Hire on the wire

On-line recruitment sites look as though they could be the answer to making
life easier for the HR manager, but a site without proper management and
technological infrastructure behind it may only cause more problems when trying
to find the right candidate

What makes a good site?

1 At their simplest, on-line recruitment sites are electronic job
boards which look and act like on-line models of recruitment pages in a
newspaper or magazine. An HR manager posts a job on them and people respond,
only the CVs usually arrive by email, not in the post. It may well be that a
simple site like one of these answers your needs but they are unlikely to
deliver a long-term, cost-effective recruitment solution for the HR
professional. If you’re expecting an on-line recruitment site to make your life
easier, lower costs, speed up recruitment times and, most importantly, find you
the right employee every time, you need to look for a site which has the proper
management and technological infrastructure behind it.

Sites such as Monster (www.monster.co.uk), TotalJobs (www.totaljobs .com),
Peoplebank (www.peoplebank. com), Stepstone (www.stepstone.co.uk) and Wideyes
(www.wideyes.com) are typical of the new breed of more well-rounded recruitment
sites, which claim to offer these features. In design terms, such sites often
look more like an on-line magazine, carrying articles and other content, such
as expert advice, career healthchecks and psychometric testing. Rather than
calling themselves job sites, some refer to themselves as "career
management" companies and the emphasis is on servicing an individual
throughout their career or an organisation throughout its corporate
development.

It’s all a far cry from the early job boards which did little more than
bombard the poor HR manager with untargeted CVs and earned on-line recruitment
a bad reputation. "Every job is only a click away now and the HR manager
could easily find themselves being emailed 500 CVs which they then had to print
and look at," says Bill Shipton, managing director of Peoplebank.

Unfortunately, residuals of this practice still exist and even the inclusion
of an email address in a press ad is sometimes enough to encourage a lack of
thought before a job seeker applies. "One week we had a candidate send the
same e-CV for every job we advertised: head of IT, logistics director and
banker," says Joelle Warren, managing director of recruitment specialist
Walton Churchill Search and Selection. "We are seriously considering
removing our email address from job adverts to make candidates think before they
reply."

What should HR managers look for?

2 In the light of the comments above, what clearly sets a good
recruitment site apart from a bad or indifferent one is the ability to target
CVs precisely. This means that one of the major concerns for an HR manager is
the accuracy of the site’s candidate matching and the quality of its people
assessment tools (this is dealt with in more detail later). Aside from this you
should also be asking questions like how often they clean their database of
candidates (if it boasts several hundred thousand names but hasn’t been cleaned
for three months, it’s meaningless) and how much traffic the site is getting.
"Numbers are important because they make it all possible, but you’ve got
to have the tools on top to do the job and the right CVs," says Simon
Parker, UK marketing director of Monster.com, the current worldwide market
leader in on-line recruitment.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by figures but ask about site traffic, number
of jobs posted and the size of CV databases because it starts to build a
picture of the major players in the market. Monster, the US company which came
to the UK in 1996, has hubs in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and
throughout Europe. Its Monster.com, as opposed to Monster.co.uk site, is visited
by 9 million people a month, lists over 450,000 jobs and has a database of over
2.7 million CVs. The .co.uk site receives around 100,000 visits a month and the
average user session is up to 10 minutes. Over 7,000 CVs sit in its database.
Reed Business Information, publisher of Personnel Today, has 27,000 jobs on its
TotalJobs site. It claims to have 3 million page impressions a month and over
200,000 users, which is impressive for a Web site that went live just six
months ago. PlanetRecruit, launched in February, claims to offer 50,000 jobs
on-line and has a CV database of 28,000, going up by 400 a day. It puts page
views at 1 million a month.

All sites should be able to give you such figures and while you shouldn’t
necessarily believe everything you hear, always bear in mind the quality over
quantity adage (remember, how current is that database). You should then start
to accumulate some useful benchmark figures.

User profile is another important issue. As you’d expect, there is a very
high proportion of IT people who use the Net for recruitment which is good news
if all you want are IT professionals but not if you’re after a less technical
member of staff. It may well be that a niche site catering for your own
industry already exists (see 8).

How much does it cost?

3 As with anything, this is negotiable but can range from a one-off
fee of £250 to simply place a job advert to upwards of £10,000 for a complete
corporate strategy.

