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Switched on to e-recruiting. By Rob Lewis

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Switched on to e-recruiting

Online recruiting is now commonplace in the job market but have companies got past the basics to access its full potential? Rob Lewis finds out.


As the online recruitment market matures and evolves, more and more companies are bringing their e-recruitment in-house. But rising costs-per-click mean it’s more important than ever that HR knows how to get value for money when it comes to hiring online.

Online recruitment: Pros and cons


  • Speeds up recruitment cycle.

  • Reduces recruitment costs.

  • Reaches wide pool of applicants.

  • Handles high volume of applicants.

  • More tailored information.


  • Limits applicant audience.

  • Applicant overload if job specs poor.

  • Discrimination danger with search tools.

  • Impact on ‘cultural fit’.

  • Turn-off if site badly designed.

Source: CIPD

As far as internet developments are concerned, online recruitment has been around a long time now – two of the largest job boards, Monster and Jobserve, are 13 years old this year. No wonder that last year the recruitment sector was the biggest spender in online advertising, notching up over £100 million in the first half alone. Yet while the market may be heavily saturated, current figures show activity is still on the increase.

“Online recruitment is nowhere near peaking, but I think we’re approaching the second stage now,” says Justin Hobday, director of executive search firm Harvey Nash. “Initially, it was just an extra channel but there’s been such a massive growth in the number of sites, we’re now at the stage where we have to understand which are the most appropriate.”

Tripping over the long tail

In the beginning, online recruitment was a matter of volume over quality. It was used mostly for sales and retail jobs, although the amount of time techies spent surfing the internet meant the IT profession was an early area of success. Only in recent years have we seen the emergence of the ‘long tail’ – a horde of specialist sites dealing with very specifically targeted audiences – and some of them include the sort of executives who are looking for work at the top end of the pay scale.

But with so many boards on offer, picking the right sight can be tricky. Three months ago, Harvey Nash asked 1,000 executives what sites they went to when looking for work and the results were surprising. “There are well-marketed websites that aren’t effective and, conversely, there are some websites which aren’t very well known but provide much better results,” says Hobday.

The problem is compounded by the fact most sites don’t present recruiters with sufficient information about their users. For now, employers should be measuring the sites against their own metrics, such as cost-per-hire, to ensure they’re using the best channel.

In a worst case scenario, businesses will be wasting money as well as damaging the brand. Simply advertising a certain job on the wrong site can in itself portray a company in a bad light. Similarly, poorly worded adverts, lack of feedback and concerns that the vacancies aren’t ‘real’ were all common complaints in Harvey Nash’s investigation.

Despite these dangers, the benefits are more than persuasive. If you use an agency, you’ll be limited by their database. If you use print media, you’ll be limited by their readership levels, with the added disadvantage that the advert effectively dies shortly after publication. With online advertising you can reach a very broad range of people, both geographically and from a skill-set perspective, and get responses within 24 hours. It’s more convenient for applicants too.

However, Hobday cautions that an additional risk is that businesses can become the victims of their own success. Employers can be swamped with candidates, CVs can get lost and replies won’t get sent out. It’s part of the reason why e-recruitment software is becoming increasingly popular.

Managing the workflow

“Job boards are only a small part of e-recruitment,” says Richard Doherty, vice president of UK operations at people relationship management company Jobpartners.

As more and more of the bigger brands have included job boards as a part of their web presence, implementing some sort of internal e-recruitment management system has become a necessity. The smarter firms began doing this around five years ago but functionality has progressed considerably since then.

Top tips for e-recruitment

  • Integrate with other methods so recruitment tools work in harmony.

  • Evaluate and monitor use. Get feedback from applicants about the process.

  • Keep content fresh.

  • Avoid jargon and company speak in advertisements.

  • Decide how to deal with unsolicited applications.

  • Provide contact numbers in obvious places in case of technical problems.

  • Ensure the site is accessible.

  • Research the most appropriate job board to host vacancies.

  • Make it easy for search engines to find your website.
  • Source: CIPD

    For example, a line manager can log onto the system, which will have considerable IT security built-in at every stage, and put a requisition in for new staff. The system will forward this for authorisation, after which the system will advertise the vacancy across multiple channels such as the company website, universities, job boards, and the intranet, to name but a few possibilities. Agencies and the print media can be added in as part of the mix depending on the role.

    Potential candidates will then be directed to the corporate website and initiate an ‘experience rich’ application process that might include a username, password protected account, interview schedule, job alerts, a personalised thank you and so on. Post-application, the same system can mange the short-listing phase, rejections, offers, letter of engagement and contractual details.

    It gives a shine to every aspect of your online recruitment, facilitates joined-up HR and allows a company to build-up its own massive database of potential future recruits. For jobs at the lower end of the spectrum, it can even include basic psychometric testing online. Doherty knows of a few banks that even have automated criminal background checking built-in.

    “It’s a million miles away from just offering to accept e-mailed CVs,” Doherty says. “But if you look down the FTSE 100 companies, there are lots of them that do no more than that.”

    The future is here, it’s just not equally distributed

    The spread of such systems and technology is probably inevitable. It may be true, as Hobday believes, that the face-to-face assessment will never go away, but it looks like it’s about to be supplemented by a lot of other initiatives.

    Recruiting quality staff will always be a challenge and as the discipline of candidate relationship management develops, dynamic applicants will expect this kind of approach from winning companies.

    Some HR traditionalists may balk at how such systems delegate some of their traditional responsibilities outside of the department. But that’s just one way of looking at it. In practice, it may mean HR ends up offering employment support and advice to a wider section of management than ever before – and that can’t ever be a bad thing.

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