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A Guide to Digital User Experience for Charity Recruitment
How to revolutionise your online recruitment process and attract the best candidates
Charities are fighting to attract top talent in the jobs marketplace, not just against other charities, but also against the lure of the private sector. But while many charities recognise the importance of a good online experience for attracting donations and volunteers, many still aren’t paying the same attention to their recruitment process. Job pages on charity websites are too often an after-thought, difficult to navigate and use.
Making websites easy to use to deliver the best possible user experience (UX) can mean more applicants, better candidates and saving money.
This is a how-to guide to creating great digital experiences and why it’s so important for organisations and especially HR departments to get to grips with.
What is Digital User Experience?
When we talk about digital UX we’re talking about everything that happens when a user interacts with your website; from what they do or don’t do, to what they feel and think. If you’re involved in creating or running web pages and aren’t thinking about UX, then the likelihood is you’re building in inconsistencies and frustrations that are losing you users and wasting money. In terms of recruitment, those lost users are lost talent.
We’ve boiled down digital UX to four key principals.
1. Designing with the end user in mind
That’s putting the user at the centre of everything. It goes beyond buttons and menus on a screen. It’s looking at the fundamentals of how a user feels when they interact with your brand at every point.
2. Working out what to build before you build it
Creating great digital experiences starts with discovery and research; finding out who your users are and what they need, then using that information in your design, content and technology so you build the right thing.
3. Generating positive emotions
The goal of UX design is to give your users a positive experience when they interact with your website. If accomplishing a task online is easy, that’ll make them feel good, if it’s difficult or confusing they’ll end up frustrated.
4. Design that evolves
Great design means testing ideas as you build them and evolving the idea based on what you find out. For example, you might test a new layout for job adverts using analytics. Do users stay on the page longer or click through to the next page more often? Your layout can be adapted based on what you find. This is a way of arriving at an end product that works well, rather than using your budget on one idea that might not do what you thought it would.
This sounds great, but we’re a charity, how is it relevant to us?
Worrying about how users feel might seem like a luxury large brands can afford, but good digital UX is crucial to charity recruitment for some very concrete, financially sound reasons.
An effective website helps you recruit the right people
The best candidates are selective about what they apply for, so your website needs to sell your organisation and make it easy for people to apply.
Recruiting online is cost effective and can save money
It’s cheaper to advertise jobs online than to pay agency or print media fees, and good design makes recruiting through online channels more effective.
How to apply digital UX techniques to create effective websites
Now we’ve covered the basics of UX design, how does an organisation go about implementing these ideas, especially on a limited budget? Here are some of the key tools involved.
Understand your users – user research and testing
You and your team might know your brand and your website inside out. It might seem like you know it so well that you’re the right people to make decisions on stuff like how a jobs page should be laid out, or what information needs to go into it.
But your insider knowledge is exactly the reason why you aren’t always the best people to decide how your site should work. The only people who can give you reliable answers on this that are actual users. That’s where user research comes in.
Identifying/defining your users
Identify your target audience, the people you want to attract to your website. You can do this by talking to stakeholders within your organisation, or by reaching out to real users and talking to them directly to build a picture of who they are. (See the section on User Personas below.) Try putting a short survey on your website at the end ask people if they’ll be happy to come to a user testing session.
Use interviews at the start of a design process to get to know users better and uncover any problems they have using your site. They might be one-on-one or with a small pool of users. Open-ended questions are often most revealing, such as:
Why might you visit this website?
What would you expect to be able to do on a jobs page?
Did you find the information helpful, and if so, why?
Was there any information you couldn’t find, and if so what?
What websites do you visit regularly and what do you like about them?
Where would you search for jobs and what device would you use?
What websites do you use to search for jobs?
Testing your website directly on users can give you valuable information on what is working, and what isn’t. Give users tasks to complete on your website and watch as they complete it. How many steps did it take to complete an action? Were they confused by anything or looking for information they couldn’t find? You can ask them questions afterwards. What did they like / dislike about your site?
