Online Recruiting -- Adapt And Adopt

Jim Blasingame

In the old days, if you needed a job you first looked in the help wanted ads in the paper, especially for local work. For regional and national opportunities, the big city papers on the newsstand could be helpful.

You might have hooked up with an employment agency to let them put you together with a prospective employer. If your search was for a more specialized or executive position, you probably availed yourself of the services of a headhunter.

Then there was always good old networking - calling friends and acquaintances to let them know you were looking.

Either way, the trusty resume had to be updated, copies made, cover letters written, and lots of postage stamps purchased. Lots of mailings and lots of waiting.

If you were on the other side of the desk, looking for just the right employee, similar steps were involved, except instead of sending resumes, you received them.

That Was Then - This Is Now
Today, well, all that stuff is still valid enough. So what's new? What else?! The Internet. As it has in so many aspects of our lives, the Internet has turned the employment marketplace upside-down.

On my show recently, our Brain Trust's human resources expert, William Hubbartt, reported that a survey conducted by Industry Standard showed that 79% of job seekers checked the traditional classified ads, but that 75% of those respondents also searched for job opportunities on the Internet.

Paradigm Shift On The Other Side Of The Desk
Bill says that 70% of human resources managers report using the Internet as part of their recruiting efforts. Two years ago, the same poll turned up only 21% Internet use by these managers. Wow! From 21% to 70% in two years. I think that qualifies as a paradigm shift in the HR field.

Some of us remember the corporate interview dog-and-pony shows of our senior year in college that was a kind of right-of-passage. Recruitment surveys report that 90% of the current grad crop uses the Internet as a key tool in their job search. I wonder how long corporations will continue their treks to check out the best and the brightest on campus. Could this be the end of an era for one corporate recruiting practice?

Surf Your Way To A Job Or An Employee
This new marketplace is big. While doing a little surfing, Bill found over 250 job search web sites. One site boasted almost a half million jobs listed. We've all seen the ads, as well as those of some of its competitors. Just go to any search engine and type in "employment". You'll get all the cyber-employment action you want.

The Small Business Angle
So what does all of this online employment buzz mean for us small business owners? Same thing as when people started getting their information online; same as when people started buying online; same as when people started learning about companies online. Two words: Adapt and adopt.

• Adapt your recruiting practices to correspond to the way people think about looking for employment today.

• Adopt an online employment strategy that makes your company look interesting and savvy at a minimum, and finds your next key employees at a maximum.

Employment Opportunities At ACME
I remember the first time I saw this link on a web site. In those early Internet days, such information was pretty novel. But that novelty didn't last long. About 30 days, I think.

Today, if your company looks for an employee on a fairly regular basis, say once a quarter, posting position profiles or an actual job opening on your web site is a must. And even if you don't hire a lot of people, it's still a good idea to post at least a general description of the kinds of skills you employ.

Posting your requirements on your web site provides two opportunities:

1. It may actually help you find qualified applicants for a currently available position.

2. Over time, "trolling" for future employees on your site should help keep qualified prospects in the pipeline. When an opening happens, if you've "caught" a few prospects, you just phone or email them to find out which ones are still available. Your previous contacts have actually qualified them as prospective employees, just like you qualify prospective customers.

A Management Challenge
One of the greatest challenges of any business owner or manager today is finding enough people to do the work. In this tight labor market, many companies are so desperate that they don't take applications any more, they take pulses. If you can fog a mirror, you're hired. To some degree, that desperation is no fault of the owner. Most people who want to work already have a job. But Bill Hubbartt and I believe your desperation can be partially, if not totally minimized, by employing an online employee prospecting strategy.

What Should You Say?
Be sure to include "best foot forward" information on your company. In fact, this is even more basic than profiles or positions. If you can convey a positive impression, you might actually score one of those people Bill calls "passive employees".

Passives employees are not necessarily looking for a new job, but now, as a visitor to your site, they have had their interest piqued. They might introduce themselves and pay you a compliment on your site by email. You follow-up with a thank you and an introduction. Ba-da-bim, ba-da-boom, next thing you know, you've got yourself a new key employee that you may not have found if you spent a million dollars on a search. Hey! It could happen.

Confidentiality Is Key
It is very likely that the prospective employees you meet, online or off, will currently be employed. Consequently, confidentiality is critical. Bill encourages you to include a statement in your contact information that confidentiality is understood. He suggests language like, "For confidential consideration, contact...".

How Much?
Yes, it does cost money to create the link and employee opportunity page, plus manage the updates. But that expense can be peanuts compared to the answers to these three questions:

• How much does a classified ad cost? A seven day newspaper ad can cost as much as a year of website hosting.

• How much did you pay that employment agency or headhunter to find your last employee? An agency fee for one employee can cost as much as developing a web site.

• How much is it going to cost you if it takes you 3 months to fill your next opening? Only you know this answer. Could be A LOT.

Remember what I've said about one of the best ways to be successful in business: Make money while you sleep. The same is true for success in finding good employees. Look for prospective employees 24/7, even while you sleep. You can do this by having an online employee prospecting strategy, complete with company and position profile information posted on your web site, plus specific opportunities when you have them.

Don't Disregard The Old Ways - Yet
As in most areas of managing your business, the Internet component is a means to an end, not a way of life; just a new tool, not a replacement for everything else you've been using. Don't forego the traditional methods of finding good people just yet. The survey mentioned above said that 40% of those who surfed the web for jobs found theirs through referrals; 23% said they got hired as a result of newspaper activity; and only 4% of the surfers actually became employed as a result of their Internet efforts.

Write this on a rock... Add an employment opportunity component to your online strategy. Let all visitors to your web site, prospective employees as well as prospective customers, know that your business is dynamic and savvy. The Internet is changing the way we live and do business. Make sure you adapt to the changes, and adopt the new capability that creates opportunity and competitive advantage.


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