Jess ElmquistJun 29, 2023
Topics: Candidate Experience

What Message Is Your Career Site Sending to College Grads About Your Company?

Let’s hear it for the Class of 2023! There hasn’t been a labor market this solid for those just starting out in their careers since 1953, according to a recently released study. Huzzah!

Graduation season holds special meaning when you come from a family of educators like I do.

My dad was actually the first Elmquist to graduate from college. He later went on to be the first to obtain a graduate degree. I had many teachers and professors in my extended family, and I later followed that same path when I taught high school history and economics. I was immensely proud of my students, many of them confronting tough problems but not allowing life’s circumstances to interfere with their goals. They overcame a lot to succeed.

This year’s grads have faced their share of challenges for sure. I mean, the pandemic disrupted their education in ways we may not fully grasp for years to come. Still, they plowed through it. I’m optimistic that this group will overcome whatever is thrown their way.

The workplace has also gone through many changes at the same time, and the contract between companies and employees is morphing still. There used to be an engagement pact between employers and employees with companies looking to earn discretionary effort in the office.

I have seen this trend shifting to a lifestyle contract, and it's not just about work-life balance. Now Gen Z is asking for work-life harmony. A lifestyle contract that allows for more integration of work and life like never before.

In looking for their first job upon graduating or that new opportunity, Gen Z wants careers of purpose; they don’t want to be stuck behind a desk doing things that don’t align with their values.

They want an employer who believes in them and will prioritize their professional betterment. And, they get that first look into that promise with the online career site content.

To compete for this new talent, that company information needs to look and feel as if it were tailored and personalized just for them. If it is an endless list of job titles and descriptions, your company has already lost them.

And yet, I continue to see employers make the same mistakes time and time again when trying to compete and hire this new talent.

Ask yourselves: does your career site offer job recommendations based on skills, experience, and qualifications? Or, does it simply email applicants with random roles that have nothing to do with their majors or career aspirations?

If the answer is the latter, then it’s time to make a change.

I want to spare CHROs from missing a great opportunity to connect with a new generation of employees in a meaningful way, so here are a couple of areas where companies are falling short, and my advice on how to fix them.

1. Not Using a Chatbot

Really? Despite overwhelming evidence that chatbots are a huge hit with digital nomads, a whopping 85% of the Fortune 500 didn’t use these time-saving digital assistants to streamline the job search and application process, according to an in-depth benchmark report on candidate experience.

If you give someone multiple opportunities to become an applicant very easily — on a career site, in a chatbot, or via text — they will leverage that technology. In some cases the process of looking for a job, applying, and submitting an application is less than a few minutes.

Some companies will say they have a talent community page. That’s a great method, and it works. But the real benefit — and this is where chatbots become a powerful ally — is they’re a 24/7 recruiter.

Phenom gets about 30 million candidates a week on our career sites. Almost half of all that traffic in the first visit will talk to a chatbot. So people want to talk to a chatbot and leave information behind. A talent community page is nice; chatbot and text are far better.

I was on a ‘NOW of Work’ podcast episode recently with my friends Jason Averbook and Jess Von Bank when the subject of “creepy and crappy” chatbots came up. That is, some people are reluctant to give up a bunch of personal information when they don’t know how it’s going to be used. Or, in some cases, the chatbot doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.

To that I say a chatbot is only as good as your organization wants it to be.

My advice: Focus on delivering an incredible, personalized experience. As a practitioner who regularly uses helpful tools, a creepy or crappy chatbot negatively impacts the experience. Having watched the behind-the-scenes data on these indispensable digital tools, I can assure you that the experience is about applicants having access to the core information when and where they want it. Companies have an opportunity to tell a beautiful story when they deliver an impeccable experience.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is one of them. Watch and learn about their ROI from Lavonne Monroe, Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition and Onboarding at HPE.

2. From Ho-Hum to Holy Smokes!


A career site is a CHRO’s most valuable piece of real estate on the web. So why do 80% of the Fortune 500 lack compelling content on their most important property?

That was another eye-opening revelation from the candidate experience report. It tells me that you need to take a second look at your apply process, because no one, especially Gen Z and (eventually) Alpha, are going to stick around a site that under-performs and isn’t personalized to their skills and job interests.

Is there a reason why you’re not creating a seamless application process so the candidate is not being redirected or jumping from place to place? They're staying inside of that seamless experience that's delivering brand and culture and then making it really easy to apply.

Then, once that happens, a “wow” site can trigger other things to keep applicants engaged, such as automatically scheduling an interview. That’s a big one. Pick a date and time and boom! Done.

Give an applicant the next step in real time and they are very likely to take it and run with it. That gives your recruiters a lot of confidence that the funnel they're creating, and what these automations are reacting to, is driving a richer experience.

We know for a fact that better engagement leads to applicants who will become employees. They judge companies — whether they apply or not — based on their interactions with your site. So why wouldn’t you want to grab their attention the second they land there?

My advice: One of the core attributes of candidate experience that every enterprise should be paying attention to: leverage a single talent experience platform that can host the apply process on the career site, and you will immediately see a benefit to your existing traffic. That's the real key. I’m not talking about even the uplift on attracting more talent to the career site. I’m talking about capturing more of the talent you already have.

Candidates With X-Ray Vision

Fellow HR leaders: it should be obvious by now that the new talent economy is real. How we're defining where we want to work and what we want to do has changed and transitioned, and it's not going back.

A CHRO in the healthcare space once said that today's candidate has this X-ray vision to see and know an organization’s authenticity and purpose. If you, in your role as the head of the HR function, haven't drilled down to your mission, vision, and purpose, you’re going to struggle to find a brand identity that attracts this newly minted graduating talent.

Let me help you figure out how to fix that. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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