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Sourcing Staff: Better...Faster...Cheaper:The Internet Business Journal (now defunct) interviewed Recruiting in Cyberspace author Andrew Barbour for his take on recruiting on the Internet. We've we reprinted the seminal interview with Mr. Barbour's permission.
"If the Internet doesn't force you to re-evaluate your organization's recruiting processes; if it doesn't challenge you to action; if it doesn't change the way you recruit, then you haven't recognized the potential of the technology. If you can't see that potential, you either don't understand the technology, or you don't understand recruiting."Q> What is the present status of Internet recruiting?
A>I've been watching the Internet job market for a year and a half now, with a very tight focus on recruiting. That environment is changing dramatically. The World Wide Web for example, has gone from being a neat toy, to a legitimate recruiting tool. The Web has exploded. More and more Internet job sites have come on-line. There are a number of 'mega-sites' like Career Mosaic, the Online Career Center, and the Monster Board, with tens of thousands of job openings. We are seeing incredible growth in Internet recruiting.
Q>Is there widespread adoption of this technology among recruiters?
A>Corporate and third-party recruiters are somewhere along the standard curve of new technology adoption: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption. After almost two years of heavy Internet publicity, we know recruiters are at least aware of the Internet. Most are at the interest or evaluation stages right now. They've recognized the potential of recruiting on the Internet and they're gathering more information on it. They want to know if Internet recruiting makes sense for them. And some recruiters, the innovators and early adopters, are at the trial and technology adoption stages. The evaluation and limited trial stages are pushing the growth right now. Many companies are running small trials.
Q>Can companies afford limited trials? Isn't that a big commitment? A>Cost is not the obstacle. More important factors are: compatibility with existing paper or electronic systems, complexity; availability; and ease of use. And we definitely cant overlook internal politics or management issues.
Q>So, in dollars, what will it cost an employer to develop a basic Internet recruiting presence?
A>One quarter the cost of one major newspaper ad.
A>It's true. The technical costs really aren't that high. An organization should be able to run a limited trial, of 6 months in duration, for under $5,000. This includes all technical costs, development costs and some introductory level training. This will be sufficient for a small to medium sized organization where the HR function has a great deal of autonomy. With that you can develop a small, but good quality, Web site and start putting job openings up on the Internet.
Then you start some cross promotions with your other recruitment media. Newspaper ads should mention the Web site, and the Web site should provide a depth of information that just wouldn't fit in a newspaper ad. The more complete the information, the fewer unqualified job-seekers will apply. In addition to saving dollars, a well designed Web site sends a clear message to candidates, 'This organization understands new technologies; we are proactive, and nimble enough to move in new directions.
If you want the impact of a 'marquee' site like Career Mosaic, you will definitely pay a lot more. The big sites are doing a great job at raising awareness. But some employers are using it more for image advertising than actually recruiting for specific positions. This is fine. However, if a recruiter is filling specific positions they will probably get better results through newsgroup ads backed up by a Web site carrying a depth of relevant corporate information.
Q>What advantages are there to recruiting on the Internet?
A>Internet technology enables the recruiter to identify better candidates, identify these candidates faster, to develop stronger relationships with candidates, and to reduce the most important performance metric in the hiring process, cost-per-hire.
Q>Which types of positions are being recruited for on the Net?
A>Right now the Internet is supporting searches for job categories that haven't even been named yet. The breadth of jobs being sourced on the net is astonishing. We've seen everything from lifeguards to choirmasters to RF engineers. The research we have conducted has shown which occupations make the most sense to recruit for on-line. Our research led us to develop a checklist to determine if target candidates are on-line. We have assigned a rating of how relevant the net is for recruiting each job group. We assigned a weighting which fits into a business decision making model. At a very high level, it is fair to say that if you are recruiting highly technical skills (not just computer skills) or professionals, that your potential candidates are on-line. This is changing with the advent of freenets, and other community based Internet access points. The Internet is going mainstream'.
