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first_imgOnlinerecruitment is surging ahead, but is there a danger that it may discouragepotential applicants? HR professionals had their say at a roundtablediscussion. Nic Paton reports    Even the most Luddite of HR professionals cannot afford to ignore the riseand rise of online recruitment. From a standing start five years ago, theonline recruitment market in the UK is now a multi-million pound industryattracting millions of jobseekers to a vast array of sites. Only last month (August) jobs website GoJobsite claimed 82 per cent ofjobseekers considered the internet to be the simplest way to source new jobopportunities, while 84 per cent thought it the easiest way to apply for jobsand 55 per cent found it the best way to land a position. And a survey of 9,000 people by online recruiter Workthing in May – part ofthe Guardian Media Group – found some 36 per cent of internet users – or anestimated 6.3 million people – had sought jobs online – a 50 per cent increaseon last year. Yet it’s still early days. Online recruiter Totaljobs estimates onlinerecruitment still only makes up about 5 per cent of the multi-billion poundrecruitment market. To find out, then, how HR professionals should best exploit this potentiallylucrative market – and make sure they are not left behind – Personnel Todayorganised a roundtable debate on the issue. We invited senior HR practitionersfrom both the private and public sectors to discuss online recruitment – thebenefits, the challenges and its future. Does online recruitment bring real business benefits? Even those who admitted to a fair degree of scepticism – such as Martin Tiplady,HR director at the Metropolitan Police – accept that online recruitment canproduce real business benefits. He said he had been surprised by the quantityof internet job enquiries the Met had received. “Last year, we recruited between 2,500 and 3,000 people from 60,000enquiries and 25 per cent of those came through e-mail and the internet. We arenow thinking we will not only want enquiries through it, but applicationstoo,” he said. The challenge, argued Helen Williams, resourcing development manager atSafeway, is how to reduce spend on external websites and attract passivejobseekers. The supermarket chain has set up careers pages on its corporatewebsite, which has been running for around two months. Even at a relatively basic level, online recruitment can bring easy costbenefits, she said. “Our website is not actually a key source ofattraction. We are directing people to it once they have made some sort ofcontact with us. But we do see benefits in cost savings. We’re not posting outapplication forms and we’re saving a lot of time because the response isimmediate.” But if you wish to make savings it is important to be focused on what sortof candidate you want, argued Charles Macleod, head of recruitment atPricewaterhouseCoopers. Online recruitment has a reputation for ‘scattergun’job hunting, offering too many jobs on too many sites without the ability tofilter applications adequately, so actually adding to HR’s workload. “The last thing you want to do is to attract everybody. We probablydeal with about 15,000 applications from graduates a year, but if you can focusyour applications on those who are potentially viable with a decent and fairlyrobust selection process, then the web can be very powerful as a way of drivingdown your selection costs,” he said. Does it find the right people? The most problematic element of online recruitment for all of the roundtableparticipants is whether using the web produces the right kind of people for thejob, and the right blend of candidates. “Our experience is that it hasbeen particularly good at attracting graduates but not particularly good atattracting anybody else,” said John Ainley, HR director at Norwich Union,which has had an online recruitment site for nearly four years. Where online recruitment beats conventional recruitment hands down is in itspotential to allow an employer to build an ongoing relationship with a possiblecandidate, he added. Even if there is not a suitable job available at the current time, e-mailallows an employer to keep in touch and keep them interested – a distinctadvantage to just sending out a form letter and slotting the CV away in afiling cabinet. For graduates, applying online is often simply an extension of their normalworking methods, argued Macleod. But employers need to remember the internet isless attractive to others. Many workers, particularly the lower paid or thosein the public sector, for instance, may not have access to a computer. While the number of older workers who are computer literate is increasing,there are still many who are not. With workforce demographics changing, andforthcoming legislation which will ban age discrimination in 2006, employersneed to be careful they don’t discriminate, or harm their chances of gettingthe best candidate simply because they’ve gone completely over to online. “I don’t think we’re quite in a position where the web is the ‘silverbullet’, certainly not in terms of online applications or online selecting,we’re still some way off from that,” said Macleod. The issue of who you want to attract or put off is very problematic, agreedMaureen MacNamara, head of HR at the Law Society. This is particularly the casewhen dealing with people with disabilities, which may not be immediatelyapparent if someone is applying online. “We are trying to be incrediblycareful about it, as I am sure are lots of other organisations, to ensure thateveryone is treated exactly the same,” she said. Pfizer receives about 150 CVs a month, explained Sarah Jordan, resourcingadviser at the pharmaceuticals firm. “What we are finding is thatgraduates and young scientists are using it but medics won’t touch it with abarge pole. They like to be courted. It is still about understanding the typeof people you want to attract and whatever you need to get from them,” sheexplained. In the US Pfizer recruited 70 people from its database for $400-$500 a head,as opposed to £2,500 a head in the UK. “It is certainly reducing costs.The difficulty we’re having is we don’t understand the expectation of peoplewho put their CVs online. How often do they expect to be contacted? Whatcontact do they expect to have? Those sorts of things,” she added. Nigel Baldwin, HR director of Marconi Capital cited the example of a majorblue-chip organisation that moved to internet-only applications for itsgraduates. It found the number of applicants reduced in the first year from13,000 to 5,000. While the people were of a suitable calibre, the company nolonger achieved the ethnic or social mix of applicants it wanted. One way round this is for organisations to use application forms rather thanCVs, argued the Law Society’s MacNamara. But this brings its own problems. People may be reluctant to go to the trouble of filling in a large form,said Siobhan Holland, client director at DHC, and organisations often do notthink them through. “Employers do not offer any download facilities sopeople have to stay online, they can’t leave it and come back to it and that’sgoing to lose an awful lot of candidates. “If you are filling in an average-sized application form, it is goingto take 40 minutes and I think a lot of businesses miss a trick. Those tinylittle things can make a difference whether or not people carry through to theend. “Some don’t use pre-selection questions so a candidate gets threequarters of the way through and then realises it is not appropriate for them.That is really going to disenfranchise not only the potential candidate butalso, depending on your business, potential customers as well,” she added.How far can online recruitment go? Online recruitment is becoming increasingly sophisticated, with ever-moreorganisations using data mining techniques, candidate selection andpre-selection tools. But as the number and range of sites increase, andquantity of jobs that can be accessed grows, the roundtable group expressedconcern about where technology was leading employers and candidates. One of the key complaints the panel have is the sheer number of sites in themarketplace. This leads to worries that good candidates are being missed orsimply not able to find the best jobs for them. “Jobseekers have got to bevery clear about what sites they are searching to find out about opportunities.There are a million and one sites that are advertising an awful lot. One canget put off simply by the sheer volume,” said the Met’s Tiplady. One answer might be for specialist journals to run online jobs listingpages, with employers paying to be included, rather than taking outconventional advertisements, suggested Janet Lytwynchuk, HR director at travelfirm Accoladia. “I think the clumsiest bit for an applicant is the route to take toaccess the diversity of companies you feel you might be interested in. We oftenlook at online recruitment as employers trying to attract people, rather thanfrom the applicant’s point of view and what they might want or find useful andhelpful,” she said. How you keep a potentially suitable candidate interested if there is not an immediatevacancy is one of the key challenges facing employers, added DHC’s Holland. She cited the example of a big electronics company that analysed its CVs topick up information about valuable potential candidates and their hobbies andfamilies, to ensure it kept in touch with them. It then began e-mailing peoplewho, for example, said they liked skiing with information about good skiresorts. “The danger is that you stray into the virtual version of junkmail,” warned PricewaterhouseCooper’s Macleod. “If your brand isabout employment and you start sending people other stuff, there’s a risk theywon’t come back again. So you have to be really, really careful.” “It has got to be appropriate and timely,” agreed Holland. Where next? The future development of online recruitment could be just as much tied inwith the continuing evolution of the workplace, suggested Andreas Ghosh, headof personnel and development at the London Borough of Lewisham. “Is e-recruitment going to start leading us to think differently abouthow we employ people in the same way it is leading us to think differentlyabout our processes? Will we be recruiting people at all or entering into adifferent type of contractual relationship, or will we be trying to havelife-long relationships as employers and employees?” he asked. The difficulty for any HR professional is the speed in which the technologyis evolving, agreed PricewaterhouseCooper’s Macleod. “At some point youhave to push the button and say ‘I’m going to buy this recruitment managementsystem for X100,000 pounds and you know the next day there is going to beanother come along that’s slightly better and so you put it off and put it offbut eventually have to dive in.” Ultimately, the Met’s Tiplady believes, despite much progress, HRprofessionals have still yet to use online recruitment to its full and bestpotential. “Maybe it’s tardiness on our part, but we haven’t really risento the challenge that internet recruitment has set out for us,” he said.”We haven’t really grabbed it and said ‘let’s make this a success’.” In theory recruitment websites ease the process of recruiting globally. Butwhat’s the reality? Roundtable participantsJohn Ainley, HR director, Norwich Union; Nigel Baldwin, HRdirector, Marconi Capital; Bryan Finn, head of HR, MMD; AndreasGhosh, head of personnel and development, London Borough of Lewisham;SiobhanHolland, Client director, DHCGroup; Sarah Jordan, Pfizer, JanetLytwunchuk, HR director, Accoladia; Charles Macleod, head of recruitment, PriceWaterhouseCoopers;Maureen MacNamara, head of HR, the Law Society; Bruce Robertson, HRdirector,Levi Strauss, Martin Tiplady, HR director, Metropolitan Police Service; HelenWilliams, resourcing development manager, Safeway, Andrew Wilson, HRpolicy manager,Scottish &Newcastle Retail Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. E-recruitment: does it work?On 3 Sep 2002 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more