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What is online recruitment?

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HR Portal logoIn this piece written for HR Zone, David Silverman, Managing Director of online recruitment specialists HR Portal looks at some of the key options for those considering advertising online for the first time, and offers some advice on avoiding possible pitfalls.


Online recruitment uses the power of the internet to match people to jobs. Fundamentally, it is about advertising vacancies on either job sites or corporate websites. At this very basic level it is particularly effective at getting a high level of response. While it may generate hundreds more applications than traditional print advertising, simply attracting more candidates is only part of the job. The current view is that truly effective online recruitment could be as low as 10% of the top blue-chip corporate companies.

The real strength and power of online recruitment, when done properly, lie in harnessing internet technology to not just attract candidates but to deal with them too. In this sense it is also about streamlining the recruitment process – so busy HR departments can give a better recruitment service to their colleagues in finance, marketing, sales and manufacturing. In addition, it frees up more of their time for more value-added tasks.

A specialist software provider such as HR Portal can develop bespoke application programmes for recruiters that will save time, effort and money. They can automate the pre-selection process by setting ‘killer questions’ (which only the top candidates will answer correctly), profiling and scoring, psychometric tests and automatic CV scans to look for key words such as qualifications and experience.

What are the benefits of online recruitment over traditional recruitment?

There are many benefits to be had by recruiting online – here are a few:

  1. Wide geographical reach Advertising online opens up a much wider candidate pool than advertising in print. This gives you a much better chance of finding the right candidate for the job. Note, however, this is only a benefit if sifting, sorting and grading tools are applied to the applications coming in. Otherwise, you’ll have hundreds to go through manually which becomes a liability. As we said, the advertising is only part of the effective online recruitment.

  2. Speed Jobs posted online go live in literally minutes and candidates can – and do – respond immediately. HR Portal has a great statistic from one of its clients HFC Bank: from the vacancy appearing online to the candidate appearing in the interview room took just three hours. While this was an exception, it proves it can be done. For companies needing to recruit staff quickly to handle extra work, cover sickness, leave or other staff shortages, the option to advertise, select and appoint people within (typically) 48 hours is a huge bonus.

  3. Lower Cost This may surprise you but technology in online recruitment is not expensive. By saving on time, design and print costs and targeting precisely the best sites for the best candidates, online recruitment is a very cost-effective option. Not only that, but the hours saved through automating the pre-selection process represent a considerable cost cut in terms of HR time needed to get candidates to the interview stage. Suddenly, HR staff have time to do more productive things.

  4. Automating the Process The pre-selection process can be tailored to individual companies’ needs. This way, you can sift and sort candidates who meet your exact needs. Not only does this save time (and cost) it also results in a better quality of candidate reaching the interview stage having already established they meet certain key criteria. Automating the application process also gives a level playing field to all candidates – whether they come directly to your company’s site, via a recruitment consultant or in response to a print advertisement. For many larger organisations, achieving consistency of handling candidates across many branches or regional offices can be a problem: online recruitment solves it.

  5. Interaction with candidates Working online via websites and email is the way of the future. It’s not just the youngsters who are logging on to find jobs either – recent results from NORAS shows 35% of all users are over 35. It’s quick, personal and direct. Questions are answered in seconds and information is immediately accessible. What better way to establish whether the candidate is right for you (and indeed that you are right for them)? Another benefit is that candidate information can be held on file (your own searchable CV database). So if someone is not quite right for the job for which they’re applying, you can see if their skills and profile match another job better. Working online opens up communication channels and enables you to go directly to the candidate either immediately or at a later date when an opportunity arises.

Where to start? The online recruitment market is a jungle of jobs and job sites, it’s true. To attempt to walk through it without falling down some holes, getting trapped or even swallowed up by less scrupulous lions in the industry, it’s best to seek professional advice. First and foremost, you need to establish what you want. There are three main points of entry into the market:

  1. Media Buying This is where you simply seek someone to place your adverts on the right job sites and negotiate the media rates. It sounds easy, but in fact it can be a hit and miss affair if your adviser doesn’t know the market particularly well.

    Beware: there is a right and wrong way to buy online media advertising. There’s a world of difference between posting your ads to the sites you think are right (because you’ve heard of them or their name sounds OK) and posting to sites you know are right (because hard quantitative data has proven they yield the best candidates for given jobs).

