Online Recruitment Trends

Online recruitment offers an effective means of not only advertising an employers vacancies and receiving applications, but also developing an ongoing talent pool for the organisation to tap into.  Co-authors Jeff Grout and Sarah Perrin, of the book ‘Recruiting Excellence’ look athis fast growing recruitment process.

While print-based advertising remains a major method for attracting candidates, evidence suggests online recruitment continues to grow in popularity and use – both amongst employers and jobseekers.  For example, a recent survey by the IRS Employment Review found that the submission of CV’s online is now the most popular method for receiving job applications, being used by two-thirds of employers.  Only 40% of companies are using the traditional paper application form.  Similarly, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) 2005 recruitment survey, over two thirds of organisations advertised vacancies on their own website.  Nearly three-quarters (72%) accepted emailed CVs or letters of application, while just under half accepted applications forms by email.  Just under a third organisations also had application forms which could be completed online.

As far as job hunters are concerned, the internet is a popular tool, and has been for some time.  An e-recruitment study by in 2003 found that 1.1 million people (44% of all UK internet users) had looked for a job online in the preceding 12 months, including nearly 3 million 35-44 year olds.  More recent figures from the British Market Research Bureau show that using Internet is the favoured job-hunting method for one in four UK adults.  Interestingly, the National Online Recruitment Audience Survey identified the most like job hunter as 33 years old and with 11 years experience.

“An increasingly essential part of modern recruitment activity”

The growth of online recruitment is a reflection both of the success of the method, and also of the common sense approach adopted by recruiters who don’t need to overlook any potential way of attracting the people they need.  While traditional press advertising remains more common than internet adverts, using online methods forms an increasingly essential part of modern recruitment activity. 

That said, the way that companies apply the online recruitment pipeline in practice varies.  Some miss the point of what true online recruitment can be.  Simply using it as a ‘shop front’ to promote the company and potential vacancies while still requiring CVs and applications to be made in the traditional manner – by submitting them on paper through the post. 

This kind of approach disappoints jobseekers.  According to the study, although six million people had looked for jobs via corporate websites, those websites were not being used to their full potential.  Most fell short of candidates’ expectations in several ways.  They lacked key content and functionality (with only 42% allowing candidates to apply online); the response was often slower than candidates expected; and in fact, people expect a faster response when applying for a job via the net. 

Online recruitment in its widest sense includes advertising vacancies (whether on the company’s own website or on job sites), and receiving applications (including email enquiries, CVs sent by email and application forms completed online).  Online systems can even be used to start selecting candidates, through some form of online testing.

However, online recruitment can do even more than that, by helping to build or reinforce the ‘employer brand’.  Using the internet effectively to recruit is a good way to create an image of efficiency and of being at the cutting edge.  Online recruitment can also support the development of a ‘relationship’ approach to recruitment, aimed at attracting talent to the organisation now and in the future, as opposed to the ‘transactional’ approach adopted by many organisations, which focuses on just filling particular jobs.

“a strong pool of prospective talent”

For example, online recruitment can be used to develop a talent pool.  Companies like Canon, Reuters and Microsoft have been successful in creating a strong pool of prospective talent (Reuters has a global database of 70,000 candidates – more than many recruitment consultants).  The talent pool reduces repeat recruitment costs by keeping track of targeted candidates the organisation can turn to when suitable roles become available.  Talent pools contain both active and inactive candidates who can be drawn upon immediately.  The pool could include current employees earmarked for promotion, former employees, previous speculative applicants, unsuccessful shortlisted candidates for previous appointments, candidates that have previously rejected job offers and also talent discovered at conferences.  Modern technology allows organisations to develop long-term relationships with these potential employees.  For example, automated ‘job alerts’ can be sent to targeted candidates as appropriate vacancies arise.

The potential efficiency savings from recruiting online can be significant.  Sainsbury’s achieved cost savings of 40%.  The retailer reduced the time spent by managers in reviewing CVs and increased the typical speed of recruitment. – at best it took just eight days to move from application to offer.  Other online success stories include those of Federal Express (reduced its recruitment time by 65%), KPMG (cut average time to hire by 14 days), Reuters (saved £1 million in recruitment fees) and BP (achieved a 25% improvement in recruitment efficiency). 

