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HR on a budget: Getting more bang for your e-buck

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E-recruitmentDespite the downturn, hiring must continue, bringing a change in behaviours as recruiters quickly becoming more aggressive about the return they expect from their investment. Annie Hayes finds out whether the thrifty way to recruit is online.


Online and on top

David Hurst, managing director of Onrec.com and Online Recruitment magazine, says that in the downturn companies still need to recruit core staff as well as manage the interest from those that apply directly. This poses a challenge for recruiters regarding how to get the most from their spend.

Richard Bray, sales director for specialist HR jobs site Changeboard, says that the credit crunch has put direct pressure on HR recruitment to become more aggressive about shifting their job advertising spend online.

“Today, we’re speaking to a surge of new recruiters on a daily basis because they realise that in order to keep up with their competitors, they can’t afford to ignore specialist job sites any longer,” he says. “The tide started to change a couple of years ago, but now the credit crunch has pushed web to the forefront as recruiters become more digitally savvy and aware. We’re in a fortunate position to be riding that wave.”

“The credit crunch has pushed web to the forefront as recruiters become more digitally savvy and aware.”

Richard Bray, Changeboard

Such has been the shift, Changeboard has almost doubled its monthly unique users to 64,204 (from 35,070 in October 2007). A key reason for their success has been the immediate cost-saving advantages that online presents:

“Speed of recruitment is key, you have to wait for a magazine to be printed for example, but that’s not the case online. There’s a wider audience too, less budget spend and a more consistent period of time in which the advert will appear – usually about a month – and there’s a number of sites to advertise across too,” explains Bray.

Julian Acquari, managing director of Monster UK & Ireland, agrees and says that with offline the chances of capturing the right people at the right time is much reduced: “You’ve got to rely on people buying a newspaper, for example, on a particular day.”

The actual costs are also appealing. Bray says that online advertising costs around £400 for a monthly featured advert and that the equivalent in the HR trade press could cost as much as £5,000 for a half page, colour slot. Acquari equates the differential to about a tenth of print costs. It is certainly attractive.

And it gets better, says Bray, who adds there’s the advantage of measuring the return on investment too: “With print you get the published circulation figures but you can’t tell whether the readers have actually opened it or not. With online – some sites are independently audited which is totally measurable and you can see how many applicants have applied, how many have specifically opened that page etc.

“On the flip side if a job has been viewed huge amounts of times but not been applied for there is a problem, but this knowledge can be helpful especially if you can change the advert over the course of its advertising duration – most sites will let you do this for no extra cost, some will charge.”

Emerging technologies

“You will soon be able to see what kinds of educational qualifications others have in certain roles and get tips on how to move from one function to the other.”

Julian Acquari, Monster UK & Ireland

Acquari says that the modern jobseeker is much more comfortable using the web than ever before: “They know how to set a homepage up and find recruitment websites very easily, and at a time that suits them best. Over the last 10 years, there’s been a huge migration from using offline to online.”

This in turn, says Acquari, has made today’s jobseeker much more savvy – they decide what kind of organisation they want to work for: “Therefore they’re looking at the brand more – on Monster you can put up a webcast to show the working environment, for example,” says Acquari.

It’s a message that has hit home with the Royal Opera House. Speaking as part of a podcast published on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) website in July last year, Steven Foulston, the then HR manager, explained what they did:

“The first thing really we’d say is listen to this, go away, click on YouTube, type in ‘Royal Opera House careers’, turn your sound card up, sit back, enjoy. There’s about six videos, each of about 50 seconds long that are a little bit cheeky, a little bit irreverent, a little bit different to what perhaps you would expect from The Royal Opera House.”

And it’s not just employers that are taking advantage of the newest technologies; candidates too are managing whole careers online. Acquari refers to Monster’s re-launch and says that candidates will soon be able to benchmark themselves against others in the same industry so they can compete more effectively:

“We’ve been collecting information over the last 10 years to enable us to do that. You will soon be able to see what kinds of educational qualifications others have in certain roles and get tips on how to move from one function to the other.”

For employers, the message is that online hiring is much more than just posting jobs – it’s about positioning and branding – and Bray says that this has been enabled by larger inventory and greater scope to develop image via enhanced listings, button and banner ad-ons: “It’s more sophisticated. It’s not necessarily new technology.”

Using Web 2.0 and social networking to hire

Hurst believes there are two arguments to the social networking argument: “On the one hand you’ve got to take advantage of the fact that there are a great deal of eyeballs looking at social networking sites; you should be able to advertise or wave a flag to say you should want to come and work for us. The other argument is that people are there to social network and just that.” Hurst says one way of getting round this is to target the right sites.

Bray agrees and says that LinkedIn, the professional networking site, is popularly used by recruitment consultants such as Michael Page: “I’m not so sure about Facebook. Candidates also need to be aware of how they profile themselves.”

” On the one hand you’ve got to take advantage of the fact that there are a great deal of eyeballs looking at social networking sites.”

David Hurst, Onrec.com

Web 2.0 does bring a host of advantages and it’s been brought in-house as part of the re-launch for Monster. Acquari says that as part of the new look site you will get sent five similar jobs when you apply for one, for instace. “You can also build a profile online and get jobs sent to MyMonster profile. You get a different personalised homepage with engaging content.”

Richard Mound, an associate partner of human capital management at IBM, explains the benefits in the CIPD’s podcast: “I think perhaps the most important part of Web 2.0 in a recruitment frame is actually creating the attractive workplace to have people to want to come and join and, in the Web 2.0 world, where communities are formed and people are sharing information and voting and scoring people, if you have a reputation for driving and providing a very attractive, flexible workplace you’ll actually get more talent wanting to work for you.”

Recruiting online may be cheaper, speedier and a better return on investment, yet the old principles still apply. Bray says that a “well-worded advert” is still the rule and tempting someone to leave their safe and secure job has never been harder than in the midst of a credit crunch.

Acquari agrees and advises: “Make the job as interesting and as engaging as possible.” Hurst adds that recruiters should also remember to utilise what they’ve got in a downturn, including posting jobs and enhancing their own corporate website.

The credit crunch brings different rules and a new game – online recruiting is meeting the challenge admirably and those that are working with the newest technologies are making full advantage of their investment.


Keep an eye out for the second part of our ‘HR on a budget’ series next month.

One Response

  1. It’s all about working smarter
    Online recruiting is here to stay, and for most candidates, an element of their recruitment experience will take place online. But it is not always the ‘cheap’ answer for the client – although the ad rates might be very appealing, the reality is that you will be inundated with ‘aspirational’ candidates, particular in a receding market like we have at the moment. Money saved on advertising could be wasted on the time taken to wade through CVs and set up interviews. Not to mention that you might miss good candidates amongst the deluge, or equally concerning the candidate experience may be so ‘diluted’ that your brand may suffer as a result. Don’t underestimate the importance (and time involved) of treating rejections with the appropriate degree of respect to protect your public image.

    Outsourcing recruitment (Recruitment Process Outsourcing RPO) is soaring in popularity at the moment, as typically you can save in excess of 25% on traditional hiring rates, but you can also improve the recruitment process at the same time. Online recruitment advertising might be good value, but it might only be part of the answer when you look at your recruitment strategy as a whole.”

    The solution may therefore be to work with companies or individuals that know how to identify, maximise and manage response from the vast array of online site that promise the world but may literally deliver the world to your inbox! Its all about working smarter.

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Annie Hayes

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