Why interactive corporate Web sites attract the best talent

The Web has become the number one destination for job seekers. But some companies are far more successful in recruiting the best talent through their Web sites than others. What makes certain corporate sites so special to job seekers? Interactive features is one huge draw, finds a recent study. But there are others.

Companies counting on their Web sites to scoop up the best talent available need to add interactive features that help educate job searchers, but avoid superfluous bells and whistles, according to a new study.

The Web has long been the number one destination of those looking for work, experts agree. Gone are the days that a job search began in Saturday's newspaper, leafing through the careers section.

Now a study out of US-based Penn State University suggests job seekers will like a company better if their careers page is more interactive. Interactive features on Web sites are an attempt to dislodge another career seeking tradition -- job fairs.

"The advantage of job fairs is to give a human face to a company," says study author and professor of film, video and media studies Shyam Sundar. "But now online means can create the feel of real people telling you about the company with interactive features."

Sundar's research is motivated by the late Canadian communications expert Marshall McLuhan, who coined the term "the medium is the message." Even calling himself a "neo-McLuhanist," Sundar wanted to know if the mere inclusion of interactivity on a Web site could change a person's perception of a company.

"The more interactive features [on a Web site], the more the stakeholders or clients will find the organization to be credible," is the way Sundar sums up his findings.

He presented them at a Canada-based conference on May 25.

Seven Web sites representing different levels of interactivity were presented to 116 undergraduate students. The students delved into the career sections and then rated the company based on their experience.

The features on the Web sites that were considered interactive ranged from enabling a link for job enquiries, to submitting an online application or viewing video footage.

The glowing review of such features might be due to the age of the study's evaluators, says Jennifer Perrier-Knox, a senior research analyst with Canada-based consultancy Info-Tech Research Group.

"Interactivity is going to hit a spark with the younger applicants," she says. "That's more of a technical generation that have higher expectations and knowledge of what can be done with a Web site."

Adding lots of interactive bells-and-whistles to your site isn't enough to attract the right job candidates. Companies need to provide features with real substance and offer information on what the work experience might be like for a potential hire, the analyst adds.

The more specialized knowledge someone has of the industry, the more they'll dig into a Web site to look for specific answers, Sundar says. "If I'm highly involved in a topic, then the site has to deliver on a threaded sequence of messaging."

For example, a company looking to hire a chemist should put up video of chemists actually working in the lab, the professor gives as an example. This provides real information instead of having a panoramic view of the office space outside the lab.

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