Virtually, every industry sector now uses online recruitment.  However, the IT industry, which led the way, is probably still the most prolific user.  This is understandable, given that the IT personnel being targeted are amongst the most frequent and capable internet users.  Another factor is that IT roles or capabilities required can often be described succinctly in code form (such as C++ or Java).  Candidates can easily conduct online searches to find vacancies that fit their own personal skills by using these same codes.  Any role which is hard to describe or does not fit an industry norm is, generally speaking, harder to fill by online recruitment means.

As use of the internet has become a normal part of modern life, so a wide range of personnel can be recruited online.  The Monster Employment index UK confirms the breadth of roles which employers now seek to fill by online recruitment.  According to the index, the highest growth in online job availability in October was experienced by craft workers, legislators, senior officials and managers, while demand for service and shop workers also rose.  Vacancies for plant and machine operators were also being advertised online, although demand for them fell slightly.

“more traditional methods”

Graduates and younger age groups in general are clearly in tune with the online culture and, given the size of the graduate pool, using the Internet to contact this source of talent can be highly efficient.  However, the most senior positions (unless in the IT industry) may be better filled by more traditional methods.  Some posts still need the input of executive search consultants or headhunters, either because they require specific skills and experience or because the people or person who fit the bill won’t necessarily be jobhunting at the time.  Search and selection firms can also be useful resources because of the advice, based on experience, that they can give about how to find suitable candidates in a competitive market.

An organisation’s size and sophistication will often determine the approach taken to online recruitment; for example, whether it uses an online recruitment website in addition to, or instead of, its own.  Small companies (in the FTSE 250) are generally m ore likely to underutilise their corporate website in recruitment terms.  This is understandable, because setting up and maintaining web pages dedicated to recruitment clearly requires significant in-house IT resources and expertise.  On the other hand, the do-it-yourself approach has the advantage of capturing browsers who come to your website, drawn by the power of the brand.  You also maintain complete control of the recruitment process and don’t have to rely on someone else’s systems.

Specialist online jobsites have some advantages, however.  They can attract a large number of hits, placing your job vacancy in front of a potentially huge audience.  Vacancies can have a link back to your own website.  If you decide to use the services of an online jobsite, you then need to choose whether to go with a generalist or specialist.  That decision may depend on how specialist the role is that you are seeking to fill, or on the potential size of the candidate pool you want to tap into.  Generalist sites will probably attract a higher number of jobseekers, but specialist sites could have applicants with more appropriate skills.

As noted earlier, online testing of candidates is also possible such as psychometric tests focused on personality, or on aptitude and ability.  This can be an efficient way of screening out an early stage those least suited to a vacancy.  However, conducting such tests online can create problems.  For example, care needs to be taken in the way test results are communicated.  A rejection generated automatically may lack the personal touch necessary to soften the blow, potentially damaging the organisation’s reputation.

Online recruitment won’t necessarily replace other methods such as the use of search and selection agencies, but it can play a key part in a blended recruitment process.  Recruiters need to understand the particular type of job applicant they are targeting and then determine the best approach or mix of approaches.  Using online recruitment in this informed manner can only boost an organisation’s chances of attracting the people it needs.

Summary• Online recruitment can improve efficiency in recruitment by reducing man hours involved and reaching a wide audience• All sectors can benefit, though the IT sector is a leader in using online recruitment• Many roles can be filled via online methods, as long as they can be described clearly and succinctly and, preferably, in a way that uses key terms job hunters will use when conducting an online search• Job hunters expect online recruitment processes to be quick and efficient• Company websites can be effective, particularly when the brand is well known• Recruitment websites can reach a large audience of jobseekers• The more advanced online recruitment systems allow CVs to be submitted or online application forms to be completed, while some form of testing can also be incorporated• Online recruitment can be a valuable part of a recruitment process, in addition to traditional press advertising and the use of agencies

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