Graduate Recruitment Websites - A chat with the 2008 Times award winner

Posted by Mike Casey

Without realising it, I am actually good friends with the project manager who won the 2008 Times Graduate Recruitment website awards in the UK. I worked under Regan Andrew as part of his team at Inland Revenue (IRD), the New Zealand Tax department as a humble and eager student, helping to build and promote online services to the New Zealand tax payer.

 That was about five years ago, and now Regan is in the UK, and has recently made a huge impact in the UK graduate recruitment industry by project managing the Transport For London graduate recruitment microsite, that was judged #1 for content and #2 for design by successful UK graduates. Personally, I am very interested in how to make effective and attractive graduate recruitment websites and the best ways to market them, so I got on Facebook and had a bit of a chat to Regan about his successes with the Transport of London website, and what graduate recruitment teams in Australia and New Zealand could learn from his experiences. First off, Can you tell us a bit about why your website won the Times award? What were the criteria and what made your site come out on top?

A company (High Fliers - the same company that performs the AAGE surveys) interviewed 16,000 graduates about graduate recruitment campaigns from a range of UK organisations, one aspect of which was their websites. The graduates ranked our site 2nd for overall design and 1st for content. I think that we ranked highly because everyone involved was 100% committed to delivering what the users of the site wanted and needed.

Do you think the UK graduate market is unique or would you take the same approach for graduate program websites in Australia and New Zealand?

The UK market is not unique. However, I'm not sure that the exact same approach would be appropriate in NZ or Australia, as the size of the market and the level of competition is far greater here. Also, the HR industry in the UK is more transactional and consequently, applicants' expectations are different.

What was your key measurement to the success of your graduate recruitment website? Simply the number of applications or did you take into account the number of visitors, time on site, bounce rate etc...

A range of factors were taken into account, including standard metrics such as usage, conversion rates, calibre of applicants and client satisfaction. However, the key factor was what graduates themselves thought of it. To understand their views, our organisation contributed to a study in which 16,000 graduates were interviewed about 100 graduate recruitment campaigns.

Are graduate recruitment websites similar to any other websites or do you need to pay special attention to key areas?

A focus on the needs of users is common to all well designed web sites. Graduate recruitment sites have unique content requirements that flow from this theme. Users generally want to know about:
  • The schemes / openings that are available
  • The types of candidates being sought (including minimum requirements)
  • Benefits, including pay rates
  • Previous graduates - what they did whilst undertaking the graduate scheme and what they have done since How to apply

So I know you have been a web guru for a number of years, what got you into building a graduate recruitment website and what tech skills came in handy?

Web guru eh?! I didn't actually build the site... I just managed the building of it. We had five suppliers and a team of internal specialists working on the project. My technical input was the application of management and design methodologies. Having a background in web technologies was helpful, but not essential.

Did you use any social media in conjunction with your graduate site? Did you utilise a facebook fan page, how about twitter?

No social media mechanisms were used in our 2008 campaign, although we did provide a RSS feed for the recruitment fairs.

Did your traffic come via organic search engine traffic or via other mediums?

Search engine traffic is always important for websites. However, a massive proportion of our traffic was generated through navigation paths from the core website (which ranks in the top 100 websites in the UK and amongst the top 2,500 worldwide).

From your experience, what did graduates most like about your site?

The clean design and the content.

What did you most like about your site?

That we went live on time, we were within budget and graduates liked it :-)

If you were to outsource a graduate recruitment website, what kind of budget would you expect to need?

There are too many factors to consider... the size of the organisation in question, the target audience, the complexity of the schemes etc. However, if you're thinking about outsourcing you should first think: Do we have the skills in-house to do this well? Are the people with those skills available within our time-frames? Is this the best use of their time? If no, then you need to outsource. We had a mixed approach, with specialist agencies hired for specific tasks (e.g. overall campaign design, flash components, web page development, security review), whilst internal teams developed content and provided quality assurance. We selected this approach because of time constraints... the website had to be designed, built and delivered in just over a month.

Can you give any advice to grad managers in Australia and New Zealand around how to make a good graduate website, and what are some of the pitfalls?

  • Follow a user centred design methodology and undertake user testing early in your design lifecycle
  • Follow basic web standards such as accessibility, this will give you better cross-browser compatibility, higher search rankings and more people will be able to use your site
  • Know your target audience and make sure that both your creative design and the writing style of your copy attracts the people you are looking for
  • Graduates are probably not coming to your site to look for computer games! Online games are expensive to develop and will not make your organisation look “cool”
  • Make sure that you have an integrated approach to your campaign - your website should complement the campaign, rather than being the campaign in its entirety
  • Be very careful with your copy. Don't use acronyms or jargon and keep your copy brief

Many thanks for your time to comment Regan, very glad to see you're making a similar impact in the online space in the UK. I'm keen to see what you end up doing in the next couple of years! Also a quick welcome to subscribers we have had joined our blog from South East Asia over the last few weeks. Hopefully we can give you some valuable insight into the Australian and New Zealand graduate recruitment markets. If you have any interesting tales you can contribute to this blog then please let us know! Mike


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