An Honest Assessment of Your Company’s Career Portal – Is it Frustrating and Confusing to Potential Applicants?

Anyone who has ever tried to search for a job online has probably experienced the “agony of defeat” more times than they’ve experienced the “thrill of victory”. In fact, there are endless frustrations associated with the online job hunt, from finding the career portal from the corporate home page, to figuring out the job search interface, to creating a profile (often required before you can apply), not to mention the application process itself. For the purposes of this blog, let’s focus on finding the career site and searching for an opening. I have a feeling after all of this, we (the poor applicants), may be too tired to apply for a job.

Here’s a quick hit list of usability issues that can annoy and discourage your applicants.

Making the path to your career portal so obscure even Columbus could not find it.

A link to the career site should be clearly visible from your company’s homepage. Unfortunately, there seems to be a strong desire by web designers to display the link in a font size of point 6 and bury it in the footer. This might work, assuming the footer shows up when the page is initially loaded, but if the user has to scroll down to find it, there’s a good chance some people will miss it all together.

Where’s the link to Careers?

Way down here >> keep scrolling, keep scrolling…

Wouldn’t something like this be better?

Requiring applicants to create a profile.

This is a trend that applicants find very discouraging. In order to apply for what may be 1 job on your company’s career site, they’ll need to create a profile and remember their login.

To test the ease of creating a profile, I went to what we will call a “MAJOR” software company’s career site. I was told that in order to apply, I would need to create a profile.


Do you see a link on this page that says Create a Profile? Create an account? Sign in? (Apparently, I need both an account and a profile?) When I clicked on the oh-so-descriptive link titled “please click here” I was redirected to an informational page where I was told all about how to contact the “Profile Help Desk” if I’m having problems. Profile Help Desk? Apparently, the process is so intuitive it requires a staff of people to help the poor end-user figure out how to set-up an account and create a profile so they can apply for 1 job.

Bottom line, there are better ways to authenticate returning users. If you do require some type of profile or account, collect only the minimum information required and make it easy to retrieve the password, because we all know they aren’t going to remember it.

Poorly designed job search forms that lack field labels, have confusing form controls, don’t identify required fields, and provide little or no user feedback when actions are performed.

We will continue to pick on our software company.
Below is their job search form.

Job Search Form

When you look at this form, do all sorts of questions come to mind? Can I type anything in the first text box? (No, tried that.) Can anyone tell me what “Selected All” selects in the two dropdowns? (This is how the page loads, so we’ve selected all of 2 things and we have no idea what those two things are.) Would a label over the dropdown really hurt the design?

Sigh…let’s take it one step further and investigate the “Select All” form control in field two.

Question – since all items are selected and I only want IT, how do I “Deselect All”? It takes me a few seconds to realize that “Select All” is actually the new “Deselect All”. Wow, who knew?

Here’s another example of a job search form with some frustrating features.
Job Search Form

Salaried Job was already checked for me, so I select “Information Technolog” (?) from the dropdown and leave the default of USA in the second dropdown. But, when I try to click “Search”, it’s disabled. I assume I need to select something else, but I’m provided with no user feedback to validate my assumptions. I see the stuff in red (red = bad, right?) so I select “Experienced Professional”, and now the form works. Finally! (All of that confusion and the form only contains 4 fields.)

NOTE: “Hourly Jobs” and “College Student” are still red and now I think I know why. The color red is a big part of this major store’s brand. Unfortunately, we’ve all been pre-conditioned to see red in a web form and associate it to an error message. My advice to them would be to ditch the red in this case and go with something more neutral.

Ok, so maybe I’m being a little tough in my assessment. However, it’s these constant little minor annoyances that make the overall user experience an unpleasant one. Worse than that, they may result in you losing valuable applicants.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well, if they can’t stick it out and apply no matter how bad my career portal is, I don’t want them! Hah!!” For whatever reason, I always feel compelled to come to the aid of the voiceless applicant. Maybe if you don’t value their time enough to provide them with an intuitive and responsive career site, they don’t want you. It’s possible?

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