Monday, April 14, 2008

How to Search Engine Optimize Job Listings

The goal of this post is to help our clients understand how to create job postings on their iApplicants™ careers site that will be “optimized” or rank well in the search engines for specific keyword phrases. These same techniques are valuable for posting jobs to online job boards as well since many of them use some type of search technology for showing job postings to potential job seekers.

NOTE: The ideas discussed below will work if you have your own careers page that was built by your internal web team or with some other ATS system vendor as long as the careers site itself was built to be search engine friendly. In my experience, few ATS careers sites are built in a way to allow the search engines to properly index them, and so using proper keyword targeting in your job listings will do little to overcome those shortcomings. If you would like us to take a look at your current careers site or ATS and let you know if it will work, just drop us a note.

There are two main parts to increasing the number of qualified applicants you receive for a job. First, get as many qualified applicants as possible to view your job ad and second, make sure your ad gets those applicants exited about applying. The following information will target how to improve both of these areas.

Profile the Job


Generally, most employers use job board ads and descriptions for each of their positions, often created long in the past. When the job comes open, they simply pull them out and dust them off to use again. I guess this process works great if you like the results that you have been getting, but if you are looking to improve the quality and quantity of applicants you receive, it might be time to rework the ad and description.

When you pull out the ad and description you used last time, it is important to review it and make sure it is still valid. You might be able to adjust it to ensure you are attracting the most qualified applicants. One way to do this would be to review the Ad with the manager over the position, or more importantly talk to the actual top performers currently doing the job. Find out what attracted them to the company and that specific position. Even more important, why do they like the job now that they have been doing it for a while. I’m not just talking about why they like being a programmer or machinist, but why do they enjoy doing it for your company. Is there something about your company culture, environment, pay, benefits, etc. that is especially appealing to them and keeps them around?

Research the Keywords to Target


Now that you have a clear idea of what the ad and description needs to say, we need to ensure that the vocabulary we use produces the best results. Often, companies are stuck in their own vocabulary. They use internal terminology for posting jobs on their careers site or to the job board, such as “Programmer – Level 2”. This might make perfect sense to the HR person, as that is the actual title of the job, but it means absolutely nothing to the job seeker. Even more important, the job may not even show up on the searches being used by your dream applicants. Not many job seekers are looking specifically for a “level 2 programmer job”, so it’s probably not a phrase they will perform a search on. With the switch from newspaper ads to job board and search engines, the way job seekers look for positions is very different than it was, even five years ago. It isn’t just that they are now sitting in front of a computer, but instead of browsing or skimming over every ad in the paper, they are now running searches to allow them to jump to a short list of jobs that fit their criteria. This means that it is extremely important that you and your potential applicants use the same words to describe your job in the search. So, we need to do some research to see what keywords are being frequently searched. Find a keyword research tool, such as the one below:

http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/

Using this tool, you can type in a word that pertains to the job and see how many people are searching for that word or keyword phrases that include that word. This is valuable information to know when posting a job. Here is an example: We have a client who is hiring a CNA. They post a position with the job title “CNA”. Nice, short, and sweet, and typically costs less when placing a newsprint ad. The problem is that many potential job seekers aren’t searching for “CNA” online. If we go and look at what is being searched for, we see that there are 399 people a day searching for “CNA” but another 136 people a day who are searching for “Certified Nursing Assistant” that would never find our job. So, we would want to include both listings. There are even more people who are searching for “Nursing Jobs”. Sure, not all of them fit this specific position, but it is also a good phrase to target. Out of this research we want to come up with 2 or 3 phrases to target with the ad. Don’t go crazy here and try to target 10 different phrases with one ad, it simply won’t work.

Write the Job Title & Description with Keywords in Mind


So, we are now armed with our previous posting, information from our top employees about why they like the job, and keyword information about what phrases are being search for the most. We can now use this to write an excellent job title, job description (for the careers site), and job ad (for the job board). We want to be sure that the title and description of the ad use our keyword phrases, but it still has to sound right to a normal person and get them excited about applying for the job.