In theory, on-line recruitment should lower the cost of recruitment because
it streamlines the process for job seekers and employers and therefore lowers
overheads. For instance, if you place a one-off job ad at Peoplebank
(www.peoplebank.com) for £499, it guarantees to deliver 10 well-matched
prospective candidates. Peoplebank, set up in 1995, is the most established
on-line recruiter and if its matching is as effective as it claims, you may
find that you make more than one appointment from that 10, which will have made
for a very economical recruit indeed.

At the newly launched Wideyes (www.wideyes.com), individual job adverts are
free and clients can have a detailed corporate profile for one year at £500.
TotalJobs rate card starts at £250 for a single job ad but with bulk deals this
can be reduced to as little as £70 for 500. As it is still early days in
on-line recruitment’s evolution, companies are very keen to state that costs
are "negotiable" and there are nearly always bulk deals to be done.

Many of them want to forge long-term relationships with clients so HR
managers are in a strong bargaining position. Test them out with some
individual job adverts first and drive a hard bargain when it comes to the cost
of these. If the on-line recruiter has confidence in his or her product, you’ll
probably get a good price. After all, if the site can deliver a crop of
well-matched CVs to your desk the following morning (or even that afternoon,
such is the immediacy of the Net), you will feel far more inclined to involve
them in a longer term strategy. If, however, they do no more than spam you with
untargeted CVs (the equivalent of electronic junk mail), you won’t have lost
too much money finding out that they are not for you.

Candidate matching

4 Any on-line recruitment site worth its salt will offer effective
candidate matching but assessing how good that matching is before you use a
site isn’t easy. If a site offers no more than basic keyword searches on
electronic CVs, the chances are it isn’t sufficiently sophisticated to make an
effective selection, says David Taylor, e-commerce consultant and president of
the IT directors’ association Certus. He adds, "Many search engines can
only really do boolean searches on CVs and a CV isn’t necessarily an
enlightening document anyway, for a start, it’s self-penned. Sites really need
to use some form of structured application process and forms when putting
together their database."

This sort of approach, combined with psychometric testing, offers the HR
manager the best on-line solution. "The Net represents a tremendous
opportunity for the HR profession," says Roy Davis, head of communications
for SHL, which has been involved in candidate testing technology behind a
number of sites in the US and most recently in the UK for Wideyes.

Davis cites psychometric testing as a vital stage in on-line recruitment’s
evolution and one which is really going to make the difference to an HR
professional. The Wideyes technology, called TrueFIT, incorporates test results
through matching logic to ensure a better fit between candidates and employer.

The candidates are taken through detailed profiling questions which are
designed to help them find jobs best suited to their personal goals and
aspirations. "With Wideyes, SHL has been exploding the myth that social
and emotional skills are of secondary importance," says Davis. "They
are equally important to the employer because it is increasingly recognised
that unless the candidate has the right cultural and emotional fit, that person
will not be a success."

Similarly, the launch of Jobsift.com, an Internet screening tool that can be
ported to a client’s website or bulletin board or used as a standalone product,
is another potential landmark development. Developed by specialist psychometric
consultants PSL, Jobsift is designed for situations where a large volume of candidates
has to be rapidly reduced to a shortlist. A structured questionnaire helps a
company match candidates’ skills, abilities, attitudes and experience against
its own required competencies and corporate values. Jobsift claims to process
such information instantly so it is possible to get real-time feedback on how a
recruitment campaign is going. Candidates who have the right fit are informed
immediately via their PC.

Do you still need a traditional recruitment arm?

5 In short, the answer is yes, for the time being anyway. As with any
service provided on the Net, it doesn’t mean you have to score out what went
before – it’s far better to see it as another recruitment tool. "There are
some 6,000 recruitment organisations out there with people who are too good to
be overlooked," explains Chris Moore, marketing director of Stepstone. His
words are echoed by Simon Parker of arch rival Monster. "You don’t need to
do away with one because you’re using the other." Similarly, it doesn’t
have to follow that you stop using press advertising.

Reed Business Information’s (RBI) TotalJobs site is intended to work
alongside its set of trade magazines whose lifeblood is recruitment
advertising. Paul Ivory, TotalJobs’ web producer, points to the importance of
having the backing of RBI’s traditional recruitment experience. "That’s
very important because it gives us a lot of kudos in the marketplace; people
know we know about recruitment and that history is pivotal."

