Google for Jobs, the first domino?

As mentioned in a previous post, Google for Jobs (GfJ) is making a notable change in how it prioritizes job results on the Google for Jobs algorithm.  Employers will be rewarded if they provide a DirectApply experience, meaning one of two things must happen next:

  1. The candidate applies on the site they land on after they leave Google for Jobs, be that either a corporate career site or a job board with an onsite apply

  2. If it is a job board that the candidate lands on, the candidate may click off but only to the corporate career site, and any data gathered on the job board must be automatically entered into the career site so that the candidate doesn’t have to duplicate efforts

The largest direct impact will be on the secondary and tertiary job boards, otherwise known as aggregators, where a candidate’s data is collected before being shuffled off to the next job board (where they may get to apply to a job, or be forced to enter in their contact details and jump again!).  But if we are reading the tea leaves, this change tells us that a bigger shift is on the precipice.

The funny thing about systemic shifts is that they don’t happen overnight – they slowly grow and change and then what seems like suddenly, technology and experience coalesce.

Uber didn’t happen overnight.  Ten years ago you might never have gotten into a stranger’s car (yes, a taxi driver is a stranger, but that car is just so easily identifiable in its bright yellowness) and today it’s commonplace.  Uber’s success was paved by other earlier tech-enabled short-term jobs platforms such as Grubhub and Taskrabbit. This has parlayed not only into hundreds of gig marketplaces but changed the overall adoption of what your cell phone can do for you. No longer just a phone, and a computer, and a texting machine – your phone can get you a ride, dinner, or your dry cleaning at the click of an app.

Another well-known example is Netflix.  They didn’t start as online media, it was a more convenient Blockbuster, with all the trappings of physical disks and the US Postal Service – but today Netflix streams to your TV, laptop, tablet, and phone.  Disney, with its extensive catalog of movies and TV shows of which they have complete ownership of, has shifted the entertainment content world again, leveraging the building blocks of Netflix to stream new content directly into the home without a stop in the movie theaters, while you happily pay for it.

Change builds slowly, infiltrates your world, and then one day [BOOM] you wake up and realize the world has shifted.

What does this have to do with Google for Jobs?

Google’s change is a small but loud one.  Make the candidate experience better. A slow rumble in a bad economy, a louder roar in a good economy, candidates are treated badly at every step in the process.

Let’s review some examples:

  1. The candidate must make multiple jumps onto multiple job boards that attempt or even force candidates to provide their information (email and cell phone number, thank you very much, now let the barrage of poorly matched jobs begin)

  2. When the candidate is fortunate enough to find a job that looks good for them, they are now treated extraordinarily badly by the ATS (please log in to our ATS to apply for one and only one job, creating a ridiculously complicated password you will never need again)

  3. Now, complete the company’s 30-45 minute application process where it will ask the candidate to enter and re-enter information into their system to make recruiters’ lives easier by having all the data available to make it super easy to say ‘no’ (ATS’s are designed to screen candidates out, not screen them in, thank you for time, it’s probably a no)

  4. And welcome to the blackhole, employers then take 10 days or longer [more than likely longer] to reach out to the candidate, keeping them waiting (and then the recruiter getting frustrated at the candidates that have moved on)

  5. Then we get to the candidate interviewing process…

All the while, recruiters are complaining that they can’t get candidates into jobs [oh the irony].  The entire system is built to prevent good candidates from getting to good jobs efficiently.

When you look at the problem holistically, the entire problem can’t be fixed all at once. Often the best place to start is at the beginning, and that first step is to minimize the number of places a candidate has to go to start the process of saying “yes.”  By introducing DirectApply requirements, Google has tipped over the first domino. From a technical standpoint that means employers who are compliant will need to tag their jobs with a ‘DirectApply’ flag that lets Google know that the job adheres to the guidelines.