Time and time again, I have heard from recruiters, "We are not looking for people who are actively searching for work. We want someone who has a job, but just isn't entirely happy with their employer". These recruiters are looking for employable people who are browsing other opportunities. Enter...the Net. The Net is so interesting and at the same time so challenging for the recruiter. The ideal candidate is out there...somewhere. Now, go find them. Recruiters have to think, what resources will my prospective candidates be accessing on a regular basis. Where will they be hanging out? Now its up to the recruiter to target these sites.
Q>What happens when too many unqualified applicants respond to an opportunity? Isn't this going to increase the workload for recruiters?
A>Actually, when interviewing other recruiters, they tend to say that they receive fewer, but more qualified, applicants via the Internet. Virtually every recruiter I have spoke with interviewed a greater portion of applicants that had responded via the Internet. Even if you receive a ton of applicants, the Internet technology is supple enough to control the oversupply situation. Example: you could screen potential candidates with an on-line test of some kind. Only people with passing marks would move on to the on-line application form.
Q>Within corporations, who is promoting the Internet? Are recruiters the source of demand or are there other groups that are pushing the technology faster?
A>By and large, recruiters are not the early adopters of technology within their organizations. Right now, it's the Information Technology types who are either pushing it or sitting on it. In many organizations, the IT department is the bleeding edge' of Internet adoption. On the flip side, some IS departments are holding back. Many senior IT people right now are not telecommunications people, and basically, the Internet is telecom. Right now, It's all about bandwidth and protocols. Some IS shops want a slick interface, they want a powerful database. Well, that is not what the Internet is about. The Internet is about pumping a ton of stuff down a wire and barraging the reader with a ton of data. A lot of IT people can't relate to that.
The other group that's pushing Internet adoption is the Marketing department. In the advertising business, "Reach is King". They see the Internet and think, "Wow, I can reach everyone." So they are the ones who are really pushing for it. Recruiters, almost by definition these days, are working in a number of niche areas. We are long past a "commodities" hiring market in most industries. So, to sell Internet in the organization's recruiting function, the reach versus niche argument becomes crucial. The Internet can take you to people and places you can't reach any other way, but management has to be convinced that the Net is the way to get the hires you really want.
Q>What's the future? Any predictions?
A>Some of the people I have been talking to, especially those with a vested interest in the Internet recruiting marketplace, believe that the big services, the super-sites' or mega-sites' will totally dominate the industry and destroy everything in their path. They think that we'll have these big databases where everyone will put their resumes and that's where people will do their recruiting. I'm not convinced. Here's why. We compete in a few different labour markets. One is regional; the other professional or industry specific. We balance the quality' of the location, with the career implications, with the compensation, and with lifestyle and family issues. If we as recruiters can capitalize on these job seeker decision criteria we will have a competitive advantage in the recruiting marketplace. For example if I am looking for a Physician in northern Ontario, I could pay for a ton of spillage on a mega-site. Alternatively, I could focus on the health care professional labour market by advertising on MedSearch. I would also cross promote this opportunity with a few sport fishing Web sites to sell the lifestyle of northern Ontario. The shape of the business is still up in the air, but I am tending to side with the niche services, if the big players don't adequately respond to the niche challenge.
As far as technology goes, the technologies that will have the biggest impacts on the recruiting marketplace will be agent technology and video conferencing once sufficient bandwidth is available, but this is still a ways off.
Q>Andrew, where can we learn more?
A>(laughter) I love leading questions like this! General information on the Internet is everywhere, in books, videos, online and through training companies. Next, you have to figure out where the Net can fit within your recruiting model. That is a little more difficult. Our book should help many recruiters at the early stages. Also, take a course on Internet recruiting or get some professional help.
Andrew Barbour is a human resource consultant with Price Waterhouse Management Consultants (email@example.com). Andrew works with both public and private sector organizations on strategic human resource management issues. His specialty is in implementing information technologies in the human resource function. His book, Recruiting in Cyberspace is available at selected bookstores, can be ordered via e-mail (contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org for details), or can be ordered direct from MUTOM business press at (613) 762-0983.
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