Slipping through the net

The
Recruitment Confidence Index provides some rough reading for internet job sites
this quarter, with many companies abandoning e-recruitment altogether.
But there are many reasons for long-term optimism, says Lucie Carrington

After
two to three years of steady growth, the advance of the internet as a means of
sourcing candidates has taken a step back.

This
year’s special report on online job sites from the Recruitment Confidence Index
(RCI), produced in association with Personnel Today, shows the number of
employers using the internet to find recruits has been dropping steadily over
the past nine months. And both corporate and commercial job sites appear to
have been affected.

The
number of firms using corporate websites peaked last autumn at 56 per cent, but
is now down to 37 per cent. While the number of employers turning to job boards
has dropped to 20 per cent from 30 to per cent six months ago.

Industry
watchers are at pains to explain why employers should be hesitating over their
use of the internet. Andrew Findlater, business development director with
Totaljobs.com says that e-recruitment is simply another victim of
the general economic downturn. However, the downturn hit recruitment far
earlier than nine months ago.

Tim
Elkington managing director of Enhance Media, which runs the National Online
Recruitment Audience Survey (Noras), argues that web-based providers achieved
early success by convincing those who wanted to be convinced.

“People
who were up for it and were attracted by the cost savings have been won over,”
he says. “Now, providers have to win over the hardcore of employers who will
take a lot more persuading.”

However,
closer analysis of the figures identified by the Recruitment Confidence Index –
developed by Cranfield Management School and the Daily Telegraph – suggests
a somewhat different story. Employers are genuinely dissatisfied with the
service job boards are providing. As many as 1,500 out of the 2,000 employers
responding to the research have stopped using a commercial website – although
not necessarily all commercial sites. They cite the poor response to online
adverts and unsuitable candidates.

It
gets worse. Nearly one in three respondents – 31 per cent – claim that job
boards are not cost effective, despite the low pricing structure of commercial
recruitment sites. And 21 per cent say that websites aren’t user-friendly.

“Like
other e-businesses, recruitment sites simply over promised,” says Terry Ellis,
from recruitment consultancy Burns Carlton.

But
it’s not just the users who think this – some of the job boards agree.

“There
are 150 good commercial web sites, but too many claim to do what they can’t,”
says Tony Lloyd, group operations director with the Hot Group recruitment
consultancy.

Corporate
recruiters are becoming lazy, says Chris Lloyd, commercial manager for
Jobs.telegraph.co.uk. Corporate recruiters who go directly to the sites appear
to be happy with badly thought-out and badly written adverts, while recruitment
firms are using job boards like shop windows, block posting jobs that do not
exist to attract candidates onto their databases.

“The
Telegraph’s own research has shown that job hunters… frequently apply for
jobs in good faith only for a recruitment agency to tell them that one has
gone, but they might have something else for them,” says Lloyd. “Recruiters
need to be sure that there is a real job there and that they have given a full
job description, with an indication of the skills and experience they are
looking for. They could even think about providing a contact number for
candidates who want to find out more, and a company name if possible.”

Nigel
Ward, head of recruitment at high street retailer Lloyds Pharmacy, agrees that
recruiters need to work harder if they are to make e-recruitment providers work
for them. Yes, jobs board have been over sold and over hyped, Ward says, but
too many recruiters seemed to think that they could hand the whole process over
and it would all just happen. “It’s like using a dish washer, you still have to
load it, unload it, and turn it on,” he says.

It’s
a point that Totaljobs’ Findlater takes up. The job board market is in constant
change as niche sites set up, other sites merge and so on, he says. In this
climate, employers need to do their homework and find the boards that suit
them, Findlater says. “At Totaljobs, we always encourage clients to try several
other boards as well,” he adds.

Travel
firm Carlson Wagonlit is one company that has stopped using all recruitment
sites.  “We started
experimenting with StepStone, but found that it was too general,” says Sue
Kavanagh, HR director for North Europe. “But we still believed in the theory so
we tried a travel industry site. The difficulty we found was that unless a site
has a fantastic search engine it is hard for candidates and employers to find
their way around.

“We
were only attracting people who had made the decision to look for a new job.
And when it came to using the site’s CV database there were only two or three
that were relevant to us. The theory is great and, from a cost perspective,
we’d love it to work.”

However,
it would be wrong to overplay the drop in internet recruitment. Other statistics
within the RCI research suggest the market is stabilising and unlikely to go
into freefall. As many as 80 per cent of existing users of corporate sites
expect their use to go up over the next five years, along with 62 per cent of
non-users. More than two in three (68 per cent) users of job boards are also
expecting to use them more over the same period, and two in five (40 per cent)
non-users also expect to turn to commercial sites for help.

The
complete guide to Recruitment Trends & Forecasts

A
full report on the latest findings of the Recruitment Confidence Index can be
found in the September issue of Recruitment Trends & Forecasts, a quarterly
newsletter published by the award-winning Personnel Today team. Recruitment
Trends & Forecasts provides the latest economic and business data on the
volatile recruitment market, and is essential reading both for HR professionals
involved in recruitment and for recruitment industry executives. Subscribe now
and save 20 per cent.  Only £159 for an
annual subscription (e-mail: rtf.subs@rbi.co.uk).
For more details contact Robert Cannon on 020 8652 8803 (robert.cannon@rbi.co.uk)

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