Career Pages 101: Essential Ingredients for a Magnetic Employer Brand!
What are Employer Career Pages?
Employer career pages are like mini job sites and are normally hosted on an organisation’s website. They should provide some useful information about working for the company. When an applicant applies to a job advert on a career page, their CV is sent directly to the employer.
Which businesses should have an Employer Career Page?
If you’re from a SME, I don’t necessarily recommend an employer career page as they can cost a lot of time and money to create. Plus the content can quickly stagnate, meaning you need to continually update the page.
However if you’re genuinely well-known in your location or industry and of a reasonable size headcount a basic career page may be of benefit.
When would an employer advertise on the Employer Career Page?
If you have an Employer Career Page it likely has the same fixed cost regardless of whether you have no jobs or 1,000 jobs advertised. For this reason it makes sense to advertise non-confidential roles on the site.
What type of job can you fill on an Employer Career Page?
This is an incredibly tough question to answer because it depends a lot of the technical layout and capabilities of the site, and whether applicants can even find it. I discuss both these issues in a moment.
Two common reasons employer career pages fail
Unfortunately, most career pages don’t generate good results. I’ve held a lot of focus groups and usability studies to understand why jobseekers rarely visit and apply for jobs on career pages. The answer is often that employers have been mis-sold by a supplier, misunderstood what the supplier is selling or have unrealistic expectations. Employers come across as trying to manipulate people into doing what they want when applicants can simply press the back button on their browsers.
To be successful, career pages must be aligned with jobseekers’ objectives. They exist to do one simple job and shouldn’t turn into a glorified PR exercise or to show off some flashy video.
Jobseekers typically have two reasons for using an employer career page:
- To find and apply for jobs.
- To prepare for interviews.
It helps to consider why so many career pages fail at these two objectives.
1. Jobseekers often struggle to find or apply to jobs
It’s often difficult for jobseekers to find a job advertised on a career page because they rarely come across such pages. This is because:
- Jobseekers use search engines to find jobs, and job sites are more highly ranked than career pages. (Thankfully, Google for Jobs (GFJ) is delivering more organic traffic, but career pages still need to use good search engine optimisation techniques, which will be explained later.)
- Many employers place a “We’re hiring” link in the footer of their organisation’s website, but jobseekers rarely scroll down to the bottom. (Our usability studies have also found that jobseekers may mentally connect the “We’re hiring” and “Anti modern slavery” links that often appear close together, creating an association between employment at the organisation and slavery!)
Some employers try to generate jobseeker traffic by redirecting visitors to job adverts on a job site to their career page. This is a very bad idea. Studies I’ve conducted show that up to 92% of applicants never apply if you redirect them from a job site to a career page!
Some job sites have become so tired of being blamed for this problem (which is almost entirely the fault of employers) that they capture jobseekers’ application on the job site and only then redirect them to career pages. In this way, they can prove that their advert generated applicants, even if it didn’t convert through the employer’s career page.
Jobseekers hate being redirected from job sites to career pages for these reasons:
- Experience has taught them that once they press the “Apply” button on a job site, they’ve finished their application. If they press “Apply” and are then redirected to a career page, they tend to feel confused and anxious. This alone is enough to cause most jobseekers to leave the career page and not to apply.
- The problem is worse when jobseekers are directed to a generic careers page. This is very frustrating because while they were motivated to apply, they now face a lot of information that’s irrelevant to them at this stage and have to search for the job advert on a site they’re unfamiliar with.
- Jobseekers might be redirected to an advert on a career page which uses a different job title to that on the job site. I once saw a royal household advertisement on a job site for an “Accounts Assistant” which on the career page was described using the internal job title of “Assistant to the Privy Purse Keeper” – jargon that few people understood.
- Jobseekers might have uploaded their CV to a job site but don’t have it available on the device they’re currently using, so can’t apply on a career page.
Many employers are unaware that they’re losing so many applications in this way. They may think their career page isn’t performing or that no jobseekers exist. But a minority of hiring managers know that they’re losing a lot of applicants and try to justify this in a number of ways, such as:
- “I want to capture the application on a career page rather than through a job site to avoid competition from recruitment agencies and other employers.” In fact, jobseekers will continue applying for jobs elsewhere so competition is inevitable. The best strategy is to screen, interview and make job offers more quickly than rival organisations.
