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How to Design a Recruitment Website

Having decided on the type of individuals to recruit and recruitment message to convey, an employer needs to decide how to bring a job opening to the attention of targeted individuals. There are several recruitment methods an employer can use (e.g., job fairs, college placement offices, professional job boards) to publicize a job vacancy. Research (e.g., SHRM Staffing Research, 2008) has shown the use of an employer’s website is among the most commonly used methods. This is not surprising as an organization’s website has the potential to generate a large number ofjob applicants at relatively low cost, especially for organizations that are well known and have a good reputation (Dineen & Soltis, 2011). In this section, I focus on the use of an employer’s website; readers interested in a broader discussion of recruitment methods are referred to Yu and Cable (2013).

Although a relatively new means of recruiting employees, considerable research on the use of websites has been conducted in the last decade. This research has involved the analysis of both actual company websites and the creation of simulated websites in which various site characteristics were manipulated. Cober, Brown and Levy’s (2004) study is representative of the first type of study. They focused on the aesthetic features of a website (e.g., effective use of colour, fonts used), how easily a website was to navigate and the positivity of the information conveyed. All three factors were found to be important to potential recruits. Braddy, Meade and Kroustalis (2006) also documented the importance of corporate website design. They found that presenting information about awards the employer has won had a positive influence on impressions of the organization. This is probably due to awards being seen as reflecting the judgement of an impartial third party, which adds credibility to the information presented.

Because some research (e.g., Cable & Yu, 2006) has found that employer websites are viewed as deficient in terms of providing useful and credible information, researchers have explored ways to increase website effectiveness. Walker, Feild, Giles, Armenakis and Bernerth (2009) used a simulation study involving students to manipulate two aspects of a website: the absence/presence of employee testimonials and the richness of the media used to present a testimonial (picture with text vs. video with audio). They reported that the inclusion of employee testimonials increased the amount of time a student spent on a website, information credibility and employer attractiveness. Using a richer medium resulted in increased information credibility and employer attractiveness. Braddy, Meade, Michael and Fleenor (2009) also investigated ways to improve the effectiveness of a website for recruiting. In their study, four website attributes were manipulated - awards received, employee testimonials, pictures of employees and organizational policies - and their effect on perceptions of organizational culture examined. Braddy and colleagues concluded that all four attributes had an effect on how culture was viewed.

The use of an employer’s website for recruiting can have several advantages (Breaugh, 2013b). Among these are: an employer can convey unlimited information on a wide range of job-related topics; if employee testimonials are provided and awards an employer has won are publicized, the information conveyed may have greater credibility than that conveyed by other commonly used methods; a website allows a site browser to control what information is assessed and how much time is spent reviewing it. Such control enables individuals to access the information that is of greatest importance to them; it is possible to utilize multiple media; and in many cases the cost of developing and maintaining a website is modest when compared to visiting college campuses or hiring a search firm. However, the use of a website is not without drawbacks, two of which are seemingly contradictory: generating too few or too many applicants. Too few applicants may be the result of an employer not being well known by the individuals targeted for recruitment. It also can occur if the individuals targeted for recruitment are not actively looking for a new job. In cases such as these, an employer may need to use other recruitment methods (e.g., employee referrals, radio advertisements) to attract the attention of the targeted individuals and bring them to its website. In contrast, for many employers (e.g., those with stellar reputations), a drawback of using its website to recruit is being inundated with applications, many from people who lack the attributes the employer desires.

As a possible means for dealing with the receipt of a large number of applications, Dineen, Ash and Noe (2002) and Dineen, Ling, Ash and Del Vecchio (2007) investigated the benefits of providing job applicants with information concerning person-organization fit (i.e., a score that reflected the degree of similarity between what an organization was like and what the person wanted in an employer was provided). The results of these studies demonstrated the benefits of providing fit information. For example, individuals receiving information that person-organization fit was high spent more time viewing the website, were better able to recall the information reviewed and were more attracted to the organization.

The majority of studies of websites have used students. Therefore, the results of two recent studies that did not use students merit attention. Selden and Orenstein (2011) studied the websites used by state government agencies for recruiting. Their findings are consistent with many of the results of the studies conducted with students. For example, they found that websites that were easy to navigate generated more applicants. They also reported that sites with higher-quality content (e.g., more detailed job information) received fewer applications, which they interpreted to mean that providing detailed content allowed individuals to screen themselves out if they did not perceive a good fit with the job and/or the employer. Van Hoye and Lievens (2009), in a study involving individuals visiting the website of the Belgium military, reported that receiving negative information had little effect on job attractiveness. This parallels the finding of studies conducted with students.

Most of the research on websites has focused on the main effect of variables such as the impact of including employee testimonials. However, a few researchers have investigated the possibility of interaction effects between website characteristics and site visitor attributes. In this regard, three studies conducted by Walker and colleagues are noteworthy. Walker, Feild, Giles and Bernerth (2008) examined whether website effects were contingent on a person’s work and job-hunting experience. They manipulated website content (e.g., information being presented about the training provided) and characteristics (e.g., physical attractiveness of the individuals portrayed). They found that in rating organizational attractiveness less experienced individuals were more affected by peripheral website attributes, while more experienced individuals were affected by site content. Walker, Feild, Giles, Bernerth and Short (2011) were interested in whether the effects of website characteristics depended on a person’s familiarity with an organization. They examined whether the technological sophistication of a website (e.g., including video testimonials from employees) had a greater impact on individuals who were less familiar with the organization. They found this to be the case and suggested that this may be due to those who are less familiar with an employer drawing inferences about unknown job and organizational characteristics from website attributes. One aspect of Walker and colleagues’ (2009) study that was not discussed in reviewing this study earlier sheds light on the possible interactions between website attributes and site visitor characteristics. In this study, not only did these researchers examine the impact of including employee testimonials, they also manipulated the ratio of racial minorities to non-minorities portrayed in the testimonials (one of four, two of four or three of four). They found different results for the minority and non-minority participants in their study. As the proportion of minorities portrayed increased, minority student perceptions of information credibility and organizational attractiveness also increased, but non-minority student perceptions of both variables decreased.

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