Finding the right fit

The
internet is changing the face of recruitment, but how does this fit in with
existing strategies? Nic Paton talks to three organisations to
find out how they did it

Along
with books, groceries and training, e-recruitment is one of the few success
stories of the dotcom era. In the US, some 50 per cent of recruitment
advertising is now online, and the UK is following that trend.

According
to pollster Researchandmarkets.com, in February this year there were around 7.5
million job site users in the UK out of some 27.8 million adults with access to
the internet.

Over
the whole of 2002, an average of around 6.2 million adults visited job sites,
of which 670,000 found jobs online. And by 2007 it is anticipated that 10.3
million adults will be visiting online job sites and all major companies will
use the internet to advertise their jobs.

Internet
recruitment can bring big benefits, notably speed, flexibility and cost
savings. However, for the harassed HR professional, if it is handled wrongly,
it can mean wading through a flood of inappropriate applications for
out-of-date jobs.

Just
as seriously, the internet can become a money pit, so it is vital to work out
how to get the best from e-recruitment and how to make the best use of the
myriad agencies that have sprung up to service web-based job hunting.

HR
often makes three basic errors, say the recruitment agencies: getting the job
specification wrong; acting in haste; and carrying out too little research.

"We
get job specs that are eight pages long, but do not say what sort of person
they are really after. Agencies need to know what person the organisation is
visualising walking through their door," stresses Marcus Glover, managing
director of HR Staff Search. With so many people hunting for jobs it’s a
hirer’s market and firms can afford to be precious about what they are looking
for, he says.

Employers
need to treat the internet just like they would treat any large advertising
investment, says Betty Thayer, chief executive of Exec-appointments.com.

"We
sometimes get ads that are just three or four lines, and that’s looking for a
smart person who you are going to pay £60,000. The more time you put into it,
the better quality response you will get," she says.

Businesses
often decide to spend money on a general jobs portal because they are cheap and
easily accessible, but they may find themselves competing with ads for
candidates of all other levels and sectors, warns David Brownlow, chief
executive of Huntswood Search and Selection.

Research
is therefore hugely important. In the same way that you carefully check for the
best publications in which to place your adverts, so it’s important to look at
your target market and go to the internet agency that appears best to serve it.

Similarly,
HR should not expect the internet to replace the face-to-face aspect of using a
consultancy that knows its market intimately. Many jobseekers, particularly at
higher levels, still prefer to see and handle the brochure for a post and still
want to talk it through with another human being, argues Brownlow.

North
Bradford Primary Care Trust

North
Bradford Primary Care Trust is one of 49 facilities currently piloting a new
web-recruitment site that is due to go online across the NHS this month
(December). One of the great advantages of any online recruitment system is
speed, says Claire Rix, assistant director of HR.

For
instance, when the trust needed five candidates very quickly, it was able to
turn to HR Staff Search, which, by calling up people on its database with
suitable qualifications and then immediately e-mailing them, was able to supply
candidates within two hours.

"We
had placed an advertisement on the internet and it had not given us the return
we needed," says Rix. "But once we contacted the agency, it was able
to forward us candidates almost immediately," she adds.

Similarly,
the internet more easily enables the HR department to notify the shortlisted
candidates of possible interview dates, meaning the organisation does not
necessarily have to wait three or four weeks to get all the interviews set up.

One
innovative element of the NHS trial site will be the ability to post "open
advertisements" for jobs that come up frequently, which will be advertised
constantly.

One
of the key things HR needs to decide is what sort of relationship it is going
to have with the agency, suggests HR Staff Search’s managing director Marcus
Glover.

"The
recruitment agency needs to work as a potential business partner rather than
someone who’s simply putting bums on seats. Agencies are looking for HR to form
a strategic partnership with their agency, to have a long-term business
relationship," he says.

Lessons
for HR


Get the job specification right


Recognise how the internet can work differently as a recruitment tool


See the recruitment agency as a potential business partner

PricewaterhouseCoopers

PricewaterhouseCoopers,
with 16,000 staff in the UK, is the country’s largest commercial graduate
recruiter, taking on around 700 graduates each year. It has two online
recruitment systems, one for graduates and one for more experienced employees,
with the graduate side hosted by a third-party technology firm.

If
you’re going to use an external agency to host part of your own site you need to
make it appear as seamless as possible. In fact, ideally the candidate should
not notice, suggests Tim Forster, head of recruitment media.

It
is important to ask the right questions of your agency and keep in mind what
you want the end result to be, he suggests. Similarly, it’s wise to meet and
speak to the people who are going to implement the system, not just the people
selling it to you.

"Is
your system future proof, will it be able to grow with your business needs, can
it become more flexible?" says Forster.

It
is also important to keep abreast of the screening and filtering systems that
you are using – see if they need to be changed or updated – and to check that
posts are being taken off and updated on a regular basis.

Apart
from its sheer speed, the internet brings other clear recruitment benefits,
such as automatic e-mail alerts to potential candidates, online screening of
CVs, next-day interviews, e-mail reminders of interviews and even interviewing
online, he adds.

Lessons
for HR


When using a third-party hosting agency, make the transition seamless


Ask tough questions, meet the people who are going to implement the site


Keep abreast of the screening, filtering and updating systems

Enterprise
Rent-a-Car

With
some 3,500 employees in the UK and Europe, car rental firm Enterprise
Rent-a-Car is always on the hunt for talented graduates for its fast-track
management programme. The company recruits 300 to 400 graduates a year, and for
the past nine years has used Graduate Prospects, the former higher education
Careers Services Unit.

HR
recruiter Bob Athwal estimates the company gets around 35 per cent of its
graduates from Graduate Prospects and the rest direct through its own
website,  although many come to the site
because they’ve spotted it in the Graduate Prospects directory. "If you’re
trying to attract people who are internet-savvy, your website has got to be
pretty hot too," he explains.

The
firm has built up a close relationship with Graduate Prospects over the years,
but at the beginning it is always worthwhile doing a few basic checks.

"You
need to check the validity of the internet company or jobs board you are using.
You need to do your homework, get some testimonials – even run credit checks –
because, after all, you may be going to invest a lot of money with them. It’s
common sense best practice," he says.

The
company uses pre-screening filtering tools to weed out unsuitable candidates
even before they get to the application stage. For instance, simply asking,
"Do you live in the UK?" or "Do you have a UK driving
licence?" can, on the internet, be a vitally important filter.

Firms
should not expect the web to be the be-all and end-all when it comes to
recruitment. Interviewing and selection is still done conventionally
face-to-face, and there has to be a human element to the process, says Athwal.

"The
web needs to be an additional tool to all the other things that you are doing.
We, for instance, are still a big fan of careers fairs," he adds.

Lessons
for HR


Do your homework when choosing a web recruitment agency


Make sure your own website is up to scratch


Make sure the web is just one part of the recruitment mix

www.recruitment-marketing.co.uk.

To
help HR professionals select the most appropriate recruitment marketing
agencies, Reed Business Information (RBI) has launched
www.recruitment-marketing.co.uk.

Recruitment-marketing.co.uk
is an on-line directory and showcase and helps HR professionals involved in
recruiting staff to look for recruitment marketing agencies that suit their
company requirements. It’s easy to use and by following  simple criteria such as specialist area and
region, the site can provide users with lists of recruitment agencies which
meet their needs. It can even make comparisons between them and show you
examples of their work.

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