Using Career Sites to Create a Positive Candidate Experience

A positive candidate experience translates directly into more referrals, more hires, and better quality candidates. The experience most candidates have with an organization usually starts in one of two ways: they either receive a call from a recruiter or a friend who tells them about the organization, or they go to the career site for information and to look for open positions.

The recruiter’s opening remarks, telephone or face-to-face style, and assumptions about the candidate forge the initial impression a candidate gets of the organization. And as they say, you can only make a first impression once! If it is a poor one, you will most likely lose the candidates, and perhaps the referrals they could have made.

Rather than relying on a recruiter to create the candidate experience, smart organizations will strive to provide a consistent and constant experience that is independent of any individual, and that experience will be centered on the career site.

Over the next decades it will become a requirement that every organization have an interactive career site that will be the portal for candidates at any stage of the hiring process to provide feedback, information, and to develop and grow their relationship with your organization. Some organizations have started on this journey, including Deloitte, Microsoft, and KPMG. They have put together websites and online events that are targeted at their most desired candidates and create positive impressions. But, most career sites are weak at creating any impression at all and are just fluff.

For most organizations the candidate experience process is weak, broken, and badly in need of being rethought. As more and more candidates are from Gen Y, they expect to see dynamic, interesting, and authentic career sites that provide specific information. They are much less focused on talking directly with a recruiter or with developing a face-to-face relationship. Yet, recruiters are notorious for believing that the only possible way to know people is by “pressing the flesh”: meeting them in person, calling them on the phone, or having lunch or dinner with them. While these are all useful and time-tested, it is also possible to get to know people and build relationships using the Internet. By using technology to extend out from the small number of people it is possible to meet and know face-to-face, a recruiter can become vastly more effective.

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Building electronic relationships with no personal contact is not only possible, it may even be desirous. Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric, has said that human relationships are declining in the selling of goods and services. What he means is that telephone and face-to-face connections between corporate buyers and their suppliers is rapidly being supplanted by Internet and email conversations. The same is also true of relationships with customers. Amazon, Dell, Lands’ End, and other retailers have developed sophisticated tools to build and maintain long-term relationships with their customers.

Here are six ways to build a more positive candidate experience into your career site.

  1. Move your thinking from a career site to something more like a social network. Turn your career site into a social network by using tools such as Ning to create one, or engaging the services of an organization such as Standout Jobs that specializes in recruiting networks. This will automatically give you many of the features I describe.
  2. Have recruiters write blogs. Blogs have become the voice of authenticity and provide the most credible information. Candidates become attached to specific bloggers and keep coming back, which results in them having a relationship and deeper understanding of your organization than they could have gotten in any other way. Even though we have been blogging for years, only a handful of recruiting sites have a blog aimed at candidates. The most well known is Heather Hamilton’s at Microsoft. Most of us have let legal issues and the difficulty to overcome internal bureaucratic processes stifle the use of this potentially excellent communication and relationship-building tool.
  3. Make the site adapt to the candidate’s needs. Build in choices so that candidates who are analytical can get data, facts, and charts while those candidates who are more verbal get similar information in text or pictures. Creating various forms of the same content is a clever and effective way of adding what seems to the candidates a personal touch to the website.
  4. Hold webinars. Periodic online seminars, or webinars, can be used to build traffic and create some opportunities for people to learn what your organization does and how they might fit into it. There are a number of webinar firms that offer inexpensive software that you could harness for this purpose. These can be recorded and offered later as podcasts.
  5. Hold a contest. Promoting contests and games can also be a useful way to generate excitement and build relationships. People respond to trivia games, contests, and online minisurveys. They like the instant feedback and the ability to do something rather than just read. These contests are also a way to get people to come back over and over again to your site. Each time they return is another opportunity to recruit them — or at least to have a conversation with them and keep them excited about your organization.

The point of all this is to give candidates authentic information when they need it in a way they respond to. A good career site is not just a listing of open positions but also a carefully thought out and targeted marketing tool. By spending your budget dollars to develop a dynamic career site, you can lower your overall sourcing costs, increase candidate volume and quality, and build your organization’s reputation.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


9 Comments on “Using Career Sites to Create a Positive Candidate Experience

  1. I disagree: For most organizations the candidate experience process is weak, broken, and badly in need of being rethought. It’s worse than that.

    If a company has a job site, I assume it is because they want to buy some talent — maybe not mine but there is no way of knowing that at the starting point. I have an old post that needs to be updated — more because of style than content. In that post, I said:

    “A job Web site that works creates a business relationship based on mutual respect for each party’s time, interest and the nature and amount of information that needs to be exchanged.”

    To many sites are more of maze to be mastered than a path to be followed. They don’t work. I suspect they don’t really generate the information a hiring manager needs. I am sure they create a bad impression on job seekers.

    I have given some thought to a service that would review job sites and provide some coaching. Do you suppose there is a market there or don’t corporations really care?


  2. I think the main point of this article is 1 million percent on target. However the MAIN reason most companies screw up their candidate experience on their career sites is that they use applicant tracking systems that are horrendously user-unfriendly. In many cases this is due to the system, and in many cases this is due to the way the system is configured, and in many cases it is both.

    Please, do NOT add social networking to your career site until you have gone through your application process with focus groups and either fixed your ATS or ditched it for one that can make applying a positive experience. Otherwise, the community you create will share messages of frustration with their networks.

    By all means, recruiters, focus on your career sites. But start with your application process and fix it, or switch to a system that can make it easy for passive candidates to apply.

  3. All great points Kevin. A strong career site is a great opportunity for employers to portray their employer brand, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and attract repeat visitors. Your recommendations on how to build a more positive candidate experience into a career site would help make a career site more interesting, informative, flexible and interactive, as well as provide excellent SEO value.

  4. As they say, “everything communicates”. This is why “a positive candidate experience translates directly into more referrals, more hires, and better quality candidates.” It also contributes to more effective onboarding of new hires.

    We go into this in some detail in our new book “Onboarding – How To Get Your New Employees Up To Speed In Half The Time”. Our core argument is that onboarding begins during candidate acquisition and flows through accommodation, alignment and acceleration. There’s a downloadable executive summary on the PrimeGenesis site.

    George Bradt
    PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding

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