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Jon Wilcox

Sift Media

Technology Correspondent, Sift Media

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Online recruitment: Returning more for less


During these difficult times, your recruitment budget has to give even more ROI, so how can online recruitment methods help to deliver this? Technology correspondent Jon Wilcox reports.

Let’s not pull any punches – the UK jobs market has been decimated in recent months. Vacancies for permanent roles have diminished; the manufacturing sector has crumbled; and let’s not even mention the financial sector. In London alone year-on-year demand for financial professionals has fallen by a disastrous 69%. It all sounds incredibly gloomy, and with good reason: the current UK unemployment rate stands at 2.26m, the highest for over a decade.

In other words, the employment market is a rather hostile environment. It’s not any easier for recruiters, who have already had their budgets slashed during the course of the recession. The proliferation of online recruitment sites offer a guiding light for those looking to plug a hole in their company personnel – but what’s the best approach to take? caught up with Alan Whitford, founder of pan-European recruitment community RCeuro, about where current online recruitment strategies in many companies are going wrong: "Online is still a more cost-effective route for recruitment than traditional print media or recruitment agencies might be, provided you do your advertising or direct sourcing in the right place."


A blended approach

Whitford is quick to point out the importance of preparation and research, stating: "I’ve always believed in a blended approach to recruitment, and it’s always about making sure you do your research and investigation beforehand…it’s no good throwing it out onto a job board if the people you’re trying to reach don’t actually visit that job board."
He’s adamant that increased effectiveness in the use of general technology is key to improving the situation. The adoption of a recruitment management system, regardless of whether it’s one utilised by nearly half of the Fortune 100 list of companies (like SaaS vendor, Taleo), or a more modest operation, is seen by Whitford as an important tenet for improving ROI: "I’ve been on the soapbox for 12 years, preaching that people should be using technology more effectively in recruitment. The way you do that is try and automate the drudge work that’s very time consuming but offers very little return. For example, initial processing of applications; putting CVs coming into your business into a searchable database, so that when you have another opening you search the database before you go to market."
The implementation of strong recruitment management systems isn’t restricted to small or mid-sized companies, either: "Research from one of the major vendors 18 months ago revealed that less than half of the FTSE 100 companies had a proper applicant tracking system in-house…[companies] are just missing a trick.
"Why wouldn’t you have a recruitment management system of some type, where you can bring your CVs in, put them in a searchable database, look at a talent pool before you go out to market, use it as a source of information to do direct sourcing? To me, that’s just common sense, but we’re still struggling with that in both small and large companies. The cost for an applicant tracking recruitment system is really negligible; you could have a really powerful system for literally a few hundred pounds a month."
So if recruitment management systems can be implemented at increasingly modest costs, why aren’t companies running to the vendors and grabbing their copy off the (both real and virtual) shop shelves? It seems that for many in recruitment, the shift to paperless solutions is about as scary as a certain Mr Frederick Kruger tapping on their bedroom windows: "One of the biggest barriers stopping people doing this is a fear of change," says Whitford. "In the HR community there’s a fear of changing away from paper…[but] if you’ve got a recruitment system you can audit your process, you can prove what the decision making criteria are, you can prove what the matching criteria are – I defy anyone who has a box of CVs under their desk to do the same! And don’t even get me onto the data protection side; how many times have you travelled on a train, and watched someone next to you reading CVs?"

Keeping up with the technology

Embracing technology is one tactic current being employed by job boards, including the likes of Monster and Jobsite, which have taken two different approaches to job alert delivery. Monster for instance, has its Target SMS service, which allows job hunters the chance to receive alerts directly on their mobile phones, with additional options to then apply for a vacancy via their mobile-enabled website.
"[Target SMS] is aimed at people who want to send SMS alerts, or people who don’t spend a lot of time in front of a computer like in retail or manufacturing," says product director, James Brian. Further developments are also in the pipeline: "We’ve given our WAP [mobile phone version] website an overhaul, so people with next-generation phones can make an application on that handset. There’s [also an iPhone] app in the pipeline…the idea of the app is you’ll be able to do a whole bunch of functions."

