Career websites: What do applicants actually want?

Updated on: 13. May 2024

The career website is the most important channel for potential employees to find out more about an employer and to apply. For companies, the career site represents the centre of…

The career website is the most important channel for potential employees to find out more about an employer and to apply. For companies, the career site represents the centre of all recruiting activities. But although the facts speak for themselves, there is a lot of untapped potential in companies: the career section is not discoverable, information required for the target group being sought is scanty or non-existent, the job search is well hidden and, moreover, cumbersome, and the application process scares away potential candidates at the last mile.

We wanted to know exactly: How important are career sites for potential applicants and what do they expect from them? For this purpose, we asked 1,624 current “real” applicants for their assessment between the beginning of December 2019 and the beginning of January 2020. The results speak a clear language and provide important support for the implementation or optimisation of a career page.

Voting on a candidate from home – how is that supposed to work?

Without any ifs or buts, the career website is the most important channel for finding out about a potential employer: For 69.1 percent of respondents, it is in first place, almost on par with job boards (68 percent). While Google search is in third place with 54 percent, social business networks (35.8 percent), review platforms such as kununu (24.5 percent) and Facebook, Instagram & Co. (13.7 per cent) are far behind in the favour of applicants. All respondents rated the importance of a career website as very important.

No career website? No applicants!

When asked whether participants also apply to employers who do not have a career website, almost a third (28 per cent) answered no. If these figures are already a clear alarm signal, the reasons why candidates decide not to apply are even more so:

For example, 28 percent perceive a missing career website as unserious or unprofessional, 7 percent imply a lack of appreciation and 42 percent see a lack of transparency on the part of the employer as a reason not to apply. Some of the applicants’ statements sum up the disaster well:

“I get the impression that the company is not sufficiently interested in appearing attractive to potential employees and thus it seems more likely that the company will not make much effort to provide an attractive workplace even after hiring.”

“Recruiting and human resources do not seem to have a high priority. I associate this with insufficient appreciation of employees.”

“There’s a kind of lack of credibility there.”

Job search is the primary goal

We also asked the question about the reasons why applicants visit a career site. And this may surprise many, but the most important reason is the search for jobs or job offers. For 88 percent of the respondents, this is the top criterion. 73 percent are looking for information about the employer. And 50 percent are looking for information about a contact person. When asked about the most important contents of a career website, the picture becomes even sharper: here, the job search is in first place with 91.5 percent. In second place, with 63 percent, is information about the contact person, closely followed by information about the application process (62 percent). In fourth and fifth place is information about the type of entry and occupational group sought (58 per cent) and realistic insights into the company by means of pictures and videos (45 per cent).

“Jobs and careers” in the main navigation

Applicants also have a clear idea of the name and placement of the career button. The corresponding menu item, which 60 percent prefer to be called “Jobs & Careers”, should be found in the main navigation (62 percent). Only 6 percent consider the term “Jobs” to make sense. 22 percent would accept a placement in the secondary navigation, only 6 percent in the footer. 8.5 per cent are happy to find the career page anywhere at all – regardless of where it is located.

Further development, values and sustainability are important topics

When it comes to the content on a career page, applicants primarily expect information about further development and training as well as values and corporate culture (70 per cent each). A practical presentation of potential tasks and projects that await them in the company is expected by 52 percent. The topic of Fridays for Future and sustainable action in dealing with resources also plays a role for applicants: 44 percent expect information about social responsibility and sustainable action. This is more important to applicants than a presentation of the company from the employee’s perspective.

When it comes to the presentation of information on the career site, 52 percent prefer a presentation using text and images. Not even 1 per cent of the applicants can warm to an exclusive presentation by means of videos. A combination of text, image and video, on the other hand, is preferred by 29 per cent.

Personal contact top, chatbot flop

The following figures also show how important a personal contact person is to applicants: 73 percent want to get in touch with a specific contact person with their full name, email address and, if applicable, LinkedIn profile. A contact form is preferred by 16 percent of applicants. Communication with a chatbot that is also available in the evening and at weekends is only desirable for 1.7 per cent of applicants. After all, more than twice as many prefer a live chat with a real employee.

Career website as a flagship for the company

The career website should be the employer’s flagship, is how one of the participants sums it up when asked about the perfect career website. A look at a large part of international career sites shows exactly the opposite: they reflect a lack of interest and appreciation towards potential employees. This should be an incentive for you to do better.

softgarden: Thank you Henner for the great cooperation. We, too, have understood the great importance of a career website for attracting the best talent.

About Henner Knabenreich

Henner Knabenreich fights for a better applicant world as an employer brand appearance optimiser. His passion is good personnel marketing. He is a book author, HR marketing coach and speaker and runs the blog

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