Recruitment website buyers guide
Written by October 18, 2022on
Questions to ask yourself and potential vendors before you commission a new recruitment website.
Your recruitment agency needs a new website and it’s up to you to make it happen!
There is a lot to consider.
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide on what platform(s) and vendor(s) to use.
In this guide, I’ll give you a framework to help make the best decision for your business.
Disclaimer: We build recruitment websites, but there are no underhand sales techniques going on here. This goal of this guide is to be as impartial and comprehensive as possible.
For each section, I’ll discuss what you should consider and give you some questions to ask yourself and your prospective developer/vendor.
- Before you start
- The website
- Choosing website partners
Before you start
There is a lot to think about before you reach out to potential website partners.
Getting your ‘ducks in a row’ will get you the website that your recruitment business needs and potentially save you time, money, and a whole load of stress.
Before putting your website project out to tender make sure that you have clearly established project goals. Ideally you should be able to answer the following questions:
Why are you doing this project at all? What are the pain points that you are trying to resolve? What are the outcomes that you are hoping to achieve?
Do you really need a new website? Can those goals be met a different way?
Why is it important to do this now? Why can’t it wait 6 months or a year?
What would a ‘home run’ look like?
Describe how a wildly successful version of this project would impact your business and your life.
What will you measure?
How will you measure the success of this project? How will you know if it has been successful?
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART) goals are what you’re after here.
- “We want 50 job applications per week through the website by the end of the year”
- “We want to increase our newsletter signups by 130% within 2 years”
- Why do you need a new website?
- Why do you need a new website now?
- Are there other ways to achieve your goals?
- How would a 110% successful project transform you/your business?
- What are your success metrics?
One of the most important questions to ask before you start a website project is “Who is this website for?”
Most websites have multiple “audiences” and recruitment websites are no exception. Typically, recruitment sites are for:
- Candidates – people looking for jobs
- Clients – businesses looking to hire
- Consultants – potential recruits
Often they are in that order of priority, reflected with large job search boxes on the home page. But some recruiters are more interested in talking directly to potential clients.
If you know your audiences and their priority, then you have a basis for making informed design decisions later in the project.
You can take this further by developing “personas”.
A persona is a fictitious person who represents a segment of your audience. Typically, they are quite detailed in terms of their demographics, work experience and even home life.
These give you a reference point for making decisions during the project. E.g. “What would ‘Bob’ think of this new feature?”
- Who are your target markets/audiences
- What priority are they in
- What will each of those audiences want to achieve on the site?
- What action do you want your audiences to take on the site?
- Is it worth developing user personas?
The creation of content is often an afterthought on a web project, where in reality it is the single most important part of the project.
Unless your website is purely functional (e.g. it’s just a job board) then the whole point is to convey a message to your target market(s).
That message is primarily conveyed through text and imagery.
Some of the most effective websites are visually very plain but with great copywriting.
Creating content for a website takes time – usually considerably longer than expected. It often needs to be pulled from multiple sources within the business.
Therefore, it’s important to start this process early so that it doesn’t hold up the project.
In an ideal world, content will be created before the web design work begins. This is because a design should support the content rather than having to shoehorn content into a design.
Start working on your content now. Don’t wait for the design and build.
- Will you be creating new content or migrating it?
- Who will be creating new content?
- Can some key content be created prior to the design phase?
Work through your content strategy with your user journey, and funnel like you would any other campaign content. Signpost, breadcrumbs and CTAs are as important as product/ service content.Clair Bush | Adway
Running a website project is all about getting the right people in the right position.
Everyone has a particular skillset and it’s important that strengths are maximised and weaknesses are minimised.
Typical skills need on a web project include:
- User experience
- Project management
- Web editing
What can you do in-house?
The first thing to look at is the skills that you have within your own business. Do you have a great designer on your team, or someone who is really good at content marketing?
Even if you do, do they have the capacity to help work on the website?
Point of contact
Website projects can go wrong pretty quickly if there are too many people having separate discussions.
You’ll need to decide who the main project contact is internally, but also who you’ll be dealing with on the vendor side. Ideally, you want this to be the same person throughout the project.
Split vs All in one
When organising your website team, you can either go for an all-in-one solution, i.e. an agency that will handle everything for you, or you can pull in experts for particular parts of the project.
For example, you might have an in-house designer and copywriter, and just need a development partner.
Often, “all in one” agencies have lower overall quality.
There can be a tension created by using multiple experts in a project, but this can lead to more creative solutions and a higher level of accountability.
E.g. It’s much harder for the developers to get away with poor SEO if the SEO team is from another organisation.
It’s worth noting that some “all in one” agencies (and some freelancers) will subcontract much of their work.
This isn’t necessarily a problem but it can lead to issues around timescales, communication, quality and accountability. Therefore, it’s worth asking if any work will be subcontracted in advance.
With the explosion in working from home and video conferencing, physical location matters much less these days.
However, if you really need in-person meetings/workshops/etc, then this will become a factor.
Even if you don’t need to meet in person, timezones might still be a concern. I would suggest at least some cross-over in your working hours to facilitate team calls.
Difficult to measure but hugely important is whether or not the team will enjoy working together. Some personality types just clash.
Try to have a few calls or a mini-project with the people that you’ll be working with (not sales-people) before commissioning a project.
Some people want to work with big teams. Maybe it’s a sense of security, or just what they are used to.
Some prefer small teams because they are more personal and agile.
This one is largely personal preference but it’s worth considering as it can affect project management, skill gaps, sub-contracting, responsiveness, etc.
For example, a large team could have one or more layers of project/account management between you and someone actually doing the work. This could lead to delays and miscommunication.
