Web Hell and the Black Hole

You are a 20-year-old first-time job seeker just about to graduate with an engineering degree. And you have no idea how to look for that first position.

You have just discovered that your school has a placement office, but you have missed all the interview schedules and aren’t convinced the placement folks can help you very much anyway.

The people you talked to are either old fogies who have never worked anywhere but at the university or students younger than you are. One of your friends says, “Take a look at the websites at some of the companies you think might be cool places to work.” So off you go into Web hell and the black hole.

If engineers are really as hard to recruit as I hear from recruiters and pundits, then I would expect that the websites at high-tech companies and other firms that employ engineers must be pretty good. You’d expect them to be focused on attracting new graduates, on providing in-depth information, and in laying out very clearly the process of getting interviewed and hired. And this should be true of any website, whether for engineers, finance graduates, HR folks, or anyone else.

After all, only a fraction of graduating students have the foresight, knowledge, and coaching that they need to get interviews and locate good jobs before they finish school. Most are so consumed with exams, projects, and the final parties that looking for a job comes much later on, usually after they have left campus and are out on their own. Then their primary resource is the Internet.

I often wonder if recruiters understand how core the Internet has become to college recruiting. Every student that I teach or talk to tells me it is their primary, and in many cases, only source of information about the company and employment at the company.

As it is the centerpiece of their search strategy, it should be the most carefully designed and utilized sourcing and screening tool for every company that recruits new grads.

Web Hell

Taking an informal survey of recruiting sites has not been a rewarding experience. Just navigating around these sites or even finding the initial “Jobs” link can be a challenge. Most sites do not provide much information about the types of jobs they offer or the kinds of people they want to hire.

The majority are filled with boiler-plate text written by the PR folks and applicable to just about everybody. Pictures are mostly disconnected from the work and typically show people doing some activity that I find pretty hard to connect with day-to-day activities. I guess they are trying to depict energy or excitement, but talking to engineering students tells me they don’t get it.

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Sometimes a link takes you completely out of the recruiting site and you are left wondering just how to get back to where you were. I know from own recent Web explorations that many sites seem to have a bizarre architecture and navigation scheme that surely had to be created by some malicious being.

The best recruiting websites follow a few straightforward rules:

  1. Rule #1: Make sure that your navigation is simple and clear. Test it with lots of people outside your organization before releasing it. Make sure terminology is understood by the potential user and that nothing is a surprise. Some sites with excellent navigation include Intel‘s which includes a “Jobs site map” for quick reference as well as a solid architecture. Also excellent is Boston Consulting Group‘s site. Not only is the navigation excellent, so is the entire site.
  2. Rule #2: Provide relevant, focused information. Decide who your primary audience is and design the website for them. If you are mainly recruiting engineers, make it an engineering-oriented site. If you are after mostly finance grads, make it interesting to them. If you try to make a site that everyone will like, you will end up with a site that no one finds useful or interesting. Success is all about focus. Some excellent sites in this category include KPMG‘s site has both global and local content and language. It’s a great example of what can be done. Intuit also has a simple, clean site that conveys information and emotion.
  3. Rule #3: Make it interactive and explorable. Boring, stodgy sites with lots of text will not attract Gen Y. The best sites have small bits of texts, lots of link and pictures, videos, blogs, and chat rooms. They allow candidates to explore, listen, watch, and read. By using a variety of senses and approaches, you can excite and attract more candidates than you will with a text-heavy site. All the sites I have listed above meet this criteria, but so does Google‘s site with candid pictures, videos, and obviously good search tools.

The Black Hole

The worst fear students I talk to have is that they won’t ever hear back or know why they were not invited for an interview. Their data goes into a black hole never to be seen again.

Most sites do not make the recruiting process clear. They ask for resumes or for the candidate to fill out forms about themselves, but they rarely explain to a candidate how that information will be used, what the selection process will be, or when (or even if) they will get any feedback.

If there is one thing organizations can do to improve their reputation and ultimate recruiting success, it is to clearly lay out in step-by-step fashion what is going to happen to the resume, how the selection, interviewing, and hiring processes work, and when candidates will hear back.

Fewer college graduates are excited about working for large companies; many are looking instead for small companies with an entrepreneurial style.

It is going to become harder for large organizations to offer opportunities and careers that appeal to young folks, and if they have any chance at all to be successful, they will have to have websites that are as carefully designed and tested as their products.

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 ERE.net, 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 kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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1 Comment on “Web Hell and the Black Hole

  1. One organization that has done a phenomenal job in this area is Penn State University. Penn State was an early adopter of the .jobs domain which is a MUST in my opinion. This directs job candidates directly to an organization?s Careers landing page streamlining the process for job candidates. Earlier this year Penn State also launched a new Careers page which allows easy navigation and keeps its audience engaged each step of the way. You can see it at: http://www.psu.jobs. I?d consider this site to be among the best practices in the space.

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