- “I want the applicant to self-screen by reading information about the organisation before applying.” But the jobseeker was already motivated to apply for the job. Faced with information they consider irrelevant until an interview, they’re unlikely to bother reading it.
- “I want applicants to upload their data via a career page because it goes straight into my applicant tracking system.” So essentially you want the applicant to go to a lot of effort so you don’t have to? Instead get an applicant tracking system that makes it easy for you to upload a CV and extract the data into an HR-XML format the software can understand. Most have this basic functionality and it only takes a couple of clicks.
- “I want applicants to make an effort to show they’re keen for our job” Applicants using career pages are sometimes the most desperate, not the most motivated. Sadly, it is nearly impossible to differentiate, so it is important not to conclude every applicant is higher quality compared to those who came from other sources.
- “I want applicants to complete an equal opportunities form.” So you want a minority of applicants who are willing to apply, to participate in your internal process, and lose lots of great applicants in the process? Could the priority instead be on filling jobs?
- “I want applicants to tick a box that they haven’t lied on their application.” If someone is prepared to lie on their application, they’re probably happy to tick a box. When you find out they have lied, you’re unlikely to have much recourse, despite the fact they ticked a box.
Notice all the statements above start with “I want….” What about what a great applicant wants? They are often what you really ‘want’ and can only get with the right mindset and approach.
Jobseekers also face technical obstacles to applying for jobs. Problems include the following:
- Job adverts with closing dates that have expired. This gives an unprofessional impression and is another reason why closing dates should be avoided.
- Jobseekers being forced to register for an account before applying. Though there may be enhanced features available to registered jobseekers, many think that registration will take too long and so put off applying.
- The application process may take too long. This problem was summarised beautifully by one jobseeker in a focus group, who said, “It should be as easy to apply for a job as it is to buy something off Amazon. Instead, it is often easier to apply for a passport than a job.” What they wanted was to enter their contact details and possibly upload their CV to finish their application.
- Some hiring managers use application forms to screen applicants. This is wrong: get applications and screen later. Most applicants baulk at regurgitating information they’ve already spent considerable time putting on their CV and consider the hiring manager to be lazy.
- Some application forms ask for references, but jobseekers may become concerned you’re going to contact their current employer.
- Most jobseekers use their mobile device, but most career pages I’ve researched aren’t mobile responsive, creating terrible usability issues.
- Probably the worst I’ve seen was an instruction telling jobseekers not to apply if they’d already applied for a job at the organisation within the past six months. This might appear harmless, but in one usability test I observed, an ideal applicant who had earlier applied was never contacted despite their details being on file. I called the employer and they eventually hired the applicant. If I hadn’t been doing their job for them, they would have never known about their potentially costly mistake.
The problem is that jobseekers have adopted an attitude of “learned helplessness”. Every issue they face on your career page reinforces why they hate using them and makes them more inclined not to use one in the future. The simplest thing for them is to press the “back” button and return to the original job site.
Some applicants go even further, as I’ve found to my amazement. I recently followed up with an applicant who applied through a career page to a British defence company. He thought the process was so bad that he investigated further and found a dedicated Reddit page full of people with similar experiences making scathing comments!
Information about a company is not engaging
Employers often place company information at the top of a career page. However, this typically acts as a barrier to jobseekers looking for work as they struggle to wade through all the information and find what they really want – jobs! Our usability studies were very clear: if jobseekers don’t immediately see available jobs at the top of a page, they’re much more likely to look elsewhere. Consequently, while company information is important, it must be placed after current vacancies.
Most candidates will only properly review information on a career page once they’ve secured an interview in order to prepare themselves for inevitable questions such as, “What do you know about our company?”
Employers typically use confusing jargon and self-aggrandising statements which jobseekers rarely believe (not everyone can be the “best”).
Also, many career pages are boring. A jobseeker in a focus group I held summarised it like this: “There’s nothing here to differentiate them from any other employer. I don’t trust them, I’m going elsewhere!”
