SmartRecruiters Blog

How Your Career Site Might Be Killing Your Brand

Think about this: recruiting is the only public facing HR function. They interface with millions of candidates each year. and all of those candidates matter. According to 2015 research by The Talent Board:

33% of candidates with a negative experience intended to share the news publicly via social media.

41% of candidates who had a poor overall experience intended to take their loyalty elsewhere.

The user experience on your career site is a case in point – it has a direct impact on how people feel about your company. The stakes are even higher if you’re a B2C company where any candidate is just a few clicks away from being your next customer. Like it or not, the CHRO has an obligation to support the brand and provide a candidate experience that properly reflects it in the market.

Here are the symptoms you need to be aware of in regards to a career site that turns away candidates and customers:

Over the last five years there’s been a surge in companies purchasing “talent network” software. The popularity stems primarily from companies with an old applicant tracking system (ATS) or a recruiting product provided by their:

  • Human Resource Management System (HRMS)
  • Human Capital Management (HCM) Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Talent Management Suite

(This Includes products from Oracle, IBM, SAP SuccessFactors, Workday, etc.)

These legacy systems never kept up with the rest of the consumer web on user experience. Left with a career site stuck in the 90s, it’s no wonder employers have looked for solutions from vendors servicing this niche.

In theory it sounds great. These vendors promise a modern career site that checks the box for mobile and social. However, when you take a step back and look at the job application journey, a very different story emerges.

Bait and Switch


The candidate starts their journey on your new, slick, mobile optimized career site, likely from their mobile device (in a 2014 study by Kelton Research 70% of candidates said they wanted to apply via mobile phone). The candidate searches for jobs and find the one they like.

So far so good.

But now things get wonky. They click ‘Apply’ and a pop up page appears asking for their name, email address, and resume (oftentimes more). At this point the candidate thinks they’re applying for the job when in reality the company is just capturing them as a ‘lead’ before redirecting them to the next page; the dreadful job posting on their ATS. Often times this step actually discloses to the candidate that they haven’t actually “applied” but they’ve merely “joined their Talent Network”. As if the candidate is supposed to know what that even means.






So far the candidate experience has worked well on the phone. The career site is mobile responsive so they’re feeling good about the experience. Now that the candidate has filled in the Talent Network form they click Next. Are they done applying?

Nope, not even close.

This is where it gets ugly. Because where you just sent them – the lame, unbranded job ad on the career site your ATS provided you – doesn’t work on their phone. Not to mention you now require them to create a username and password (who needs another one of those?) and they can’t use a social profile like LinkedIn instead of their resume. Who stores their resume on their phone?

Oracle Taleo

Redirected to Oracle’s Taleo ATS

In a world where the human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish this is where 60-80% of them abandon the process (according to recent research by Careerbuilder and iMomentous). But WAIT! you say… thank goodness for my Talent Network because I now have their name and email address. Which brings me to the next point.



Thanks to your talent network you’ve captured the candidate’s name and email address before they bailed out on your wonky talent-network-redirected-to-ATS experience.

Congratulations, you can now harass/spam their email address until they either unsubscribe or finally go back and complete their application when they have an extra 30 minutes while sitting at a desktop computer.

And recruiters wonder why they’re forced to go outbound to search for quality candidates. Your career site isn’t optimized to support a quality inbound applicant flow. It’s clear that while trying to solve for one problem – a bad career site provided by the ATS vendor – a new problem surfaces.

If we’re really honest with ourselves and this talent network thing, maybe the disclosure we provide candidates should just say:

“Hey Ms. Candidate,

We’d get in trouble by the compliance police if you actually thought you were applying to a job, so you actually haven’t applied yet because that data isn’t going to our ATS where we can track it in our applicant flow report.

The REAL apply process comes when you hit that little ‘Next’ button when we redirect you to a really bad website that:

  • Looks nothing like this one,
  • Won’t work on your phone,
  • Has a mile long list of silly questions that you’re probably not going to answer.

Full disclosure though – recruiting didn’t want to buy that system but we had to because it came with all these other bells and whistles for paying and managing our employees.

Anyway, since you’re just about to leave this site we’ve decided to make sure that we get your name and email address so we can harass and annoy you later. Thanks for coming!

P.S. be sure to shop our e-commerce website, we promise your experience will be much better.”


Sarcasm aside, how is this acceptable in a world where anyone can book airfare and check into their flight from a mobile phone in less time than it takes them to apply to a job? Do you think your CEO or CMO would run a potential customer through a similar process? No, because they never want to write advertising checks their website can’t cash.

Would you complete a purchase on your mobile phone with this kind of experience? Not a chance. So why is it ok for HR?

In a crowded and disruptive world where brands fight each other tooth and nail trying to break through the noise, HR isn’t doing marketing any favors. CHROs should take a lesson from CMOs and understand that they can’t treat candidates any differently than they would potential customers – they’re often times one in the same.

Stop kidding yourselves that your 1990s ATS is OK. Or somehow that your all-in-one HRMS or Talent Management Suite is going to stay on the cutting edge of digital marketing.

They won’t, the space moves too fast.

In this day and age getting left behind means losing ground to competitors on your ability to acquire the most important driver of your company’s growth – talent.

Thankfully there are more modern Talent Acquisition Suites that natively solve for this like SmartRecruiters and others. With them, you can stop throwing good money at bad experiences, and actually deliver a socially connected, natively mobile candidate experience that properly reflects your brand and values. That’s a big, important win for any CHRO and CMO alike.

Mobile Apply Experience

Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson is the Chief Sales Officer for SmartRecruiters.