This profile looks at internet jobsearch sites and the
online recruitment industry.
It covers -
page - an introduction, the online recruitment sector's
evolution and future
- the shape of the online recruitment sector and who
is using online jobsearch services
- are those services effective?
- academic and other writing about online recruitment
- landmarks in corporate acquisition of jobsearch sites
Use of the internet to connect job seekers and employers
attracted attention from the mid-1990s, with "recruitment
by clicking" being hailed as revolutionary, an unprecedented
business model and a laudable assault on 'big media'.
As with online match-making,
'equaintance' and other social software services much
media coverage has been based on industry boosterism,
with claims that
half of all Internet users have looked for a job online"
as they heed the call to "pound your computer keyboard,
not the pavement"
2005 around 96% of all companies will use the Internet
for their recruitment needs"
of UK job seekers use the net as "their preferred
method of looking for a job, 75% have applied for a
job online, 59% have obtained an interview as a result
and 19% have obtained a job"
recruitment is quicker, cheaper and more effective",
with "better matching of jobs and job seekers"
web means better flow through for placement agencies"
everyone finds jobs online, job searching will morph
from want ads to rich career networks"
of online recruitment is around 10% of offline recruitment
fifty million CVs are floating on the net".
can differentiate three aspects of online recruitment.
The first - and arguably most significant - involves electronic
mail, with acquaintances alerting each other to needs/opportunities,
employers providing descriptions and using electronic
correspondence at all stages of the recruitment chain,
applicants providing bids and vitae,
and third parties such as identity verification services
responding to queries over the net rather than by the
postbox. The impact of electronic mail rather than hard
copy relates to ease of use and timeliness.
A second aspect involves use of the web for electronic
publishing, with employers (or agents) posting their needs
on corporate sites and recruitment sites of varying sophistication
and job seekers responding to those needs or merely posting
profiles that feature their aspirations and vitae.
At its simplest that publishing is an online form of traditional
print classified advertising and offline job boards. More
sophisticated variants encompass public search facilities,
automated data matching, intranet access to specialist
databases (eg maintained by a recruitment agency) and
features such as the inclusion of video (useful for determining
whether the owner of a CV does indeed have two heads).
A third aspect involves enhancing that publishing - and
facilitating better recruitment and staff retention -
through interactive testing (including intelligence, skills
and psychological tests) and automated verification of
Enthusiasts have also seen scope for integration with
education services and for the provision of life-long
career management to members of the binary proletariat.
We have for example encountered predictions that sites
operated by commercial recruitment agencies or professional
associations and educational institutions will -
personal portfolios that demonstrate an applicant's
aggregated date to forecast job shortages several years
hence and determine appropriate remuneration now
artificial intelligence for better analysis of vitae
and matching of job seekers to job openings
recruiters to offer a person to an employer before a
position is advertised
practice many claims about online recruitment are problematical.
It is clear that many jobs in some industries are not
being advertised or filled online. Others, particularly
elite professional and executive positions, use email
but rarely appear on job boards. Personal connections
- aka soft networks - have not been vanquished by the
web. Much 'online' activity relates to positions advertised
on corporate intranets and internet sites rather than
sectoral or multisectoral job boards. Claimed efficiencies
for employers and employees may not be realised, with
for example suggestions that
mainly equals more noise ... it's too easy for job seekers
to 'spam' employers or do a dump a CV onto a board.
Much of our time is spent filtering junk applications
from overseas wannabes
skilled applicants miss out on interviews and jobs because
a spotty 18-year-old has filtered out their resumes
because he has no idea of what to look for
we have noted below, the profitability and effectiveness
of many services are uncertain, with few benchmarks and
little public disclosure. Major operators appear to be
garnering most traffic (at the expense of smaller non-specialist
competitors) but some niche operators arguably deliver
better results for job seekers and employers.
Precursors of current internet recruitment sites/services
took three forms: private databases maintained by recruitment
agencies, bulletin boards developed by enthusiasts prior
to the web and 'wanted' advertisements in print formats,
in particular the classified ads that provide the "rivers
of gold" for major newspaper groups. (A note on acquisition
of job search and classified ad sites by media groups
Monster.com – the Amazon of the industry –
was launched in 1994 as The Monster Board by Jeff Taylor,
founder of specialist recruiter Adion. It was acquired
by colour pages publisher
TMP Worldwide in 1995, expanding in competition with independents
such as Hotjobs and the online arms of advertising and
Sectoral, multisectoral and geographical sites proliferated
during the dot-com boom, as start-ups emulated the emerging
majors, recruitment agencies tested the water (or sought
to boost their market value by expanding online) and developers
migrated from bulletin boards to the web.
