On-line recruitment is not always right

Searching for staff on the Internet cannot yet take the place of good, old-fashioned paper, says John Frye

As we move towards an on-line world, we must pause and ask ourselves whether we are moving our business on-line just for the sake of it?

Employers need to weigh up the benefits of taking this step. It boasts significant cost and time reductions and also reduces discrimination and subjective selection. Employers can also reach a wider audience.

However, is this the recipe for a better service to jobseekers and companies? Recruitment, to me, is a people business. It is not just about fishing for bodies, but getting to know people. That’s why I don’t believe it is good strategy to go completely on-line. The technology should make things happen a lot quicker, but it shouldn’t replace the human touch and in my view, it never will. People buy people. No one’s a robot.

I heard a story of a job-seeker registering with a dedicated recruitment Web page, and the following week her own CV ends up on her current boss’s desk. There couldn’t be a worse result.

This really does show the negative case scenario, but it illustrates the point – it shows a breakdown of the system that does not recognise personality and individuality.

Mechanical responses are fine for business applications that just rely on a formula. Recruitment’s formula needs to include people, a formula which is just about impossible to equate.

When candidates register their details on-line with recruitment agencies they include every possible keyword in their history in order to prompt the search engine to detect them. So, consultants log on to locate good candidates, but can end up with hundreds of suspects who have included the right skill sets in their details, whether they are experts or not. Weeding-out the time-wasters takes hours and it means the good people are lost in the crowd.

Some on-line recruitment agencies now include psychometric testing on the Internet in an attempt to categorise candidates and assess suitability for certain positions. However, candidates are not participating in a controlled environment and, more importantly, recruiters cannot even be sure of the identity of the people actually answering the questions.

As with a list of skills on a CV, psychometric test results are only really beneficial to substantiate an application.

Generally, the impression a candidate gives in a face-to-face interview is far more effective in offering an accurate assessment of characteristics and personal profile.

With on-line recruitment applications received from as far away as Namibia, the recruitment market is no longer just dealing with the local market. In many cases, the prospective candidates aren’t serious about the position. In fact, not only is there increasingly an influx of half-hearted overseas applicants, there are also many local candidates who will just put their CV forward to test the water.

Further investigation reveals they have no real intention of changing jobs. In the past, it would be just a matter of checking CVs in paper format. Recruiters are now faced with increasing numbers of apparently qualified candidates whose CVs must be printed out, which often requires additional formatting, or a lot of time on-line reading through the vast numbers of applicants.

Recruiting on-line is a powerful tool, but it needs to be controlled. Until this happens, print advertisements will prevail as the key recruitment tool. Advertisements placed in paper publications hit the desired market, right location, timing and demographics. On-line sites need to replicate this precise targeting.

Perhaps even nicer is the knowledge that it will be there for super-efficiency, speed and competitive edge. What it won’t do is replace the human touch.

• John Frye is head of staffing solutions at Midas IT Services

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