- What skills do we have in-house and is there capacity for the work?
- Who will be the internal point of contact for the website project?
- Who will be the point of contact on the vendor side? Will they see the project through to completion?
- Will the vendor be subcontracting any of the work? To whom?
- Will we need in-person meetings?
- What are the office hours and timezone of the vendor?
- How many people are on the team? What are their roles and responsibilities?
Setting a budget
You are in control of your budget, not your vendors.
But where to start when setting a budget? The best place to start is with your project goals.
If you’re spending money, you’ll probably be wanting a return on that investment. If you can tie some of your project goals to real financials, then you can start to get an indication of what your ROI could be.
For example, say one of your goals is to lower candidate attraction costs by £20,000 per year.
Maybe you estimate that a new website will contribute 50% of that goal.
Over the course of 3 years, you’d stand to gain ~£60,000.
Say you want a 2x ROI, so a total spend of £30,000.
That leaves a website budget of around £15,000.
Of course, it’s not really that simple. But by working with some real numbers, and a bit of guesswork, you can start to hone in on what might be a reasonable budget.
The market rate
Many people let the market set their budgets based on the current market rates.
There are some website vendors with set prices for different products and tiers, so it’s possible to get a range of prices to compare.
The more bespoke your requirements, the harder this will be, as once you go down the custom route prices can vary wildly.
Many website vendors (including us) will ask for your budget upfront. This is for two main reasons:
- We want to filter out unsuitable clients quickly
- Your budget will determine the best approach
If you’re honest about your budget you might find that you have easier, more productive conversations.
In reality, you can spend next to nothing on recruitment websites, all the way up to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
You don’t always get what you pay for, but you also can’t buy a Ferrari for the price of a Skoda.
Short-term and long-term costs
Most website projects will have some upfront and short term costs (e.g. design) as well as longer term costs (e.g. hosting, support and maintenance).
It’s important to consider these costs as sometimes, low upfront costs can seem attractive but you can get locked in to very high longer term costs.
It’s also worth considering the expected lifespan of the website. Some websites age very quickly and can’t be redesigned easily. Some can last for years with minor tweaks.
Map out the costs involved, including:
- Initial design and development
- Support and maintenance
- Feature add-ons
Consider the length of any contracts. Pay monthly is a popular model in the recruitment industry, but you might be locked in to high monthly costs long after you’ve stopped getting value from your website.
- What are the potential upsides to this project, financial or otherwise?
- What is it worth to you to hit your targets?
- What are the short-term and long-term costs involved?
- What is the expected lifespan of the website, when will it need reinvestment?
The process used to get from A to B is different for every project and every vendor.
However, there are some universal parts of the process that need to take place on every project.
The discovery phase of a project is a chance for you to work with your website partner to flesh out the goals, requirements and details of a project.
The value of project discovery should not be underestimated.
This can be by far the most valuable phase of a project and some website vendors will offer this as a standalone service.
An imperfect analogy is building a house. You can think of project discovery as working with an architect.
They aren’t going to be doing the build itself but they are going to help you plan to get the most for your budget.
You can’t go to a builder and say ‘How much for a house?” They need to know what they are building.
Website discovery stages are similar. By the end you should have a detailed roadmap showing how you are going to achieve your website goals – often in the form of a technical specification.
As they say, “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” (Or something like that!)
- Do you fully understand your requirements?
- Could you use some help developing a project specification?
Design is often where people have the strongest opinions. There is often a ‘feel’ that the business wants to achieve that needs to be communicated, understood, and delivered.
Branding is typically independent from web design as it encompasses the whole business, and not just the digital assets.
Your brand guidelines may need to be adapted for the web, if there isn’t a web version included. For example, typography rules and colours that work well in print often don’t translate perfectly to the web.
Ensure that your brand is web-ready, or ask your web designer if they are happy to adapt it to work online.
Custom vs. template vs. hybrid
At one end of the spectrum is a fully custom design, at the other is template-based websites and somewhere in-between is what I’ll call ‘hybrid’.
A custom design is something that has been created specifically for your website. This will include your branding but also custom page templates and UI elements.
Templated design usually takes a series of pre-designed templates and applies some level of branding. At the most basic level, you would be able to add your own logo, typeface and colour scheme.
Hybrid design is somewhere in-between custom and template-based. The vast majority of web platforms and developers will use at least some level of templating behind the scenes.
The design approach will depend heavily on the project budget. The basic rule is that custom design is more expensive and template-based design is cheaper.
If you’re planning on having separate design and development teams, it’s important that they are on the same page. For example, you don’t want to pay for a fully-custom design only for your development partner to be using a rigid, templated approach.
It’s possible to disconnect the design and development of a website – with separate individuals or companies working on each. In some cases it can lead to better results but it needs to be managed carefully.
Whichever way the teams are structured, it’s important to have someone on the team that understands design for the web.
A good print designer might be abler to design a beautiful homepage mockup, but (in our experience) they often miss some of the mechanics of the web.
A common example of this is when designers use the same text for all page titles and haven’t considered when text can break onto a different number of lines.
An experienced web designer will spot issues like these early in the process.
It’s also important that the design team share the same style values as you do.
There is no point in hiring a design team who love minimal design when you’re after something ‘busy’ and ‘exciting’.
You don’t want to be fighting against your design so try to find a team/person who share your vales (and that of your brand).
Have a look at their previous work and ask them what they think is important in web design.
For example, do you love/hate loads of animation on a web page? Make sure your designer feels the same way.
Once your website is delivered, will you need to be able to update the styles? Will you want the ability to change your:
- Colour scheme
Don’t assume this level of customisation will be available. Be sure to ask.
