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Authentic or fake?: where your site ends up

fakeNote: The Doctor is out for the next few weeks, helping his sister deal with her cancer. This is from a few years ago, but still quite relevant

Authenticity is all the rage. Supporters of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders claim that their candidates are ‘authentic’, meaning that they say what they think rather than a poll-tested response. In the food world, an entire category of restaurants focus on ‘authentic’ food, which generally means locally sourced, minimally processed, and served with a lack of pretense.

In case you haven’t noticed, our industry has also been touched by this search for authenticity. Don’t believe me? Just take a gander at any of my past posts about new sites – and see how many of them claim to be ‘real’, i.e., not an old-fashioned job board. Candidates have been unhappy about the job application ‘black hole’, and their disappointment has been aimed at the job boards listing those jobs. These newer, ‘more authentic’ sites promise direct interaction with hiring managers, connections with recruiters, and even the chance to vote on the best employers. You could argue that ‘authentic’ really translates in the true or illusory sense that candidates and employers are on an equal footing.

How does authenticity play out for job boards? I think there are a few general areas:

  • Content: Lots of well-written and targeted content can lend validity to the site, and can provide more ‘connection points’ for a candidate. With information that makes sense and is specific to the focus of the job board, the candidate says, ‘ok, this seems real. It’s not fluff’.
  • Interaction: In traditional job boards, interaction is pretty much limited to applying for a job. With a more authentic site, there is real give and take. This can happen in forums, in the comments sections below articles, via direct comments back from employers or job board staff, or via interaction between candidates. If there’s interaction, there is also a likelihood that the site becomes ‘more real’ for the candidate.
  • Voice: This is the fuzziest of the three – but it can have a huge effect on candidate perception. In essence, it’s the attitude of the site, conveyed via visuals and text. I should add that this works if the site conveys a cohesive voice, rather than a babble of conflicting voices. Take a look at AuthenticJobs for a good example.

Note that all of these are reality-based and experience-based. They are how the candidate interacts with the site. So if using your site via the web or mobile device is ‘anonymous’ – in other words, just like every other job board out there – you may find that you’re lacking in authenticity. But if interacting with your site breaks away via unique content, multiple forms of interaction, and a cohesive, strong voice – well, you may find that authenticity is key in making and keeping you competitive.

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