Have You Updated Your Lab Website Recently?

3 min read · By Academic Positions · Published 4 weeks ago

Whether you’re looking to buy a new couch, for a place to stay on your next vacation, or for a new and challenging job opportunity, the first thing you’ll do is head to Google. 

Consumers are used to having access to any and all information. They want information from a variety of sources—direct from companies, unbiased testimonials, and other news about the product or service.  

Job seekers are no different. The more information they can find, the better. When active job seekers find open positions, one of the first things they’ll do is Google you.

You want to be sure the information on your website is current and reflects your most compelling work. Spending time on this type of recruitment marketing may feel unnecessary or secondary to continuing important research. However, without a talented team of academics, your research (and reputation) will suffer. The best way to attract top talent? A thoughtful approach to recruitment.

The importance of updating your website—regularly 

Potential job candidates will likely visit your website for three reasons: 

  1. They are actively looking for a job, found a relevant open position at your university, and want to find out more information about the kind of work you do. 
  2. They heard about your work through an academic journal, colleague, or news article, and want to learn more about it.
  3. They are passively looking for new opportunities and heard enough about you to compel them to look up your group. 

In each of these cases, candidates already have a basic awareness of you and your work. When they visit your website, they’re looking to deepen their knowledge and decide if your lab could be a good place for them to take the next step in their career. If the first thing they see on your site is outdated information, it might also be the last thing they see. Why should they bother reading more when the information might no longer be accurate?

Website visitors form their opinions about a website in less than one second. Mike McDermott, President of the digital marketing firm Bash Foo, writes, “50 milliseconds is all you have to convince visitors to stay on and explore your website.” If the first thing they see is announcements from several years prior, job seekers will assume everything on your site is out of date—including current vacancies. 

Keeping your website up to date will also help more potential job seekers find you by improving your search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of improving how your website ranks in the list of search engine results in order to bring you more traffic. There are a lot of things Google takes into account when ranking search results, but one of them is how often the site is updated.

Statics sites run the risk of being deemed “dead” or “inactive” by search engines. With millions of websites, why feature an outdated or inactive website on the first or second page of search results? If you regularly update your lab website, not only will you leave users with a good impression, you’ll also improve your rankings in search engines, making your group more visible to potential new members.

What to include on your website 

In addition to a clean interface and intuitive design, your website should include as much relevant and engaging information as possible. At a baseline, this should include the group’s publications, current group members, and any vacancies you have. It is very important that these three sections are always kept up to date so that potential job seekers can easily find your latest research, see who’s in your group, and know if you’re currently hiring.

In addition to current lab members, you should also include a section of lab alumni and a brief note about what they went on to do after leaving your lab. Potential PhD and postdoc applicants are very interested in their potential supervisor’s placement record. Providing this information is a way to demonstrate your mentorship skills and helps potential applicants understand if your group will put them on track to achieve their career goals. 

You should also look for vibrant, compelling pictures to add to your website. Make sure that there’s a picture of each current lab member, as well as other group pictures from around the lab, conferences, or lab social events. You can even include pictures of the campus to give potential applicants the full picture of what it’s like to work in your lab. In addition to helping people see themselves in your group, having quality pictures also help improve your search engine ranking.

Ensure your website is comprehensive with plenty of links to useful university resources. This can include links to your social media channels, resources for international students, or links to information about your location.

By investing in your lab website and keeping it up-to-date, you make it easier for candidates to learn about your work and resources. The more excited and engaged candidates become, the more likely they’ll submit a quality application. 

Now go update your website!

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