Does Google for Jobs signal an upheaval in recruitment marketing?

A Google "doodle" for Labor Day 2016, but how is the tech giant's job search functionality affecting recruitment?

When Google for Jobs launched in the UK last year, recruiters warned it would disrupt the online jobs market. Despite ruffling a few feathers, this is yet to be the case. Adam McCulloch investigates. 

There is no doubt that the arrival of Google for Jobs (GfJ) is a step forward for jobseekers, who can now see a window of roles filtered to meet their requirements above the normal Google search results. Roles from a variety of sources, such as LinkedIn, Totaljobs and CV Library, are listed as well as a handful of jobs advertised by organisations directly.

Users can narrow down the search with a multitude of filters allowing searches based on geography, job titles, organisation types and names, for example. Under “type”, users can browse part-time, contracted, and full-time roles and internships. There is guidance on typical salaries based on jobs advertised at job boards, and the option to get alerts on job searches.

Above all, users may feel they have a job search facility that is more comprehensive than anything that has gone before, in essence an aggregator of job boards, and a better chance of avoiding duplicating their efforts.

Even so, they should be aware that not all jobs are listed by Google: some recruiters’ platforms are not compatible with GfJ while the largest job board, Indeed, has not yet integrated with it.

Many recruiters will have to invest hours and money before they can feel the benefits of GfJ. It was developed and tested by Google alongside a host of job boards and recruitment platform providers, such as AIA Worldwide’s TalentBrew and Madgex Labs, among others, which gave some sites a head start.

Onus on recruiters

As Mike Fahey, Madgex Labs executive vice president writes: “We worked with Google to test this initiative prior to launch, and this has meant that our job boards have been able to integrate from day one. This puts us in the position where we can examine the traffic analytics of Google-integrated job boards to understand the true impact and bring some clarity to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ debate.”

Nathan Perrott, VP, digital marketing solutions at AIA Worldwide, which owns the TalentBrew platform, points to the importance of meeting GfJ’s technical requirements: ”We’ve got a responsibility to provide accurate info and code it according to GFJ’s schema so Google can understand it.

”If you have an old or no applicant tracking system (ATS) you’ll probably have to buy middleware. But whatever the technology there’s definitely work for Google to do to improve the user experience and get more accurate information on display. The biggest thing about Google for Jobs is less about its impact on other players in the market but how it has put the onus on recruiters to get their data and structure right when advertising.”

For those recruiters wishing to benefit from GfJ who do not use a fully compatible platform there are challenges – when GfJ was announced in 2017, marketing agency I-COM (which offers its own Google-optimised platform, Recaza) found that 47 of the UK’s top 100 recruitment agencies didn’t have the technical requirements to get listings for the jobs on the new widget.

Credit: TalentBrew/AIA Worldwide

Claire Herriott, founder and managing director of recruitment marketing specialist White Label, describes the process for getting GfJ-ready as “not that straightforward”. Recruiters must either post a role onto one of Google’s third-party partner sites, or post it onto their own website and edit the HTML code so Google can recognise it. White Label hosts a useful blog page by Herriott on its impressions of the facility.

In her blog, Herriott advises recruiters to always use a logo for visibility, remove expired jobs and follow Google’s structured job posting guidelines when posting.

The biggest thing about Google for Jobs is less about its impact on other players in the market but how it has put the onus on recruiters to get their data and structure right when advertising” – Nathan Perrott, AIA Worldwide

Candidate perspective

It’s still too early to gauge the real impact of Google’s “late” arrival on the scene, she adds, and there’s not been any radical improvement in user experience: “We’ve been working with clients getting jobs listed on Google but I haven’t seen anything yet that really captures the candidate’s perspective.”

“For the candidate it can be quite confusing – the way that jobs come in is still pretty random. There are multiple ways to apply – and it is unclear to GfJ users why they would apply by clicking on one job board’s blue button as against another.”

She asks: “What does it do that other aggregators don’t? Google for Shopping didn’t stop many other channels or other aggregators from being successful and Google for Jobs hasn’t been that silver bullet. The uninitiated may think they are going to get ahead of the competition somehow. Recruiters can’t pay to be on there, you can’t optimise performance – they still haven’t released algorithms about how you can be higher on the listings.”

Claire Herriot White Label

Claire Herriot

Herriott describes the job boards as the “winners” since GfJ launched. “The boards used to sponsor many of their jobs through Indeed. But since Indeed unhooked them early last year that route was blocked off.” Now, the job boards have an alternative platform to get traffic to them.

Google’s entry into the job market has altered the strategy of some companies, to exploit their adverts’ greater visibility.

Chris Stewart, newly appointed resourcing partner at medical supplies company McKesson explains how in his previous post as brand and attraction partner at National Grid, GfJ’s arrival significantly altered the recruitment marketing strategy. Previously, the utility company paid for adverts with Indeed and through Google AdWords. A new careers website, rolled out last year, was fully optimised for GfJ. “All search begins in Google,” he says.

He adds: “We wanted to ensure our engineering jobs were picked up by Google. Traffic from Google grew by 15% within two months from around 5% when Google for Jobs launched. It enabled us to considerably reduce our spend by not buying listings on aggregators.”

