E-cruitment drivers

E-cruitment attracts candidates from far and wide. ZDNet Australia discovers companies which claim to steer you to the cream of the e-crop.
Written by Lisa Simmons, Contributor

E-cruitment attracts candidates from far and wide. ZDNet Australia discovers companies which claim to steer you to the cream of the e-crop.

E-cruitment is no longer just another "e-" prefixed buzzword. It can be as simple as listing a vacancy on an Internet job board or as advanced as adding an interactive careers section to your company's corporate Web site. And it works. All over the country, IT managers' inboxes are straining under the sheer weight of résumés from eager candidates who use the Web to search for jobs.

Despite the closure of the Australian arm of international job board Monster in July, job boards such as Jobnet, John Fairfax Holding's MyCareer, and News Interactive's CareerOne are attracting rising numbers of visitors. The most popular is Seek, which has over 50 percent market share and attracted 901,057 unique visitors in June (Red Sheriff figures).

Forward-thinking organisations are adding funky new features to their corporate career Web sites, turning them from dry, static, online brochures into places where job seekers can apply for positions, update their résumés, set up automated e-mails to notify them of future positions, and schedule interviews.

Undoubtedly, the Web enables recruiters to cast their net wider than ever before. The trouble is, when you cast your net wider, you tend to reel in a lot of rotten dead fish and mouldy old boots before you find your prize catch.

Cost and time savings from e-cruitment at the front end are, in some cases, cancelled out at the back end, as recruiters filter and process a far greater number of applications.

"Amongst the thousands of resumes an online recruitment drive generates, a few are gold dust, from highly qualified candidates, but hundreds will be from inexperienced applicants who happen to have a Hotmail account," says Brian Fuge, managing director of RoleCall People Systems which designed WERC (Web Enabled Recruitment Centre) to help recruiters manage e-cruitment.

Filter, assess, schedule
The ideal scenario emerging for IT recruiters is to have an integrated e-cruitment system which screens, assesses, and manages applications once they've arrived. The good news is that over the last 12 months companies, such as RoleCall People Systems, have stepped up to offer e-cruitment software and services which tackle this problem.

According to Will Spensley, director at e-cruitment research and advisory company Talent Zone, there are approximately 83 providers of e-cruitment solutions, commonly referred to as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), in Australia.

These include specialist HR software companies, recruitment agencies, Internet job boards, advertising agencies, and psychometric test developers, but they fall into three major categories: direct providers of ATS such as nga.net, RecruitASP, recruitmanager, PageUp, Hire.com, Big Red Sky, PeopleSoft, SnapHire, Kenexa, Recruitsoft; online testing and assessment specialists, such as Onetest; and Internet job boards such as Jobnet and Seek, which offer their own screening and management services.

The direct providers come from different backgrounds and have differing motivations. For example, RecruitASP, whose clients include Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, is the technology offshoot of Jobnet; recruitmanager, which counts Cap Gemini Ernst & Young amongst its clients, is the e-cruitment arm of advertising company AdCorp; and nga.net, which supplies Ford Motor Company Australia and Westpac, is 30 percent owned by John Fairfax Holdings, so has links to the f2 network's job board MyCareer.

Motivations aside, what can e-cruitment software do for you? At the front end it can automatically export job ads across job boards and a corporate Web site, so candidates see your ad almost as soon as you've decided you need a new staff member.

"To post an ad on a job board costs approximately $100, depending on the job board and the contract," says Daniel Zrno, new products manager at AdCorp, which owns recruitmanager. "A job can be posted directly from a system to a job board within minutes, whilst a press ad can cost up to several thousands and takes several hours to set up and book. Organisations have seen 50 percent cost savings doing it this way," he says.

Once posted online, these systems can filter applications, according to a set of criteria stipulated by the recruiter.

"After screening, clients see between 30 and 50 percent of applications, depending on how the system is set up. A company offering hundreds of graduate positions will receive thousands of applications, so the filtering process is more important, whereas a senior position might attract 20 applications, so filtering is less of an issue", explains Karen Cariss, managing director of PageUp, whose clients include Coles Myer and ANZ.