Market share and profile

6 There are huge branding exercises going on by the larger sites,
which are jostling for position. Stepstone’s poster and press campaign has done
much to raise the profile of Internet recruitment as a whole and it is about to
unveil a mighty sponsorship package with a terrestrial TV channel. Press and
poster campaigns from the likes of TotalJobs, Monster and Top Jobs in
recruitment sections of newspapers and trade magazines means that the jobseeker
is already feeling spoilt for choice when it comes to depositories for his or
her e-CV.

So how will the market settle down and who will win out? Monster’s Simon
Parker says that it’s "myopic" to place too much importance on
Monster’s position as worldwide number one. "We’re more concerned with
being the best site for our customers," he says. In truth, because a
certain scepticism still surrounds on-line recruitment, the major players all
have an industry-wide image-building exercise as well as their own profiles to
raise.

Technology

7 It is reasonable to expect search and assessment technology to be further
honed over the next 12 months. But you also need to be aware of some of the
tools you can use in-house to screen and track CVs. We’ve already mentioned
Jobsift, screening technology which can be used on a Website, as part of an
integrated system or else as a standalone product. SHL has a similar system
called ApView, which is used in the US by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which only
accepts applications made via the Net for some jobs.

Another useful tool is Halcyon’s Nemesis Intranet Search, which lets you
build a resource of candidate information, including CVs and related documents.
Nemesis indexes the data so it is fully searchable and the user sets the search
criteria. Personic Software’s Personic Workflow suite is also designed to
streamline the collation and tracking of these vital but often very disparate
elements and in turn help HR managers instantly compare candidate data.

As for delivery technology, the recruitment world, like everybody else, is
excited by the prospect of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol technology),
which allows access to parts of the Internet on mobile phones. The Internet
consultancy Proteus is already working with recruitment companies to implement
WAP technology so applicants can view job vacancies through a mobile phone. It
also means they could send their CV from their mobile phone, which is far more
discreet that doing it from a workplace PC. "I think WAP will be really
useful for recruiters," says David Taylor. "If an IT contractor is in
the US while his recruitment campaign is going on over here, he can still
monitor how it’s going and have a CV sent to him at a keystroke."

Bill Shipton of Peoplebank is less convinced about WAP but is optimistic
about the potential of digital TV as a delivery medium. "Within three to
five years, you’ll be able to come home and look at your job offers on the
TV," he predicts.

Also expect faster ways to access the Internet. Most people have heard of
ISDN, which offers high speed transmission of data compared with standard phone
lines, but expect to hear more about ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line),
which will offer even faster delivery, when its available in July. It will
offer an ‘always-on’ high speed connection to the Net. For more information, go
to BT’s web site at www.btopenworld.com.

Employer options

8 On-line sites currently are tending to be all things to all people,
with the niche emphasis coming in the shape of tailored features on the site.
TotalJobs, for instance, has 28 vertical markets on its site with hyperlinks to
some of its publications.

In the long-term, it looks like niche and general recruitment sites will
happily co-exist, much like general and specialist advertising in the press.
David Taylor believes the market will settle down to around four or five big
players and maybe a couple of other "big databases" which will use a
niche focus, he says, to drive traffic into those databases. Chris Moore of
Stepstone is of a similar mind: "There’ll be two or three major players
and there’ll be little niche sites – such as a site that caters for the
construction workers in the south-east, for instance, there’s room for
both."

The idea of a niche site is not new although the next few months will likely
see their real emergence. Good working examples include Recruit Media
(www.recruitmedia.co.uk), set up in 1989, specialising in media professionals.
Its own particular niche, the media, made it a natural for the Net and founder
Victoria Lubbock set out Recruit Media’s store early as an evaluator of quality
and also as a partner in long-term recruitment partnerships.

A more recent specialist site launched in April is Onvocation
(www.onvocation.com) dedicated to the banking and financial sector. The site
features updated lifestyle and career-related content each day. "The
future of on-line recruitment is specialisation, combined with the added value
of unique content created for that niche market," says Dierk Mueller, one
of the company’s co-founders. "The problem with many generic sites is that
they try to please everyone and end up pleasing no-one. Job seekers know that
when they go on to Onvocation there will be banking and financial jobs
available – and plenty of them; while recruiters can be confident that they
will be reaching quality candidates who are interested in what they have to
offer." Employers can post four job adverts on the site for four weeks for
£500.