The job title should be very focused on the keywords we are targeting, so using the example from above, we will change the job title of “CNA” to “CNA – Certified Nursing Assistant – Nurse Job”. If you want one shorter, maybe “CNA Certified Nursing Assistant Job”. You normally wouldn’t think to include the word job in your title, but since that is a main keyword for someone searching Google for the page, it can’t hurt to include it.

The job description is a bit tricky. You need to write an ad that will be appealing to your job seekers and call them to action (apply for the job), and at the same time be sure to use your target keyword phrases. We don’t just want to focus on the minimum requirements for applicants and what the job requires, but also talk about why this job is so great and why they will love it. Many times we write the ad or job description in a way to tell the applicants what they must have to apply, and to try to get unqualified applicants to not apply. Although this is a start, we need to remember that we are trying to sell this job to the job seeker, especially in a tight labor pool. We no longer live in a world where ads have to be controlled by the number of lines, bold typeface or boxes around it to control advertising costs. Many job boards today are no charge, and virtually none charge by the length of the ad.

The longer the description the better, since search engines love websites with text on them, just make sure you aren’t mentioning the same keyword phrase more than 3% of the time, so if your description is 200 words, don’t mention the phrase more then 5 or 6 times. (Note: if you need to know how many words the description is, in MS Word just click on “tools” and “word count”.)

The following is an example of a typical ad you might see in the local newspaper, or online:

Title: Staff Accountant
Job Description: CPA required, competitive salary and benefits, good working environment. Send resume to hr@yourcompany.com.

Now, to dress up that ad, to pique the job seekers’ interest, and make the search engines love it… consider the following job ad:

Title: Staff Accountant – CPA - Accounting Job
Job Description:We’re gonna miss Charlie, our best staff accountant/CPA! Charlie worked as a staff accountant for us for the past 6 years, and has just opened his own accounting practice in Maui. He used our accounting firm’s excellent continuing education program, supportive environment, competitive salary and benefits, and great co-workers to build his expertise, bank account, and family, and we wish him well—but we need to find his replacement, who will be a CPA with a sense of humor, a drive to improve, and a desire to work in one of the world’s best accounting settings. If you can replace Charlie, click on the link below to begin your new career.

Text Links to your Job Listing Page


If you want to get really crazy, you can increase the rankings of your job listing page by creating text links pointing to that job listing on your company website, blog, or on the online job boards that you post to. If you have a job ad that includes the keyword phrase nursing job, then replace that text on the job board listing with <a href = “[job url]”>nursing job</a>. Be sure to replace the [job URL] with the actual URL where your job description is on your iApplicants™ careers site including the http://. This same type of link could be used on your company blog or website. Blogs are a great, overlooked recruiting tool. Many of the people reading your company blog may be potential job seekers. Just make sure that you use the same html link setup as above to boost your rankings. You might also research some local bloggers whose subject matter is similar to the job opening you have and submit the job posting to them and ask them to blog about it. Some of your employees might have their own blogs and could do this for you as well. Our goal for these types of posts is to not only get potential job seekers to read about the job and visit our careers site, but also for the search engines to see the link to our job listing with the targeted keyword phrases in order to boost our rankings.

Measure your Results


As the old saying goes, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time I say it, “you can’t improve what you can’t measure”. Now that you have made these changes, it is important to use the source reports and Google Analytics from your iApplicants™ careers site to compare the number of job seekers who visited the job description, applied to the job, and were interviewed for the position. You don’t want to rely on your gut to know if your changes are working, be sure to look at the real data on what is actually happening. .

Ryan Kohler, CEO

More about Ryan

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Catching the Best Candidates in your Applicant Pool

When you go out in the marketplace to find a new employee, you are very much in the role of a tournament fisherman! You and all the other employers seeking a new recruit, standing around the shores of the same pond, all wishing you could catch a world-record fish…but, unfortunately, that fish does not live in this pond!

Your task, then, becomes one of catching the very best fish you can, not catching the little ones that you’ll eventually throw back, and certainly trying not to catch any bottom-feeding carp.

How, then, are we employers to compete? Like tournament fishermen, we are likely to do much better if we know something about the fish available in our pond! Anglers use fish finders to help see through the muddy water. How many big ones are available? How many little ones will hit our bait first? How many carp? Where do the best ones swim--on top, or on the bottom? Many employers don’t have a very good picture of the answers to these important questions, and are forced to blindly throw their bait out in the form of shotgun advertising, hoping for the best.

