E-recruitment: Rethinking recruitment

An exclusive survey of more than 400 Personnel Today readers, including HR directors, board level directors and managers, suggests that recruitment budgets and plans have been dramatically scaled back compared to last year, and will continue to be kept on a tight rein over the year ahead.

Nearly half (46%) of respondents to the survey, conducted in conjunction with e-recruitment software and services provider WCN Plc, said that their overall recruitment budget had decreased compared to last year, while nearly a third (32%) had kept their budgets the same. Fewer than one in 10 – just 8% – had increased their recruitment spend this year.

Of those who had cut their recruitment budgets this year compared to last, a quarter (25%) had slashed spending by more than half, while 30% had decreased their budgets by between 21% and 50%.

Recruitment agency budgets have taken the biggest knock, with 48% of respondents reducing their budgets in this area, and 22% sticking to last year’s levels. General advertising spend is also down at 45% of employers surveyed, although 9% of respondents said this has risen this year (see graph A).

Graph AE-recruitment technology enjoyed the most widespread budget increase compared to last year, on the up at 22% of employers that responded, while nearly a third (32%) have kept investment in this area consistent this year, and just 10% are cutting budgets.

“The payback from e-recruitment technology is very quick, so employers are ‘spending to save’,” says Charles Hipps, managing director of WCN Plc. “Savings are achieved not only in recruitment but also in internal mobility and redeployment. As well as savings, speed, quality and diversity are improved.”

Employer branding is also receiving a larger slice of the budget this year at 14% of surveyed organisations, while 29% are keeping investment at last year’s levels.

Nearly a quarter (22%) of HR professionals surveyed said internal recruitment team headcounts were down, while 50% said numbers stayed the same compared to last year. Just 5% were increasing headcount in this area.

This gloomy recruitment outlook is reflected in respondents’ hiring plans for the year head, with nearly two-thirds (72%) looking to cut jobs or halt recruitment. A quarter (24%) planned to cut jobs, while half (48%) were freezing recruitment for the next 12 months. However, 28% intended to increase their workforce, suggesting that the recruitment market is still active in some areas.

The move from traditional hiring methods such as print advertising and headhunters to online recruitment was starkly illustrated. Recruitment agencies remain reasonably popular, used by 21% of respondents to help recruit for most jobs and by 65% to target some, although 14% never used agencies at all. The average proportion of agency use versus in-house recruitment last year was 40/60 – this has fallen to 25/75 this year.

More than half (53%) of respondents said they never used headhunters, although the balance did use them for some roles. Nearly half (47%) never used national press recruitment advertising, although regional and trade advertising remained more popular, with 74% and 77% respectively using these media for some jobs.

Online methods proved far more popular. Two-thirds (66%) of HR professionals surveyed said the jobs section of their own company websites were used as a recruitment tool for most jobs, while 22% used this to promote some jobs, with just 12% never using this method. Online jobs boards such as totaljobs.com were also popular, used by a third of respondents (32%) for most jobs, and by 42% for some.

The increasing popularity of online recruitment was attributed to a range of factors. The overwhelming majority (86%) of respondents felt that online recruitment is more cost effective than most other recruitment methods, while 40% strongly agreed with this statement. More than 90% felt that online recruitment is easy to use, while only 9% slightly disagreed with this.

Opinion was split nearly 50:50 over whether online recruitment takes more time to administrate, although nearly three-quarters (71%) felt it was more effective that other methods, and more than half (54%) felt it reduced time to hire.

Respondents did not feel strongly that online recruitment improves the overall quality of candidates, but a convincing two-thirds (66%) felt it helps improve the diversity of recruitment, with 11% expressing this view strongly.

“Improving diversity monitoring and meeting regulatory requirements are both significant factors in employers’ decisions to invest in e-recruitment technology,” says Hipps. “Less intuitively, many employers are driving significant improvements in the quality of hires. By embedding structured and validated selection criteria in their e-recruitment software, WCN clients have increased the quality of interviewees as such that they hire up to one-third more of the candidates invited for interview.”

Despite this enthusiasm for online recruitment, other online tools and techniques are less widely used. Just 13% of respondents felt they might adopt video CVs for candidate selection in the next three years, while 87% said they would not adopt this technique. Other unpopular candidate sourcing techniques included artificial intelligence, social networking sites, and online games.

Other more established methods include online testing used for candidate selection, used by a third (31%) of respondents, with nearly half (48%) likely to use it in the next three years. Candidate sourcing via search engines is already used by 20% of respondents, with 38% likely to adopt this in the next three years. Online inductions are not yet widely used, with just 12% of employers already having this in place, but nearly half (47%) plan to introduce it in the next three years.

Web 2.0 interactive tools such as podcasts and vodcasts are currently only used on 7% of respondents’ websites to aid recruitment. However, a third (31%) felt that they were likely to use audio and video tools, and social networking sites, in the next two years. Reasons for adopting this type of recruitment tool included: “A large proportion of people use [social networking] sites, which therefore provide a pool of potential candidates”; “We believe they will become more integral to the way society sources information in general”; “Changing patterns of candidate behaviours”; “It’s what Generation Y (the future workforce) relate to”; “Provides an opportunity to get across complex messages, culture, and key advantages”; and “We’ll get left behind if we don’t”.

“WCN’s book Best Practice in e-Recruitment, written on behalf of the government, emphasised the importance of both prioritising new initiatives by building a clear business case and of trialling, measuring and refining one’s approach in this fast-changing market,” adds Hipps.

HR professionals were also asked which aspects of the recruitment process they currently outsourced. Most (87%) outsourced agency and temporary recruitment. Administration was outsourced by half (49%), candidate sourcing by 59%, and interviewing and selection by 34%. Nearly a third (30%) outsourced the whole recruitment process.

Half of respondents felt that outsourcing was easy to undertake and reduces time to hire, but half also felt that outsourcing recruitment was less effective than keeping the process in-house, and 61% said it was less cost-effective.

Finally, HR professionals were asked about the expectations of recruiters over the next 12 months. The majority (79%) expected that a government scheme subsidising the cost of internships would have little impact on the number of interns they would hire in the next 12 months.

Most respondents (97%) expected candidates to be more anxious about the prospects of getting a job, and a worrying 56% expected candidates to be more likely to lie and cheat in their attempts to secure a post, while 91% expected more candidate enquiries about why they were unsuccessful.

Almost all respondents (98%) expected to receive more applications for each role, and 86% expected more candidate queries. The majority (69%) also expected the quality of candidates to increase. And a convincing 89% felt that having a strong employer brand was even more important in a downturn.

“For far-sighted employers, the abundance and higher quality of candidates makes now a perfect time to build a talent bank in preparation for economic recovery,” concludes Hipps.

About the survey

The survey respondents were made up of 403 Personnel Today readers, of whom 4% were board level directors, 8% were directors, and 62% were department heads or managers. There was a spread of responses from across the UK. A quarter (27%) of respondents were from the public sector, with the remainder from the private sector. Just over half (53%) of organisations represented had more than 500 staff.


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