There are many different approaches to web design and it’s important to work with a team that has a process that suits you.
For example, some clients want to be very hands-on with the design process and want to be heavily involved. Whereas others might be happy to trust the designer with out much input.
Find out how much the design team want you to be involved and how and when they will ask for feedback.
Try to keep your design feedback goal-oriented. Rather than, “Can you make the logo bigger?” try “Do you think the logo is large enough to establish the brand identity?”.
- Do you have brand guidelines already in place? Are they suitable for the web?
- If not, is there someone who will do this work for you?
- Will the designs be fully custom or template based?
- If the designs will be custom, does the developer know this?
- If template based, how much of the brand can be used?
- Who will be the primary designer?
- Do they have web design experience?
- What is their previous work like? Does it align with your brand style?
- How much control will you have over the styling of the site once it is launched?
The best tech is the stuff we barely notice because it guides us seamlessly and intuitively to where we need to be. Design and content is absolutely critical to a website. But they’re nothing without a strong UX.Ryan Hemmant | AVIV Group
Sign post, sign post, sign post!! Get people where you want them to go!Kristie Perrotte | Thrive
Adding and migrating content
At some stage in the project you’ll need to start adding your content to the website.
You might be adding newly created content or migrating content from a previous site.
Both of these can take longer than expected, so build in sufficient time to the project schedule and make sure you know who will be completing this work.
It is sometimes assumed that your web partner will do this for you but that might not be the case. Be sure to check.
If you already have a website, you might want to use some of the content that exists already.
For example, most projects will involve migrating the old blog/news posts.
Some clients think this will be easy but many vendors make the process of exporting your content difficult, or even impossible.
Find out in advance if you can export your current content and what format it will be exported in.
- Who will be adding new content to the new website?
- Who will be migrating current content?
- Does your current vendor allow content export?
Once a project starts, most problems can be traced back to poor communication and organisation. This is where good project management comes in.
You could hire a dedicated project manager to run the project for you, or maybe you’ll take on that role yourself.
You’ll also want to know what the processes are on the vendor side.
Make sure that there will be regular, scheduled communication. Ideally, at least once per week.
You’ll also want a system in place to raise ideas, bugs, concerns, etc as you go. You could set that up yourself, but your vendors might also have tools that they use, so it’s worth asking them.
People prefer different channels of communication. Many recruiters love to jump on the phone whereas most developers prefer less direct communication.
It’s important to find a team that suits your style and to put some rules in place to avoid frustrations.
- What is your project management process?
- How often will we meet and how?
- How can I raise ideas and issues in-between meetings?
- How do you prefer to be contacted?
A thorough testing phase is crucial in order to avoid embarrassing and costly mistakes.
There are many different ways to test a website and the scope and depth of testing will be determined by your budget.
Some of the areas you’ll want to test include:
- Spelling and grammar
- Navigation and links
- Browsers and devices
- Functional testing
The list could go on and on.
Your web team should take responsibility for most of these tests but it’s equally important that you and your team are testing their work.
With testing the more eyes on the website the better. The longer the testing phase and the more people that are involved, the more likely it is that you’ll catch any issues.
- Who is responsible for testing each area of the site?
- What will be tested?
- What is the testing process?
- When will testing take place?
Support and maintenance
If you’re looking to outsource your web design and development, chances are you’ll also need some ongoing support.
This could be email support, regular video calls, formal training or someone at the end of the phone to answer urgent questions.
A website is constantly changing and evolving. The technology that supports it will also be changing behind the scenes.
That means that a website that is launched today will have a shelf-life, unless it is constantly nurtured.
It’s not perfect, but a car is a decent analogy.
If you bought a car and then never serviced it – never changed the oil or the tyres – at some point, it will stop working. That point will come much sooner than if you had regular maintenance and servicing.
Websites are the same. Leave them unattended for too long and functionality, performance and security can suffer.
How much should maintenance and support cost?
Many maintenance tasks can be automated and these can either be completed by your website vendor or a third-party.
Tasks like, software updates, security scans and backups are cheap and easy to run.
If you need human input then costs go up. Be wary of very cheap support packages. A good rule of thumb is to divide the monthly cost by what you consider an ‘acceptable’ rate for the level of expertise you need.
Also be alert to very high support costs. Sometimes companies will offer cheap design and development upfront only to switch to very high support costs later on. If you want the freedom to switch providers, consider going for an open-source platform.
Make sure that you know support and maintenance costs before you start working with a provider.
- What level of maintenance and support will you need once your website is live?
- Can you choose third-party providers, or are you locked-in to your web developer?
Website projects will take longer than you think.
If there is an important deadline that you want to have the site ready for make sure to start planning early.
The more time you have, the longer you can spend researching partners, writing content, getting the design right, testing, etc.
Map out the entire process and add realistic timescales to each phase. Remember that people usually can’t drop everything to assist you right away. And that includes internal resources as well as outside help.
If you have tight deadlines and a big project, it’s worth considering a phased approach to the project.
Focus on the essential features, functionality, pages, etc. as part of an initial phase and move non-essential items to future phases.
Communicate early and often
Most delays are due to communication issues.
Make sure that you are communicating with your team regularly and using some kind of project management system.
Here’s a hard truth for you:
It’ll probably be you who holds the project up.
In our experience, most projects are delayed by the client not the us. That’s because we know that we have the capacity to fulfil our roles and will give timescales that reflect that.
Whereas, on the client side, you and you team already have full-time jobs and will have to try to fit the demands of the project around them.
Being realistic, but strict, about timescales will help keep everybody sane.
