Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Applicant Tracking Systems vs Search Engine Optimization

Here is an interesting post concerning Applicant Tracking vendors and Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short) concerning the employer career sites that they provide to their clients.

Link to Blog Entry: Why Say No to Recruitment SEO?
Original author: Jason Whitman (Director of Client Services)


The post talks about how some of the robots.txt files are telling search engines not to index the jobs on the sites.

For those of you who I lost at robots.txt, let me help explain this in plain English. Google, and the other search engines, have computer programs that go out and look at your website, or in the case of a careers site, it looks at your careers information and your job listings. These programs are known as “spiders”, “crawlers”, “bots”, etc. These “spiders” take a look at the information that is on each of your pages, and record it in their “index” or database. When you run a keyword search in Google, or any other search engine, the results you see are the made up of web pages that have been looked at and recorded by the spider, and the listings are ranked based on how well that page matches up to the keyword you search for.

As a web programmer, I can add a little text file to a website named robots.txt. That file allows me to tell a spider what pages to look at or not look at. By telling the spider not to look at a web page, it means it won’t record it in the index, and that page won’t appear in the search engine when someone runs a keyword search. There are various reasons why someone might want to do this, but for employer web pages and job listings, I can’t think of a good reason to block it.

Jason, the person who posted the article linked above, did some digging around and found that a few major ATS vendors were telling spiders not to index the job listings or careers sites of their clients. I’m not sure why they would do this, I’m sure that the software programmers had a valid reason in their mind for doing this. Since software programmers are generally not web marketers, they might not see the potential problems caused by blocking the spiders.

The blocking of the search engine spiders is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Career Sites and Search Engine Optimization. Even if the robots.txt file wasn't excluding the jobs from being indexed, it really wouldn't matter much for most ATS career sites. Most vendors simply aren't building SEO friendly career sites, for some reason SEO is simply not a priority. To make matters worse, many of their clients don’t want to send their job seekers off of the company website over to the ATS careers website, so they try to use a frame to display the job listings. In plain English, you land on www.samplecompany.com/jobs and that page shows you the job listings from your ATS system on the page. If you click on a job, the page content changes, but the url remains the same as www.samplecompany.com/jobs. This is bad for the search engines and stops your jobs from being indexed or harms the rankings of those jobs. The end result, it keeps you from getting free applicants directly from the search engines, and everyone loves free job applicants.

This ATS verses Search Engine Optimization has been something that I’ve thought over quite a few times in the last 3 years. I have come up with a few ideas of why this is happening, but they are just my own speculation:

#1 ATS companies are made up of, and ran by, software folks, not web marketers. For some reason there is a huge difference in how these 2 groups build things from the ground up. Software guys tend to follow what they have always done, and those habits continue to get in the way of SEO for the systems they design.

#2 There is little to no demand for search engine optimization by the clients using ATS systems. Ask any HR manager, especially at smaller companies under 2000 employees, what SEO is, and 95% don't know. Even those that do, don't understand it enough to pitch it to their bosses to get money for it. If they did get buy in from the boss, without web analytics they couldn't prove that they were getting visitors or applicants from the keywords, and the cycle just keeps repeating. Without proof, you can’t get funding increased to be more aggressive with SEO, etc, etc.

#3 Problem 2 results in there being no money in it for the ATS vendor. Since clients don't demand it, they definitely won't pay for it, and vendors therefore won't built it.

#4 It is definitely not in the best interests of the major job boards, recruiters, headhunters, etc to have jobs showing up in the search results of Google with direct links to the employer’s careers page. This would mean that the job boards would be competing directly with the employers for the traffic. Since most speakers talking about online recruiting at events and seminars are from one of these sources, SEO is simply not part of the conversation, and so SEO is not gaining traction with employers.

This has been one of the most amazing things that I have seen in this industry. We built iApplicants to be search engine friendly simply because of my background. When you come from the Internet Marketing world, SEO is always part of the design of a website. If you could build a system that would provide a valuable tracking tool to your clients, and generate free traffic from the search engines just because you built it the right way, why wouldn't you do it? I knew that our clients wouldn't understand SEO or pay for it, but I knew it would pay off in the end.

As of now our search engine friendly careers pages combined with our pushes to the free job boards like InDeed.com account for an average increase in applicant flow to our client’s sites of more than 20% each month. That is a number that HR understands. We use that increase to show that buying iApplicants will generally pay for itself just off of the value of the increased applicants, and the other benefits will just be the icing on the cake.

