4 Ways to Maximize Online Recruiting

In 2010, Maersk Drilling, a rig operator based in Copenhagen, Denmark, set a lofty recruitment goal: Double the company size by 2018.

This meant hiring 3,000 new employees in a small and highly selective industry. Offshore drillers begin their careers with apprenticeships, using the experience to develop necessary technical skills on the job as they progress through the industry.

It takes roughly 12 to 15 years to reach a senior-level position. And the lifestyle is demanding. Drillers typically live and work on the rig for two to three weeks at time while putting in 12-hour shifts on a 24-hour-a-day rotation.

Physically demanding work and specific skills restricts the talent pool. So like many employers, Maersk turned to a special tool that has come to redefine recruiting: the Internet.

But as the company quickly learned, it’s not as simple as moving the application process online and waiting for the right applicants. Maersk needed to pay attention to certain details if it wanted to find the right applicants — details that, even in 2015, some companies may overlook.

The Internet has revolutionized recruiting, with great benefit to both the employer and job seeker. While recruiting for a job in the pre-digital age would have involved a narrow number of candidates in a limited geographic location, today most jobs posted online are viewable and open for application by any candidate anywhere in the world.

For job seekers, the Internet has greatly expanded the tools available to apply. Not only can a résumé be created and submitted to multiple positions within a matter of minutes, but interviews, pre-hire assessments and a number of other communications can happen without having to go anywhere.

And as mobile technology has expanded, all of these tasks are at people’s fingertips from anywhere at anytime. What was once a barrier to the traditional recruiting process — mailing in a résumé, traveling to a job interview, posting job ads in a newspaper — is no longer standing in the way. Today’s recruiters and job seekers are more connected than ever.

Still, recruiting in the Internet age has its share of strategic nuances talent managers should pay attention to.

Mind the Volume

For starters, the sheer volume at which the Internet enables recruiting is sometimes both a blessing and a curse. “The Internet has created more hay on the needle,” said Elaine Orler, CEO of the Talent Function, a recruitment industry research and consulting firm. “There may be more needles in there, but there’s equally more hay.”

The issue of applicant volume has only increased since the recession. As jobs have come back, so have open positions listed online and people looking for new work. According to Talent Function research, about 200 people apply online for each available position posted on a company’s website.

“Before we had this connectivity, most organizations wouldn’t see 200 people walk in the door to hand in a résumé or even mail in a résumé for any single position,” Orler said, “let alone all the positions that a company might have available at that time.”

The Internet, in effect, completely eliminated the problem of proximity. Physical distance from a job no longer prevents someone from applying. The Internet also created the potential to recruit candidates on a global scale.

Although the increase in volume has helped build larger talent pools, Orler said this doesn’t necessarily mean recruiting has gotten any easier. “To get to those that are truly highly qualified still takes a lot of recruiter intelligence,” she said.

The volume problem means that today’s recruiters must have a clear definition of the ideal candidate and use the correct digital avenues to reach that particular talent pool. It doesn’t make the recruiter job easier, but, if done correctly, it has the potential to make it more effective.

Create a Clean Candidate Experience

The influx of candidates flooding companies’ websites puts a greater emphasis on the online candidate experience.

Attracting candidates is only one way that the Internet can be used to improve a company’s recruitment strategy. Recent efforts at streamlining the application process have helped to motivate candidates to apply to positions.

In oil driller Maersk’s case, moving recruiting operations online meant revamping the company’s website.

Fredrik Tukk, the company’s head of communication, marketing and branding who was hired to help move recruiting online, said the functionality of a firm’s website is paramount when creating an easy-to-navigate candidate experience. This is why one of the first things he did at Maersk was work to overhaul the way potential job candidates experienced the application process on the Web.

In 2010, Maersk already used its website for recruiting. But navigating to open positions from the home page was not intuitive, Tukk said. Even though the company’s website was averaging 15,000 visitors a month, such visitors were spending 90 seconds just browsing around.

Tukk oversaw the building of a repurposed website to make finding and applying for jobs easier. Six sublanding pages were created to provide easy guidance to recruitment. Each topics page included a “call to action” intended to drive visitors to the jobs and careers page where they can apply for positions. Videos and employee testimonials were added.

“You only have a couple of minutes to reach people,” Tukk said. “If you can catch their attention and give them the option to send an application later, you’ve made a connection and [made] possible a recruitment.”

Another aspect of creating an easy-to-use applicant experience online is making sure potential candidates don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with administration. This, Orler said, can be a challenge given the need for user credentialing when applying for a job online.