- Are there any hard deadlines that you need to hit?
- Can you split the project into phases?
- Does your internal team have the time the project demands?
A beautiful, functional website that supports your business goals is the desired deliverable.
But, recruitment websites are not your average business website. Below I’ll walk through some of the main considerations when choosing a recruitment website platform.
Content for recruitment websites
Recruitment website page structure
A typical recruitment website has the following pages:
- Home page
Every website will be different but these pages are so standard, that you need a good reason not to include them.
Before we look at each of those pages, there are two parts of a website present on every page; the header and footer.
Recruitment website headers
Over time, website headers have become more and more standardised. There can be reasons to break the norms, but it’s good practice to follow the conventions.
A typical recruitment website header will contain the following:
- Logo: Usually in the top left of a webpage, this also acts as a link back to the home page.
- Main menu: Either a horizontal list or hidden with an icon to show/hide.
- Utility items: Contact details, key action buttons, search forms, etc.
The jury seems to be out on whether or not to include utility items. Remember, these will be shown on all pages of your site, in very valuable real-estate. Ensure these are adding value, or remove them.
There is a trend these days to always hide the main menu until an icon is clicked (usually the notorious ‘burger’ icon). Many designers and marketers love the clean look this delivers but others point out the negative effect on accessibility and usability.
Recruitment website footers
Footers for recruitment websites seem to be the same as any other industry. They are used as a place to put:
- Business information (address)
- Contact details
- Social profile links
- Site navigation links
Often regarded as the most important page on a website, it sometimes only receives a small percentage of total traffic.
Still, your home page will often be the place that you send potential clients and candidates first, and it is important to make a good first impression and guide users to where they want to go.
Set the scene with a headline
The first thing that your homepage needs to do is to let your visitors know that they are in the right place. For this, you need a headline that will instantly speak to your target audience(s) and let them know that you can help them.
Too often, home pages are very inward focused – there are too many “We do this..” and “We do that…”.
Your audience wants to know how you can help them, so keep things client/candidate focused.
For example, instead of..
“We provide staffing solutions”
Try making it client focused…
“Helping you find the best talent”.
Better than that, add a why…
“Helping you grow by finding the best talent.”
Even better than that, add your target market…
“Helping healthcare providers grow their team with the best talent”
That’s much more powerful.
Provide an overview and signpost
After your headline, you want to give visitors a brief overview of your services and expertise and give them clear signposts for where to go next.
Client or candidate?
One of the biggest challenges that recruiters face is their split audience.
You will probably need to provide clear directions for both clients and candidates. Many agencies make this choice one of the first elements of their home page – sometimes in large boxes indicating where each audience should go next.
The vast majority of recruitment agencies should be listing jobs on their websites. Even if you don’t have a dedicated job board, you should consider adding each job as a separate page with a ‘Jobs’ page listing them all.
See the ‘Job boards‘ section for more detail
Sometimes called ‘What we do’ or a variation of that, your services page is a place to describe your service offerings.
If you have many services you might need a separate page for each, in which case the ‘Services’ page can be an overview with links to the individual services.
Similar to ‘Services’, the ‘Sectors’ page can either be a single page listing the sectors that you serve, or link out to separate pages for each sector.
This is your chance to add some personality and a human touch – don’t waste it.
Too many ‘about’ pages are impersonal and pushy.
Instead, talk about the story behind your business, your values and your people.
Use real photos, not stock photography.
There are lots of good reasons to have a blog, including:
- Communicate your expertise
- Improve your search rankings
- Show your community involvement
- Update clients and candidates
- Share industry news
A ‘blog’ can be insights, articles, guides, news, or company updates.
A contact page should contain all of the different ways that your website visitors can contact you. Contact methods can include:
- Contact form
- Phone number
- Office address
- Social media profiles
Make is sound like you actually want people to get in touch with you!
- Do you need to cut down on current content, add more content, or reorganise it?
- Who will be writing the content for your website?
- Are you answering the questions that your site visitors will have? Specifically:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it for?
- Why choose you?
Ease and flexibility when editing content is crucial to most recruiters.
Businesses can change rapidly and it’s important that your website can change and grow with it.
There are many different types of content management system (CMS), sometimes even within the same platform.
If you want full control of your content you’ll need to make sure that your platform/vendor supports this.
The majority of recruitment websites use pages, blog posts and jobs. This might be enough, especially for a startup agency but as your business grows you might need more content types.
Splitting your content across different ‘types’ can help organise your content in the back-end and front-end of the website.
It sounds basic, but not all CMS’s allow you to add new pages to your website. This can be a massive headache if you want to add a new service offering or enter a new industry.
The templates that were fit for purpose on day one might not be what you need a year or two down the line. Make sure that you have the ability to create new templates, or have an idea of how much this might cost.
The bigger your website gets, the stronger the need to organise that content in a way that makes sense for editors, users and search engines.
Typically, blog posts use ‘categories’ and ‘tags’ and jobs are classified by industry, location, etc. Make sure that your website’s data structure reflects your business.
Will it be possible to add new taxonomies, or are you stuck with what’s baked in?
You might want to use some taxonomies across different content types to tie content together.
There is no point in being able to create your own pages without your visitors being able to find them. Ensure that you can edit the navigation on your website, if necessary.
- Will all content be editable? Menus, pages, images, jobs, footer, etc.
- What content types are supported? Is it just pages and jobs, or can you add posts, reports, people, etc?
- How will content be organised? Can you use categories, tags, or custom classifications? Can these be shared across content types?
- Will you be able to add new pages?
- Will you be able to create your own page templates using modules/blocks?
