The many benefits of online job boards

Recruiting is a lot like fishing. You find out where the best place is to fish, you buy the bait, then scan the waters looking to reel in the best catch. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds, and takes a lot of practice to become seasoned.

The Conference Board of Canada predicts there will be a labour shortage of one million workers in Canada by 2020, leaving employers with a lot less “fish” to catch. Now companies are looking for ways to fill this labour gap with the right candidates, using the most practical and effective recruiting tools.

“We’re trying to fish in the right holes,” says John Phelgan, manager of employment and development at the Region of Halton in Ontario. “We’re not just hoping the right fish will come along, employers have to be much more strategic now in recruiting.”

Phelgan, like countless other employers, has to judge what advertising tools bring results. The main contenders? Newspaper ads versus online job boards, both have pros and cons, but many businesses are leaning more to the side of online.

At the Region of Halton, Phelgan says he’s encouraging managers to analyze all options before committing to one medium. Demographics are a major consideration when making the decision.

“We have to narrow our search and do it more precisely. It just makes good business. It’s more surgical than the ‘post and pray’ approach we used (in the past).”

Phelgan says most of the successful applicants come from the company’s online job board. Being a public organization, there’s an expectation from job searchers that jobs should be posted on the site, he says.

“That helps us make the right decisions and know where our successes are and not stay in the old age, but not enter the new one blindly.”

Caution is one reason why employers get left behind in the online game, says Gabrielle Bouchard, president of Montreal-based Monster.ca.

“Job seekers have adopted the Internet much faster than it has taken employers to change their behaviours and follow the trend,” says Bouchard. “They’re driving the show and employers have to (keep up).”

Newspaper career sections have historically been a tool for unemployed people looking for a job, but there is just no way newspapers can compete with what job sites have to offer, Bouchard says.

“You lose your job and you look in the Saturday section. But there are fewer people unemployed right now and with a labour shortage, you have to look at people who already have a job, you won’t find these people looking in the paper.”

Judy Master, advertising director for the Toronto Star, says newspapers can catch the eye of both passive and active job seekers. Passive seekers may not be looking for a job, however if they pass the career section, they explore it.

“When you’re going online, you have to be looking for a job,” Master says. “The passive job seekers are the ones HR is interested in. That’s one of the paper’s assets — we can catch someone who is intrigued by an ad, although they may not have been in the market for the position.”

In 2001, the Toronto Sun launched a Web site product, Career Connection, powered by Job Boom and Canoe.com, to compete in the e-recruiting market. Carmen Pulis, classified advertising manager for the Sun, says they’re trying to offer a service different from the rest. It’s an online connection with editorial content written by staff, educational information and it’s completely local, Pulis says. Everyone tries to catch the national online wave and that can be problematic.

“Say for example, you have an accounts manager position, whether a candidate is qualified or not, if the word account is in their resume, it gets sent to the employer, and they waste their time,” she says.

Being local, plus having an effective screening tool removes all that clutter, says Pulis. In addition, schools are picking up on the value of the site. That’s an audience the Sun could not reach before.

“We got kudos from (school) guidance counselors, they say they like the articles and they’ve got them on their walls, and asked for the paper to be delivered to their schools. We try and use convincing editorial and not advertorials as such,” Pulis says.

The Sun wasn’t going to wait for the large online entities to take away the business, she says, online job boards don’t have to compete with newspapers when you can bring the two together to be competitive on a broader scale.

Toronto Star’s owner, TorStar Corporation, recognized the online recruiting trend as well. TorStar has part ownership of Workopolis.com, along with BellGlobemedia Interactive, owners of the Globe and Mail.

“The relationship allows us to play in both fields and protects our future regardless of whether the trend goes online or stays in print,” Master says.

If a job seeker logs on to the Toronto Star Web site, they will see a “Careers” link and the link takes them directly to the Workopolis site. Master says online ads have been fuelled by newspaper ads “because many of the postings that appear on Workopolis are sold as a package, with print being the initial buy,” she says.

Online job boards are convenient, fast and cheap, says Kim Peters, president of Workopolis.

“It just plain works. It’s an easy way for job seekers to look at all kinds of jobs and recruiters are able to look at candidates that are of interest to them,” she says.

No longer do recruiters have to sit and sift through an immense pile of resumes to discover choice candidates. There is a number of screening tools to help separate the good from the not so good, says Peters. Some companies buy one posting; others bump the service up to a keyword search and may also subscribe to the resume databank. The full “works” consists of a subscription to post an unlimited number of jobs on the site. When companies take up this offer, they get a fair bit of branding, Peters says, and candidates can post jobs online to selected companies. There are templates that can be added to job postings like key competency profiles, ranking the profiles in order of the best match and psychometric tests that give employers a glimpse of a candidate’s personality.

“I see technology evolving. There will be more jobs available on the Internet and there will be even better tools for job seekers and recruiters,” she says.

There may also be more companies investing money into developing their own career Web sites, a venture Toronto-based Scotiabank Group has already taken.

Scotiabank’s campaign targets young grads — the lifeline of the workforce — encouraging them to consider working for the bank. The main promotion is the Web site, www.whatsinitforme.ca, created solely for the campaign.

“We looked at our audience and their primary medium is the Internet. We’re matching the channels with the audience we’re trying to attract,” says Arlene Russell, vice-president of HR at Scotiabank.

The campaign, launched last year, includes other promotions such as print advertising and recruitment fairs, though all the promotional materials drive people to the site. It allows candidates to get corporate information, do job searches and read brief articles on what Scotiabank has to offer.

“The idea of whatsinitforme.ca was to market ourselves more aggressively to job seekers, particularly graduating students and today that means using the Internet,” Russell says.

The site has had around 14,000 visitors and more than 1,000 resumes were posted in the first three months. Russell says e-cruiting has cut 20 days from the bank’s standard recruitment process.

“There are still strengths in all mediums and I think to really attract job seekers, you have to deliver on all the channels people want,” says Russell. “The bottom line is you need to understand who you’re speaking to and speak to them in the medium they’re comfortable with.”

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