While it might be tempting to tag your jobs regardless of compliance, remember that Google has seen the movie before.  Like Amazon, Google is optimized for shopping: see, like, decide, click, buy.  And they know about the bad actors that try to game the system.  So, they let employers self-identify that they are compliant and then use their spider and search technology to verify.

If you are already compliant – this is a welcome change, if you’re not, and you relied on Google for free candidate traffic, this is going to severely impact your business, and it may be just the beginning.

What’s the Next Change after DirectApply?

When you consider the convergence of online shopping behaviors and the long-standing challenges with candidate experience, it’s relatively easy to see GfJ walking down the path to ensure that every candidate gets to the ‘buy’ experience as quickly and efficiently as is possible. Reaching this panacea will require change, real change, by the various job boards, ATSs, and hiring organizations that have a long-standing tradition of making it unintentionally difficult to get from hi to hire.

The next step can logically go in one of two directions, and it’s likely GfJ would reward both:

  1. Streamlined Apply where a candidate leaves the job board (including GfJ) and goes through the company’s application process on the ATS career site, eliminating the unnecessary and cumbersome aspects of the application process such as creating logins and multiple redundant data entry requirements (uploading a resume while keying in the same data points)

  2. Native Apply where a candidate can apply to a job directly on the job board (including GfJ) where the candidate has found the job. Replicate the necessary questions, requirements and details from the corporate application process without leaving the job board itself – no requirements to load up a new site or log in or replicate data entry

How should you prepare for this change?

Much of the burdensome aspects of the ATS application process are deep in the architecture of the ATS. It’s unlikely that your company will embrace a new ATS if yours isn’t compliant with Google’s requirements. Not only that, it will take an extraordinarily long time for your ATS to change a fundamental part of its database architecture, such as forcing a login or forcing the candidate to replicate data. So, aligning to the Streamlined Apply functionality may be out of the short-term question. Your alternative may be to shift to a Native Apply methodology for candidate acquisition.

What is Native Apply?

Native Apply is a term that encompasses the candidate experience where the candidate must enter the data points and answer the questions that are contained in the specific company’s ATS application workflow while using the Quick or Easy Apply function on a job board. This allows employers to get all the benefits of the Quick Apply functionality, such as volume and mobile candidate traffic, while easily screening out an abundance of unqualified candidates that have a tendency to apply to jobs they are not qualified for.

Where does this all lead us to?

A number of years ago, Facebook quietly changed your buying experience. Those ads that stalk you in your Facebook feed, when clicked, keep you in a Facebook experience allowing them to see what content their users interact with, and more importantly, what they buy and for how much.  Retailers that allow Facebook to see the results of the ads (the money spent) are rewarded with more traffic (their ad is shown more often).

It’s entirely possible that Facebook, and not Google, will drive the next change from a Native Apply experience to a native hiring experience…or at least demand more transparency in which ads turn to hires (buyers, really).  Because unlike the retail space, there are a finite number of buyers for each job – really there is one.  This means the advertising and matching must be far more precise.  Closing the loop between advertising platforms and hiring success is the ultimate algorithm boon.  The ability to move from a retail-centric one-size-fits-all to a scalable, customized hiring practice will fundamentally change how employers and candidates find and interact with each other.

Getting ahead, to get ahead

While the future is interesting and important, the harsh reality is that you have jobs you need to fill today and the candidates you need aren’t applying en masse.  Google’s change in the short term has a very real possibility of lowering the number of candidates that apply for your jobs.  If the secondary and tertiary job boards [aggregators] are cut off from a very real source of candidates, you may find yourself the victim of a downstream impact – especially if you are not set up to capture the excess candidate traffic that is no longer directed at the aggregators.

The good news is solving today’s problem can set you up for future success.  Aligning with Google’s strategy to make the candidate experience cleaner, and partnering with your primary job boards to create a no click-off experience with Native Apply to provide candidates with a solution to apply on Google for Jobs seamlessly can prepare you for the inevitable shift in candidate traffic.

Happy Sourcing!