Our research found the most valuable pieces of content are pictures of the work environment and employees. Therefore, consider supplementing/replacing written content with photos. The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” (Wikipedia, 2023) is very true in this content.
Career pages don’t have to be bad
I know I’ve been critical of career pages so far, but this is to make the point that they are deserving of their bad reputation. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve helped employers improve their pages by focusing on jobseekers’ requirements. I worked with a company who followed my recommendations and placed an advert on their career page for geothermal engineers in the hope of finding one. A year later they had employed 10!
As another example, the HR director of Compass Group, which employs over 40,000 staff, recently described their old career page as “dodgy” and “bumpy”. By reducing the application process to five minutes their application rate increased 46% (Compton-Harris, 2023). This is a significant increase in performance, meaning jobs are more likely to be filled and they need to spend less on applicant attraction.
Think of your career page as a shop that sells jobs. It’s your responsibility to make your jobs as visible as possible and easy to “purchase”. Here are some important design considerations:
- Information should be organised in the right hierarchy, allowing jobseekers to first search for relevant jobs. This is crucial because if jobseekers don’t see vacancies of interest, they won’t waste their time any further.
- Information must be easy to scan. Our research found that jobseekers are likely to quickly scroll down a career page to decide if they want to invest their time further. Use clear headings and bold text to pick out keywords.
- Reduce the visual density of copy by using bullet points, short sentences and remove irrelevant and boring content. This ensures that jobseekers don’t feel overwhelmed with text and are more likely to read the page.
- Remove jargon and buzzwords to increase comprehension and make your content more relatable and trustworthy. A common complaint among jobseekers is that a lot of corporate speak comes across as inauthentic and incomprehensible.
- A picture paints a thousand words, and photos of the working environment are often the most important thing jobseekers want to see. Avoid stock photos and contrived images of people sitting around a table, shaking hands purposefully, gazing moodily or laughing madly! They need to be accurate photos to a degree, but avoid crumbs on desks and screens with social media accounts visible. The best are often reportage shots of people doing their daily jobs.
- Include case studies of real employees from a wide variety of jobs. This is more authentic and jobseekers secretly want to become ambassadors themselves.
- Because jobseekers are likely to use their mobile phone (and Google puts a lot of emphasis on mobile experience), ensure that your career page is mobile responsive.
Crucially, you must make applying as easy as buying from Amazon:
- Never require an applicant to register.
- Use HTML5-compliant forms so that when a user is entering their details on their mobile device, the keyboard adapts to the type of information being requested. For example, when entering a telephone number, the keyboard only shows numbers; and when entering an email address, the keyboard shows the @ symbol.
- Capture the applicant’s name, telephone number and email address first, then direct them to a new page asking for their CV. This is important for when applicants start an application on their mobile device but don’t have their CV available – you still have their contact details to chase up. I’d also recommend allowing applicants to upload their CV via cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive.
- Only ask jobseekers for their CVs.
- Don’t give the option to connect with LinkedIn as this sends a signal to the LinkedIn algorithm that the person is looking for a new job and leads to them being shown more job adverts.
- Avoid application forms. They cause a significant drop in applications, from what might already be a low number. If you must use them, make them more manageable by setting them up so that they ask the important questions first and hide upcoming questions to make them less daunting.
- Automated communication keeps applicants engaged and informed so they feel valued, and your brand is held in higher regard.
Carry out search engine optimisation (SEO) on your career page
It’s crucial that your career page ranks well in search engines, otherwise it will get few visitors. Here are some SEO tips for career pages:
- Host the career page on a unique domain (e.g. ACMEJobs.com). This causes fewer domain name server (DNS) issues (quite geeky, but your IT team will thank you), and if you make an SEO blunder on your career page it has less chance of affecting your organisation’s main site.
- Google has created their own jobs search engine, Google for Jobs, and gives it great prominence in search results, allowing you to compete with established job sites! To include your job adverts in Google for Jobs, you have to upload them to Google in a specific format. Information about the latest version is available online.
- There are many WordPress sites that feature career page plug-ins. Though these can be good for convenience and cost, I’ve found that most suffer from usability issues so are less likely to convert jobseekers to applicants.