Ideas of things to test:
A job application
Finding the jobs section on your site
Why they should choose to apply to your organisation
This looks at what users of a website are actually doing. It can be done by looking at web analytics from a web page to see what people are clicking on and what they’re not, how long they’re spending or where they’re arriving at the page from. Digital teams in charities can help with getting hold of this information, they’ll often be using web analytics software e.g. Google Analytics which can produce easy to understand reports.
User personas are a key part of UX design. A persona is an imaginary character that represents a group of users who share certain needs, motivations and behaviours.
Personas are helpful because they make it easier to keep different types of users in mind when designing a website. It’s more powerful to picture one person you’re designing for than faceless thousands of users.
You can use the information gathered in interviews with real users to develop these.
For examples groups might be:
Private-sector professionals regularly using jobs boards to search for charity jobs because they want to change careers or
Recent graduates directly searching your website because they want to work specifically for your organisation.
There’s an example persona below.
Easy to apply tips for good web design
Clean design – (Easy on the eye)
Jobs pages are often packed with too much text, small fonts and confusing formatting. If prospective candidates can’t extract the information they need quickly, you’re likely to lose them.
Presenting content online clearly comes down to some basic principals of design. Here are some of the key points to remember:
Not too much information on a page. Our attention spans online are short, and there’s only so much information we can take in before we begin to skip things or get bored. Don’t cram too much text or too many images onto one page and don’t bury important information in blocks of text.
Information should be split into logical sections with clear headings. People usually scan a webpage for relevant information before they read it properly, so headings should clearly signal what the content is about.
Fonts should be readable; don’t sacrifice readability for fancy design. Basic, widely used fonts are usually the best choice. Font size should be readable too, not too small.
Contrast between text and background should be high; the highest possible contrast, and therefore the easiest to read, is black text on a white background. This is particularly important for larger blocks of text or complex information.
All content should be formatted for web. If you’re importing information from elsewhere or using scanned application forms or other attachments, they should be reformatted so everything is the right size and layout for a website or mobile platform.
A website is a way of presenting information, and so helping people find what they are looking for quickly and easily is crucial. Web navigation is done through menus and links, and thought needs to be given to how these are structured. Users expect to find common information, like job vacancies, in standard places within site navigation.
For example, how do people find your jobs pages when they land on your home page? Charities commonly put jobs pages under an About Us first-level menu item. But this isn’t universal; others situate them under ‘Get Involved’ or in a footer menu.
This kind of question could be answered by user testing; where do users expect to find jobs pages? If user testing showed that most job seekers were searching under the wrong first-level menu for your jobs page, you could reorganise your menus and re-test to find out if this increased the speed users found the correct page.
Interacting: buttons, links and forms
Applying for a job online involves absorbing and inputting complex information accurately. The physical elements – forms, input boxes, buttons and links – should make the process obvious and easy. UX design can help you use forms, buttons and links so that they make intuitive sense to a user landing on your site.
The Importance of Mobile
We are using our mobiles to do increasingly complex tasks online. Using a mobile phone to search and apply for jobs is fast becoming standard. UK smartphone penetration was 81% in 2016, and we now collectively look at our smartphones 0.4 trillion times a year1.
Users don’t differentiate by the device they’re using and nor should your site. That means all content and interactivity that’s available on your desktop site should also be available on the mobile version of your site, and it should be readable and accessible.
Employer branding online
UX isn’t just about designing pretty webpages. It covers a user’s complete experience with your brand; how what they see, read, watch and interact with makes them feel.
When competing for the best talent, charities can leverage their mission, values and impact. Job seekers who are motivated by what your organisation does and it’s culture are more likely to apply for positions with you, so make this stand out.
Not communicating why your organisation is a great place to work can mean losing out on the best candidates. A 2016 survey found that 69% of people are likely to apply to a job2 if the employer actively manages its employer brand by sharing information on their culture and work environment.
