The health service is the latest in a long line of organisations to bring its recruitment process into the 21st century, as Dominique Hammond reports
Each month more than a million people in the UK use the Internet to look for a job, National Opinion Poll research found earlier this year. And a growing number of companies are concentrating their recruitment efforts on their web sites. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, 83 per cent of their members are using or plan to use the Internet to advertise vacancies.
Internet recruitment can save time, money and paperwork. As access spreads with the advent of digital television, the number of people using it to look for jobs will continue to grow.
The NHS is the latest employer to see the potential of the Net as a recruitment tool. Earlier this month it announced plans to set up a one-stop jobs billboard to advertise all NHS vacancies from consultants to hospital porters all over England (Personnel Today, 22 August). The NHS is the largest employer in Europe, has more than a million staff and advertises about 100,000 jobs a year. It spends £30m a year on recruitment advertising alone.
The aim of the site, which will target NHS staff and the public, is to reach the widest possible audience while cutting back the paperwork that plagues health service HR professionals and reducing the amount of money the service is forced to spend advertising in specialist journals.
The decision to launch the site, which the DoH says will be running by spring 2001, is timely, coming just weeks after the Government announced that an extra 35,000 professionals will be recruited to the service as part of the modernisation drive.
Marion Forrest, director of personnel for mental health services in Salford, is keen to use technology to aid recruitment. But like other people in her position the one big hurdle she sees is that, despite the media obsession, many people still do not use the Internet. In many cases people do not have access to it, while others are simply not interested.
Forrest says her own attempts to find staff through the Web were more successful for some posts than others. Using some of the general recruitment sites, including monster.com and StepStone, she got a good response from doctors, especially from overseas, but found hardly any nurses.
Roy Davis, head of communications at psychometric test developer SHL, which is designing tests increasingly for on-line recruitment sites, says the lower level the job, the less likely candidates will have access to the Net. But he adds that although this is a problem now it is likely to disappear in the next few years as access widens.
Davis is not concerned that people will have problems getting on-line but is worried that the site will not be able to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate candidates. Unless the site is sophisticated enough to weed out some applications before they get to the employer, HR professionals will find themselves snowed under, he says.
“All you will have is a lot of jobs and a lot of people. You have got to put a sifting mechanism in to make it meaningful, otherwise it will just exacerbate the difficulties recruiters already face.”
He says “fourth generation” recruitment sites, which some companies are introducing, not only have an application form to fill in on-line but also ask questions to check basic suitability.
“For example, you might ask if the person is willing to relocate or willing to work shifts. If they answer no to both questions but they are a requirement of the job, their application will not get any further.”
Davis adds that the site should tell the applicant why they are not appropriate and could even suggest other jobs they might be more suitable for.
John Adsett, head of personnel at Basildon and Thurrock General Hospital, has other doubts. The attraction of an advert in a magazine is that it gives the company a chance to sell itself, something an on-line site with nothing more than a long list of vacancies and basic details such as location and salary, will not allow, he says.
“If you talk to any hospital in the South East, there is very much the feeling that we are in competition because of the scarce resources. We would want the opportunity of telling people why they should come to us rather than any of the other 300 trusts that are also looking for staff,” he says.
“I am a real fan of the Internet, I think this is the way things will go and would like us to advertise jobs on our own site. But I’m just not sure this will make that much difference that quickly.”
On-line jobs sites