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Targeting costs in the online job hunt


Target recruitment costs on the world wide webThe internet is one of the first places you look when trying to find a new job, but Louise Druce examines how HR can make sure its online presence is not only attractive but cost-effective.


Most companies allow online jobseekers the option to apply for roles through their website but when it comes to sifting through CVs, is the mouse more cost-effective than paper?


"A couple of our clients had focussed on jazzing up the career section of their website before thinking about putting a system behind the scenes to manage the recruitment process."

Richard Doherty, Jobpartners

Just over 40% of jobseekers are using the web as the primary tool in their search, according to talent management solutions firm Taleo, and a quick scout across the search engines reveals why. Enter 'jobs' in Google and you have access to 871,000,000 possibilities. And if you've got your eye on a particular company, chances are they'll have a careers section where you can find out more about whether it really is the place for you.

Of course, there are benefits for the company as well. Specialist online recruitment firms and social networking tools are among the many different paths being used to get the brand message out there on a global scale.

"The wider both employers and job-seekers can choose, the better the chances of finding the right match," says ClickaJob chief executive Yngve Traberg. "To do that through traditional means such as newspapers is not only time consuming, it very often only considers a fraction of the options. One size never fits all."

It can also be much cheaper to advertise online, with the wide range of options of where to make your presence known. And those aren't the only savings to be made. By recruiting through the web, you can cut down on the amount of time and energy staff spend on admin and interviews.

If the job fits…


Erecruitment: Pros and cons


  • Speed up processes and streamline administration.
  • Manage vacancies and co-ordinate processes.
  • Help handle high volume of applications consistently.
  • Reduce recruitment costs.
  • Reach a wide or niche pool of applicants.
  • Make internal jobs known across multiple sites and divisions.
  • Provide more tailored information or self-assessment.


  • Limits the applicant audience.
  • Cause application overload with unsuitable candidates.
  • Danger of discrimination through limited keywords use.
    Make the process impersonal.
  • Bad site design or technical difficulties put people off.
  • Competitors having higher search engine ranking.
  • Provide too little or inappropriate information.

Source: CIPD

Clothing firm FatFace claims to have saved £322,000 in savings per year through online recruitment. It decided to take the plunge when the number of job applications it received tripled over the last two years. Aside from the administrative burden, the cost per hire for head office staff alone stood at over £3,000.

"At the time, it was clear the delay in hiring staff was costing the company valuable time and money," says FatFace HR director Mark Powell. "Our routes to market seemed limited and costly, with heavy reliance on recruitment agencies and paper-based applications."

The firm used software by StepStone to create a central candidate database and integrated all elements of the recruitment process from job posting and applications to selection, agency and job board management. It is also logs the details of people interested in its annual open day for prospective employees so the company can send information ahead of the event and keep them posted on future job opportunities.

Erecruitment can also offer a more effective screening service than relying on one person going through a stack of CVs. Nick Thomson, solutions development director at HR service provider Ceridian, cites the example of drinks retailer Threshers. Basic numeracy is a must for anyone applying for the company's managerial roles so it put psychometric tests in place at the first stage of the online application process to weed out unsuitable candidates, which also meant not having to pay to bring a large number of people in for tests at a later stage.

"You can't tell from a basic CV if people have the skills required," says Thomson. "A lot of companies don't spend the money upfront but do the first cull, a review of the candidates and then test a few. By doing it the other way, the company has to conduct fewer interviews and the people are of a higher calibre."

However, Richard Doherty, vice president of operations at people management technology firm Jobpartners, warns that the online process could be a cost inhibitor if you don't have the right systems in place. "A couple of our clients had focussed on jazzing up the career section of their website before thinking about putting a system behind the scenes to manage the recruitment process," he explains. "They were overwhelmed with applications and the system couldn't cope so they had to shut that bit of the site down. As a consumer brand, they were scared that the fact they weren't even able to respond to say 'thank you for your application' was going to rub off badly on the brand."

Measure by measure

What the right software can do successfully, however, is measure how effective recruitment campaigns are. Doherty says in the past, many projects were measured primarily on costs and time-to-hire. These metrics are still used to a certain extent but companies are looking at the bigger employee picture of talent management. For example, when measuring costs per hire, driving these down may not be a good thing. Companies are instead measuring costs against the quality of the process – the number of good candidates, how many people were hired, how long they stayed with the company, how they move around the company etc.

"Once an employee is hired, it's not the end of the story," says Doherty. "Companies need to start measuring objectives and performance to link in to how well they do in recruitment and how well the person does when they are onboard. It's going beyond the recruitment process."

Thomson also sees a lot more firms becoming cleverer about how they are drawing candidates onto their sites to measure success, for example, pay-per-click adverts, online recruitment sites such as Monster and ads on social networking sites such as Facebook.


"Crucially, the software has to tell you automatically which of your ad spends is yielding candidates so you can link that into retention."

Nick Thomson, Ceridian

"It's about selling yourself but, crucially, the software has to tell you automatically which of your spends is yielding candidates so you can link that into retention," says Thomson. "For example, if you recruit someone from Facebook, how long do they stay with you versus someone recruited from Monster? You can start to weigh up retention and the quality of the candidates as well as volume."

However, Doherty says there will always be the need for the human touch in the recruitment process. "I'm not suggesting that software replaces the need for a good recruiter or line manger to be able to find the best talent," he adds. "Software is an enabler so those people can have more time to spot the talent and not be so focussed on the administration side of the process."



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