- What style options will you have?
- Will you be able to edit the site navigation?
Job boards are the workhorse of most recruitment agency websites.
An effective job board can help to reduce spend on external job boards, increase brand awareness, and give the opportunity to build a relationship with the candidate.
They are also a great way to showcase the depth of your work to potential clients.
An effective job board will:
- Be easy to use. I.e. good search and filter functionality.
- Use the same domain as the main website (see Job board SEO)
- Include valid structured data
- Allow for applications to jobs on the site
- Integrate with your job posting service
Search, Filters and Facets
If you only have a handful of jobs on your website, then you probably don’t need any search or filtering, you might not need a job board at all!
But if your website will list a significant number of jobs, then you’ll need ways for your candidates to find the job they’re looking for.
Google makes keyword search look easy. It isn’t.
Do you want your job search to search titles only? Or description text too? What about meta data like industry or role?
If you want to include all of those, how should they be ranked relative to each other?
What about autosuggest?
It get’s complicated fast.
Luckily, most recruitment agencies don’t need a really fancy keyword search but it is worth asking the question, especially if you have a lot of jobs.
Filters and facets
Maybe a keyword search is enough, but most recruiters also want to be able to filter their jobs by other data points.
The most common of these include:
- Working arrangement (office, remote, hybrid)
- Contract type
Make sure that your jobs can be filtered in a way that makes sense for your target candidates.
Location search can be handled in one of three ways:
- Within a location
This is when each job is geolocated and given latitude and longitude coordinates and then compared to a user designated location.
The straight line distance between the two is measured and jobs within a given radius are returned.
Radius search can be problematic when the user enters a large geographical area. For example, if ‘London’ is entered and a radius set to 5 miles, the returned jobs will only be those within 5 miles of the centre of London. Likewise a large radius can return jobs in other cities or even countries.
Jobs within a location
Like radius search, jobs are given coordinates. This time, those coordinates are tested to see if they fall within another geographical area.
For example, does this job fall within the bounds of the UK?
This is a much more complicated calculation and many location-based searches don’t do this at all, or do it sub-optimally (e.g. using a rectangle drawn around the area).
Probably the easiest from a technical perspective, in this case a ‘location’ taxonomy is created that contains all of the potential locations of the jobs as text strings.
Jobs do not have to be geolocated and a search for ‘London’ will always return all the jobs in London.
It’s possible to use both radius/within and taxonomies at the same time. Special care is to be taken here as it can be confusing to the user.
Job data structure
Every job on your website will have multiple data points associated with it. For example:
You might need more or less of these data points depending on how you want to categorise, search and display your jobs.
If you’re already using a CRM/ATS/job poster, then you might already have this data structure in place.
If not, talk to your potential vendors and ask them what data structures they support and recommend.
Asking about things like job data structures is a good way to test a potential vendor’s technical industry experience. If they don’t know what you’re talking about it’s a potential red flag.
It is likely that you will use many of pieces of software in the course of running your recruitment business and for some of these it makes sense to integrate them with the websites job board.
Prime examples of these are:
- CRM – for example adding new leads for client enquiries and new candidates when CV is uploaded
- Job multi-poster system – for example Broadbean, LogicMelon or Idibu. This would allow for jobs to be added to your site that are written in these systems
No doubt you should be asking candidates to apply for roles on your website. What data do you want to collect from candidates when they apply and is this flexible for you to change in the future?
It is always best to collect as little data as necessary in order to encourage more people to apply, but of course you will want to qualify candidates the best you can.
Finally, what do you want to happen to the application data once completed. Often this can be emailed or passed over to a third party.
It is worth finding out whether third party integrations can be used.
If you want to offer candidates an enhanced experience, it may be worth considering creating a candidate portal.
This could allow candidates to register so you can collect information about candidates as well as doing things such as:
- Uploading their latest CV to use in order to quick apply for jobs
- Control their job alerts preferences
- Save jobs they are interested in
- Show jobs they have applied for
Most jobs shouldn’t be listed on your website forever.
In fact, they will either have an expiry date, which is when applications should be submitted for, or they will be filled.
Make sure that you know what happens when jobs on your site expire.
We recommend a period of time where the job is marked as expired and then moving to a 404 error after a set period of time.
Job board SEO
One of the main benefits of having a job board on your website is SEO. With lots of keyword rich job posts, it will help Google to understand your business offering.
Other than general SEO best practice there are two areas specific to job boards.
Some CRM services offer ’embedded’ job boards. This is where you drop some code on a page on your site and, “hey, presto!” you have a job board!
Often, these job boards live within what’s known as an iframe. An iframe is essentially another web page that you put on your site.
There are a number of problems with this approach, including styling, but the primary one for SEO is that this doesn’t create indexable pages for your jobs, as your whole job board and all of the jobs share a URL.
For Google to index your jobs, they need to exist on their own URLs.
Structured data, in terms of websites, is data that is presented in a way that makes it easy for machines to understand.
Adding structured data to your job posts allows them to be indexed and displayed on Google for Jobs.
It’s free advertising for your jobs on the World’s biggest job board.
See our recruiter’s guide to structured data for more info.
- Does the website vendor have a job board solution in place?
- Can you see examples of job boards they have built?
- Can you search and filter the jobs the way that your candidates will need to?
- Do the job posts have valid structured data?
- Can candidates apply for jobs on the site?
- What data can be collected during an application? Can this be changed?
- Can the job board integrate with your other systems?
- Will the data structure for your jobs match what’s in your CRM/ATS?
- Do you need a candidate portal?
- Will your job posts have their own url?