Other options include sites dedicated to temporary workers. Claiming to be
the world’s first on-line temp agency, tempz.com recently went live,
incorporating everything on-line from registration, skills-testing and
timesheets to invoicing and BACS payments.

Personnel behind the sites

9 Expect a mixture of backgrounds, with a good crop of e-commerce entrepreneurs
and movers and shakers involved. It’s been impossible to miss the dotcom
entrepreneurs who have become multi-millionaires over the past few months. Some
of these have migrated into the jobs sector because they know the potential
scale of the market. And there has been defections of key personnel to rival
agencies.

Smarterwork.com, which isn’t an on-line recruitment company in the pure
sense of the word, but rather an on-line skills marketplace which allows a
recruiter to source everything they need to get an on-line job done, has
fanfared the appointment of former Monster senior producer Denis Gaynor as
product development manager. Its management team also includes Ft.com’s and
Sportal’s former head of marketing, Yehuda Shapiro. Wideyes boasts a mix of
e-commerce and traditional expertise with the UK manager Keith MacKenzie, a
former consultant for international recruitment company Michael Page and Jonas
Granstrom, who founded Sweden’s first on-line recruitment company called
Jobline.

As an HR professional you would be unlikely to appoint a traditional
recruitment company without knowing who was behind it so adopt the same
philosophy with an on-line recruiter.

All sites should have an "about us" button or contact details
which will enable you to find out more about who’s behind the site.

Security and codes of conduct

10 The entire world of e-commerce is dogged by these two issues.
Everybody should be familiar with the fear of using a credit card on-line even
though good e-commerce sites have secure servers that enable these transactions
to take place safely. The job seeker’s equivalent of this is "how safe is
it to put my CV on-line?" Although figures prove that plenty of people
have overcome this fear (there are an estimated 4.5million CVs on-line), horror
stories of a candidates CV ending up on their employer’s desktop aren’t
entirely without foundation.

As in the world of e-commerce transactions, any reputable site will have
security mechanisms, such as security ID numbers attached to a CV, put in place
to track and control precisely where that CV goes.

Unscrupulous activity such as unauthorised duplication of CVs from
competitor sites, the creation of fictitious vacancies to attract traffic and
exaggerated pay and packages will also hopefully be on the way out thanks to a
strict code of conduct that is being enforced after a working party was set up
by the Government. External relations director for the Recruitment and
Employment Confederation (REC), Christine Little, says, "We plan to create
a code or standard relating specifically to on-line recruitment agencies. We
want to involve people who use the industry, as well as people who work in
it." She adds: "The code will go beyond the minimum standards imposed
by regulations. They will be higher than the standards proposed in the
Employment Agencies Act. The code should be published by the summer.

Sue Weekes is deputy editor of the net magazine

What’s next?

The Net could become HR professionals most powerful tool

Figures from Forrester Research say that 96 per cent of all companies will
use the Internet for recruiting by 2001. In Europe, the on-line recruitment
market was worth £46.5m last year, double what it was in 1998. A survey by the
IPD in May 1999 found that a third of employers were using the Net for job
adverts, compared with only 14 per cent two years ago.

Nobody can ignore these figures and as long as codes of conduct are in
place, the Net will become the HR professionals most powerful tool ever. The
most exciting aspect is that as well as speeding things up and saving money, it
will let you integrate and implement a more tailored approach to recruitment.

Mini job boards or job sections are already appear on corporate sites which
will be powered by some of the bigger player – Peoplebank has just done this
for Pret a Manger. Also the database of profiles and psychometric analysis that
managers can build up for prospective candidates and existing staff is
immeasurably powerful.

Computer-assessed psychometric testing can’t replace human assessment
entirely but one day when your department profile of core competencies is held
digitally, it will be possible to pinpoint precisely the kind of person needed
to complete the fit of the team. And because it is much easier to share
information across networks, it will be simple for line managers to get
involved in the recruitment process earlier. "Line managers can share in
the assessment process and, for instance, generate questions they want the HR
manager to ask," says SHL’s Roy Davis. "This will mean we’ll get
better selection because stakeholders in the recruitment process are being more
widely involved."

But Davis warns, that to take advantage of the new technologies, HR must be
receptive in order to capitalise on it.

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