Employment Branding Paradox

Having spent the last two decades in just about every type of talent attraction role, I’ve come to accept that our industry is incredibly conservative and accepting of the “status quo.” The reasons can be debated, but nothing quite illustrates it better than our addiction to job postings and how this translates into people actually applying.

Fifteen years ago, a Talent Community company presented the notion that only 4% of career site visitors ended up applying. Years later it helped them sell their business for over $100M. That's not the story here. The real zaniness is all these years later, we still only have 3% of site visitors completing an application! As an industry, we’ve gotten worse*.

Having spent the last year working on Strategy for a Recruitment Marketing tech company, I’ve seen the reasons for this up close and personal and it’s not pretty.

You’d have to be living under a rock to not have noticed the extraordinary increase in Employment Branding and Marketing activity that has been ratcheted up in the last 24-36 months. As the job market has continued to sizzle, quality candidates have become scarce with a 40% reduction in applicants per req since 2015. Yikes! Companies have turned to branding with both feet. Yet, most all companies regardless of size, still rely on Job Postings as their main talent attraction method.

Job posting sites like Indeed, Google, Glassdoor, Zip Recruiter and the all the rest demonstrate their effectiveness forwarding all candidates directly into the ATS job req. It’s referred to as “source attribution,” or how they take credit for applications.

This is where the paradox begins.

A review of some specific industry metrics should illustrate the reasons why this is a systemic problem. In report after industry report*, the talent attraction data is eerily similar:

  • Source of hire is the hiring metric most polluted by inaccurate data
  • 95% of companies use Job Postings as the main tool for attracting candidates
  • 95% of content sent to company Talent Network members are job postings
  • 90% of applications are from a combination of Job Postings and Career Site Visitors

The job seeker activity and motivations are also similar in most all reports:

  • 75% would consider a job presented by a company possessing a solid reputation
  • 70% would consider applying to company actively managing their employment brand
  • Prospects research up to 15 sources of information before deciding to apply
  • 3% of Career Site visitors complete an application (again – yikes!)

 The picture these numbers paint illustrates the industries contradiction with Talent Attraction

This is how the incongruity plays out.

After 10 years of a growing economy, today's job seekers are different than ever before. Changes influenced by the Gig Economy and Millennial attitudes, like remote and flex work, have also impacted talent attraction. Employees today are more likely “career seekers,” who are interested in learning opportunities and career progression - not just a job. Yet if you believe industry reports, 95% of workers are attracted to companies with job postings.

Career Seekers are focused on “kicking the tires” and learning about the company.

Instead, we send them to a req with a listing of job requirements and an Apply button. It's like going to IKEA expecting to see rows of sleek furniture and being greeted by shelves of assembly instructions.

Most casual career seekers dumped into the ATS don’t make the effort to track back to other content. In addition, few of these ATS even offer a link to the career page and only 1% of companies have any career content on their job descriptions pages at all.

Should we be surprised when 90+% leave without taking any action whatsoever?

We’re spending tons of energy on employment branding and on career sites that many prospects are not even seeing. Employment Branding practitioners certainly don’t ignore this paradox and augment the Job Posting Site “flow” with other content. Their hope is that branding on other platforms adds to the flow of quality applicants but measuring what works in a candidate’s journey takes resources most don’t have. The results of this branding activity are undeniable, but it’s hard to know how much it provides.

The obvious solution is to have Job Posting Sites send prospects to Career Pages – right?

Google for Jobs is working on that, but with our love of the “status quo,” it may be a while before it becomes standard. The good news is that there are software solutions available that can eliminate the paradox. They can dress up the job description pages with career-based content and provide engagement tools to convert more applicants (like Clinch or Smashfly).

If you are unable to make a software commitment, your choices are fewer, but they do exist. There are service companies that will help tell your story and provide you branding and prospect nurturing on their site. (DonoVision, is one of those companies).

What do you think? Do you believe the Paradox is real? Let us know!


*Reports researched for this post include The Talent Board, Aptitude Research Partners, iCMS, Smashfly, Bersin by Deloitte, WilsonHCG, Jobvite, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Lighthouse Research

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