Do you really need to be Sherlock Holmes to find a message on a career website?

Or: the future of career websites, part 1

Having seen thousands of career websites, with tons of jobs and texts, I know what gets lost first: the message. How to get across an EVP no a career website?

Welcome to a little series about the career websites of the future. This is part 1, and at the same time the first content article of our new APOLLO blog – applying online and loving it. If this is to be the vision, making candidates love applying, then the career websites must have a key role in it. As job seekers tell us:

“Where do you go to actively look for jobs and careers?” (Multiple choice possible)

Stat ccw

Career website no. 1 source of information – Potentialpark’s Online Talent Communication survey 2014 among 23,683 students and graduates

And one of the biggest differentiators between good and great career websites, is: how does it transport this good, old, famous little thing called EVP message? Once you have defined a message to attract people, how do you get it across online so that the right people understand it, believe it and like it? Because otherwise how will it turn visitors into fans and fans into applicants if they don’t know what makes you unique and attractive for them?

How to get across your employer value proposition on a career website?

First I want to show you something. Try and Google “employer value proposition”, and click on “images”. The result you can see in the screenshot below. Isn’t this a nice collection of buzzwords, fancy graphics and segmented pie-charts?

Google image EVPResult of Google image search for “Employer Value Proposition”, November 2014

Yes, this is flip chart food. It’s not what the candidates see (thank goodness). Generally, marketing concepts are hard to illustrate to “mere mortals”, right? Especially online. Well… that’s kind of the problem. Let’s remember here that on the one hand, we deal with marketing theory, and on the other hand, with people (breathing and easily bored).

Now cut to a different scene. You are 24, recently graduated, look for jobs and check out 3-5 popular company career websites. You wonder what that’s like? The Potentialpark research team just evaluated more than 500 career websites from the US, Europe and Asia. They surveyed about 20,000 candidates for their expectations, they looked at the career websites, and they took screenshots.

Back to our question – if you look for what makes a company different, unique, where do you go? One of the first things that may strike a job seeker is the typical “Why work for us” statement. Around 74% of employers have one on their career website, globally. Is this where the EVP gets across?

Putting my Sherlock Holmes hat on, smoking a (licorice) pipe, I took a magnifying glass and looked at some of the Potentialpark screenshots of the “why work for us” sections:

Why GS

Ex. 1: Goldman Sachs;

Why PwC

Ex. 2: PwC,

Why Telekom

Ex. 3: Deutsche Telekom,

In my humble opinion, these are some of the better examples! They are actually quite well-written, and differentiating. Top employers with some of the smartest and most experienced HR professionals on board spend a lot of energy and brain power on developing such promises. However, a provocative voice from the back of your head may ask:

Who reads this? Or: Who reads this and then decides to work for the company?

The answer is, there are many reasons to have a “why work for us” statement: it is important to show that your message is not just “bits and pieces”. There is need for streamlining a message, for internal (getting everyone on board) and external (showing consistency) purposes. It can be good branding. And, such a statement is only a start, the roof under which all the facets of the employer brand unfold across the whole website, and outside.

But at the same time, such a statement can only be the start.

How to let an EVP really come alive on a career website?

Before we get into a (boring) theoretic discussion around Value Propositions – Dr. Watson is reminding me that an impatient fellow called GenZ is knocking on the door to kick GenY out of their student dorms and intern jobs, and they are even less impressed with anything that’s written for “everyone”. They want the right promise for “me me me” as an individual. Matching “my background”, “my personality”, “my interests”… So many bloggers have written about this, and they are right.


Generation MY JOB!

(Side note: what comes after GenZ? Did you know that the German and the Swedish alphabets go X, Y, Z, Ä? Will we talk about GenÄ in a year?)

So could the personalization of the career website be a way of transporting a message that really hits home with each and every individual candidate?

Why work with an EVP if you can have five? Or ten?

Personalization has been with us for a long time in e-commerce, online ads, or social platforms. When you log in to your amazon or LinkedIn account, it shows your start page and your feed. Now, even though a personalized career start page is not impossible and some employers are working on it, it can’t be the ultimate solution: who expects candidates to keep a profile and log in to every career website? (Well, we already expect them to register in every application form, but that’s a different story.)

Instead, what candidates ask for, according to research, is insight on the level of a department, a job function, a trainee program. Becoming concrete, tangible, graspable. So, instead of: “this the building complex you will work in”, rather “this is the desk you will be sitting at, and this will be the closest coffee machine, and this is what the cappuccino tastes like”. Or more exciting than the coffee machine: your daily tasks, your great moments, what you can learn, who you will meet… per work area or level, rather than trying to summarize a whole organization in 3 sentences.

For that, of course, you would need NOT 10 photos of coffee machines :-). A provocative way to put it, is: you really need 10 EVPs, for 10 different target profiles. Or 15, or 20. As far as you would like to take it, down your priority list of key recruiting areas and “hard-to-fill” positions. Maybe not separate, competing EVPs, but adjusted versions of the one roof EVP. Meaning, the career website of the future should be able to answer the question:

Which particular job, department or area is right for me? And why should I be interested in working in this particular area of your company?

And for that, you of course need to know what makes you unique and attractive for different types of candidates and recruiting profiles. Kind of taking your EVP and boiling it down to something one person can relate to, as if a recruiter was giving the candidate personal advice.

There are many ways to do this – here are 5 examples, going from easier to harder to implement:

  1. An introduction of the key areas you are hiring for – almost too trivial to mention it, but still few career websites have really leveraged on this to go further than “boring descriptions of what a marketer does vs. what an engineer does vs. what the sales team does”. Keeping in mind your EVP: how is working in this area more fun and rewarding than the same job at your competitor? What do candidates need to bring, who should consider applying here?
  2. Career path stories and examples, showing what a career could look like in this company, because today’s generation of students and graduates is not in it for the job title, but for where the job can take them.
  3. The good old employee testimonials – but easy to filter by department or function, so you get an impression of the people in your area of interest
  4. Matching tools that ask for the visitor’s education or interests and show where she or he could fit in. Not a quick fix, but many good examples out there already.
  5. A career website start page that customizes based on your career level and interests – admittedly also not easy, but possible, some have done it as you see below.

Below, 4 examples from 2014, for some of these points:

Example 1: It’s not so much the department descriptions, but the department-specific blog posts that are special (on the right).

RB blog

Reckitt Benckiser,

Example 2: Different stories for each career level and department, showing a personal career path with clickable stations (I admit, the quote is corny, but you can expand it by clicking on the red +):

JJ work areas

Johnson & Johnson,

Example 3: Find employees matching your interests, and watch their video:

Allianz whatchado

Allianz, watchado tool,

Example 4: Select your career level, country and areas of interest, and the jobs and content boxes will adjust instantly:

SocGen personalization

Société Générale,

What other ideas help bring an EVP alive on a career website? I think this will be an exciting discussion to have in 2015. The key point being: it’s good to state why you are an attractive employer, but and the story needs to continue on a much more detailed and personal level to demonstrate and illustrate what that means to an individual candidate. To stand out, and to connect your marketing concepts with the career website visitors and the way they consume information today.

Let’s make Sherlock Holmes unemployed by making messages visible and understandable!

We will be back soon to continue this “investigation into the career websites of the future”, part 2!


Julian Ziesing, Berlin

Julian Ziesing, Berlin


Julian Ziesing ist verantwortlich für die Studien-Entwicklung beim internationalen Marktforschungs-Institut Potentialpark und bloggt hier seine Meinung und Erfahrungen zur Candidate Experience.
Connect with me on Xing and LinkedIn

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