Online testing
Once you've filtered out the dead wood, e-cruitment tools can assess the abilities of your remaining short list. Whilst some job boards provide their own screening and assessment tools, most organisations use more than one job board, so consistency across hundreds or thousands of applications can be a problem.

Services like recruitmanager push candidates through the same screening tool, in this case eAssessments. This allows recruiters to develop a library of questionnaires to be used at initial application stage. As a recruiter, you can also choose to bolt onto your recruitment process online psychometric and cognitive testing, or specific IT skills tests.

Onetest claims it was Australia's first online assessment provider. It supplies companies such as PageUp and nga.net with its online assessment module and also has a partnership with Seek, offering a cognitive testing service to Seek's corporate clients, called Onetest Express. Earlier this year Onetest launched a new online test called Onetest Values Inventory, which assesses potential clients on their cultural fit.

"This is the first time recruiters have been able to quantify cultural fit using online tools. It was previously left to intuition," says Steven Dahl, managing director of Onetest.

There are concerns about the fairness of online assessments. For example, if the test is conducted in an unsupervised environment there are no guarantees the candidate will not cheat.

"We offer the ability for clients to retest candidates in a supervised environment at a later date, and warn candidates of this from the outset, which usually eliminates the cheaters," says Dahl.

"According to research carried out in the US, 70 percent of candidates admit to lying on their resume, so whilst people question the accuracy or fairness of online assessments, in comparison only 10 percent of test scores are found to be inaccurate or misleading, and all of them are discovered prior to hiring," he adds.

Trevor Vas, executive director of management consultancy human capital management solutions (hcms) says online assessments eliminate bias.

"Candidates from certain social demographics who may have previously been disadvantaged are judged exactly the same as other candidates. It's a more transparent process," says Vas.

In addition to its partnership with Onetest, Seek offers its own resume filtering products. "They are not as sophisticated as those offered by providers such as RecruitASP and PageUp, but it is not our core offering," says product manager Sean Ickowicz.

"At first we showed resistance to these e-cruitment software providers, but we have had to change our tune and interact with them as more clients use them to post job ads across job boards and manage their applications," he says.

Ickowicz says increasing numbers of recruiters are customising their online applications forms, rather than using the standard Seek form. "For recruiters this means time savings, as the applications go straight to the recruiter's database, cutting out the need for data entry," he says.

So now you have screened, filtered, and tested your initial applicants, is the Internet's role now complete? No, says RoleCall's Fuge.

Talent pools

"Not only can these systems filter out left-handed, Polish-speaking Cold Fusion experts, they can also manage correspondence with applicants, schedule interviews, and even keep in contact with candidates after the position has been filled," he says. "For example one client uses e-mail to invite interested but unsuccessful candidates to attend regular coffee mornings at the company."

Using these services is a great way to keep in contact with potential candidates who you don't want falling into your competitor's hands, even if you are unable to offer them a position right now. Recruiters can engage in headhunting, keeping track of the hard-to-get candidates working for other companies. They effectively create an audit trail for every candidate that passes through the recruitment process, eliminating any wastage of talent. This is knows as Talent Relationship Management, a recruitment-specific CRM tool.

"What you have is a significant pool of qualified people you can reuse. The role of the recruiter becomes proactive rather than reactive," says hcms's Vas.

And it doesn't end there. Data which has been captured by these e-cruitment tools can then be transferred into in-house HRIS systems to create reports for each job advertised, evaluating where job marketing dollars are being spent and targeting areas for improvement. As Vas puts it, "If you can measure it, you can improve it."

So does the automation of much of the recruitment process leave recruiters themselves scanning the Internet for a new job, their role now redundant? AdCorp's Zrno claims e-cruitment simply gives recruiters a chance to shed unnecessary administration.

"We provide a product that removes all menial tasks and expedites any task that can be automated. This allows recruiters to spend more time on the personal elements of the process, which are integral to the success of any recruitment process," he says.