Too many organisations have uninspiring job landing pages. Even if the home page of the charity’s site is beautifully designed, recruitment sections are often an afterthought. And many potential candidates may never see that beautiful home page if they land on a job page from a Google search or external jobs board. If the job landing page doesn’t immediately grab their attention they will click away again.
Why do you need great web content?
Storytelling is the most powerful way to sell your organisation. That means communicating the work your organisation does; the reason for it, the passion behind the process and the results you achieve. Get this message across, and you’ll be attracting the dedicated talent you want on your team.
Content is the tool that tells stories online. Use a mix of people, text, images, graphics, video and audio to tell your story. Strong content will keep people interested and reading.
Effective storytelling on recruitment pages might include:
Profiles of different roles within the organisation
Stories from beneficiaries
Details of what your organisation has achieved and why
This applies whether it’s your own website or on an external jobs board. For example, on the Workfuly website, organisation profile pages act as a window into the organisation, giving information about its culture and values. Providing good content like this means that visitors spend more time on a webpage, and that’s more of a connection made with your brand.
Job application technology - what you need to know
How do candidates submit their application to you? There are many options, from emailing CVs to applicant tracking systems. Your budget, your target audience or the size of your organisation will probably dictate which you use, but it’s important that the process is intuitive, simple and seamless for the user.
Emailing a CV
The most basic approach is ask candidates to send a CV via email, a digital version of the traditional paper job application. This may even encourage applicants as it’s simpler than creating an account on an applicant tracking system or filling in a form. There’s nothing wrong with this choice if budget is tight, as long as you:
Are clear about what people should send and how
Put in place a system for managing applications, for example a standard subject line for emails
Specify CV formats
Applicant tracking systems
An applicant tracking system manages the whole of the recruitment process from adverts to applications. There are lots of options on the market; two of the most popular are Eploy, an e-recruitment platform used by charities that can be integrated into a website to deliver a complete suite of recruitment tools, or Workable, another online recruitment tool.
Paper / downloadable application form
For charities on smaller budgets, the fees involved in paying for an applicant tracking system can be prohibitive. In this case, it’s still possible to put in place an online application system. One popular option is to provide an online form that a user can download e.g. Word or PDF, that can be saved and filled in on a computer and submitted.
But be aware of some of the common technical issues that this approach may throw up:
Can all users access the form?
Does the form work on all web browsers?
Does the form need a particular operating system or word processing programme to open it?
UX and your organisation: what to do next
Developing a user-friendly application process for your organisation could connect you more effectively with the top talent out their looking to work in the charity sector. Here’s what to do next:
1. Identify and understand users
Once you know your target audience well you can find out what frustrations they’re experiencing or what needs aren’t being met. You might identify users through talking to people within your organisation, or by talking to a cross-section of users directly.
2. Assess your current site
What is working on your current website and what isn’t? You could find out through testing your site on users and watching them interact with it, interviewing them or looking at web analytics to see what people are doing on your site in reality.
3. Review website design
If assessing your website uncovers issues, you can review your design. Can you improve functionality, reorganise or add content to get better results?
4. Apply good practice guidelines
Make changes in accordance with good web design practice guidelines. You can do this alongside colleagues in your digital team if you have one.
5. Test your improvements
Are your improvements actually achieving what you want them to? More user testing and analytics at this stage can tell you if you’re getting the results you want.
Getting started is often the biggest hurdle to making any online improvements. The most important thing is to start the process and invest some time. You’ll be sure to see results. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t have to be a huge project. Start small, implement some improvements and then do some more, it’s much easier to do things in small rounds.
If you’ve any questions or feedback we’d love to hear it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This guide was created by Workfuly.
Workfuly is a job board for the charity and public sector. We’re a little different to other jobs boards in the sector - we focus on the organisation as well as the job vacancy to help bring the most committed and interested employees to teams.