How to keep your online recruitment project on track

Thinking
about recruiting online? Sonia Warnes explains how to ensure your online
recruitment project does not get derailed

Online
recruitment isn’t new. But what is new is the increasing number of
organisations starting to take it seriously. Despite the benefits of any such
project, however, it is likely to come up against resistance or even be totally
blocked by some people within your company or department. So what can you do to
address concerns about online recruitment and how can get potential ‘blockers’
onside and supporting you.

Who
blocks and why?

1.
IT systems don’t help business

The
problem for some sceptics is the history of the IT industry overselling
systems. The truth is that the pitch for an online recruitment system is
probably not very different to what they were told when purchasing the existing
personnel or recruitment system. These people have heard it all before; they
don’t believe the systems will work as promised, come in on budget, save money
or improve what the HR department can do.

As
an HR professional you need to show the cynics the simple, unarguable
improvements a new system can make to their working lives. HR is going to be
most effected by any new system, so you need to deal with any worries your
colleagues might have before taking the project to other departments. The HR
department must act as ambassadors for the project so it is vital that they
understand and believe in the importance of it.

The
key to persuading this kind of blocker is to undersell the project. Focus on
the achievable and ‘showable’ aspects of the project. Show them the website and
how it works, but don’t promise them thousands of online applicants; these
people need to convince themselves.

2.
Change is almost always bad for business

Understandably,
there will be concerns over process change and the idea that a new system might
actually increase workload for HR. Of course, if the project goes badly the
blockers will be proved right. If a supposed online recruitment system isn’t
fully web-enabled, isn’t user-friendly, or doesn’t link directly to the core
database, then HR will end up filling in the gaps.

This
is a fear based on a lack of information. Involve and include such potential
blockers from early on in the project. Explain in detail what changes there will
be and listen to their concerns. Don’t talk too much about extra things the
system will offer, but concentrate on similarities and parallels.

3.
Speculative applications

Some
people fear that if you open up the recruitment process, the HR department will
be flooded by unsuitable applicants. HR departments have traditionally lived a
hand-to-mouth existence – when a vacancy is created they fill it.

Historically,
if an HR director told you they were keeping your CV on file they were letting
you down gently. But now with more flexible career paths, it is worthwhile
keeping a database of potential and past applicants.

Resistance
to receiving speculative applicants is founded on the belief that online
applications are less serious than those sent through the post. There is an
element of truth in this – it is easier to send an email than it is to fill in
a paper form and post it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad
candidate.

4.
The world isn’t ready for online recruitment

Maybe
one day, but not yet, they’ll groan. And some will say the organisation is too
varied and diverse to rely on the internet. What they mean is their employees
and potential employees don’t use the internet for job hunting. But however
broad your company’s employee base, the internet is now part of most people’s
lives. How many of your staff use e-mail to stay in touch with friends and
family abroad? How many of them have typed CVs – presumably not written on a
typewriter?

You
should also talk to these blockers about graduate recruitment, as students
raised using the internet increasingly make it their first and only port of
call. Graduates are more likely to know how to access relevant internet job
sites than traditional trade magazines. The way you recruit the youngest members
of staff will soon become the way you recruit most staff.

5.
But it works fine at the moment

Everyone
in the HR department has a certain amount invested in the current system.
People use business and personal links to agencies, magazines and colleges to
do their jobs – and they enjoy talking to their contacts. By suggesting a new
system, you are implicitly criticising current working practices. However, any
new system should reduce the administrative burden of HR and let the department
focus on value-adding activities. Talk about the more strategic aspects of
their roles that they could spend time on – such as analysing trends and
recruitment sources and saving costs.

People
need to think beyond the limitations of the existing system and start thinking
about what they could or should be offering the business. HR should be more
than just a cost centre; it should offer real benefits to the business. Modern
systems allow HR to be proactive rather than reactive and should give you a
better picture of the state of the business and a clearer view of how to
develop it.

6.
It’s not worth doing online recruitment unless it’s all done online

Even
a small move to online recruitment will save your organisation time and money.
With all the hype about the internet it is easy to forget the benefits. Putting
up a job advert on your website gives you access to thousands of potential
candidates that were previously out of reach. Online recruitment isn’t the
whole answer, but it could make a real financial difference – whatever
percentage of recruits come via the web.

Obviously,
the web cannot replace the whole recruitment process. But the early stages of
CV collection and sorting can be automated. The online application process
could even include a psychometric or task-based test. Online recruitment does
not take the place of more traditional HR skills like interviewing and
selecting candidates but it does ensure that time is spent on the best
candidates and not wasted on administration.

7.
‘Real world’ recruitment is better than online

Many
HR professionals still believe that online applicants are not as good as ‘real
world’ applicants. ‘They know less about the company’, ‘they’re doing a salary
survey’ and ‘they aren’t really interested in moving jobs’, are commonly heard
complaints. Some people may feel that talking to agencies and applicants on the
phone is a better way to select candidates.

It
is important to note that because someone applies for 100 jobs by e-mail
instead of 10 by letter, does not mean they are less keen to get a job. The
reality is that people like applying for jobs online – it is easy for them, it
is anonymous, and, if they work in an office, the person next to them won’t
know what they are doing. And in any case, there are systems to help filter and
sort applications.

HR
departments have to embrace the internet because the Internet has embraced job
hunting like few other areas of business.

HR
has to start using modern tools to do its job – systems which allow analysis of
what is actually happening in the business. This will mean changes, but they
should all take HR back to what it is for – supporting and maintaining staff –
not doing paperwork.

Finally,
what the use of the internet should do is give you the freedom to think about
your job in a whole new way and the time to pursue a more strategic direction
for your department, and for your own career.

Sonia
Warnes is sales and marketing director for Microsoft Business Solutions HR

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