The recruitment world has been invaded by a plethora of internet “job boards” and recruitment sites – no less than 4,700, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). But of late they have received somewhat mixed press. Two parties in particular are set to lose out if internet fever takes hold: recruitment consultants and the press. The question is: does the internet really pose a serious threat?
Given the current situation, it would appear not. In spite of the recent rise in the use of recruitment websites, 99% of the UK's £1bn advertising expenditure remains offline. The majority of companies that advertise on the internet use it only in conjunction with other methods. Likewise, the majority of internet start-ups and ecommerce ventures still use printed media to advertise for new staff.
The big bonus for employers is the low cost of advertising on the net – estimated at an average of 50% to 80% less than other means. It is also a very efficient process, taking a relatively short time to organise, compared with traditional advertising. Plus any mistakes with the copy can be easily rectified.
Yet in spite of these advantages, it is still hard to believe that advertising in the printed press could be threatened. With so many websites to choose from, competition between groups is fierce. Even those with a higher profile, such as Stepstone.co.uk or Monster.com, are generalist sites that can never be targeted in the same way as the trade press.
There are many reasons why people will still choose papers over the internet. Relatively few senior executives have access to the internet outside of their office, and reluctance to use job sites in the office, for obvious reasons, means that the majority of professionals still favour newspapers when seeking new career opportunities. Browsing through the appointments section of the newspaper is also extremely easy; you can read the paper anywhere – in bed, on the train, in the park – and at any time of day, without incurring a hefty telephone bill.
Moreover, there is one essential target audience who will be forever out of the reach of job sites – the casual browser. A passive reader, who is not actively looking for a job, is far more likely to have a newspaper or magazine advertisement catch their eye than something on a job site. Casual browsers tend to make the best candidates, because they are usually happy in their current role and are therefore well motivated.
There have also been a number of concerns regarding security on the internet. There have been stories of candidates posting their CVs onto job boards and having no idea where they have ended up, and job sites that have simply lifted jobs from other companies' sites and posted them on their own in a bid to look good. This has done little to inspire confidence, although the problem has been officially recognised in the Department of Trade & Industry's announcement of tougher restrictions to come.
From a recruitment consultant's point of view, it seems very unlikely that the internet can take over the whole recruitment process. While online technologies can play a vital complementary role for the consultant, they cannot match the indeterminable desirability of features that a person can offer. Recruitment has evolved to incorporate the best of both worlds, coupling online capabilities whereby candidates can apply for jobs via a recruitment agency's website, with human contact and responsiveness.
The fundamentals of good business practice can never, and will never, change. The human touch plays a pivotal role in making the right choices for employers and potential employees alike. While improvements in complementary technologies can help this process, the need for human intervention. will never diminish.