More than half of job seekers say their preferred source for finding jobs is online1 and internal career sites attract 35% of applications 2. It goes without saying that active job seekers who can’t find what they’re looking for on your career site may just as well leave as swiftly as they came in. The typical behavior on site abandonment is to then perform a Google search instead, which will almost always be successful and open the search up to your competitors for talent. One of my hard and fast rules is to make sure there are no “dead ends” in your site experience.
Google has turned search into a way of life. If you want to find something, you’re only a search away from finding exactly what you’re looking for, with very little friction. Research shows that 50% of users go directly to the search bar as soon as they arrive on a website 3. It is safe to assume that there’s a lot riding on search, and if that search generates a page with “zero results,” it can be harmful to your potential conversions. So, what can you do? The answer is simple: Avoid having a “zero results” page and if it happens, always offer a way forward! Here are a few tips beyond the default “broaden your search” suggestion for making sure you get the best out of your search results.
Start by auditing your search results page
This should be easy; type gibberish into your keyword search and you may quickly find that no jobs match your query. When no jobs match, how does your site handle it? Now, that’s the quick and easy way, but it doesn’t tell you what searches typically yield zero results. Luckily, Google offers a way to track this through tag manager and if you can track the queries, you can audit them to see if there are common searches that can be addressed.
Build your synonyms library
By tracking your searches, you’ll find common search terms that yield no results. Beyond gaining great insight into how your job seekers search on your site, this will also help you see the terms that are like your job roles, but not quite the same. If your company has a unique way of describing a role, or a category, this is going to be more of an issue. Enter synonyms. Set up rules in your search that will redirect similar terms to your unique vocabulary, or vice versa. Make it a habit to check this often and update your library regularly. This is the power of a rules-based search that puts all the control in your hands.
Provide a search autocomplete or autosuggest
As your user is typing in their query, you have an opportunity to match their term at every keystroke to your available job titles, categories and/or locations. Additionally, you can provide a list of available categories once they click into the search field, even before they start typing. This proactive feedback to the users not only speeds up their search, but ensures that when they click a provided option, they are sure to land on a fruitful page of job search results.
Check for typos and misspellings
Nobody’s perfect, and spelling can sometimes be harder than you think. Combine that with big fingers and the little digital keyboards on your phone and it’s a recipe for disaster. If there is anything you can depend on, it is human error. Now you can solve for some of these challenges with your synonym library, especially if you see some common patterns, by configuring a “Did you mean …” dictionary feature in your website to catch common mistakes.
If your job seeker submits a search that slips through the cracks, this dictionary can be the fail-safe you need. If the search yields zero results, then simply offer alternatives by asking them, “Did you mean …”. This quickly lets them know that the empty results page is their error, and not yours. Take it one step further and automatically display search results for the first option in your suggestions.
Another option to look at can be in-line validation. This catches them before they hit submit. Most browsers offer native spell-check features by way of the red “squiggly” line under your misspelled word, but not all. Tools like nanospell help alleviate this problem by catching the error in real-time.
List available options if no match is found
Even the best site search will sometimes yield zero results, so it’s what you do when it happens that makes the difference. In this scenario, it is critical that you provide a way forward. Your job seeker may not know all the options they have before them, especially if their first action was to type in a search term and hope for the best. If we do end up with the dreaded “Sorry, we can’t find a match,” then you can provide a list of available categories and/or locations with the number of available opportunities in each as a quick link.
Offer a push notification option
If no matches exist, or volume is temporarily low, give the job seeker an option to sign up for your talent network/community or sign up for job alerts that notify them when an opportunity is available.
Provide a search alternative
Lastly, if all the options above fail, provide an alternative. It’s possible that your organization has a direct line (e.g., phone number, email) for job queries, but this isn’t possible in most cases, so another option can be a recruiting assistant or chatbot that can field or screen questions/queries in a different way.
In summary, “zero results” pages do not have to be a dead end. If you practice the options listed here, you will all but ensure that your search isn’t the problem with conversion and be able to focus on other critical factors within your engagement funnel!
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1 (Glassdoor, HR and Recruiting Stats for 2019)
2 (Zety, Job Search Statistics for 2020)
3 (Cludo, Search vs. Navigate for 2016)