Recruitment Websites - How to keep your content from crashing

By Paul Quinn, © 2002

In part one of this three part series about the most common recruitment agency website mistakes, we take a look at some of the problems that can occur with website content and we provide a number of practical measures you can take to avoid them.

Where agency websites go wrong …

At Quinntessential we've spent hours online searching for recruitment agency websites that illustrate best practice, web-content principles. After reviewing hundreds of sites, we found that those that fail to deliver often do so because they make a few fundamental errors.

Outlined below is a list of seven common website content pitfalls to avoid to increase both the value and effectiveness of your recruitment website.

1. Not Enough Stickiness.

This is undoubtedly one of the most common recruitment agency website weaknesses. If you rely on fresh job content as the sole reason for visitors to return to your site, the job boards will win every time. One page of resume and interview tips is not enough to keep your visitors coming back for more either, so think about what content you need to engage your site visitors and encourage them to interact with you.

Find out what interests your target audience, take a look at the content your competitors are offering and brainstorm ways of offering useful content that can't be found anywhere else. Consider adding bulletin boards, online chat rooms or online visitor polls to your site. Or perhaps offer an 'Ask the expert' section or weekly employer profiles.

A good example of sticky content used to be found at where a unique 'interactive' salary survey called SalaryZone attracted nearly 14,000 salary entries from site visitors in less than 20 months. The salary tool has also helped to drive a significant amount of traffic to the Candle job search engine from candidates that originally came to the Candle site to participate in the Salary survey. (NB: Now a new and improved version of SalaryZone is available via LiveSalary - visit

2. Shovelling Print Online.

"We've already spent time writing a print brochure, annual report, and capability statement. Why rewrite?" Because print materials don't usually work online. Reading on screen is slower and information is harder to absorb than reading printed, hardcopy material. Eyetracking studies by Stanford University and The Poynter Institute reveal that website visitors are three times more likely than newspaper readers to limit in-depth reading to brief passages. Even those who do 'read' a whole article rarely absorb more than 75% of text.

Clearly, if online reading differs so radically from offline reading, your web copy has to follow suit. Make your copy easier to browse by...

· Highlighting key words
· Framing concepts as bullets
· Opening with your strongest point

And make your copy more concise by...

· Keeping headlines simple and direct
· Restricting each paragraph to a single idea
· Cutting your normal word count by 50%

3. What About Me?

Take some time to assess your site's copy against the 'What's In It For Me?' rule. Too many recruitment agency websites are riddled with "We this" and "Our that" yet when it comes down to it what people are really interested in is them, and how your agency can help them get where they want to be. In replacing words such as "us", "we" and "our" with words such as "you" and "your", your site begins to speak a language that your readers really value.

4. Poorly Written Job Ads.

The majority of candidates that frequent your site will probably look at your jobs at some point during their visit. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on ensuring your ads are both well written, easy to find and up-to-date. The most common weaknesses with job ad copy is the lack of detail about 'must have' skills and qualifications, and ad copy that doesn't sell the benefits of the role (again, the What's In It For Me? rule applies). A recent participant in Quinntessential's "Optimising Online Recruitment Advertising" workshop achieved a 350% increase in responses from Seek merely by reconstructing her advert to cover the key selling points first and by writing from the candidate's viewpoint. Furthermore, she filled the role within a week of rewriting her ad because the quality of candidate applications was high.

5. Is Your "Mission" Impossible To Find?

"Who is this company? What do they do?" Some sites make it extremely hard to figure out who or what the company does. Remember that many visitors come to your site from somewhere else in cyberspace. The link or search engine that sent them to you probably did not explain who you are or what you offer. Visitors may also be directed to different sections of your site, sidestepping your home page where you spelled out your 'reason for being'. Orient your visitor by providing useful written signposts throughout your site. Make sure each page includes your tagline, or a short, descriptive positioning statement.

6. Best Before 1/1/2003.

With all the enthusiasm and best intentions in the world, many newly launched sites publish "Newsletter Volume One" only to neglect to publish issues two onwards. Outdated content will drive people away, leaving the impression that your site is stale and no one's "minding the store." Plan regular content updates by creating an 'editorial calendar'. Also consider adding a "What's new" area on the homepage to reinforce to site visitors that you regularly update your site.

7. Putting Your Main Message Two Screens Down.

Web users are typically busy and easily distracted. They want the bottom-line up front, on the first screen. You can't count on your visitors clicking or scrolling through several screens of background information to get to the content they need. The McKinsey Quarterly website (visit: demonstrates an effective way to overcome this. Users are offered an "At A Glance" overview of each article plus a "Take Away" summary to help users decide up front whether or not to spend their time clicking through to read the full article.

In short, success in achieving ROI from your site depends on your ability to deliver relevant and engaging content to your site visitors. In avoiding the pitfalls highlighted above you'll go a long way to understanding what people are looking for and establishing the most effective way to deliver it.

Appendix Table: Why invest in compelling website content?

> Generate increased referrals and positive word of mouth.
> Increase visitor loyalty.
> Demonstrate that you understand the needs of your target audience.
> Encourage visitors to stay on your site longer.
> Attract more traffic from search engines.
> Differentiate your site from the competition.

In part two of this three part series we examine the biggest recruitment website functionality mistakes - in our article: The 'Must Have' Functionality That Many Don't.


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