“There is no reason that any job seeker should have to start with a user name and password, create an entire profile and spend 40 minutes recreating a résumé on a corporate website,” Orler said.

To bypass the often-cumbersome process of online credentialing, Orler said many companies have enacted technology that enables users to port information from LinkedIn, Facebook or other popular social media websites when creating online job profiles.

Balfour Beatty, a multinational infrastructure firm based in London, unified its online presence onto a single LinkedIn page in part for the ease of application the platform provided.

“Candidates only have to create their personal information once,” said Katie Willison, a digital media executive at the company. “After it’s uploaded, recruiters can see it instantly. They can then scan and see if the candidate is right for the job before devoting extra time to vetting a candidate.”

Use Social Media

Integrating social media platforms such as LinkedIn also expands the traditional timeframe for job applications from business hours to whenever a potential candidate has a free moment.

According to April 2014 LinkedIn data, 41 percent of its users enter the site via a mobile device. And current projections suggest that number reached 50 percent by the end of last year.

Maersk, which also has a LinkedIn presence, has also found that giving candidates the ability to access company information and apply in the moment has been a key to its success toward achieving its recruitment goal of doubling its employee count by 2018.

With social media, employers not only have the ability to ease the application process, but it also provides a channel to advertise job openings so potential candidates visit the website. Social media helps make the recruiting process more transparent.

Nevertheless, with increased transparency comes greater hesitancy on the part of corporate executives, many of whom can be skittish when it comes to getting involved in social media because of potential legal and privacy concerns.

“There is a fear within organizations about what social media really is,” said Andy Headworth, the founder and managing director of Sirona Consulting, a recruitment strategy firm that helps companies work social media into their talent acquisition strategies. “They don’t understand it, so they undervalue it.”

This was initially the case at Maersk. While the company’s website overhaul helped it bolster site visits and applications, it still wasn’t quite on pace to reach its recruitment goal.

“When we finished the website we went back to our senior management team and said that we need to take the next step to get the right people to actually find the site,” Tukk said.

Tell a Story

Establishing an easy-to-use website to post and accept job applications and creating a social media presence are both vital cogs in selling the company’s story, something talent acquisition experts say is paramount when recruiting online.

And in many cases, the primary — and likely most powerful — avenue for companies to tell their story is social media.

For Maersk, Tukk was convinced that to effectively leverage the recruiting capability the Internet presented, the company had to increase its social media presence.

After some initial executive resistance, Facebook was the first platform Tukk and his team tackled. They began by creating a company page and posting open positions — and quickly learned that this strategy was not driving engagement.

For social media to be effective in telling the company’s story — as a result driving potential job candidate interest — the medium cannot be used as another job board but as a way to communicate with potential candidates.

“The Internet is a drop-off-a-résumé, receive-a-receipt and hope-you-get-a-call-back [medium],” Orler said. “Social is much more of an expectation of a bidirectional relationship. It’s about curating content that creates a community for candidates.” Bidirectional relationships can take the form of page likes, comments and shared content, Orler said.

So instead of posting job openings, Tukk began to post content that captured life as a Maersk employee. “We’re telling our employee value proposition in pictures, in videos, in stories, in portraits and in employee testimonials,” he said. “We can post a picture saying ‘sunset on the Gulf of Mexico,’ and 40 people will comment asking where they can apply.”

According to Tukk, 10 percent of applicants apply for a job after seeing a post on Facebook. Each Maersk Facebook post also averages between 1,500 and 2,000 likes.

And as younger generations begin to enter the workforce, successful recruitment will likely look more like successful social interactions. Orler said she thinks candidates will begin applying more of a Yelp mentality to job applications, referring to the popular consumer reviews app and website.

“They’re looking at the same kind of information,” she said. “How did they treat the last person there?”

Building the company brand and demonstrating what it’s like to actually work at Maersk allows the company to reach beyond the 10 to 20 percent of Facebook page visitors who are actively seeking employment to the 80 to 90 percent who had not considered a job at Maersk until viewing that post.

“People actually come back and ask for a job even though we never actually say we have job openings,” Tukk said.

Implementing a social media strategy has produced significant results for the firm’s website. Maersk has gone from 15,000 to 80,000 unique visitors a month. Each visitor spends approximately four minutes on the website.

“We have found the ability to tell these people about why we’re good employers instead of going to work for whoever they work for today,” Tukk said.

Tukk and his team collect weekly data reports on the performance of the seven social media channels the company implements. If there is a dip in activity, they will move on to a different approach.

“We’re always open to finding new ways,” Tukk said. “You have to be flexible in recruiting.”

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