Studies Examine the Online Job Hunting Experience

By Gina Ruiz

Aug. 1, 2006

Keeping an eye on the job seeker’s online application experience is not an easy job, but somebody’s got to do it. CareerXroads recently conducted two quality control exercises to shed light the state of the online application experience.

    CareerXroads’ list of the top 25 corporate sites suggests that financial service providers lead the pack when in comes to catering to the needs of online job applicants. The Kendall Park, New Jersey-based recruiting consultancy combed through Fortune’s list of “America’s 500 Largest Public Corporations” to find which Web sites create the best online application experience for job candidates.

    “We looked for sites that treat job applicants like valued consumers, not like yesterday’s garbage,” says Mark Mehler, co-founder of CareerXroads.

    CareerXroads evaluated the sites based on their ability to target, engage, inform and respect job candidates. Financial service providers—which include Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Capital One—have the strongest presence on the list, followed closely by tech companies like Intel, Microsoft and Texas Instruments.

    “We did not make our decisions lightly,” Mehler says. “It took a lot of research and much deliberation.”

    Those Web sites that made it to the list tend to offer special features, like allowing job applicants to check remotely the stage of the hiring process they are in. In addition, these Web sites do a good job giving candidates glimpses into an organization’s corporate culture.

    “Features like ‘a day in the life of an employee’ are important,” Mehler says. “They give applicants useful information to determine whether they are a good fit with the company.”

    Mehler says that a wide cross section of companies are pushing to improve their online recruiting efforts. The financial service providers and tech companies’ edge is attributed–at least in part–to necessity, because the hiring needs in these two industries are highly demanding, Mehler notes.

    In its efforts to better understand the experience that online job applicants go through, CareerXroads also conducted a mystery job seeker study. In this exercise, the consultancy targeted Fortune’s list of “America’s Best Companies to Work For.” CareerXroads created a résumé for a fictitious job seeker, Mr. Ted E. Baer, and enlisted 20 volunteers to apply electronically. One of the objectives for embarking on this study was to determine the level of attention that is paid to résumés that are received from job applicants.

    The results reveal that rendering personalized care to job candidates could be falling by the wayside at some of the country’s top employers. There were 96 companies that sent generic responses to Ted E. Baer, either electronically or by mail, to let him know that his résumé had been received, was being considered or was being forwarded to a hiring manager. There were two companies, including a casino, that actually called Baer for interview.

    Usually, contacting an applicant who has submitted a résumé is standard protocol, but in this case it would be a bit odd. Ted E. Baer’s résumé indicates that he worked as an administrative assistant to “the man in the yellow hat,” and that some of his responsibilities have included tucking in his bosses’ three children each night.

    Only two companies, FedEx and Alston & Bird, were proactive enough to look into the matter further and contacted CareerXroads directly.

    “The results tell me that many companies that are simply not paying enough close attention to the résumés they are receiving,” Mehler says. “It is lazy recruiting 101.”

    According to CareerXroads, the 25 members of the Fortune 500 that seem to best understand how to treat today’s job seekers are:

1. Agilent
2. Bank of America
3. Bell South
4. C.H. Robinson
5. Capital One
6. Federated
7. Ford
8. General Electric
9. General Mills
10. Goldman Sachs
11. HCA
12. Intel
13. Kodak
14. Eli Lilly and Co.
15. Merck
16. Microsoft
17. Morgan Stanley
18. Proctor & Gamble
19. Sherwin Williams
20. Southwest Airlines
21. Starbucks
22. Target
23. Texas Instruments
24. Whirlpool
25. Xerox

As part of this study CareerXroads also enlisted 20 volunteers to apply to each company on Fortune’s “America’s Best Companies to Work For” list.

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