Bounce Rate: The Most Important Recruitment Metric (Virtually) No One Is Tracking

Over the last five years, recruiting leaders have invested increasingly larger shares of their recruitment budget into Employer Branding, Mobile Recruiting, and Recruitment Analytics. This is a great trend. But hidden within this good news are signs of a huge problem. Despite these trends, talent recruiting leaders continue to overlook, arguably, the most important element of their recruitment strategy: how they present open opportunities and collect crucial candidate information on their career site.

To understand the problem and what should be done about it, it's important to make some distinctions. For most companies their career site is divided into two sections:

  1. The Employer Brand section. This section is devoted to branding the employer as a great place to work. This section typically highlights the kinds of opportunities the company hires for as well as the company's culture. This section is typically hosted on the company's actual website.
  2. The Jobs section. This section includes the job search, job descriptions, and application forms. For most companies this section is hosted entirely by their ATS. However, an increasing number of companies now host job search and job descriptions on their website leaving only the application form on the ATS website. It's important to observe however that nearly all companies direct traffic from their job ads to their ATS-hosted Jobs section.

We've seen great advancements in the design of the Employer Branding sections of career websites. However, even companies that invest thousands, if not millions, of dollars into Employer Branding fall far short of creating an engaging candidate experience on the Jobs section of their career site.

Not only do companies tend to invest heavily in the design of their Employer Branding pages while neglecting their Job pages, they tend to track digital analytics only on the Employer Branding pages (if at all), again, overlooking the part of their website where all that investment will have to pay off (if it pays off at all). Because of this, most recruiting leaders do not have access to an extremely important recruitment metric: Bounce Rate.

Your Bounce Rate is the percentage of visits to your website that end without a single interaction.

Simply put: a visitor shows up, takes one look around, and leaves. That's the textbook definition. Avinash Kaushik, who describes Bounce Rate as "the sexiest web metric ever," writes that Bounce Rate, from a website visitor's perspective, measures how often a visit ends like this: "I came, I puked, I left."

It's important to keep in mind, when thinking about Bounce Rate's role in your recruitment analytics, that Bounce Rate measures the effectiveness of how visits begin on your website. In web analytics terms, it's a metric that tracks the effectiveness of your landing pages (the pages where visits begin). For this reason, it's much more important to measure the Bounce Rate on your Job Descriptions than your Employer Branding pages. Why? Because you spend so much money sending people to these pages (as you should).

The irony is that most recruiting leaders and recruitment marketing professionals could probably ask their marketing team to look up the Bounce Rate on the Employer Branding section of their career site. But for most of those same leaders, the Jobs section is a big black hole in analytic terms. Virtually no one, it seems is using digital analytics to measure how effectively they're promoting their jobs on their own website.

If you're not tracking the Bounce Rate on your Job Description pages, you don't have a meaningful mobile recruiting strategy. If you're not tracking Bounce Rate on your Job Description pages you don't have an actionable recruitment marketing strategy.

If you're not tracking Bounce Rate on your Job Description pages, you're doing it wrong. It's that simple.

Tracking the Bounce Rate on these crucial pages can get you quick and actionable answers to two hugely important questions:

  • Is your career site effectively converting candidates into applicants?
  • Is your recruitment advertising strategy targeting the right audience?

If people land on a job page and leave right away it will almost always be for one of two reasons:

  • Your website was too difficult to use.
  • They didn't find what they were looking for.

If a candidate is at all passive, they are extremely likely to bounce when they reach most job description pages.

And that brings us to the Puking Point.

What is the Puking Point?

The Puking Point is the point at which your career site begins to make people puke and they leave.

It's the point where much of the money you invest in the Employer Brand section of your website will crash and burn. It's the point where so much of the money you spend on recruitment advertising goes up in flames.

Normally I wouldn't use live examples to illustrate a negative point. But, in this case it's impossible to be clear without looking at a few examples (and if you're reading this and your career website is highlighted, email me, we'll fix it for you).

So let's take a look, shall we?

Example 1: Nordstrom

Just look at this website:

Nordstrom careers page

It's beautiful. It's easy to use. It efficiently highlights different job areas at Nordstrom. It's responsive. I love it. Now, let's imagine I'm a candidate. What is the point of this website? To find a job. So what happens when we...

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 2.42.03 PM


Oh no.

What happened? Is this the same company? Well, yes. But every trace of Nordstrom's robust employer branding has vanished. Suddenly we're in a dull a desert of text. Not only that, it just got a lot harder to navigate -- especially on a mobile phone. Suddenly I want to get out of here as fast as virtually possible. Hopefully it won't take too long to fill out that 8 page application...

And just when you think it couldn't get any worse...

Nordstrom doesn't just invest heavily in its Employer Branding. It also spends a lot of money on Recruitment Advertising. Too bad those two investments don't seem to be connected:

Nordstrom job page

Nordstrom invested a lot of money in beautiful, responsive pages that clearly communicate why candidates should consider working for Nordstrom. But they spend even more money sending as many candidates as possible to the section of the website that they haven't upgraded in years. I'll give them a little credit for the video. But I'm pretty sure most of their candidates don't.

Example 2: Intel

Intel Careers

Intel also does a reasonably good job at branding their company as a great place to work. But it doesn't take long before, here we go again, we hit The Puking Point.