Growth of the industry reflected consolidation within
the global advertising and human resources industries,
with conglomerates such as Saatchi and WPP assembling
(but rarely integrating) service providers that encompassed
media buying, web design, executive headhunting, clerical
staff placementand psychological testing.
Forecasts that the web meant imminent demise of newspapers
as such – or merely their economic basis as readers
relied on banner ads, search engines, portals and other
mechanisms – saw major media groups launch generic
and local job sites.
The success of that expansion varied, with Australia's
dominant commercial media groups fending off local and
overseas web-only recruitment sites. In Europe the success
or otherwise of major groups such as Bonnier, Trinity
and DMGT reflected factors such as local expectations,
development strategies, cross-marketing and preparedness
Caution about cannibalisation of print revenue was reflected
in the US, where there were disagreements about national/regional
job sites and about relations within publisher consortia,
evident in dissolution of some partnerships (or competition
from local sites under the auspices of individual newspapers)
and laments that revenue and profitability was not commensurate
By 1999 Monster was reportedly attracting over 2.5 million
visits per month, with over 50,000 job postings from 40,000
companies and around 500,000 resumes. It followed others
in the dot-com trajectory, with parent TMP initially being
rebadged as Monster.com, then dropping the 'com' to become
Accelerated consolidation following the 2000 dot-com
crash saw Yahoo! acquire
the HotJobs job board for US$436 million in 2002, the
demise or restructuring of some competitors (typically
towards a sectoral/local focus), winding back of services
launched by some professional organizations and increased
marketing or commercialisation of 'free' services such
as San Francisco-based Craigslist.
The latter – with more traffic than Monster according
to some metrics providers (although lower revenue) - came
into the eBay orbit in August
2004 when the auction group paid US$1.4 billion for a
2003 and 2004 also saw the emergence of independent academic
and government studies – including some empirical
research - highlighting issues such as the absence of
benchmarks and public information about success rates.
One observer accordingly commented that some major services
appear to be useful opportunities for the newly unemployed
to fill in time (particularly if participation evokes
large-scale unsolicited approaches from service providers
rather than employers) but - given success rates in the
US of around 0.8% to 0.2% - are less effective than using
personal soft networks.
Francisco Cordero of social networking site Bebo
boldly claimed in November 2007 that
Social networking deepens our interpersonal relationships
and lets us communicate more effectively. Most of us
leverage our personal contacts when reaching out for
career opportunities, because our friends are our greatest
source of inside information. Social networking compliments
traditional job search strategies by taking them to
the next level.
is unclear, however, what "deepening" the "interpersonal
relatonships" means and whether the "next level"
is a useful concept.
The future of the industry is unclear.
Some pundits, particularly those closely aligned with
the industry, forsee significant growth in revenue and
greater profitability. One observer notes that aggregate
online online job advertising revenue in the US is around
15% of spending on print ads for recruitment but is growing
at a greater rate (claimed as 25% to print's 4% growth)
and will overtake traditional classified ad spending.
Investors in 'old media' need not despair, as much of
the growth is taking place in regional sites owned by
Forrester – unabashed by indifferent results from
its past consultations with the crystal ball (or was it
eye of newt and toe of gnat?) - estimates that by 2005,
job boards will have
into career networks that will capture 55 per cent of
an online recruitment market worth $7.1bn.
and some industry figures offer less expansive forecasts,
envisaging competition among the majors, the erosion of
margins as job seekers and employers migrate to local
sites and sectoral sites, and increased costs for marketing
and provision of features that would provide the 'career
networks' mooted by Forrester and its peers.
The attractiveness of those features for end users –
and the ability of major site operators to provide quality
at an acceptable cost – is unknown. Experience offline
suggests that individuals and employers are wary about
capture by 'body shops', particularly on a long term basis
and without the human element.
It is likely that most candidates – particularly
those whose placement is most lucrative – will continue
to emphasise personal referrals ahead of corporate sites,
broader jobsearch sites and print media.