Ryan Kohler, MBA
CEO of JobMatch LLC
More about Ryan

Blog Contributor - Ryan Kohler, MBA

About Ryan
Ryan has over 7 years experience providing Internet marketing and developing web-based software for companies in various industries and for different uses from e-commerce sites to lead management software. In his current role with JobMatch, he uses the Internet marketing tactics that are generally used by marketing departments to build tools that help employers source applicants via the Internet. The goal is to not just tell employers and HR staff about new ideas, but to instead build them into their current systems and process so they happen automatically without creating more work for the HR department. Ryan holds a B.S degree in Accounting and an MBA from Southern Utah University.

About JobMatch LLC
JobMatch LLC is a hiring software and marketing company specializing in helping employers better manage and track their hiring process. A core focus of the company's products and services is to go beyond just tracking applicants and provide additional tools to help employers attract more qualified applicants to their jobs. This includes use of search engines, .jobs domains, job feeds to alternative job boards and social networking sites, as well as employee referral programs. Along with targeting different areas of the Internet to increasing applicant flow, JobMatch also helps employers to target specific segments of their applicant pool such as the Gen X and Gen Y crowds.

Blog Contributor - John W. Howard, Ph.D.

About John
John earned his Doctorate in Social and Organizational Psychology at the University of Oregon in 1977, and worked for the next two years in private, non-profit research organizations. With an inclination for business and a desire to apply his education in a real-world setting, he launched a 30-year career in entrepreneurial settings, owning and managing several different successful businesses. Twice he set up from scratch sales organizations that built annual sales from zero to over $100 million, in periods of less than 5 years.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Looking for (GOOD CANDIDATES) in All the Wrong Places...

The hiring manager’s job was, historically, a matter of placing an ad in newspapers, perhaps posting it on local bulletin boards, maybe toying with a radio ad or two...getting people to apply, at least for most openings, was not the hard part of the job.

Anyone filling that role today is sharply aware: Things have changed. Applicants are in short supply, especially skilled applicants. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, America’s workforce will need 18 million new college degrees by 2012...just 5 short years from now. America’s colleges, however, will produce only 12 million new degree holders—and there’s no practical way to quickly adjust output.

Over the next 5 years, America will produce only 2 new college degree holders for every 3 we need!

If you think it’s hard to find highly skilled workers now, hold on to your ergonomic desk chair—this ride’s going to get rougher!

Hiring managers have increasingly turned to Internet job boards and recruiting services to help them find the applicants they need. Is it possible, however, they’re missing the boat—looking for candidates in all the wrong places?
Global business strategy consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, released a 2006 Recruiting Trends Survey, commissioned by the Direct Employers Association. Among their findings:


  • Over 50% of New Hires were sourced from the Internet in 2005.

  • Employers spent the largest proportion of their recruitment budgets on General Job Boards in 2005.

  • Employers were most happy with Return on Investment from (in order of satisfaction) Employee Referrals, their own Employment Web Sites, Campus Recruiting, and Niche Job Boards.

Given the last finding, why are so many dollars being spent on General Job Boards?!? As the report pointed out, nearly 21% of new hires, for the companies surveyed, came from the employer’s own employment website...yet, a quick sampling of company websites shows an amazing range of quality and attention to the “Careers” section in these sites, with most of the smaller companies having no employment functions on their site, or only a minimal set of job listings and contact information. Obviously, a great deal of room for improvement exists in this area, and employers who provide a quality employment section on their websites will reap a real benefit in return on the investment.

Employee Referral programs were the second leading source of numbers of applicants reported (18%), and led all sources in ROI...yet the number of employers without any employee referral program at all was reported at 44% in a recent BLR.com poll.
Recently, employee referral programs have been criticized as restricting efforts to increase workplace diversity (since employees tend to refer people much like themselves). An effective company employment website, together with an applicant tracking system capable of collecting and reporting EEO data, can go a long way to counter such criticism—especially when coupled with other diversity recruiting efforts.

Finally, company employment websites and employee referral programs rank well above all other sources in quality of hires. This year, seek your new hires in the right places! Make an early resolution.

John W. Howard, Ph.D.
More about John

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Online Recruiting & Applicant Tracking Blog

After months (actually over a year) of good intentions, we are proud to announce the launch of the iApplicants blog. This blog will be dedicated to providing employers of all shapes and sizes, but especially small to mid-sized employers, with information and helpful tips to improve the results of their recruiting and hiring efforts. The goal is to provide information that will be useful to readers, regardless of their user of iApplicants. Content for the blog will be provided by different members of the iApplicants team, including some of our resellers and partners. Topics will range from sourcing of applicants (both online and off), applicant tracking, hiring assessments, and any other topic that seems to fit in with our general theme.

Not only are we hoping to provide some useful information to our readers, but we would also like to spark up a conversation that will result in the sharing of best practices. Please feel free to post comments, questions, and recommendations.

Sincerely,

Ryan Kohler, CEO
JobMatch LLC