Glen Rabie, CEO of e-cruitment application service provider (ASP) i4-talent believes that up to 80 percent of recruitment can be done online. "There are moves to conduct interviews online via videoconferencing, but I don't see that as entirely effective. The important thing is to whittle your 500 applicants down to 50 before you even look at them and let the technology pick you five or 10 to interview from those," says Rabie.

The potential time savings can be significant for IT departments rushing to get staff through the door in time for big or sudden projects.

Talent Zone's Spensley claims that a telecoms client reduced the recruitment process from 90 to 30 days using a combination of e-cruitment and offline recruitment tools, and a fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) client reported taking the process down from 74 days to 35 using pure e-cruitment. A RoleCall client recently reported saving the equivalent of two full-time administrative staff, each on a $40,000 annual salary, by using WERC.

To get a further idea of savings, you can consult the Web sites of i4-talent and Jobnet. Both have online calculators where you can enter specific details about your organisation and recruitment needs to evaluate potential savings, although keep in mind that both companies then want to sell you the services to make these predicted savings.

"The overheads associated with prompt and professional response to all applicants, arranging interview times and locations and conducting assessments, résumé reviews, psychometric testing, and where appropriate, cognative ability testing, can be vast," says Ed Colville, sales manager at Jobnet.

Aside from cost and time savings, e-cruitment software also gives organisations a way of justifying recruitment decisions.

According to AdCorp's Zrno, organisations are increasingly being challenged by potential candidates in regards to their decisions in the recruitment process. "Products such as recruitmanager can track all results and actions and can assist in providing support in those sorts of 'legal' issues," he says.

"Privacy laws now state that an individual must have the ability to access any information stored on them. Our system allows candidates to access their information online, when they want. Without this ability organisations would have to manually provide candidates with these details," he adds.

Sounds good. So good in fact that the emergence of these e-cruitment providers is casting doubt on the future of expensive recruitment agencies. One of the biggest benefits to recruiters is access and ownership of their own private talent pool, rather than sharing one with a recruitment agency's many other clients.

According to hcms research, organisations that have introduced e-cruitment systems have reduced the reliance on and cost of recruitment agencies and print advertising significantly, in some cases by over 60 percent.

It is what has already been termed "pre-need hire" in the US, explains Vas. "The trend is for recruiters to create and automate a talent pool using e-cruitment tools, from which they can implement a clean and efficient recruitment process which pushes vacancies to members of the talent pool, saving on external recruitment fees and cutting administration costs from between 10 and 50 percent," he says.

AdCorp's Zrno's experience supports this trend. "We currently have three solutions that we provide; a corporate solution, a government solution, and a recruitment agency solution. Our biggest growth is occurring in the corporate sector," he says, suggesting that organisations are going direct to the e-cruitment software providers and bypassing the agencies.

PageUp's Cariss believes recruitment agencies will be used differently rather than eliminated. "Agencies will offer niche services," she says. For example, Coles Myer still uses specialist agencies to recruit specialist staff, such as buyers, but uses e-cruitment to fill IT vacancies.

But Jacky Carter, director at Hays Personnel Services, believes that the clever agencies are offering their own e-cruitment services to organisations.

"We offer our own e-cruitment management tools which allow recruiters to consolidate and track where they are spending dollars," says Carter. A major client of Hays is Vodafone, which employs 1750 staff in Australia, but which previously used between 17 and 20 different personnel suppliers, and had no data on what or how wisely it was spending. Now, the entire recruitment process, from hiring to processing timesheets, is delivered using e-cruitment software.

"Companies like nga.net and PageUp can handle some of the recruitment process, but not all," says Carter. "I think uber-agencies will emerge that operate these systems for clients. Upkeep of these new databases is paramount, particularly in the IT space, otherwise that database is obsolete in three to six months," she says.

The good news for IT recruiters is that candidates will be happy to make use of the cost and time saving initiatives, whoever they are managed by. "Online application, resume storage, and application management from a candidate's perspective are all areas naturally adopted by the IT professional," says Vas.

But he warns that although IT candidates will be more receptive to e-cruitment, they will also demand a better service from an IT-based system than non-IT qualified candidates. A badly designed or implemented online recruitment drive will reflect badly on the company or IT department behind it. "They won't tolerate as much as other candidates, if the processes prove to be clunky or unfair," says Vars.