Make sure you always include a jobs section within your website design and always post your live vacancies to it…it’s free advertising!Will Fairhurst | GPW Recruitment
Recruitment websites don’t typically exist on their own. They are usually part of a wider tech stack that might include tools such as a CRM or job posting service.
Typical integrations include:
- Job posting services (Broadbean, Logic Melon, Idibu, etc)
- Mailing list providers
- Marketing automation
- Analytics and tracking
The vast majority of recruitment-specific website vendors will have integrations in place with the key players.
This can be an important factor in your decision as it can be painful if you hire a generalist developer and then need to add this functionality further down the line.
Ask your potential vendor about any current or future integrations that you might have. Do they have experience doing this already, or something similar?
It might also be worth talking directly to your service partners to see if they have any recommendations.
- What integrations will your website need?
- Does your vendor/developer have experience with these integrations?
- Do your service providers have any vendor recommendations?
Tracking & analytics
Many recruitment businesses, especially those with a dedicated marketing person/department need to be able to track the effectiveness of their online campaigns.
Adding tracking scripts to a website is usually very straightforward, but if you need help configuring the analytics, or with advanced event tracking, etc, it’s best to ask your developer if they can help.
It’s worth noting that analytics and tracking scripts can have a negative affect in your website performance.
They can also be a minefield when it comes to privacy policies and GDPR. If these are an issue for you there are anonymous analytics services available.
Use an anonymous analytics service, such as Fathom (referral link) to avoid complicated privacy concerns.
- What analytics and tracking software will you use?
- How will these impact site performance?
- What are the privacy implications? E.g. GDPR
- Could an anonymous analytics service suffice?
“I want to rank high on Google”Every recruitment agency owner/marketer
First question: Rank well for which search term(s)?
If it’s “tech jobs in london”, you’d better have deep pockets!
But if you’re targeting “care home nursing jobs in belfast” you have a much better chance.
You might want to focus on client-side searches. For example, “recruitment agencies in kent”. Or if you can, something even more specific.
Second question: Can you compete?
A quick Google search at time of writing for “hr manager jobs in london” returns the following organic results on the first page:
- PM Jobs
- Personnel Today
- CV Library
I don’t know all of those, but there are some pretty big hitters in there. Can you beat LinkedIn to 7th place?
Third question: White hat or black hat?
White hat SEO refers to techniques that are considered to be ‘fair game’. These are unlikely to get you punished by Google.
Black hat techniques are the opposite. They are designed to ‘trick’ search engines and if caught you would likely get punished.
Types of recruitment SEO
There are many different SEO ‘types’ and, for recruitment, they can broadly be put into four categories:
- On-site SEO
This is the practice of optimising the markup, structure and performance of your website in a way that Google favours. This is typically done by your web developer.
- Off-site SEO
This is the practice of building backlinks and site ‘authority’.
- Content SEO
The practice of writing content that is useful to humans but also highly attractive to search engines.
- Job SEO
Adding the appropriate markup to your jobs so that they can be scraped by Google for Jobs.
None of these techniques work well in isolation and should be part of a holistic strategy.
SEO is a whole World of its own and changes all the time.
If organic search is a key part of your strategy, then it’s well worth getting some SEO expertise on your web team. This could be either a dedicated SEO agency/freelancer (recommended) or someone in-house at your website vendor or marketing partner.
- Do you have an SEO strategy in place?
- What keywords are you trying to rank for?
- What are your chances of beating the competition to those keywords?
- What techniques will your SEO partner use and are they considered ‘white hat’?
Make sure SEO is present in your overall strategy. From page structure to future SEO work and creating landing page templates, ideally you will do both within your website planning.Kristie Perrotte | Thrive Recruitment Marketing
Open-source or proprietary
One of the biggest ‘philosophical’ questions you’ll have to answer is whether to choose an open-source or proprietary platform.
Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone and for any purpose.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_software
Proprietary software, also known as non-free software or closed-source software, is computer software for which the software’s publisher or another person reserves some licensing rights to use, modify, share modifications, or share the software, restricting user freedom with the software they lease. It is the opposite of open-source or free software.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprietary_software
That might sound confusing or irrelevant but it has deep implications.
Essentially, you are free to do what you want with open source software. With proprietary, you are not.
But what are the direct implications for your website and your business?
I think the differences are best illustrated by looking at the two big players in today’s recruitment market; WordPress and Volcanic.
- Do you want the freedom of open source or the ease of a proprietary system?
There are stories you already know you want to tell about your brand and features you know need today, and there will be stories that you will need to tell in the future and features you will need that you don’t know today.
Make sure when you choose a website provider that you will have the agility to make changes as your messaging and needs evolve.Julie Cali | RecruitmentMarketing.com
WordPress vs. Volcanic
WordPress (the .org version) is open-source software licensed under the GPL license that powers nearly 40% of all websites.
You can download and install WordPress yourself. You can edit the code, add code, remove code – do whatever you want!
There is no limit to what you can do with a WordPress website. Add any feature you like, work with any developer you like, host with any hosting company that you like.
You own your website and the content.
Because anyone can use WordPress to build a website, there is a very wide range in the quality of sites built with it.
You’ll have to deal with software updates, hosting, etc. and there are legitimate security concerns around WordPress websites that are poorly built and maintained.
Volcanic is the industry-leading proprietary web platform.
There are various tiers to choose from at different price points that will give you access to different levels of functionality.
Recruitment industry specific, so you know that they have the knowledge and solutions in place for the average recruiter.
You don’t need to worry about updates, hosting, etc. – that’s all done for you.
You’re locked in.
On a closed system like Volcanic, you get the functionality that’s offered and nothing else. It’s difficult to get ahead of the competition.
