It reminds me of how written contracts used to be constructed in the old days – lawyers at thirty paces, with each party fiercely writing punitive clauses to protect their respective client at all costs.
Think how you feel when you visit a clunky website to buy something. You either submit to the process with growing resentment, because your need for the product is greater than your annoyance. Or, you leave that website amazed at how unskilled, naive and primitive their understanding of the online buying process seems to be.
Do you really want prospective employees to be thinking this about your online portal and perhaps about your organisation??
So, what are the complaints that I hear about these online portals?
How long and laborious the process is.
Have you actually tried to apply for one of your own positions online and timed just how long it takes?
Intrusive questions that are none of the employer's business and not relevant.
Many sites ask the applicant to list their current salary. My clients find this quite annoying and do not want to provide this information. Sometimes they are using the move to a new role to either seek advancement or else to seek a more junior role. Alternatively, they may be leaving a top-paying employer but be quite cheerful about the fact that no one else is likely to match that salary. They are worried that they will not be considered for the role if their salary is "wrong".
Questions that force an answer, where it is not reasonable for the applicant to know the answer.
Some websites insist that the person nominate a salary but do not provide enough information in the job advertisement for the applicant to ascertain where the role is likely to sit in the marketplace. So, my clients are flying blind and feel forced to nominate an amount that may rule them out of being considered for the role.
Questions that force the applicant into nominating a salary at the first stage of the process.
You could argue that the employer has a legitimate right to uncover salary details so that they don't waste their time on a candidate who will be too expensive, for example. Most candidates understand that this issue has to be addressed at some stage. However, they expect that it should happen further down the track – either when they have been able to show their value to the employer or when they can make a decision about possibly adjusting their requirements.
One size fits all.
One of my recent clients was a seasoned Executive. She found many of the questions on one site clearly aimed at blue-collar mining employees and she resorted to writing "See my written application" in many of the sections.
Here are a couple of suggestions that could improve your organisation's portal AND reputation.
Think through your philosophy – in my opinion, the best employer-employee relationships are a partnership, not a dictatorship. This isn't only about the employer and what they want to achieve. It's about having a prospective employee respect your organisation's savvy and feeling that you respect them and their time.
Engage an external party to conduct an audit of your online portal. With the best will in the world, it's difficult for an insider to pick up on all of these issues.
One final point. Whether you use an online portal or not, don't take too long over the Recruitment process. Recently, one of my clients was kept waiting for three months! Apparently, the Board was interfering in the process, even though the role didn't even report directly to the CEO, but operated two levels down.
This delay and interference by the Board worried my client. Was it a dysfunctional Board? Why didn't they have confidence in their management team to make decisions? Was the CEO effective? How enjoyable would it be on a daily basis to work in such an organisation?
Needless to say, my client moved on and accepted another role. Remember the "poor experience" statistics? You can imagine how many people he told along the way.
Savvy organisations understand that good applicants have a lot of power in the market place. These organisations show respect to applicants at all stages of the recruitment process, especially in the areas where there is no human face to overcome the bad impression that a poor recruitment portal can cause.
What does your online portal say about you as an employer?
aBOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au