HR must embrace job sites

Findings from the latest National Online Recruitment Audience Survey show that jobs boards are as popular as ever. And with an imminent reduction in the size of the UK’s working population, recruiters are realising that online advertising will become even more important in the future.

The speed, ease of use and widespread availability of the internet means searching for work online is becoming more popular than ever, and it has become an essential part of the recruitment mix as a result.

Results from the annual National Online Recruitment Audience Survey (Noras) – which surveyed 17,000 online jobseekers over a period of three months – reveal that nearly half (45 per cent) of online jobseekers say the internet is their preferred method of looking for a job.

The study, which is based on unique user figures for the main job sites, including Totaljobs, Fish4Jobs and Workthing from October to December 2003, also shows that HR professionals are continuing to wake up to the benefits of using jobs ‘boards’ for their recruitment needs.

Tim Elkington, managing director of Enhance Media – which carried out the study – said that prior to Noras, it was difficult for HR professionals to make informed decisions about which jobs board to use.

“Advertising in the right place is fundamental to using the internet as a recruitment tool,” he said. “As there is more pressure on budgets, the internet is a sensible option and a sensible way of spending money.”

Noras also reveals that as the online recruitment sector matures, it is attracting an increasingly well-educated audience, with 60 per cent of respondents educated to degree or higher-degree level. Significantly, there is also a wider mix of employment levels actively job-seeking.

“One of the previous criticisms was that there were only graduate and IT jobs online,” said Elkington. “But these statistics show that the senior audience is being converted, and you can now pretty much advertise any level of job online.”

Online recruitment in the UK is still in its infancy compared with countries such as the US, according to Keith Robinson, commercial director at Totaljobs – one of the companies surveyed. “Jobseekers in the UK are more mature than many recruiters,” he said. “The UK has a lot to learn from the US – the trend there is for companies to advertise online first, then use other mediums.”

The internet in the UK only accounts for around 7 per cent of the recruitment market according to Totaljobs research, which indicates that many corporate recruiters are not sure of what a ‘web strategy’ actually means. “Advertising online doesn’t mean just putting vacancies on your own website,” said Robinson.

So should HR put all its proverbial eggs into one basket and throw its money at the internet? Not quite yet, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Its recent research suggests that online recruitment growth has slowed, and is more effective when used alongside traditional methods of advertising.

Angela Baron, organisation and resourcing adviser at the CIPD, said: “Using job sites is an immediate and effective way of advertising vacancies, but is still a learning process for the HR industry.”

Lloyds TSB, a heavy advertiser on the main jobs boards and a keen advocate of online recruitment, supports this view. Lorraine Crawford, head of resourcing, believes the internet is a successful and cost-efficient means of recruiting staff.

“Advertising online results in a higher speed of response, and we have found that a higher percentage of applications are returned to us,” she said. “We don’t use it in isolation, but rather in conjunction with other forms of advertising.”

“We always offer alternative means of applying for jobs to ensure that we receive applications from those people who may not have easy access to the internet,” she added.

One of the biggest complaints from HR about online recruitment has been the sheer volume of responses from candidates sending applications and CVs. But with jobseekers increasingly turning to the internet for vacancies, the industry must develop solutions to reduce the volume of applications, while raising their quality.

Robinson says this highlights the importance of installing proper candidate-management systems and technology that can ‘screen’ jobseekers when they apply. “Recruiters must have proper systems to deal with the ‘promiscuous’ jobseeker who fires off applications without researching the role.

“If you can’t manage and monitor the responses you receive, then how can you measure the success of the advertising?”

Baron, however, remains unconvinced about some of these methods: “I’m slightly nervous about the use of screening technology,” she says. “Too often, HR will try to find ways of removing people from application lists through the use of keywords and highlighting candidates’ lack of specific experience.

“With online psychometric testing, for example, there always has to be an element of trust in the process, and it seems unsuitable for a well thought out recruitment strategy.”

However, many large organisations are now putting such systems in place. With the UK working population set to shrink over the next decade, recruiters are recognising that advertising online will grow in importance. According to Robinson, recruitment won’t be a war for talent, it will be a war for people to do the jobs. “As databases at jobs boards grow, the passive jobseeker will be increasingly targeted, receiving suitable vacancies by e-mail.”

It’s inevitable that corporate recruiters cannot continue at the same level using traditional advertising mediums to find new staff. HR, it seems, will have to fully embrace online recruitment sooner, rather than later.

Noras findings

Number of job-site users

Totaljobs                      1,003,070
Fish4Jobs                     929,335
Workthing                    644,303
CW Jobs                      286,223            274,984                    251,754

ABC E audited unique users for October 2003

Job-site users’ working status

F/T permanent basis                 49%
Unemployed                             20%
F/T temporary basis                  13%
F/T education                           8%
P/T permanent basis                 4%
P/T temporary basis                 4%
Other                                       3%

Job-site users’ working level

Employee                                 44%
Manager                                   21%
Senior manager                         10%
Temporary employee                8%
Self-employed                          5%
Other                                       5%
Director                                    4%
Trainee                                     3%
Chief executive                         1%

Source: Noras


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