If you don’t like them it’s hard to leave, and you can’t take your website with you when you go.
How to choose
It really all comes down to freedom.
If you want the freedom to build the site that you want, with the team that you choose and on the hosting platform of your choice; then an open-source platform might be the best way to go.
If you’d rather go for a ‘turn-key’ solution that handles everything in one place, with the functionality that’s on offer, then maybe a proprietary system would suit you better.
Some website vendors use WordPress as their platform but close it down. For example, you might not be able to choose your hosting provider or add plugins. They might not allow you to work with other developers or to export your site.
If a vendor is using a platform like WordPress don’t assume these freedoms. Ask about them.
Web accessibility is the practice of making your website content accessible to as wide and diverse an audience as possible.
Typically, when people talk about web accessibility they are talking about removing barriers that prevent disadvantaged web users accessing and interacting with websites.
Some examples of accessibility concerns:
- Font size – is the font large enough for people to read?
- Colour contrast – is there sufficient contrast between text and icons and their background?
- Alternative text – is there text content available for non-text content?
- Operable user interface – can the website be read and navigated by keyboard or screen readers?
For a complete list of principles visit the Accessibility Principles page on the w3c website.
It’s often assumed that abiding by good accessibility principles makes web development more expensive.
Although taking time to consider and test for accessibility can add costs, there are three main counter-arguments:
- Accessible design can encourage you to take a simpler approach, saving design and development costs
- Accessible website can be used by more people, increasing you potential audience and revenues
- Companies can be fined for falling short of legal accessibility requirements
Aiming for good accessibility standards makes good business sense.
- Are you making decisions that include your disabled audience?
- Is a particular design choice more important than a potential uplift in visitors/customers?
- What web accessibility standards will your web team be aiming for?
…websites need to be accessible to provide an inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent access to people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on devices, bandwidth and speed.Julie Calli | RecruitmentMarketing.com
Page speed is a key factor in keeping both your users, and the search engines, happy.
There is loads of data that suggests that faster sites have better metrics across engagement, conversions, search rankings, and more.
If that’s the case, why doesn’t everyone have a fast site?
Unfortunately, there are things that we want on our websites that negatively affect performance.
That full-screen hero image, those analytics and tracking scripts, those fancy third-party fonts – they can all increase page speeds.
With that in mind, it’s important to consider performance at every stage of the project. It’s much more difficult to fix performance issues later.
Can you lazy-load your images? Can you compress them and serve optimised image formats?
Can you defer or asynchronously load any of your scripts?
Can you locally host that fancy font?
That’s all a bit technical, but that’s the nature of web performance.
Common performance problems to avoid
- Poor hosting
- Too many
- Too big
- Wrong format
- Third-party fonts
- Tracking and analytics scripts
- Poorly-written code
Test the performance of your current website to use as a benchmark for your project. You can test your website using these tools:
You can also use these tools to test competitor websites.
Set a performance budget at the start of the project. This will help when making design and development decisions.
- What is your ‘performance budget’ for this project?
- Is feature X or design Y worth the performance impact?
- Have you benchmarked your performance based on your current website and those of your competitors?
Good security for any website is critical, but for recruitment websites it can be even more so. The main reason for this is around the sensitive data that you might be storing on the site.
Because of that, the security of your site needs to be rock solid.
A big part of security is making sure those who have access to the website keep that access secure. Weak login credentials and systems are often a hacker’s way in.
2FA (2 factor authentication) is a must these days to make sure your website is as secure as possible and therefore it is vital this is in place.
Also, make sure all users are using a strong and long password.
It is likely that your site will be collecting candidate data. This could be from form entries on the site or from applications to jobs, which will likely include an uploaded CV.
This data is personal data and therefore should be treated as such under data protection policies.
Only store data on the site that is needed on the site. For example, once a job application is processed, it makes sense to automatically remove that data from the site. It is likely this will have been passed onto another system, such as a CRM, and therefore it is no longer needed on the website.
Out of date software is a common vector for site vulnerabilities. Therefore, it is crucial that software being used on the website is always kept up-to-date.
How will software updates be handled on the website and who will be responsible for caring out these updates?
Automating software updates is always preferable as it removes the human error factor of forgetting to complete the task.
Some updates can cause problems. Run updates on a staging or development site first to make sure they don’t have adverse effects on the site.
Backup and restore
Should the worse happen and you need to restore your site, it is imperative that you have a solid backup solution running to restore your site.
Backups should be automatic and taken at a time interval that is appropriate to the activity on your website.
For example, if content and data change every hour, a daily backup is a must, however, for some sites, a weekly backup might suffice.
Ask how the site will be backed up and options there are for handling backup and restores, as well as how long a restore would take should the worst happen.
- What security practices do you use when writing the website code?
- How will logins to the website be made secure?
- How will candidate data be protected on the site?
- How will 2FA work on the site?
- How will the website be backed up and how often will this take place?
- How quickly can the website be restored should the worst happen and who is responsible for doing this?
Privacy and compliance
Your website will need to comply with some privacy and compliance regulations. These mainly resolve around the following:
- What data you are collecting from visitors
- How you will use that data
It is also worth asking about how users will be able to opt out of specific none essential cookies and how they will do this.
- What visitor data will be collected on the website?
- How will visitors be able to request this data?
- What cookies are used on the site?
- How will the website provide a user interface for visitors to opt out of specific cookies?
Choosing website partners
Freelancers vs agencies
Although there is a massive amount of cross-over, there are some typical differences between working with an agency and with freelancers.
