A Ferrari website with Mini Engine

Foreword: Whilst all of our NORA finalists and winners have demonstrated they deliver fanastic candidate experience, and the most usable design, one aspect is often either overlooked, or given less priority. The performance of any website, in strictly technical terms, is what search engines look at, and what their bots will experience. The SEO performance of the content, the spead of response from the webserver, the filesizes of images displayed, and of course the accessibility of the site for external tools to read and make sense of the content. These are all criteria up which your site is being judged all the time, whether you know it or not. So having a website that looks like a Ferrari, ideally should be matched with the performance of a supercar.

In this report by Keith Devon, of Highrise Digital, he takes a closer look at the website performance of our agency finalists this year.

Stephen O’Donnell



NORA 2022 website performance review

The recent NORA awards showcased some of the best websites in the recruitment industry.

The sites are all excellent examples of design and user experience, but there is a category where they don’t quite live up to expectations; performance (i.e. page speed).

Over at Highrise Digital, we recently conducted some research into the performance of the Recruiter’s Hot 100 websites.

Stephen asked me to do a similar analysis for the NORA finalists and below I’ll share the findings.

It’s worth saying that this analysis only looks at a few technical aspects of a website and is not a reflection on the efficacy of the website as a whole.

It’s possible that websites with very low performance scores actually perform very well in other metrics.

Summary of key findings

  • At 36, the average home page performance is very poor.
  • None of the 20 finalists achieved a ‘Good’ performance score.
  • Smaller agencies have better homepage performance scores than larger ones.
  • 25% of homepages pass Google’s Core Web Vitals test.
  • Job page performance is also poor, with an average score of 40.
  • Image optimisation is the biggest opportunity for performance gains.
  • All but one of the finalists had valid structured data on their job pages.
  • None of the finalists have job-specific social sharing images for their job pages.
  • Two of the finalists have no social sharing images for their jobs.
  • Volcanic is the biggest vendor with 50% of the finalists on their platform.


Average homepage Google “Performance” score is poor

The average performance of the finalist homepages is 36/100.

0 to 49 is deemed to be ‘Poor’ by Google and should be a concern for recruitment agencies where user experience and search rankings are important.

In fact, none of the finalists received a ‘Good’ score (90+) in our tests.

We wondered if there was a correlation between agency size and performance. We took the three NORA categories – Small, Large, and National – and found that there is a reverse correlation between size and home page performance.

  • Small – 44.25
  • Large – 37.5
  • National – 23.17

Core web vitals

CHA Recruitment pass the Core Web Vitals test

Only 25% of finalist websites are passing the Core Web Vitals assessment

Google introduced Core Web Vitals (CWV) as a way of measuring perceived website performance.

In many ways, perceived performance – how fast a website feels – is more important than actual performance.

A website that feels sluggish is a poor user experience and users are more likely to go elsewhere.

At time of writing, Google measures 6 CWV metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint
  • First Input Delay
  • Cumulative Layout Shift
  • First Contentful Paint
  • Interaction to Next Paint
  • Time to First Byte

These are fairly technical (read more here) but they all affect how a user will perceive the speed of a web page.

As you can see in the data, it’s possible to pass the CWV assessment with a poor overall performance score.

Of the 20 NORA finalist homepages:

  • 5 passed
  • 14 failed
  • 1 didn’t have enough data

Job page performance is slightly better, but still ‘Poor’ on average

The job pages, those that detail a single job posting, also achieve poor scores overall, with an average score of 40.

Job pages tend to be less ‘heavy’, with less content and fewer images, graphics, etc, than home pages and therefore the slightly higher score is to be expected.

However, these scores are still classed as ‘Poor’ by Google and could therefore be affecting the rankings of these job posts in organic search and Google for Jobs.

Image optimisation is the biggest opportunity for improving performance scores

The scores themselves are interesting, but what’s more useful and actionable are the issues causing the low performance scores.

When you run a Google PageSpeed test, they will suggest a list of ‘Opportunities’ where performance can be improved.

The ‘Opportunities’ section for the https://mccarthyrecruitment.com/ report

We collected the top 5 ‘opportunities’ for each home page and ranked them by how often they occurred. Here is what we found:

  • Serve images in next-gen formats – 19
  • Reduce unused JavaScript – 18
  • Defer offscreen images – 14
  • Eliminate render-blocking resources – 13
  • Efficiently encode images – 8
  • Properly size images – 8
  • Reduce unused CSS – 7
  • Enable text compression – 4
  • Reduce initial server response time – 3
  • Avoid serving legacy JavaScript to modern browsers – 1

You can learn more about each of these opportunities here.

