Beyond the Hiring Basics
The Internet is transforming corporate recruiting.¹ Monster.com alone hosts 18 million résumés (13 percent of the U.S. labor force), and on any given day, several million people are busily combing its site. And Monster.com is not alone; there are now thousands of Web sites offering job listings. Some 90 percent of U.S. companies now recruit online—and for very hardheaded reasons. Online recruiting lets firms target many qualified candidates for a job, screen them in seconds, and contact the best ones immediately. It is only one-twentieth the cost of want ad hiring and slices fifteen days off the usual forty-three day hiring cycle.
The Web allows managers to reach larger numbers of potential candidates, and in venues that weren’t available in the past. It also allows companies to pinpoint their recruiting efforts and to set themselves apart from competitors through creative electronic tactics. But companies that use the Internet solely as an extension of paper-based recruiting practices fail to exploit the power of the new
medium. Here are some tips—and some cautions:
1.Broaden the pool of candidates. In a drum-tight labor market, companies
must use the Internet to reach both “active” and “passive” candidates. Active candidates are those who post their résumés on online job boards. Passive candidates—qualified workers happily employed elsewhere—make up a larger and more appealing pool. To reach passive candidates, some experts recommend that one or more HR personnel be dedicated to visiting and searching through the Web sites frequented by prime candidates. For example, if your company needs Java programmers, consider their probable age and preferences.
Mostly between twenty-two and twenty-nine years old, they surf the Web heavily and are likely to visit several sites for information on Java—JavaWorld .com, Java Developer’s Journal.www.javadevelopersjournal.com/java), and Gamelan.com.These same people might check CN@Pnet.com for technology news, CNet.com for technology reviews,Tunes.com for music downloads and purchases, ESPN.com for sports, and CNN.com for news. Every one of these URLs
accepts banner advertisements—banners that could be used to recruit candidates who hadn’t given much thought to leaving their current jobs.
2.Focus on the best sources.
One lesson people are learning as they pursue online recruiting is that simply posting job openings on your company Web site or on big commercial boards, such as Monster.com, Hotjobs.com, or Career-Path.com, is unlikely to yield the right candidates quickly—or at all. The reason is that your message is likely to be lost in the crowd. One way to boost the odds of success is to target smaller sites— specifically, the increasing number of Web sites that focus on particular types of jobs in specific locales. Careers.wsj.com, for example, positions itself as the number-one site for mid- to senior-level executives.
For technical personnel, many recruiters are unaware of the existence of Usenet, a global system of discussion groups. Its bulletin boards can be extremely specific regarding job function and location (for example, fl.jobs.computers.programming lists only job openings in Florida for computer programmers). A moderator even ensures that job postings meet
3.Set yourself apart.
When talent is in short supply, an employer must adapt marketing logic to its recruiting effort. In effect, it must approach qualified potential recruits as “customers.” And the first step in marketing is differentiation. Employers are coming up with clever uses of the Internet to differentiate themselves from competitors. Some companies add a link to Datamasters.com on their Web sites, encouraging potential applicants in other regions to compare costs of living and to estimate relocation costs.
Others sport résumé builders on their sites. Caterpillar, for example, offers a fill-in-the-blank résumé form on its site (www.cat.com) that encourages applicants to file on the spot rather than go through the more complicated process of writing, printing, and mailing a traditional résumé and cover letter. The form also allows Caterpillar to specify the information it wants from job seekers by inserting, for example, a field for “technical, manufacturing, or computer-based skills.” A regularly updated list of available positions at Caterpillar, sorted by location, function, and division, is linked to the résumé-building page.
One enterprising company, an IT marketing agency in New York City, went so far as to install a Web camera in its offices so that potential recruits could get a look at the company’s creative workspace.
4.Use recruiting software to avoid being drowned in data. Lacking an effective
filtering mechanism, your recruiters could easily be overwhelmed by the résumés found on the Web or e-mailed directly to them. Fortunately, several companies have developed recruiting software that allows companies to search the Web and download relevant prospects to a database, where they can be managed and evaluated.
Thanks to this type of software, recruiters and HR personnel can spend more time posting jobs, reviewing online résumés, and matching up applicants with specific positions, rather than slogging through irrelevant material.
Keep Web Hiring in Perspective
Although two to three million résumés are posted online today, remember that this is a small fraction of the 140 million people in the American labor force. So, from the recruiting company’s viewpoint, it may be seeing just a small fraction of qualified individuals in its search. And in terms of individuals picking up your company on their radar, the numbers are not entirely encouraging either. Market research firm Odyssey, in San Francisco, estimates that only 12 percent of the 102 million households in the United States include anyone who has hunted for a job online. Nevertheless, many of the “right” people from your recruitment perspective may have posted their résumé online.
And as more companies and individuals get onboard, the online recruiting proportions will become more favorable. In terms of quality of recruits, remember that online recruiting is a broadly cast net. Unlike job postings in targeted trade publications, online postings are available to all, regardless of qualifications.
Thus, a posting on one of the mega job sites might yield little more than a pile of résumés that will take you hours and hours to screen. This reality underscores the fact that the best source of good people is often referrals from your current employees.
Four Steps Peter Cappelli, a professor at The Wharton School, advocates a four-step approach to online recruiting:²
Step 1. Attract candidates. Many applicants choose potential employers based on the firm’s image. Consequently, Cappelli urges companies to integrate their recruiting efforts with their other marketing campaigns. Here are some tips for that integration and for generating a broader pool of candidates:
Build a recognizable brand by using a recognizable “look” in both recruiting
and product ads.
- Design your Web page to woo potential recruits: Cite workplace
awards you’ve received (for example, Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”) and highlight links to information about your firm’s perks and values.
- Encourage employees to e-mail job ads to qualified friends.
Step 2. Sort applicants.
Online recruiting can produce a huge number of résumés. The challenge is to sort through these quickly without tossing out the choice candidates. Per Cappelli’s findings, here are some solutions:
- Electronically screen applicants with simple online questions, such as,
“Are you willing to relocate?” or “When could you start work?” Questions like these can screen out the obvious mismatches. (See “A Legal Caveat” for more about screening questions.)
- Use online tests and games to elicit information about applicants’
interests, attitudes, and abilities.
Step 3. Make contact.
Online recruiting operates in a different time frame than that to which traditional HR departments are accustomed. It’s very fast! Recruiters not only must recognize this different pace, but must adapt to it. Cappelli offers a few tips for doing this:
- Connect a “live” person with a desirable applicant immediately.
- Get your recruiters to think and act like entrepreneurs. Thus, it may be
advisable to take online recruiting out of the hands of old-line HR
managers, who may be unused to moving quickly.
- Give line managers a larger say in hiring. Decentralization allows
candidate-seeking business units to go directly to online job boards to seek their own candidates.
Step 4. Close the deal.
Once you’ve made contact, the Internet connection should move to the background, and good old-fashioned person-to-person contacts should move front and center. In this step, the people doing the hiring need to concentrate on the traditional business of getting to know potential hires and acquainting them with the organization. If they don’t, too many good applicants will slip through their fingers.
Recruiters in this stage should build personal relationships with candidates and let the best of those candidates know that they are wanted. To assure that this happens, one expert cited by Cappelli advocates that recruiters spend only one hour per day on the Web, and the rest of their time in personal contact with qualified candidates. Others suggest that one group of recruiters concentrates on finding qualified people and another handles offline interactions.