Tournament anglers invest a lot of money in their tools-rods, reels, and lures designed to maximize their catch of the best fish and minimize the time they waste on the others. As employers, we will have the best return on our investment if we have good tools, helping maximize our catch.

OK, enough of the fishing analogy-you get the idea. In learning about the characteristics of our applicant population, and in targeting the most desirable among them to transform into good employees, we need a competitive fisherman’s mindset, and tools that will allow us to measure the population and select the best from them. That tool, for many successful companies, is a quality pre-employment assessment.

Pre-employment assessments have been in use for many, many years, and some of them are referred to as “honesty-integrity tests.” As with most products that have stayed on the market for 50+ years, the types and formats have evolved into a bewildering array of choices, some very good, some nearly worthless, or even illegal. How can you recognize a measure that is likely to be able to help, and also be sure it’s not going to cause you trouble?

You can look for several things that tend to identify a good pre-employment screening assessment:

  • It will have a legal opinion (in writing) available to you on request.
  • It will have a technical manual, also available on request, which will document the reliability, validity, and non-discriminatory characteristics of the instrument, base on valid scientific method.
  • It will include a distortion, or “faking” score, to alert you to invalid results.
  • It will measure more than one important dimension of employee characteristics. (For example, common measurements including honesty, integrity, work ethic, reliability, and probability of substance abuse.)
  • It will provide an interview guide, to enrich your interview while steering you clear of forbidden waters.
  • It will provide clear, easy-to-read results which need little interpretation, and it will provide them quickly and easily.
  • The system will include built-in,easy-to-use statistical tools that do not cost you extra money to use.
Once you have found a measure that meets those standards, you are prepared to ask for two more things:
  • Examples of case studies, showing the use of the measure in real work settings, the effects, and a cost-benefit analysis.
  • A chance to speak with other employers who are currently using the measure.
Having found your measure, and having decided to use it, what should you expect from your new “fishing tools”? Within a short time, you should begin to see a clearer picture of your applicant pool, both their shortcomings and their strengths. You should be able to, in a relatively short time, see and document improvements in turnover rate, tardiness, attendance, shrinkage, and on-the-job injuries.

As our companies, jobs, settings, and cultures vary so will results of using a pre-employment screening measure. In a sample of five case studies however across five very different employment settings, the average cost-benefit ratio was over 20:1.

Integrating a good pre-employment assessment with job-specific screening questions is a very efficient way to focus on finalists who are likely to be good employees, and who can do your specific job, and do it well. Applying those tools within the automatic administration framework of an online recruiting and hiring system may make you a very good fisherman, indeed. At the very least, it will improve your odds of making a worthwhile catch!

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

Monday, April 7, 2008

iApplicants Now Feeds Job Listings to JuJu, Vast, & Jobster

Announcing More Job Boards added to the EZPost System

We are excited to announce that we have added 3 new FREE job boards to our current job feed system provided to our iApplicants clients. These job boards will help you further expand your applicant pool and get your jobs in front of more job seekers. The best part is that pushing your jobs to these job boards is absolutely free as an iApplicants client.

iApplicants already allows clients to push their jobs to: indeed.com, simplyhired.com, oodle.com, google.com/base, craigslist.org, and the JobMatch job board network. We have now added 3 more exciting job boards:

    Jobster – located at www.jobster.com - Jobster provides free job search and career networking for jobseekers. By having your job included on Jobster.com, you will reach a unique community of active and passive jobseekers who will make great candidates for your jobs.

    Juju – located at www.juju.com - Juju's goal is to make job search easier. They think that traditional online job search methods take too much time and make it difficult for job seekers to find a comprehensive set of relevant jobs, so they strive to create tools that make web-based job listings more accessible and our search results more relevant. The juju job search engine provides quick access to jobs found on thousands of employer websites and job boards all around the web and offers features that will help you find the jobs you're looking for more efficiently.