Traffic from Google grew by 15% within two months from around 5% when Google for Jobs launched. It enabled us to considerably reduce our spend by not buying listings on aggregators” – Chris Stewart, former National Grid brand and attraction partner

For Indeed, the new arrival was initially held up by some commentators as a serious threat. For example, a blog on recruitment software supplier Itris’s website by marketing executive Katy Stephenson published six months ago even suggested that the job board was “at risk of being eradicated” because GfJ was a direct competitor of the new job search engine.

Industry threat?

Google itself played down any possibility of a threat to any job aggregators. When it launched the facility in the US in 2017 its project leader, Nick Zakrasek, said Google did not want to directly compete with existing job boards and had no plans to let employers pay to post jobs directly to its jobs search engine. “We want to do what we do best: search,” Zakrasek told Tech Crunch. “We want the players in the ecosystem to be more successful.” A former Indeed executive noted that you could go 10 years further back and simply replace the word Google with the word Indeed.

Perrott at AIA Worldwide says: “We are not seeing much impact on Indeed’s traffic. But Google for Jobs is usually among the top three sources for apply clicks and organic search traffic, especially in retail. It can’t be denied that GfJ has taken some organic traffic from Indeed.”

Indeed’s UK team doesn’t appear to be too worried. In a collective blog members write: “We’ve seen many of the largest companies in the world – Google, Facebook, and Microsoft (through its acquisition of Linkedin) – launch employment-related products. Any product, service or tool that helps jobseekers is a good thing. We welcome new entrants to the market – greater competition drives improvements in our industry.” White Label’s Herriott says: “We don’t see Indeed getting any smaller.”

We want to do what we do best: search. We want the players in the ecosystem to be more successful” – Google’s Nick Zakrasek

For Graham Jameson, recruitment systems manager at Travis Perkins, recruiter behaviour is unchanged since the advent of Google for Jobs: “They are still attracting and hiring candidates from your typical sources.” He adds that his company has continued to receive the vast majority of applications and hires through Indeed since the Google launch.

Jameson says: “People are still more likely to go to their ‘trusted’ channel when applying for a new job. That might even be magnified if job seekers see the Google for Jobs interface as something like Google Ads which people sometimes try to actively avoid because they feel they are being sold to.”

However, he concedes: “The Google revolution isn’t in full swing yet but as resistance to change is human nature, I’m sure over time we will see a shift in the recruitment advertising arena.”

Traffic controller

Glassdoor was a launch partner for Google’s job feature when it launched in the US in June 2017 and continues to work alongside the web giant. Joe Wiggins, head of PR Europe for Glassdoor, believes his company stands to benefit from the growth in GfJ.

“Ultimately, we expect this will help more people find relevant jobs and access new opportunities while also helping employers get their job listings in front of more candidates,” he says. The company’s own research suggests that people tend to use an average of seven job sites when searching for a job, a figure that presumably will fall as users become more used to the new widget.

Wiggins clearly does not think that Glassdoor is diminished in any way by appearing merely as an option to click on on the new search portal: “We know consumers like Glassdoor job search because we tightly integrate job postings with Glassdoor-proprietary company ratings and insights to provide people the data they need to make more informed decisions.”

We expect this will help more people find relevant jobs and access new opportunities while also helping employers get their job listings in front of more candidates” – Joe Wiggins, Glassdoor

Job sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor have developed innovative benefits for jobseekers who can, for example, store their CV where recruiters can access them, view company reviews from insiders and gauge salaries. Indeed will launch a tool this year enabling candidates to assess their unconscious bias and has a tool, Indeed Prime, aimed at senior-level candidates.

Whether Google will one day introduce similar capabilities is unknown but for now the web giant is satisfied in its role of traffic controller. “Anything beyond that is not in Google’s wheelhouse,” said Zakrasek at the time of the US launch.

Stephenson, in contrast to her blog six months ago, now says that GfJ is yet to upset any apple carts, “We were expecting it to cause quite a stir and disrupt the industry but it’s barely been mentioned. Until a survey or some kind of feedback is completed, I don’t think we will really know the true cost of Google for Jobs for job boards, recruiters and candidates.”

One recruitment agency’s experience of using Google for Jobs

David Morel

David Morel, CEO/founder of support staff specialist Tiger Recruitment, explains how his firm has utilised the new search facility

“We’re still determining Google for Jobs’ full value to the business. On the one hand, it offers increased brand exposure and an opportunity to reach more candidates in a candidate-short market. On the other, increased visibility potentially opens us up to receiving less relevant candidate applications which, in turn, places a greater strain on internal resources.

“Either way, we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, and we knew that this could be completed by either updating the website’s schema or by listing our jobs on relevant third-party sites – so we did both. Updating the website was a relatively straightforward process for a developer to implement; we then reviewed the third-party sites we worked with to ensure that they were integrating their job postings with Google. Indeed, for example, does not index its listing URLs.

“The other consideration was the ad content itself. Obviously, Google prioritises well-written and original content so there was a bit of a re-education internally around consultants’ ad writing and ensuring it was first-rate across the board (obviously this was no bad thing)!

“Ultimately, the user experience needs to be spot on for candidates to consider switching from their traditional application methods, and in some cases candidates still need to click up to five times before they get to the point of actually uploading their CV. The value of GfJ – for us at least – remains to be seen.”

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