New directions in Internet recruiting

Can't find good help? Here are some ways to pluck prospective employees out of cyber space. By Joe Dysart Special To Contractor While the first company " career centers" on the Web were often little more than a blurb, a few photos and an e-mail address for resumes, ber Internet recruiting these days has evolved into a sophisticated, interactive engine with the ability to automate virtually every facet

Can't find good help? Here are some ways to pluck prospective employees out of cyber space.

By Joe Dysart
Special To Contractor

While the first company " career centers" on the Web were often little more than a blurb, a few photos and an e-mail address for resumes, ƒber Internet recruiting these days has evolved into a sophisticated, interactive engine with the ability to automate virtually every facet of the hiring process.

Software makers have been busy inventing tools that enable companies to pre-screen applicants online, "inhale" resumes and automatically redistribute resume data into company databases and automate the process of candidate referrals from in-house personnel with easy-to-use Web portals.

Meanwhile, other software makers have created "diamond-in-the-rough" talent search software, which can be customized to search the Web for ideal, "passive" job candidates, based on what those candidates post on industry blogs, mailing lists, journals, industry association sites and the like.

The result: All the new tools, along with the business world's everincreasing reliance on the Web, has made Internet recruiting big time and big business — and, according to some surveys, the No. 1 recruitment tool for employers. In fact, a survey of leading U.S. companies released in February by Booz Allen Hamilton found that 51% of all new hires in 2005 originated on the Internet — with the greatest number of those hires coming from employers' own Websites.

"The Internet has transformed the way American employers attract and hire employees," says Dr. Richard Cober, team lead on the Booz Allen Hamilton survey. "As we look at 2006, employers are giving serious thought to how the Internet can be better used for driving applicant flow."

If you're looking to retool your site with the latest Internet recruiting has to offer, here's an overview of what to look for, along with pointers on where to go for more information.

Pre-screening software
These packages enable recruiters to custom-design online questionnaires featuring basic job requirements and are a great time-saver for both parties. Employers get to automatically separate the wheat from the chaff, and potential applicants learn quickly whether they're actually qualified for the job being advertised.

For a look at pre-screening software, visit COREquisites by Interview Exchange (www.interviewexchange.com), which uses weighted scoring to screen applicants. The company makes a companion tool, Public Profile, which enables online applicants to judge how they stack up against other applicants seeking the same job. Generally, applicants who judge for themselves that they're not competitive tend to move on, and save both parties time and effort.

A good example of a contracting firm using pre-screening software online is PPLEnergyPlus, (www.pplweb.com/careers/), based in Allentown, Pa. PPL is ranked as the eighth largest mechanical in the nation in CONTRACTOR's Book of Giants (May, pg. 32). PPL's Web interface saves both employer and applicant substantial time and aggravation by specifically asking the applicant if he has a B.A. in engineering or business when it comes to certain jobs. It also asks if the applicant has a minimum of five years' business experience in a construction environment, and if he is legally authorized to work in the United States.

McKinstry Co., Seattle, ranked No. 30 in CONTRACTOR's Book of Giants, (www.mckinstry.com/careers/careers_ default.htm), asks similar, pre-qualifying questions, such as, "Why are you interested in this particular job?" and "What skills, training and past experience qualify you for this job?"

Resumè inhalers
These are great time-savers that are often components of larger, automated online recruiting software packages. Essentially, inhalers work by auto-extracting resumes from a company e-mail box or other online storage space and then mapping the mined data into the company recruitment database.

PC Recruiter's Inhaler (www.pcrecruiter.com/products_inhaler.htm) is specifically designed for such a task, and is pre-programmed to recognize the resume formats of leading job boards and resume banks. The software can be programmed to recognize custom formats — items such as forms downloaded from your company Website or resume formats from that of an e-recruiting partner. The Inhaler can be configured to send an automated e-mail response to the person who submitted the resume.

The country's largest mechanical, EMCOR Group, Norwalk, Conn., (www.emcorgroup.com/index.cgi/279), for example, uses a resume inhaler at its site. Applicants have the ability to click a button that automatically extracts contact information from the resume on their PC's hard drive.

Joule Industrial Contractors, Edison, N.J., ranked No. 56 in the Book of Giants, (www.jouleinc.com/Job_Search/become.employee.asp), offers a variation on that time-saver, enabling applicants to attach an electronic version of their resume to the rest of an application that they fill out online.

And job seekers at Midwest Mechanical Contractors, Overland Park, Kan., ranked No. 50 in the Book of Giants
(www.mmckc.com/Submit%20Resume%-20to%20Midwest%20Mechanical%20Contractors.html), can cut and paste their resume into that career center's online application form.

In-house referral portals
"The best people I've hired came through somebody I knew — a referral," says Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster, a jobs board that uses referrals as its primary method of matching jobs with candidates. "The job found them."

