I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this on the newsletter or the old podcast, but I consider myself a drummer. I’ve been playing drums off and on for… does math… checks math… ugh, I’m old… more than three decades. What’s interesting about drumming (and a lot of music, actually) is that it becomes a game of pattern recognition. What is the rhythm? What is the beat? What is the groove? Whether it is three-chord Louie Louie or a “use every note ever invented” Frank Zappa solo, the thing you end up falling in love with is a pattern you hear. It doesn’t matter if it’s the melody, the beat, or the groove, what you remember is the pattern.
Humans are pattern recognition machines. We spot patterns in chaos better than any computer or software (example: this test where the computer has to determine: is it a muffin or a chihuahua
But ask any drummer pounding away on some simple backbeat – the fun is in the minute deviations from the pattern. A slightly different kick pattern on one bar, an extra hit-hat tap on another, a little swing somewhere else. When you have a strong pattern, the tiny differences stand out loud and clear.
Look at job/career sites. Like a good beat, they all seem to be built in roughly the same pattern: Home, jobs, culture, benefits/work life, mission, teams, and offices. Maybe there’s a blog. Maybe there’s a students section, but really, that’s the pattern. Some companies don’t have all the elements, so it’s a home page that stuffs the culture, teams, offices, and benefits onto a single page leading you to jobs, but the pattern is the same.
How often have you seen a jobs site that deviates from it? I’m not talking about video or a game (that are there to talk about the teams, the culture, the benefits, etc), but something that truly does something different?
So when I think about successful career sites, I go and revisit the patterns. Instead of looking for radically different things, what are the minor deviations? What are the nuances that reveal so much about the company.
Lots of pictures of magnificent campuses and facilities tell a candidate, “Yeah, we’re remote for now, but as soon as we can, we’ll expect everyone in the office.” They didn’t have to post their policy, but it came through in the nuances of the content.
What does it mean when there are videos of leadership and not staff? Or vice versa? What does it mean when the job search field is the first thing you see? Is the “Life at” content the first thing you see or is it hidden?
But take a step back and there’s another pattern at work that you need to consider: what is the purpose of your career site?
It’s not a dumb question. Looking at most career sites (and in talking to recruiters and talent leadership), you’d think that the purpose of the career site was to generate applications.
But is that what you really want?
A site optimized around applications gives just enough information to justify a candidate burning 5 minutes and connecting their LinkedIn profile. Everything is about “the conversion,” getting visitors to give up some amount of information so you can spam them into applying at some point down the road. It is taking everything learned about turning a browser into a buyer, which is exactly what you should do when you are looking for more applicants.
Of course, maybe you don’t want more applicants as much as you want better applicants. And how would you define a great applicant? One you would be happy to hire.
So maybe we’re building career sites all wrong, based on the lessons of other web marketers who are there to attract and convert as many people as possible. Instead of looking at some aspect of your career site and asking, “will this generate more applicants?” consider taking a different approach and asking, “will this actually generate more hires?”
Isn’t that why you have a career site to begin with?