By Sandra C. Bavasso Roffo
If you want your online career center to attract good resumes or really interesting candidates, usability is a key factor (considering career center the section of a companys Web site where their job openings are published and applicants can submit their resumes for just that company -i.e. www2.coca-cola.com/careers/– as opposite to job boards, i.e. Monster).
When it comes to usability and jobs we have all been job seekers, so we can probably imagine some of the decisions to make when designing a career center.
- Should we offer a resume builder, allow candidates to upload their resume in several formats, or offer only copy and paste?
- Should we offer multiple ways to search for jobs or offer the big three (location, job function and keywords)?
These are valid questions and the most common ones. But they may not be the decisive factors in designing a jobs page, or at least not the most difficult decisions to make. The most difficult task for the designer may be to keep a clear focus on creating an equilibrium between the expectations of the Human Resource (HR) department (or those of the recruiter) and the patience of the typical job seeker.
If you look carefully at any successful job board such as Monster, whose main business is to publish jobs of third parties and attract candidates to those jobs, you
will find that they are usually much better than the career centers, even of very well known companies. Why is this true? It is because the online job boards need to maintain this equilibrium between job seeker and company for their survival. Career centers tend to be just one more part of the company’s website and often designed to include everything that the HR department wants (or even worse, what HR departments from all over the world want!) without considering the needs of the job seeker.
One of the advantages that a career center has is that people looking for employment have more patience when applying for a job online than they would with most e-commerce websites. They know that a lot of information is needed and they willing to provide it. However, even with this advantage, most career centers are poorly designed for the job seeker.
Examples where usability can be improved:
- The job seeker can select a country from a drop down menu, but are then required to enter a ZIP (postal) code, only to be told that that it is not valid (of course, because it is not a US ZIP code. Doesn’t the site remember that the Bahamas was chosen as the country?).
- The job seeker is asked about “shift preferences” for a marketing position that does not include an option to work at night (even if they would prefer it).
- The job seeker is asked how she heard about the opening, but there is no appropriate source in a limited drop down menu of options.
How many experiences like this will the job seekers bear before becoming frustrated and giving up?
In addition to these kinds of problems, some Career Centers are a simple violation to the limit of any human’s patience, with at least three or four pages before the candidate can even start to post their resume.
The HR department tends to want to know everything about a candidate such as:
- Where have you seen this position?
- Do you have relatives working at this company?
- Have you ever worked for this group?
- What shifts will you consider?
These endless pages of questions may also discourage really talented candidates because unfriendly interfaces and long registration are perceived as an insult by many. So not only will the site collect fewer resumes but it is likely to alienate some of the best candidates.
When it comes to job hunting (or candidate hunting, from the company perspective), usability is not just about the details of the interaction (pull-downs menu or open text fields). Usability is about understanding who we (as designers) “serve” (and it is not just the HR department). Therefore, we must pay attention not only to how we ask questions of the job seeker, but how many we ask.
If you are starting to evaluate your career center, don’t just “visit.” Use it as a job seeker would. Even better, ask a friend from another company to apply for a job on your website. Make her start on the company’s home page, because sometimes it is difficult to even find where to apply. Ask her to go all the way through the process: find the jobs area, search for jobs to apply for, register and enter her resume, answer the questions. Watch to see how easy it is to stumble or succeed. Observing even a one user will help you understand the problems that real job seekers will encounter and you will begin the process of improving the site.
Keep in mind that a long and unfriendly career center would not attract the best candidates, therefore shouldn’t be designed based just on what the HR department wants to know. A career center is a two-way communication tool. To be really useful to attract good candidates it must respect them by being as short as possible and as “smart” as possible. Try to limit your questions to the minimum necessary, leaving some of the questioning for a follow-up by phone or by email. And make sure that each question is easy to answer, as easy means faster and faster means friendly. If your company wants to have a good career center, the input of a UI expert is needed as much as the input of HR.
Here are some useful tips based on my experience working with career centers:
- Don’t offer a Resume Builder as the only alternative, especially if you are targeting a wide range of candidates. An interactive resume builder is OK for recent graduates without much experience or education, and can work for jobs that don’t always require a resume. But, for jobs requiring candidate with broad experience (for example, management positions that require particular education and work experience) this kind of interface includes a lot of time adding information (for example, add education, add education, add education, add experience, add experience, add experience…). Each addition requires a click, reload, and save.
- Do not include an interminable list of fields. Each field represents something to read, to understand and to decide, so it takes time. Don’t think that just because a field is not required it will not annoy the job seeker.
- Do not convert your printed application form into a web form. Think about data protection issues, so you don’t make mistakes such as asking job seekers to enter their personal information without data protection. This sort of carelessness will probably scare intelligent candidates. See an example at www.scansource.com/employmentapp/.
- Make the job search as easy and simple as possible, saving complex options for an advanced search. Don’t make the job seekers guess at the “right” answer that the database expects.
- Don’t try to put your entire screening process online. If you must include a long questionnaire, don’t mix questions related to the candidate’s profile (for example, how many hours are you willing to work) with a virtual test of the jobseeker’s ability for that specific job (indicate the correct alphabetical order of these cities).
- Assess if your company really needs a career center or if it better sense to learn how to maximize a search for candidates with good online job boards that have attracted many good candidates as possible. However, if a career center is a needed tool then give your HR department the resources who know-how to create the best interface, and who will balance corporate goals with those of jobseekers.
If you are committed to attracting the most qualified candidates, be prepared to invest time and effort to improve the content and quality, and conduct tests to assess usability.
Examples of Job Search Sites
|This is an application for a Teller position at Washington Mutual (pages 3-7 of the process). Notice the kinds of questions you must answer. Question 1 asks: “Please list the positions you have worked with the last 5 years” with a selection list. This information will probably be in a resume, so do you have to ask?|
|Question 4 asks “In the text box below, please indicate the hours (from and to) that you are available to work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday” Is this necessary? If the answer is YES to the previous question (about working flexible hours), and you are applying for the job, isn’t it probable that you are “normally” available during the week. Question 5 asks about being willing to attend training, held during normal working hours. Why is this necessary — you are applying for the job!|
|Questions 7 and 8, in the middle of the application start to test you on job skills – alphabetizing and addition. Then, question 9 goes back to questions about your profile.|
|Question 10 asks “How much cash handling experience do you have?” This information is probably in your resume.|
|On the next page, you are asked questions about whether you are eligible for the job: whether you are 18 or older, have work authorization in the US, and have ever been convicted of a felony. Shouldn’t these questions have been asked before testing your math skills?|
|Finally, on the next page, you can enter your resume!|
|In this page from the Intel job site, no one checked to see if it was readable in Mozilla. The drop down, with lists of cities and countries (such as Canada, Toronto) don’t let you indicate an interest in jobs in more than one country or in more than one place in a country.The whole world in a long drop-down menu might be convenient, but to choose more than one location, you have to “click to add” more locations. One reload of the page for each added location!|
|A friendlier interface for the same purpose can be seen on this LatPro site.If you select the United States, the system displays the U.S. states…|
|….but if you select Mexico, it displays the Mexican states…|
|…and if you select three countries, the system understands that the scope is anywhere in those countries.|