The driving factor in this decision is often cost. Freelancers often don’t have the overheads of agencies and they can pass those savings on to their clients.
That doesn’t mean that freelancers are always cheaper than agencies, and the pricing model used can be a hugely important factor.
Hire the wrong tea and any apparent cost savings can be a false economy. Do your due diligence on your partner shortlist.
Capacity and availability
By definition, a freelancer is a one-person operation. This obviously comes with a maximum capacity as a person can only work so many hours in the day.
This is probably the biggest limitation of working with small teams. If there are illnesses, or problems on this or other projects, timescales can easily slip.
That’s not to say that adding more people to a project always makes it go faster – but it’s worth consideration.
Generally, the smaller the team that you hire, the better relationships you will develop.
In larger agencies, you might be talking to sales people, account managers, project managers, or the designers and developers.
The smaller the team, the more likely it will be that you’re talking to the same people. This gives you a chance to build relationships and ensures that there is a shared, collective knowledge of the project.
Generalists vs specialists
Another choice that you’ll have to make is between generalists and specialists.
A specialism can come in many forms, for example:
- Programming languages
- Content management systems
- Recruitment industry expertise
- Applications and tools
Every individual and agency will have a different mix and balance of expertise. For example, we’re WordPress developers with a recruitment specialism.
Many recruitment agencies choose to work with generic ‘marketing’ agencies that will handle all aspects of their marketing – including websites.
In our experience, the websites from generic agencies are some of the worst that we’ve had to work with.
I would strongly encourage you to work with an expert in either a particular platform or technology, or the recruitment industry. Ideally you want technical and industry expertise.
- Do you want the cost savings of freelancers and small teams, or the security of a big team?
- Do you prefer working directly with the people ‘doing the work’ or managers?
- Is the ease of working with generalist agencies preferable to technology and/or industry specialists?
It might sound obvious, but working with people who have experience of your industry can pay dividends.
This is true of any industry and recruitment is no exception.
You might pay more upfront for that expertise but there’s a good chance that you’ll save money, or make more money, in the longer-term.
Would you rather work with a team that already understand recruitment tech, who know an ATS from a CRM, and Bullhorn from Broadbean?
Not only will experienced teams have solved many of the common problems before, they will be able to help you to avoid common pitfalls and even suggest opportunities that you hadn’t considered.
- Does your web team have experience working on recruitment websites?
Costs and pricing
Probably the biggest question in most people’s minds…
“How much will this cost?”
The simplest answer, it will cost what you decide to spend.
There is no fixed price or industry standard for a recruitment website. You can’t compare them like you can other products.
They are so complex, and often so custom, that you’re rarely comparing apples to apples.
In reality, you can spend next to nothing on recruitment websites, all the way up to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
You don’t always get what you pay for, but you also can’t buy a Ferrari for the price of a Skoda.
Make sure that you have a complete overview of your costs, both short-term and long-term.
Pay attention to contract lengths and what you can and can’t do within those contracts.
As a rough guide, you’ll pay more for:
- Better design
- Custom design
- Custom functionality (e.g. integrations)
- More flexibility
- Better support
- Faster page speeds
- Better accessibility
- Better SEO
- Industry experience
Decide what is important to you and what you’re prepared to sacrifice (if anything).
The majority of projects are priced in one of two ways, and this will have an impact on how the project is run and the potential final costs. Those models are:
- Fixed cost
Fixed cost vs hourly
A fixed cost project is one where you are given a fixed price for a fixed scope of work.
Hourly projects are typically estimated upfront and then billed by a time unit (usually hours or days).
It’s our strong recommendation to use a fixed cost model. This is because:
- You have more control over project costs
- It forces both parties to fully understand the scope of work (e.g. using a ‘Discovery’ phase)
- It encourages your website partner to move faster and find more creative solutions
- It avoids awkward conversations down the line about how long the project is taking
Keeping costs under control
It’s the biggest fear of every recruitment agency that project costs will spiral out of control. To help keep the project on budget:
- Use a fixed cost model (see above).
- Avoid surprises by going through a thorough discovery phase.
- Never assume. Always ask your vendors if a specific feature, functionality or service is included.
- Avoid the ‘bait-and-switch’. Ask in advance how much additional development will cost.
- Don’t underestimate potential support costs.
- What are you prepared to sacrifice to keep costs down?
- What is your preferred pricing model; fixed cost or hourly?
- How will you try to keep costs down during the project?
- What will your website partner do to try to keep costs down?
Reviews and testimonials
The most effective way to choose a website partner is to ask your network for recommendations. There is nothing more powerful than a glowing referral or scathing review from someone you trust.
Barring that, you’ll probably have to rely on reviews, testimonials and references.
Always, always try to connect with a current or past clients of a vendor you are look at.
We’re all very good at shouting about what we’re good at but you won’t find any of our weaknesses listed on our websites!
In order of the most trustworthy:
- A recommendation from someone who you trust
- Reviews on verified review websites
- References from clients you have found yourself
- Testimonials suggested by the vendor
- Reviews on non-verified review websites
If you can, talk to someone in person, you’ll get a much more honest and detailed opinion.
Don’t just rely on the testimonials or references that the vendor suggest. See if you can target a few of their clients directly. You might get more varied and honest feedback.
- Who can you ask for a recommendation?
- Can you contact previous clients directly?
When choosing website platforms and partners there are no general right or wrong answers.
You’ll need to make your own decisions based on your budget, requirements and personal preferences.
A new website is usually a significant investment for any recruitment business. With some planning, research and this guide – I hope that you find the right solution for you.
If you’d like to discuss your recruitment website project with us, we’d love for you to contact us for a free initial chat.