Jobs on the Net

A number of companies are finding that investment in on-line recruitment is really paying off.

A number of companies are finding that investment in on-line recruitment is really paying off.

The Internet is proving to be a formidable tool for IT recruitment. Despite the downturn in Internet companies generally and the threat of a decrease in the number of jobs advertised, the Internet is holding its own against other forms of advertising and is even proving to be the medium of choice for some companies.

IBM has been working on its Internet recruitment strategy for the Emea region for the past 18 months. It has a central database of 100,000 applications and processes 15,000 CVs a month. Such a volume of CVs means the system must be efficient and easy to use and it is constantly being refined to make it so.

"We have partnered with an application service provider called Intronet and we have tailored an end-to-end recruitment system," says Charles Hardy, Internet recruitment leader for IBM. "We're right in the middle of putting it in place." The system is used for all departments and currently has 300 vacancies live on the Internet.

Candidates key in their CV on-line, complete an on-line form and attach their predesigned CV. The system accepts speculative CVs as well as those received in response to advertised jobs. Using the raw data, HR professionals can go to work. They sift through the applications, taking out those they want to process to interview and keeping interesting ones on the database for cross-referencing.

The system takes HR managers through the recruitment process, from the point where vacancies are advertised internally and externally through to selection of candidates for interview, the creation of the offer letter and getting final HR approval for the preferred candidate. It is scaleable enough to allow feedback from interviews to be stored with the CVs and results from the choices that have been made can be communicated back to the HR departments on-line.

IBM has 100,000 employees in the Emea region working in 40 countries. The area covers an enormous amount of cultural diversity with different languages and abilities, so the system has to be flexible enough to deal with all the requirements when choosing candidates. The Internet provides a means of streamlining the process, as well as making it simpler.

Old and new
IBM keeps its options open in the number of media it uses to advertise jobs. It still uses hard copy, depending on which country it is dealing with, along with fax, e-mail and job boards such as Monster. When it advertises in newspapers, IBM includes the Internet URL to encourage people to visit its Web site. "We want to drive people onto our Web site," states Hardy. "We give them the right labels so we can search effectively. We can also revisit our own database when searching for external candidates."

So how effective is the system? "Very good," Hardy says. "We're still rolling out, but so far, so good." IBM has already cut its HR costs by 50 per cent by centralising support and using Internet technology.

For such a huge system to be effective, it must have a support system to provide back-up if necessary. IBM has created a recruitment service centre in Portsmouth to serve Emea, providing central and language support.

So how does the system cope with 15,000 CVs a month? "Our business is how we capture information and use it effectively," Hardy reveals. "We have first-level screening internally by country because applications are country-oriented and each country has its own team. Hopefully, a large number of applications relate to specific vacancies, which helps us in sifting."

The Internet is particularly effective in communicating with the candidate. "We invite candidates to select a country, we check whether they have the right credentials, qualifications and work permits and we then advise them if they will be successful and whether they fulfil the right criteria," he says. Of the successful candidates, the system will be able to rank them to provide HR managers with the top ten per cent of applicants. Such a process takes weeks now, rather than months.

Moreover, it is important to keep checking the database to ensure that candidates who have not been successful and are not being considered for other posts are taken off. "Obviously, a certain amount of clearing out of data warehousing has to be done and we have to ensure that keeps moving," says Hardy. At the moment, the database is checked every six months.

Competing for candidates
But IBM has a lot of competition to capture on-line job seekers with specialist companies such as Monster and Microsoft. Hardy is conscious of the candidates he is sharing with such competitors. That is the reason IBM is trying to attract people to its site first and foremost. "We've got to get them to come straight to us," he says. "We've got an interactive site for graduates which offers on-line interactive games to make sure there is something to come back to. The challenge is measuring the sites to see how well they function, but that is not as easy as it might appear."

The other thing about its ASP system is the back-up functions it provides, such as measurements. "One of the good things is great statistics," Hardy claims. "How many people are applying through which channels, the percentage interviewed, the percentage hired. All the information can be extracted from the on-line database at any time." So Internet recruitment is now about much more than putting jobs on your Web site. It has changed the whole recruitment process and has become indispensable to IBM.

For keeps
Another approach using the Internet is to attract and retain a candidate throughout his or her professional life. This approach is being successfully adopted by Harvey Nash, which is using the Internet to provide a discreet career management service where the site is used to communicate with clients and assist them to find the right kind of job.

The Harvey Nash site gives senior sales and technical staff earning in excess of £45,000 the back-up and support they need when applying for a job. It offers a magazine, a consultant to answer queries and act as a 'doctor' to the candidate to deal with any problems and to report on the state of the market, as well as providing details of other people working in the sorts of jobs that are being applied for.

"We're trying to pitch it towards being a definitive networking site for senior executives," says Paul Smith, managing director of the UK technology practice for Harvey Nash. "It is doing tremendously well. I think it is the single most successful end-to-end recruitment site in the UK."

Smith claims candidates get real value from the site. After registering, they hear from Harvey Nash regularly, with the kind of support that has so far attracted 1,200 CEOs to register from the tech arena. "We are particularly strong in senior management in the tech and telecoms market and extremely strong in very senior sales," he says.

But the tech downturn has affected the number of jobs on the site. "There are fewer jobs and more candidates registered," he reveals. There are 15,000 senior executive candidates registered and the site receives 150,000 visits a week, half of which are people getting information on how to find a new job or reacting to redundancy.

Smith reports one area of buoyant activity as being covert recruitment, where a sales director is looking to replace the bottom 25 people with high performers for example. "We do that by searching the network and making quiet telephone calls to appropriate people to arrange interviews and make placements and it works very well for us," he says. "We've made hundreds of placements through the site."

The future of recruitment
In fact, it is working so well that Smith believes the Internet is the future of recruitment in terms of candidate and career management. "People want an understanding of where their careers should go, both when actively seeking work and when they have a job," he says. "It is more like football management. Candidates stay with us throughout their career. That is the aim of our site and we have gone a long way towards achieving it over the past two years."

Harvey Nash's site also offers a number of 'microsites' which offer detailed information about what it's like to work for a company, or someone in a particular job will be interviewed to get a real understanding of what it's like to do that job. In this way, the Internet is acting as a crucial marketing tool for the job market. Candidates do have to be of a certain calibre though. "We reject people who don't fit and we also reject people who don't update information," Smith states.

One example of the way the Internet worked for Smith recently was when a large telecoms company acquired another business and the merged entity needed a salesforce very rapidly. "We found eight senior salespeople, two sales managers, a sales director and five senior salespeople in five weeks," Smith says. He believes that is a good example of how the Internet can react rapidly to client needs and find quality candidates quickly.

So in four particular areas - speed of processing applications, care of clients, reaction to market needs and cutting costs - the Internet is making a path for itself in the recruitment market.

Further information:
First Person Global: www.firstpersonglobal.com
IBM: www.ibm.com
Harvey Nash: www.harveynash.co.uk

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