In Employer Branding circles, it’s catchy to hear that “candidates are behaving like consumers”. What does it really mean? From our perspective, it means that candidates are doing their homework on a company prior to applying. It’s like purchasing a big ticket item. You’re typically not going to buy a house or car without doing your research. A career decision is no different. In fact, it’s more important.

We recently sat down with one of the product leaders at Ask.com. During our conversation, we quickly learned that she was new to the company. This is important because she talked at length about the homework she did while considering the opportunity with Ask.com.

Her perspective is telling. She told us that she struggled to figure out what the opportunity was truly about. She wanted to know: what challenges the person would need to tackle, who are the people that she would work for and with, and what stage Ask.com was at as a company.

The first two websites she mentioned were Glassdoor and LinkedIn. She told us that she saw those as a natural place to go, but she still couldn’t get a feel for what the job was really about. The story was fragmented, and she was left to piece together her own story about the open position.

So what happens when candidates have to build their own narrative about your company? While Glassdoor and LinkedIn may be the first that come to the candidate’s mind, they’ll usually take a deeper look by searching Google.

To better understand the impact, let’s take a look at the results of an example search this Product Leader would have run on Google.

Here’s the top 5 places you’d land:

1) Careers Site

Brilliantink says that “82% of job seekers visit a company website when job hunting”. It certainly doesn’t take a Google search to bring them to your company website. But it doesn’t hurt to know that Google is bringing candidates here first too.

The biggest challenge for your careers site is making sure someone such as a Product Leader will see relevant information quickly. This is not an easy task, but it’s a company’s biggest opportunity to insert their narrative into the conversation. A good place to start is more content about office locations and job categories.

2) Glassdoor

The number two most frequent landing spot is Glassdoor. We talk to companies who partner with Glassdoor aggressively, and others who have not adopted the site. Either way, we’re thinking about the candidate’s experience with your company on this landing page.

This page for Ask.com is informative. You can easily see that they have a 3.6 rating over 61 reviews. Those reviews are the main value that a candidate sees on the site. From overall employment to interview questions, candidates can get good background through stories on Glassdoor.

3) LinkedIn

LinkedIn does its job nicely. Google delivers candidates straight to the company page on LinkedIn for Ask.com. Their company page brings similar imagery and personality as the front page of the Ask.com careers site. The brand consistency inspires confidence with candidates. In fact, several companies we’ve talked to our shaping their careers site to match their LinkedIn company page.

That said, the biggest value candidates place in LinkedIn is their ability to see how they are connected to a job first. It’s then to do research on the people they could potentially work with. The risk for the company is that the candidate is left to try an interpret what the job is really about.

4) Indeed

We’re currently working with a Fortune 500 company whose Director of Talent told us that Indeed was the number 2 traffic source to their careers site. There’s no question that Indeed is a strong traffic driver. It definitely comes up as a top result in our search for Ask.com as well.

The good news is that you know you’re going to get traffic from Indeed. They’ve mastered the science of SEO since they started up in 2005. The bad news is that the site does not support the use of imagery. This makes it difficult to tell your story, and can make it a transactional candidate experience.

5) Random Job Boards

We recently wrote about the process of how job descriptions end up all over the web without your knowledge. It didn’t take long to see an example of this when doing this Google search. It’s not that this particular website is negative. It’s just that it’s transactional like the hundreds of other job boards on the web eating up your SEO.

It’s a good thing to cast a wide net, but you also need to evaluate the overall cost. If you’ve got a top candidate coming to the page below, are you happy with that? Do you know how referrals from this site perform in the interview process?

…all roads lead right back here

As candidates do their research, all roads online lead back to one place. All 5 of the sites above took us to this page within a click or two. Thus, this has become the number one authority on Ask.com’s Product Management openings on the web according to Google.

Now we know why she said it was hard to get a full understanding of the position. Fortunately, she went to meet people in-person at Ask.com and had an amazing experience. That’s the experience a company should strive to create online for candidates.

What’s next?

The truth is, you never know where your job descriptions are going to show up online. This is because of the way¬†Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has functioned in the past. Keyword density and PageRank have played a large role in serving results to Google users. However, this could change with Google’s release of the Hummingbird search algorithm. For example, where PageRank played a major influence over search results before it will now be just 1 of 200 ingredients in the algorithm. The intent by Google is to serve better search results, including “conversational search”.

If you’re thinking about how to better position your company’s search results in the future, you may want to consider an emerging practice called Online Audience Optimization (OAO). While some may consider this a new version of SEO, there are some real differences in the approach. Linda Ruth offers these 9 tips in an awesome article about OAO that is forward-thinking and thought-provoking.

The difference in OAO versus SEO is the transition from mass marketing to personalization. The job description coming out of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and being fed to everyone on planet Earth is mass marketing. Personalization will be more difficult, but is achievable. Start at the job category and location levels. Engage the top influencers in hiring at your company to help. It’s a good place to start.

Tell a better story, use visuals, and be consistent. Over time, you will insert the narrative of your company into the online conversation. The alternative is to keep letting someone else tell the story for you. And if it’s working that’s okay too.

Jason Webster

Jason Webster is a social recruiting enthusiast and co-founder of Ongig, a platform that creates shareable, visually-appealing job descriptions. He has spoken at multiple social recruiting events, where his passion for candidate experience is the primary topic. Connect with Jason and Ongig on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

by in Employer Branding