    Vast – located at www.vast.com - Vast is the leading vertical search platform for autos, travel, jobs, and real estate, with millions of users a month making purchasing decisions through Vast.com's network of partner websites.

How To Get Started:


If you are already an iApplicants client, simply login to your admin area, and post a job. The job push page now includes the option to push your job to these new job boards. For current openings, you can modify your job and upon saving it will be given the option to select the new job boards.

If you are not an iApplicants client, getting started is simple. iApplicants provides flexible, easy to use, and affordable career sites and application management systems for employers with 20 to 2000 employees. You can click here to watch our flash demo presentation or you can click here to signup for a free 30-day trial!

Ryan Kohler, CEO
JobMatch LLC

More about Ryan

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Applicant Tracking System RSS & Automated Email Job Alerts - FeedBurner Integration

iApplicants is pleased to announce a new way to increase your applicant pool and better engage your careers site visitors using automated job alerts via email or RSS feed. It’s FREE for iApplicants clients, and we do all the setup for you!

The Challenge:


In studying the visitor data for our applicant tracking career sites (each client has a Google Analytics Account), there were two stats that stood out to me.
  • A majority of careers site visitors do not complete an application
  • And 30% to 40% of visitors are have already visited the site before
There are various reasons for both of these statistics, but regardless of the reason, this data posted a problem. We are missing a valuable opportunity to collect contact information on the majority of visitors who come to the careers site, and we are leaving it up to the job seekers to remember to return to the career site in hopes that their dream job is now available.

Solution:


The solution is to allow career site visitors to have the option to signup for job notification alerts, without having to apply for a job or create an account. We wanted seekers to have a wide range of different options for controlling how they receive job updates. FeedBurner provided us with a powerful solution to accomplish this task, and in the upcoming weeks we will launch a second tool using Twitter.com to further expand the job alert choices.

iApplicants Feeds Jobs to FeedBurner with RSS:

Each iApplicants site now has an RSS job feed, which includes the 15 most recent job listings, that can be turned on and pushed to FeedBurner. If you don’t know what RSS is, let me explain. RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a way for a website with regularly changing content to allow people to stay informed about the changes without actually returning to the website to view it. It is used by news sites, blogs, and various other sites to keep their readers/visitors informed.

By giving the RSS feed to FeedBurner it becomes an RSS feed on steroids. FeedBurner provides different ways to distribute the job listings based on the desires of the job seeker.

How it Works:


If we turn on the Job Alerts feature, the search jobs page now has a box titled “Get Notified of New Jobs at Your Company” with choices for the job seeker on how they will be notified.



Automated Email Alerts:

Each day FeedBurner will check your job feed for new listings. If there are any new listings, the job seeker will receive a custom email including the new jobs and links to click on that take them to the job listing page.Job seekers only receive an email when there is a new job posted.

Jobs Listed on Personal Homepage:

If a job seeker has a personalized home page on their computer, such as those provided by MyYahoo and iGoogle, they can add a section that has your most recent jobs. They will then see your jobs every time they open their Internet browser.



Jobs Feed to RSS Readers

Many people use an RSS reader such as Google Reader to stay on top of all of the information they are interested in. Along side all of their favorite news stories and blog posts will be your newest job listings.

Republish your Jobs to Another Website Using HTML

FeedBurner’s BuzzBoost will let your job seekers, or even your employees publish your job listings on any other website using html. This includes their personal website or even to a page on your company’s website or blog. Below is an example of what this might look like:


Create a Job Widget

Similar to the BuzzBoost above, a SpringWidget allows someone to post a graphic with your job feed on a website or blog. This allows your seekers or employees to publish your feed on websites, blogs, messages boards, and even social networking sites like MySpace.com. Below is an example of what a SpringWidget might look like:




How To Get Started:


If you are already an iApplicants client, simply login to your admin area, and enter a support ticket requesting that we turn on the Job Alerts feature on your site.

If you are not an iApplicants client, getting started is simple. iApplicants provides flexible, easy to use, and affordable career sites and application management systems for employers with 20 to 2000 employees. You can click here to watch our flash demo presentation or you can click here to signup for a free 30-day trial!

Ryan Kohler, CEO
JobMatch LLC

More about Ryan