    HR Portal has been gathering this hard data for years and updates it daily. It is based on how many candidates respond to each vacancy from each job site. They are now also measuring candidate quality by job site. After all, it’s better to target a smaller site that will yield a handful of suitable candidates than a bigger player that throws you hundreds of unsuitable people.

  2. Media Buying with Pre-Selection/Sorting It is advisable to supplement your intelligent media buying with a quick, effective candidate handling process. This way, the true benefits of online recruitment will be realised.

    A good Application Service Provider will develop and tailor such a programme to your business: don’t just accept the cheapest programme – it is unlikely to be flexible. Make sure it meets your needs. Insist it is tailored to your business and check there will be strong support to get it up and running and maintained. Make sure the provider you use is service and support orientated: Experience has shown that partnerships with clients are far more fruitful than just selling and leaving, and over time clients’ needs change – it is far easier to accommodate any updates and upgrades within an on-going relationship.

Not so difficult after all

By now you should feel more confident about venturing online to recruit staff. Once you’ve tried it out, you’ll be unlikely to revert to print-only advertising. Online recruitment can offer so much more in terms of value, efficiency and effectiveness. It is the ultimate in flexible and responsive job advertising.

But remember, if a job’s worth advertising, it’s worth advertising properly.

Take time to research your options. Talk to some professionals in the marketplace and go for someone who can prove they have the right combination of media knowledge, buying power and software skills. Finally, make sure they will take time to understand your needs so you can invest in a partnership rather than a simple buyer/seller agreement.

Good luck.


2 Responses

  1. Response to Roy Davis’ comments
    Response to Roy Davis
    March 4, 2003

    Roy Davis’ comments puzzle me. Many of the points he raises are mentioned, accepted and dealt with in my article.

    Up front I warn that online recruitment is far more than just posting job ads and that its true value lies in the handling, sifting and sorting processes to which Mr Davis refers. Further on, I look at these aspects in more detail and reiterate their importance to the whole process.

    I maintain that online recruitment, if done properly, does save time, money and effort. By ‘done properly’ here I mean that an automated system to handle candidates swiftly and politely is installed from the outset. And it’s not just me that says online recruitment saves costs. One of our biggest clients HFC Bank is saving hundreds of thousands of pounds and countless HR hours using our HR Extranet system. It set out to save £500,000 and one week at the front end of the recruitment process within a year of taking us on. It’s well on target to achieve this. See the system for yourself at http://www.hrportal.co.uk/r63a34 and a case study at http://www.hrportal.co.uk/a58.

    One of HFC Bank’s key issues is just what Mr Davis is talking about – effective pre-interview screening. This is what our system does most efficiently. And I talk about this aspect in my article under ‘automating the process’.

    This is a strange response to ‘criticism’ as I agree with the points Mr Davis makes. Not just in this letter either, but in the original article to which he refers.

    Mr Davis believes I infer that ‘the advent of the Internet has redefined the recruitment process’. Not quite. But it has certainly shaken things up. Just yesterday (March 3) research shows that ‘accountants are abandoning the Financial Times and flocking to specialist accounting websites in search of jobs’. http://www.onrec.com/content2/news.asp?ID=2139. More than 30% of 200 financial professionals said their main source of career information is now online. Online recruitment is here to stay.

    David Silverman
    Managing Director
    HR Portal

  2. Internet recruitment re-defined?
    I am interested to see David Silverman’s view of the online recruitment market. In my opinion, this gives a very simplistic – and misleading – overview. It seems that the advent of the Internet has redefined the recruitment process.

    Recruitment is an activity involving several key components including job design, person specification, candidate sourcing, candidate communication, candidate sifting, assessment and interview and ultimately selection. It is not just about attracting candidates and managing databases. To be effective, therefore, online recruitment is much more than ‘advertising vacancies on either job sites or corporate websites’, as Silverman suggests, but about using the capabilities of the internet to facilitate a process of human interaction across the whole process.

    In terms of cost and effort savings, this is another area for debate. Given the ease with which candidates can submit CVs online and the capability of the internet to provide a wider marketing reach, the potential is for businesses to face higher costs and more administration time by having more applicants to process.

    The real cost savings are made after the application process, if objective internet-based screening and assessment tools are used to select only the most suitable candidates to go forward for interview and / or selection event. With effective screening and assessment earlier in the recruitment process, the interview rounds and assessment centres are far more likely to become hiring events than they otherwise would, streamlining the recruitment process and saving both HR and Line manager time and therefore cost – better, faster cheaper recruitment

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