briefly. The more pages visitors view, the more extensively they are using the site.

  • The number of job search queries—in other words, how many positions are users looking at and what is their length of stay in this area?

GE Power Systems produces a weekly e-business scorecard that measures site progress against corporate goals and metrics. “The e-business scorecard shows how many people visited our site during the preceding week and is reviewed by senior management,” says Labate. “In addition, we calculate the ‘average page views per visitor’ [number] to monitor how deeply into the site the typical visitor goes.”

GE’s corporate site receives approximately 200,000 visitors and 10,000 resumes each month. The business entity, GE Power Systems, receives more than 20,000 visits and 2,000 resumes monthly. These figures do not include the thousands of resumes the company receives from positions posted on job board sites. The company receives 90 percent of its resumes electronically.

Peter Han, a consultant at Hanrick Associates, says the best tracking information can be found right in the company’s server log. But, often, the most challenging part of maintaining an online careers site seems to be finding time to interpret the data. “Companies have the customer data,” says Han. “Server logs and employee focus groups are incredibly rich sources of information. You just have to reach out and grab it—and that’s what employers should be doing—putting sweat and elbow grease in interpreting the data so they can make improvements that may better serve the customers.”

Creating a World-Class Design

When designing an online recruiting site, many companies start by taking a look at what information is accessible online for internal use and extending that information outward, explains Howard Smith, president of DesignSmith, an Arlington, Va.-based firm specializing in HR communications. “These employers also strive to create web sites that offer a mutual exchange of ideas.”

Define Corporate Culture. Job seekers today are interviewing your company as thoroughly as you are interviewing them. To give potential candidates a better picture of what the corporate culture and work experience are like, it’s a good idea to create a “life-at-work” section. Use the corporate web site to explain the culture, the benefits and why the company is a good place to work.

“People want to find out more information about the company and really learn firsthand what it might be like to work there,” explains Smith.

Cisco Systems provides a unique opportunity, the “Make Friends” program, which connects potential candidates with a Cisco employee from the department in which they wish to work.

Also, consider including a button on the home page about awards or recognitions the company has earned. For example, GE uses a “Most Admired Company” button. With one click, viewers can learn more about this prestigious award given by Fortune magazine, and why the company was chosen.

Create Interactive Self-Assessment Tools. Contrary to some surveys that suggest job seekers are not into “screening,” Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, authors of CareerXroads, (Jist Works, 2000), a recruiting web site reference guide, believe that they are desperate for tools that help them determine their “fit” in an organization. The key is they want the results. To get an idea of some good interactive self-assessment tools, check out Texas Instrument’s “fit check” at and Ernst & Young’s “StrategEY Zone” at

Make career opportunities accessible. Most corporate web sites have many layers of information. To make it easily accessible, put the link to companywide job openings on the home page, the first page viewers see when connecting with the company’s web site.

Cisco, which receives 81 percent of its resumes electronically, gives visitors the opportunity to fill a shopping cart with job openings they are interested in. It also has a resume builder called the Cisco Profiler.

Organize job postings to make viewing manageable. If you have 25 or more job postings on your web site, break them down into functional categories. If you have 100 jobs listed, make them searchable.

Update job openings weekly and take out the jargon. Make a commitment to keep the information live and up-to-date. Outdated job postings can turn off candidates who see listings that already are filled, and it sends the message that the company doesn’t care about the job seekers’ time or that the employer is not tech-savvy, according to Jeff Hyman, president of Cruel World, an online recruiting service based in Palo Alto, Calif.

The biggest challenge for GE was that job descriptions were vague and written for an internal audience. “Since 80 percent of our hires come from outside the company, we realized we were failing to entice our targeted audience,” explains Labate. “Managers within our business were encouraged to write job postings from ‘the outside looking in’ perspective. They were encouraged to be creative with job titles, recognizing that the title might be the determining factor for a candidate to take the next step. Web postings need even more attention than newspaper or journal ads, which makes sense, given the overwhelming exposure the Internet provides. This old mindset has been the hardest thing to change.”

Integrate e-mail. When candidates respond to a job posting, make sure that an acknowledgment message is sent immediately to these people by e-mail. GE’s message thanks candidates for their interest and lets them know the company will keep the resume in the electronic database for one year.

Allow job seekers to use e-mail or a resume builder to submit their resumes. Specify which medium is preferred and which format the resume should be in. Hanrick’s Han suggests using an uploading mechanism that seamlessly allows candidates to directly send their resumes in Microsoft Word format.

Refer a Friend. You can get good leads if you create a “refer a friend” button for job seekers who look at the text of your opening and realize it isn’t on target with their skills or desires. Design it so that by clicking the button, it opens an e-mail window for their friend with the job description automatically inserted, along with the header, “Thought you might be interested in this.” Also, remember to thank the referring individual.

Build repeat business. Allow potential candidates to receive job opportunity updates via e-mail. Inviting visitors to provide their e-mail addresses and their indication of interest in being informed about specific openings will convert a much higher percentage of passive job seekers. Promising to inform those who express an interest within hours of when the openings are approved—and then actually doing it—differentiates the “reactive” recruitment approaches from a “proactive” employment process. This feature serves as an excellent recruiting tool for the future, says Ferrara. “It allows you to line up people for jobs that you don’t already have.”

Check out best-practice sites. Visit other corporate web sites to study techniques they are using to draw their audiences to the job openings web page. A few sites to check out in addition to Cisco Systems ( and GE Power Systems ( are:

Outsourcing. Building a user-friendly, information-rich careers site can easily take six months if done in-house. If you outsource many elements of the design work, completion time often can be cut by 75 percent, says Ferrara.

He adds that clients typically experience a substantial cost savings by employing an outside firm to create and maintain the job site. “The cost savings by taking the work out of house can be as much as 85 percent,” says Ferrara. “I’ve known clients who’ve started an online recruiting site and had to scrap the in-house work because of time constraints. One of the best features of going out-of-house is the response time—changes to the site can be made in a 24-hour or less turnaround time.”

The cost of creating an online recruiting presence could run anywhere from $2,500 to $30,000, according to Ferrara.

If outsourcing isn’t an option, GE’s Bendetti says that the advances in technology have made the cost of developing such sites fairly small and well worth it. “You can do a lot with a little,” he says.

Get the right people involved. When designing or upgrading the corporate web site, make sure the right team of professionals is involved in the process, such as the webmaster, information technology (IT) staff and the marketing department. The recruiting and staffing team at GE Power Systems is responsible for overall site content and IT keeps the site running smoothly.

“However, these players are small pieces in the overall recruiting and staffing equation,” says Labate. “The large pieces are the few hundred hiring and human resource managers who provide the site its raw data—their open positions. They need to act with speed by responding to resumes received in a timely manner. They need to describe their openings in a way that provides the information that potential candidates want to see.”

To successfully recruit, all players who touch the hiring process need to work in concert. “Technology and speed can only take you so far,” says GE’s Bendetti. “If sound HR practices and traditional recruiting methods are ignored, a slick web site won’t achieve your recruiting and retention goals. This, coupled with giving the customer what they want, when they want it, is the name of the game.”

Michelle Neely Martinez, a contributing editor of HR Magazine , is an Alexandria, Va.-based business writer and managing editor of Employment Management Today.

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