Online Recruitment – 10 Years On

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As Robbie Cowling will testify, Jobserve were the first established online recruitment job board in 1994. Initially a “jobs-by-email” service, the existence of the World Wide Web was known and used by very few, and largely consisted of IT experts and enthusiasts. Early websites were referred to as bulletin boards, leading to the term Job-Boards.

Skip forward to 1999, and the recruitment world, if not jobseekers, had embraced email and those pioneer’s websites, which were able to advertise vacancies for a fraction of the cost of traditional newspapers. That said, newspaper advertising was still the first place most recruiters and employers advertised their vacancies.

This was the point where online recruitment got serious. Various forces were at play; the number of pc’s in the homes of the public, pc’s in the workplace, broadband versus dial-up internet access, and of course the active involvement of recruiters.

However, from a candidate’s perspective, what has changed in the last ten years? Are jobsites really all that different? How far have they progressed?

You could say that the biggest hurdle was overcome by simply being able to replicate traditional job advertising, and adding the ability to register with a site, upload a CV, and apply directly to vacancies. Aside from slicker graphics, a few more bells and whistles, and various ways of accessing your account via handheld devices, the biggest development by far is the ubiquity of online recruitment. In 1999 we predicted that traditional advertising in newspapers and trade magazines would die by 2002. We were perhaps 7 years ahead of schedule, and it hasn’t quite died yet. What has happened is that virtually every vacancy advertised at all, is first advertised online. Of course, due to the current climate, there are now fewer jobs advertised online than there were in 2000. The Alljobs Online Recruitment Index monitors the volume of vacancies on the most popular UK jobsites. It commenced with a datum of 1,000 in August 2000, and currently stands at 799.16.

Picture this. The ideal situation for any jobseeker, is to have knowledge of every single available vacancy that might suit their skills. An accountant in Manchester would love to have a definitive list of every available job. That way, they can be sure of not missing out on the ideal position. It used to be the case that you could rely upon a certain newspaper or trade magazine for this. A close relationship with a specialist recruiter could also keep candidates well informed. Now, in 2009, we can be pretty positive that almost every available vacancy will find its way online, albeit across a multitude of websites.

One job, one candidate, and one employer; these are the only required ingredients in the recruitment process. Everything else, recruiters, jobsites, etc etc are simply methods of efficiently bringing together the thousands of candidates, jobs and employers. The ideals that the online recruitment industry is working toward, are simple intuitive systems that address each participant as an audience of one. As a candidate, this should mean complete visibility of all available vacancies, and with which specific employers.

In the past ten years, many of the old ways of working have been replicated online. In the past decade, the biggest leap forward has been the usage by candidates and advertisers, to the point where it is the primary route for all recruitment. It may be surprising to say out loud, but the job boards haven’t really progressed in their basic format in all this time. I think that this will remain true for the next few years, and that instead, there will be a culture change in the ways all participants use recruitment websites. I believe that the time and circumstances are now right for the huge body of jobseekers to demand more from jobsites than they have been getting so far.

I believe the time has now come for every vacancy advertised, where possible, to state clearly who the employer is. Agencies, especially those in decline, will resist this. They need to remember that candidates, jobs and employers are the only essential components of the recruitment process. Honesty and openness are now expected, and indeed overdue. There are good reasons why some vacancies, by necessity, have to remain anonymous. Conversely there is an overwhelming case for the benefits brought by bringing about the end of anonymous job advertising. Greater clarity, in the information provided to candidates, will instantly propel those that take the lead, to success in the next chapter in this continually evolving business.