Intel job page

And just like Nordstrom, all those thousands, maybe millions of dollars spent every year on advertising send candidates directly to some of the ugliest web pages anyone has seen this side of 2003.

Example 3: NPR

I know what you're thinking. Wait, wait don't tell me that NPR's career site reaches The Puking Point. After all, NPR is famous for its success in Employer Branding and Social Recru...

As you would expect, things start out on a high level.

NPR Careers 2 crop

It's not sleek and shiny like Uber's career site. But NPR isn't sleek and shiny. It's a great digital introduction to life as an employee at NPR. But again, we have to remember that it's not how you start, it's how you finish that counts.

And, well...

If you're comparing this page to the job description pages we just looked at, you might be saying to yourself: "Well that looks pretty good, actually." And you would be right. If you forget about the rest of the internet and only think about other job description pages, then this is a nice web page.

But here's the problem with that line of thinking: not only does the rest of the internet exist, the rest of the internet is where we spend most of our time, so, the rest of the internet is where your candidates will form their expectations of how a web page should look and function. If you come to this page, straight from Facebook or Twitter- it might make you vomit, and it will probably make you leave.

And NPR apparently spends a decent amount of money on posting jobs to their social channels. And hey, those posts look pretty good:

npr social job

The people NPR pays to post their jobs to social channels clearly recognize that NPR's standard job description style just won't cut it for social channels. So they send NPR's social candidates to a separate set of landing pages. The thing is though...

NPR job apply crop

These pages might be worse. Except for one thing. The social posting vendor makes one significant improvement on the ATS Job Description pages: they make it really easy for candidates to give NPR their email address.

npr job apply social

The problem is they do very little visually to persuade a candidate - especially a passive candidate - to click that "I'm Interested" button. I'm highlighting NPR precisely because they are leaders in employer branding and social recruiting. I'm highlighting them because it takes only a few moments to see that even a recruiting team that has done so much right, still gets this point wrong.

"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."

I chose these three examples because they highlight a growing gap in recruitment thinking.

When you invest thousands and thousands of dollars in your employer branding but entirely neglect your job descriptions and application forms, you're setting yourself up for failure. You can invest huge amounts of money in invitations and promotion but if the door's virtually locked when people show up for the party they're going to leave.

Most Employer Branding and Recruitment Marketing initiatives in today's recruitment landscape are powered by vanity metrics. Instead of measuring improvements in Application Rate, Talent Quality Ratios, and Talent Supply Coverage, Recruitment Marketing leaders seem content to measure their success in likes, Retweets, and comments. In short: vanity metrics.

Nothing highlights the disconnect between the upswing in Employer Branding investment and -- you know, actual hiring -- than the chasm that separates the level of investment and user experience quality in your Career pages and your Job Descriptions and Application Forms.

Your application is the point at which Employer Branding starts to pay off. Your entire digital strategy should be built out from here. If the pages where most candidates meet you for the first time suck - you're doing it wrong. It's that simple.

Better Job Descriptions & Applications revolutionize your ability to attract and hire top talent.

I know because I've done it.

The first paid advertising campaign I ran on Facebook ended in dismal failure. Not only did it not generate hires - nobody even applied. And my experience wasn't unique. Whenever I talk to people about Facebook's huge potential as a recruitment marketing platform I almost always hear the same story: we tried that, it didn't work.

But my story took a different turn. Instead of failure, I saw huge potential. Sure, nobody applied. But, we generated more traffic to our job pages from a targeted audience of likely qualified candidates than we ever had before. That was huge. I also saw something else: we had a 100% Bounce Rate.

I recognized right away that we didn't have an advertising problem -- we had a website problem. So, instead of giving up on Facebook advertising (which was working) my team and I went to work on fixing our career site (which wasn't). We made sure that our social advertising campaigns never hit The Puking Point again. We transformed outdated job descriptions into high-converting landing pages.

The Puking Point is (literally) just the beginning.

I'm highlighting Bounce Rate in this discussion because it's where the conversation about your Employer Branding and Recruitment Marketing should start. Why? Because your Job pages are the place where most candidates enter your career site. They're the pages where all the money, all the time, all the talent you invest in Employer Branding and Recruitment Marketing starts to pay off - or doesn't. You need to measure how effectively your career site attracts quality talent. That measurement starts with the Bounce Rate on your Job Description pages.

This is a huge part of the reason I started BrightLeaf. There were no easy solutions for my team and me in my past role. We had to create a complex ecosystem of Google Analytics, (faulty) ATS data, customized landing pages that didn't integrate with our ATS, and spreadsheet upon spreadsheet.

Was it worth it? Definitely. Could it be done better? Absolutely.

That's why the first order of business when I started BrightLeaf was to build software that could easily collect and aggregate crucial ad, web, and ATS data into one unified system and make it easy to create visually-rich, high converting application forms that integrate directly with any ATS.

Now we're working with select companies to revolutionize their ability to attract and hire the quality talent they need by transforming outdated Job Descriptions and Application Forms into high-performing conversion engines that have the potential to persuade even the most passive candidate. Stay tuned as we're looking forward to sharing those success stories with you in the near future.

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