Image optimisation is by far the single biggest opportunity for recruitment agencies to improve their performance. 

  • Serve images in next-gen formats – 19
  • Defer offscreen images – 14
  • Efficiently encode images – 8
  • Properly size images – 8

Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest for web developers to improve; images can be automatically resized, compressed and reformatted on upload to a server.

Lazy-loading images (Defer offscreen images) is also an easy fix now that most browsers support the loading=”lazy” attribute.

Nearly all of the finalists have valid “Google for Jobs” data on their jobs pages

Of the twenty sites tested, one had no jobs listed and only one other did not have valid structured data for the Job Posting schema.

Google for Jobs requires that web pages have valid structured data so that they can index your jobs correctly. 

Find out more about structured data required for Google for Jobs.

None of the finalists have job-specific social sharing images for their job pages

As part of the study we put each of the single job pages through LinkedIn’s Post Inspector tool.

This tool will show you a preview of what will be displayed when you share a web page URL on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn (and Facebook, Twitter, etc) will often show an image thumbnail when a link is shared in a post.

The image that is displayed can be specified by the web page or left for the social network to choose.

Of the 19 single job pages that we tested (1 site didn’t list jobs):

  • 10 displayed a sitewide image, such as a logo
  • 4 displayed a generic image relevant to ‘jobs’ or ‘hiring’
  • 3 had no image
  • 1 showed a low quality image of a consultant
  • 1 had an image specific to the job sector

None of the sites tested have job-specific images; i.e. an image that refers directly to the job that is being shared.

This is a potential opportunity for an agency to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive advantage.

Volcanic is the big winner with 50% of the finalists

Our final test was to look at who built each of the sites.

Of the 20 finalists:

  1. 10 were on Volcanic
  2. 3 were built on Attrax
  3. 1 on Recruiterweb
  4. 1 built on WordPress by Bring Digital
  5. 5 unknown

And the winners of our technical awards are…

We added the total scores across all four Google PageSpeed metrics (Performance, SEO, Accessibility, and Best Practices), for the home page and job page, to reach a ‘Technical’ score for each website.

Spencer Ogden https://www.spencer-ogden.com/ 692
Charles Hunter Associates https://www.charecruitment.com/ 667
Core Talent https://www.coretalent.co.uk/ 639
Hydrogen Group https://www.hydrogengroup.com/ 638
Red https://www.redglobal.com/ 632
Pod Talent https://www.pod-talent.com/ 628
Experis https://www.experis.co.uk/ 609
Skillfinder https://www.skillfindergroup.com/ 607
Morson https://www.morson.com/ 580
KHR https://khr.co.uk/ 570
Daniel Owen https://www.danielowen.co.uk/ 553
Harvey Nash https://www.harveynash.co.uk/ 544
Barclay Simpson https://www.barclaysimpson.com/ 542
Robert Half https://www.roberthalf.co.uk/ 534
Macdonald & Company https://www.macdonaldandcompany.com/ 532
Macildowie https://www.macildowie.com/ 509
Harnham https://www.harnham.com/ 497
NES Fircroft https://www.nesfircroft.com/ 491
McCarthy Recruitment https://mccarthyrecruitment.com/ 489


(LHI aren’t included because they don’t have single job pages)

Best small recruitment agency website performance

🥇 Charles Hunter Associates https://www.charecruitment.com/ 667
🥈 Core Talent https://www.coretalent.co.uk/ 639
🥉 Pod Talent https://www.pod-talent.com/ 628


Best large recruitment agency website performance

🥇 Hydrogen Group https://www.hydrogengroup.com/ 638
🥈 Red https://www.redglobal.com/ 632
🥉 Experis https://www.experis.co.uk/ 609


Best national recruitment agency website performance

🥇 Spencer Ogden https://www.spencer-ogden.com/ 692
🥈 Morson https://www.morson.com/ 580
🥉 Harvey Nash https://www.harveynash.co.uk/ 544


Overall winner: 👑 Spencer Ogden 


Technical performance is just one factor in the success of any website. The data proves that it’s possible to have a subjectively ‘great’ website while being quite poor from a performance perspective.

With relatively low hanging fruit, such as image optimisation, web performance seems to be an opportunity for recruitment agencies to gain a competitive advantage.

It will be interesting to see how web performance trends over time.

Will recruiters continue to favour ‘wow factor’ over performance? Or will Google’s war on slow websites convince the industry to take performance more seriously?

About the author

Keith Devon is one half of Highrise Digital, a small web team focused on building high-quality, open-source websites for the recruitment industry.