This week has also seen Jobsite jump onto the explosively popular Twitter, launching a service that sends filtered job vacancies to its Twitter followers as direct messages. Commenting on the move, Keith Potts, Jobsite CEO, says: "Our service on Twitter [enables] users to select their own criteria for the jobs they want to receive, including location and salary. They can also choose the frequency that they want to receive new jobs, which will always be sent to them as private tweets."

The move is a complete contrast to Monster – Brian explains his thoughts on social networking websites, including LinkedIn: "I think LinkedIn is a really great site in terms of application…it’s very good for is profiling a company, but it’s not necessarily the best place to get easy introductions of people. It’s more a head-hunter tool than not, in most instances. Unless you’re an active recruiter, it’s only going to get you so far."
It seems that both recruiting outfits (like many others) have heeded the words of Dragon, James Caan, who spoke about adopting new recruiting methods in an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph last May: "I’d suggest using this period to identify better services for your clients. This period of turmoil will have presented clients with the opportunity to explore different ways to recruit, whilst driving down costs. The new methods will offer them high quality candidates at a fraction of the price."
It’s not only software adoption that can improve the ROI of a recruitment drive. Amending the hierarchy and attitude of a company’s corporate website also pays dividends. Here’s a short list of Whitford’s top tips:
  • Make sure you have someone paying attention to your job listings
  • Post all of your jobs on the corporate careers site
  • Make sure the advertised vacancies are current
  • Take down old job listings
  • Make sure you have the meta and keyword tags
Most are common sense, I’m sure you’ll agree. However, improving the position of the careers pages within a corporate site is a must. All too often it seems, finding corporate career vacancies can be like digging your way through to Australia. "The challenge with most corporate career sites is that they’re too far down the food chain on the corporate site…about the fifth or sixth click in you can actually get to a real job," says Whitford. "That means most search engines never find the actual job. So get a careers button on the homepage, and have real jobs show up at most at the second click, because otherwise they won’t show up."

4 Responses

  1. It’s time for change….but there is still a place for the old s
    Having read the article and comments i can say alot of sound advice has been given to employers – they really should all have a recruitment management system of some kind. Direct recruitment methods are also key although i would say there are more cost effective ways than just going to a job board direct.

    Despite being a primarily online recruiter myself i do believe there is a place for the old style walk in agency as not everyone has a computer at home even now. Hopefully some of these agencies will survive.

    With regards to low cost methods, again i do believe recruiters need to improve their offerings but does this have to be in the format of a low cost, fixed fee structure as we see with many online recruiters out there? This just leaves clients open to being badly treated and still x amount of pounds out of pocket from the upfont payment!

    We have tried to make our structure more flexible with a range of packages on offer. All clients receive a high level of service and most importantly they still won’t need to pay us until after the candidate starts.

    Grant Bodie
    Mount Recruitment
    01524 854 444

  2. Online Recruitment
    Thank you Jon for an excellent interpretation of our conversation. If anyone would like to enter into a longer and robust debate, feel free to get in touch, either via HRZone or directly.

    Alan Whitford
    [email protected]
    +44 7971 864620

  3. Use this time to re-engineer your offerring
    Great article and I certainly agree about using this current period to re-engineer your offerring. It was frankly more good luck than good planning that we decided to re-engineer our offerring to the property and construction sectors – we were already underway when the recession hit.

    But I’m convinced that recruiters trying to do the “same old same old” as we come out of this recession (particularly if we emerge slowly) – will be struggling, and quite rightly so.

    Tim Latham

  4. Companies are beginning to make more effect use of online recrui
    As a recruitment company we knew that this year was looking like being a tough one, and while it’s true that many of our bigger clients have significantly reduced the amount of staff they’re recruiting, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of jobs we’re recruiting for over the year so far.

    I can only attribute this to the fact that we operate a purely online service, an area we’ve been specialising in for years, and that those companies that are still recruiting have really started to look around for alternatives to their traditional methods, and found that online recruitment presents the best option.

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Jon Wilcox

Technology Correspondent, Sift Media

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