Fortunately, a company can create its own referral portal on its own site with products such as Referred Hire, from Interview Exchange
(www.interviewexchange.com/static/newsL27.jsp;jsessionid= 1424BAB004884C56B88F31BFC27 49331).

The software essentially creates a secure domain on a company Website where employees can log into to recommend friends and professional acquaintances for current openings, and receive a bounty for a successful hire, if the company has such a policy.

Applicants at Lennox International's site (www.lennoxinternational.com/default_lii.asp), based in Dallas, are asked to punch in the name of any employee who referred them to the firm, as are job seekers at Beutler Corp. (www.beutlerhvac.com/index.htm) based in McClellan, Calif.

Beutler, ranked No. 18 in CONTRACTOR's Book of Giants, serves the residential new construction and service markets in Northern California.

Good free job boards
While posting on every free jobs board imaginable can quickly turn into a timewaster, there are a few free sites, such as Google Base (base.google.com/), where posting makes sense. The reason: Google Base enables you to embed keywords and phrases that describe the job being offered as well as keywords and phrases that help describe the characteristics and qualities you seek in applicants.

"Google Base provides an excellent new resource for our member companies and for employment recruiters nationwide," says Bill Warren, executive director of the DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit consortium of 200 leading U.S. employers that operates the JobCentral National Employment Network (www.jobcentral.com).

Online recruiting experts also recommend that you post your offerings at free association and trade group sites where your specific talent pool is most likely to congregate.

Talent search software
The oft-lamented truth company recruiters must live with is that all the best candidates are taken. Too often, "A" talents are already working happily as employees for other firms. Solutions providers are getting around the age-old conundrum with packages that scour the Web for top talent based on online articles they've written, postings they've made in newsgroups, positive postings that have been made about them by journalists or their colleagues, their memberships in industry trade groups and associations and the like.

One of the more interesting for automated recruiting is AIRS Oxygen 6.0 (www.airsdirectory.com/mc/solution.guid?_solutionID=2), says Peter Weddle, a widely recognized recruitment guru. Another application to check out is ZoomInfo (www.zoominfo.com), which is an online search engine that specializes in tracking business people online. While a basic search is free, ZoomInfo charges a premium to recruiters who want to "go deeper" by conducting searches using 20-plus variables.

You can find some ingenious ways to use everyday search engines to find "passive" candidates in Peter Weddle's book, "Being the Best in Online Recruitment and HR Management."

For example, if you're convinced the person you want is most likely working for a specific company, you can often uncover leaders working there by doing a Google search with the following search string: " RE: @companyname.com."

"This search will uncover postings to forums, discussion boards, newsgroups and other sites by the employees of the target company," Weddle says.

Here are some other resources: Outsourced HR Web software. Some companies outsource the operation of their Web careers centers to some of the bigger jobs boards. Monster.com (www.monster.com), for example, sometimes handles the online processing of applicants for firms. Essentially, when job seekers visit a company jobs site, they click a link that ultimately brings them to Monster.com's online applicant processing center. Monster processes the information and then sends it along to the applicant's desired employer.

Free courses in online recruiting. Jobs boards sometimes offer extensive training in online recruiting techniques as an enticement to get companies to use their services.

JobsInTheUS.com, for example, recently opened "JiUS University," which features a series of courses to help recruiters get up to speed on the latest online recruiting has to offer. Its Internet Recruiting 101 offers the Top 10 tips for using online jobs boards. IR 201 focuses on writing and formatting eye-catching job postings, including most effective usage of HTML, graphics and photos. And IR 301 hones in on industry-specific recruiting tips.

The Top 30 jobs boards. Given that about 40,000 Websites are involved in Internet recruiting in some way, it would be nice if you knew what were considered the most effective. Fortunately, Weddle did a survey of 15,000 users of such sites — both employers and job seekers — to ferret out la crème de la crème.

The result of his efforts — his 2005 Users Choice Awards — can be found on his Website (www.weddles.com/recruiternews/issue.cfm?Newsletter=151). Of the 30 best sites, the top five are A/E/C Job Bank, America's Job Bank, Best Jobs USA, The Blue Line and CareerBank.com.

Where to go for more info. If you're looking to study Internet recruiting in great depth, a great place to start is with Weddle's books. He's a former recruiter and business CEO turned author and speaker who writes a bi-weekly column on recruiting for The Wall Street Journal. He's received numerous accolades for his books and work throughout the mainstream media.

Good Weddle books to start with include "Weddle's 2005/6 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet;" "Weddle's Directory of Employment-Related Internet Sites" and "Weddle's Postcards from Space: Being the Best in Online Recruitment and HR Management."

Another comprehensive book on Internet Recruiting to check out is " Electronic Recruiting 101," by Shally Steckerl.