Spotlight on…working the internet

The news earlier this month that web giant Google planned to spend £800m acquiring YouTube – a website that allows users to watch and upload videos – proved that the internet still means big business.

Barely a week goes by without one organisation or another exploiting social networking sites such as MySpace, and even the Conservative Party has now launched a website devoted to regular video ‘blogs’ from party leader David Cameron and guests.

Recruitment tool

For employers, the potential of these new web trends lies not only in promoting their brands, but as a direct recruitment tool. It is mainly individuals who use popular sites such as MySpace to create profiles and talk about themselves, but there is nothing stopping employers from doing the same.

In the US, for example, the Marines have used MySpace to reach potential recruits. The success of the Marines’ profile, which features video film of drill sergeants and amphibious landings, has led other US employers, such as the FBI and the Army, to follow suit.

Here in the UK, employers such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Cadbury Schweppes are recognising the allure of showing, rather than telling, people what it is like to work there.

“We did some research last year to find out why graduates weren’t looking at Cadbury Schweppes, and the feedback was that they didn’t know what a career here looked like,” says graduate resourcing administrator, Susan Coen.

The result was a series of blogs, offering a glimpse into the life of graduates in different business functions. This led to a 50% increase in graduate applications from the previous year. This year, the graduate recruitment website features MP3 downloads, on which graduates speak frankly about their experiences on the scheme.

Graeme Holiday, managing director of brand consultancy 360 Advertising, says employers can no longer afford to ignore web-based recruitment possibilities, particularly if they want to attract 16- to 34-year-olds.

“We know that this group is impatient and has high expectations when it comes to technology,” he says.

Target IT

IT workers are another significant target market. The French banking company Société Générale, for example, enables potential IT recruits to download videos onto their mobile phones, outlining the job spec in more detail.

Alice Snell, vice-president of Taleo Research, which has recently carried out some research into online recruitment opportunities, points out that passive candidates (those who are satisfied in their current employment) tend to be more valuable than active ones (jobseekers), as well as being harder to reach and more numerous.

“The web is a great way of contacting them without the ethical issues surrounding headhunting and the costs associated with recruitment agencies,” she says.

Snell predicts that it will only be a matter of time before using social networking sites for recruitment becomes the norm.

“Basically, it’s an online form of traditional referrals, which is still one of the most fruitful ways of recruitment,” she says.

Don’t alienate

But while emerging internet media offer many possibilities to reach candidates, Vanessa Robinson, an adviser from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, warns that employers who turn their back on traditional recruitment methods risk alienating key groups – for example, certain age groups or people with certain disabilities.

So take advantage of the web, but make sure you cover all your bases.

Top tips on getting it right on a site

  • Reflect your company culture honestly.

  • Keep the content current.

  • Don’t forget traditional recruitment methods.

  • Beware of employees running their own blogs or podcasts to give less positive messages about your brand.

By Kate Hilpern

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