Building the TalentBond Architecture – Part I

The core of the TalentBond solution is a powerful set of tools that deliver a fully featured and stylish careers search experience – from search to apply, featuring geographic searches, multiple languages, mapping and mobile support.

The solution was designed to feel part of the customer’s careers website. The search components are styled to match the corporate brand guidelines and tailored to integrate with the feel of the surrounding pages. At no point does the candidate leave the customer’s domain until the ‘apply’ button is pressed and the ATS invoked.

In reality, the search components (for both the desktop and mobile experience), are ‘injected’ into the customer’s site at the point the page is loaded. This uses the same idea as many popular tools – It is not uncommon to see a pan-able, zoom-able Google Map within a company’s ‘Contact Us’ page, or a Facebook ‘Like’ button at the foot of a blog post. Both appear to be part of the site on which they appear, but are really quite separate. The TalentBond components use this same mechanism to appear part of our customers’ website.

Here’s why we chose to build our product in this way.

The existing methods for delivering search functionality to a careers site can broadly be sorted into the following categories: Offloaded search; IFrame components and Server-side applications.

The first and the simplest is Offloaded Search. In other words, the candidate clicks on a ‘search now’ button and is taken away from the corporate jobs site to the ATS provider’s search page. There is often very limited scope for corporate branding, the page immediately feels different and the domain is no longer jobsatyourcompany.com.

IFrame components bring the same search functionality found in the offloaded search method into the corporate site. They are easily implemented (a few lines of code are pasted into the website where the components should appear) but are often simple and styled plainly, leading to a ‘jarring’ feel for the candidate; the ‘job search’ part of the otherwise highly polished website feels limited, clunky and generally like it doesn’t belong in the site.

The real ‘gold standard’ is to develop a bespoke and rich experience as an intrinsic part of the careers site, as a server-side application. Every aspect of the way in which roles are displayed and searched can be defined and woven into the careers site to give a seamless, rich, fully featured and stylish candidate experience.

Sadly, the downsides of the server-side application approach are complexity, risk and cost, which are indeed the reasons the IFrame and Offloaded Search methods exist as alternatives at all.

The ‘magic bullet’ would be a server-side application that mitigated complexity, risk and cost. Approaching this problem as a solution architect, what is needed is an off the shelf product – one that took the benefits of the server-side application and turned its implementation into a mere ‘cookie cutter’ exercise. (Why commission a programmer to code a bespoke email reader when we can just buy Microsoft Outlook?). This idea is more complex than it seems, however. To integrate with an existing website means to integrate with the technology it currently uses. There are countless content management systems (CMS) in production use from Joomla and WordPress at the consumer level to specialist careers site products at the corporate level. Each offer the concept of ‘widget’ or ‘module’ integration, and the magic bullet product would have to offer some kind of integration with each of those if the aim is to reduce bespoke coding. From a programming language perspective, one could target PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, JSP or ColdFusion and still have nothing to offer the customer with a twice-inherited three-mergers-ago legacy system running on a custom Java back end.

Ultimately, this is why we engineered the TalentBond product to work the way it does. We integrate with the customer’s website through snippets of Javascript code only. The underlying CMS, server scripting language or operating system is unimportant as long as those snippets of code appear where they need to within the final HTML page. As the functional part is centrally hosted, the only bespoke ‘code’ we need to write for each customer is the part that tailors the look and feel when displayed on the page – the stylesheet and layout templates.

Building on this foundation allows us to combine the features of the server-side approach with the low-risk and easy implementation of the IFrame approach. Rather than see the delivery method as an ‘alternative’ to the fully bespoke solution we see it as a benefit in itself; once the underlying website technology is of no relevance we can focus our efforts on where they are more useful – in striving to achieve the perfect candidate experience.

 


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