But even if IT candidates' demands are higher, most won't think twice about making the Internet the first place they look for jobs, so it's all a question of whether you think twice about making it the first place you go to find them.

E-cruitment is no longer just a nice-to-have, says Vas. "If only two or three of your competitors are recruiting online, you've got to do it too to keep up, whether it be buying in software modules from companies such as RecruitSoft of Hire.com to spending half a million dollars on an end-to-end e-cruitment system."

What can e-cruitment software do?
Front End:

  • Post job vacancies on your company web site or across Internet job boards
  • Allow job seekers to request e-mail updates and edit their résumés online
  • Customise application forms and screen candidates
  • Assess candidates skills, abilities and cultural fit
  • Send personalised online acknowledgements to job seekers, and advise them of the status of their application via e-mail or SMS Back End:
  • Automatically filter applications into pre-defined groups for current and future use
  • Invite candidates to schedule themselves in for interviews
  • Conduct ongoing communication with qualified candidates, creating a dynamic, real-time talent pool
  • Transfer data to an in-house HRIS system
  • Create customised reports for each job

    Penetration of e-cruitment systems
    A survey was carried out by Roy Morgan Research on behalf of RoleCall People Systems in March 2003. It involved a telephone questionnaire across 254 randomly selected Australian organisations with at least 500 employees, over half had 1000+ employees. It was carried out to establish the penetration of e-cruitment systems and what recruiters wanted an e-cruitment system to deliver.

    One quarter of the companies questioned were already using an Internet-based recruitment system. Twenty-six percent of these were using the most popular Australian job board, 16 percent were using recruitment systems developed in-house, 10 percent were using a different Australian job board, and 11 percent were using a commercially available e-cruitment system such as WERC. Three percent were using internally developed government systems.

    Most important features for those currently using e-cruitment systems:

  • Ease of use (87 percent)
  • Efficiencies in time and cost (82 percent)
  • Customisable (74 per cent)
  • Automatically search and sort applicants (74 percent)
  • Consistent quality across all departments (68 percent)
  • Automatically manage candidate communication (67 percent)
  • Manage applications and unsolicited résumés (64 percent)
  • Price (60 percent)
  • Developed by HR professionals (59 percent).

    Coles adds career site
    In June 2003, retail giant Coles Myer, Australia and New Zealand's largest employer with 160,000 staff, launched its own company career Web site. Until November 2002, Coles Myer had a decentralised, print-based recruitment process, but following centralisation of the process, it decided e-cruitment was the best way to manage staffing across its 15 brands. Within seven weeks of installing PageUp's e-cruitment software PageUp People, the company had received 110,000 applications for vacancies spanning 1900 stores, including Kmart, Myer and Grace Bros, and Target.

    The site is hosted on PageUp's server and distributed to partner job board Seek.com. Applications are automatically responded to via e-mail or SMS. "We use e-mail for detailed correspondence and SMS for interview reminders, which aside from cost savings, makes us as a company look really smart," says Josephine Thompson, recruitment strategy manager at Coles Myer.

    Other services include interview scheduling and psychometric testing, the latter of which PageUp has been delivering to another of its clients, ANZ Bank, for the past three years.

    Coles Myer advertises around 3000 vacancies per week online, ranging from shop floor Christmas temps to senior managers. The system helped recruit over 50 IT staff in just three weeks of the site's launch. "We had 70 IT job vacancies and filled 80 percent of them within three weeks of the site going live," says Thompson.

    According to Hitwise Australia, the site was the seventh most visited employment site in Australia during July, ahead of both Jobnet and Yahoo!, making it the only corporate careers site to make the top ten list.

    Just eight weeks passed between signing the contract with PageUp and launch, and Thompson says the system will pay for itself within a year. "The cost savings on paper and postage alone is $300,000 annually, not to mention all of the intangible savings," says Thompson.

    "After careful research we decided that creating what is in affect our own job board, rather than placing ads strategically on a series of job boards, made most sense. IT workers particularly are a close-knit community, and word gets out," says Thompson.

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