Ten years ago this very month, I started a new online business, AlljobsUK.com.  It was a pretty stupid thing to do, as I had already started a new recruitment agency just one year before. Especially stupid, because this meant that I was effectively trying to ride two horses with the one backside.  And two unbroken horses at that.  I launched AlljobsUK.com in July 2000, as the only comprehensive portal to every recruitment resource in the UK. I had spent months gathering and compiling the largest database of recruitment agencies in the UK, as well as 9,000 individual recruiters, the top 16,000 employers and every job board and publication which advertised jobs online.  This was to be an entirely “candidate facing” website, which would enable jobseekers to quickly find vacancies advertised across all of these locations.  We enabled candidates to rate websites too, so that other candidates wouldn’t waste their time, and could be routed quickly to the very best resources.  That was my inspiration for the first National Online Recruitment Awards.

I knew then that there would be no turning back; that all recruitment would have to go down this path, and that there would always be outstanding websites that would deliver a fantastic service to candidates.  If the NORAs could shine a light on the very best, then that would establish the standard by which all sites were measured, and in turn raise the expectations of jobseekers.

So I put my mind to it.  There were no other awards in the industry, but I researched many other awards programs in different spheres.  I instantly decided that the NORAs must be entirely viewed and judged from a candidate’s perspective.  Industry awards were (and are) often seen as cosy back-slapping exercises, that are more about trade magazines and event planners generating additional revenue, than about arriving at a credible set of results that actually reflected the views of the public.  I knew that one word, credibility, would be key to all of the initial decision making.  The process and rules I established for the first awards, are almost exactly the same as they remain today.

  1. Involve the job seeking public.  We asked for nominations via our website from candidates.
  2. Do not charge websites to enter, or seek “bid documentation”.  Candidates have no idea about the workings of a website, other than what they see, so that would be unnecessary.
  3. Have a nomination system, and not a voting system.  I knew from the start that it would be easy to manipulate any online voting system by using computers to do so repeatedly.  We still do get some obvious volume duplicate nominations for sites every year.
  4. Ask for feedback from candidates, giving reasons for their nominations.
  5. Establish an expert judging panel, who were experienced in either traditional recruitment, online recruitment or HR, but had no direct connection to any sites which they would be judging.  Again here, credibility is vital.  Established names would in effect be lending their good name to the NORAs, so I was honour-bound to maintain a scrupulous process.

By doing all of these things, I knew that there would be real merit in winning an award, and that successful sites could feel rightly very proud of their achievement.  In its first year, our judges included Adele Poole of Hot Lizard, Sue Little (who helped create the REC), and David Hurst of ONREC Magazine.  Our winners included Jobserve and a site temporarily named GoJobsite.

In each subsequent year, the NORAs have grown in stature and in credibility.  Remaining true to the original credo, I have responded to all suggestions and criticisms by being as open as possible about the process, yet remaining unapologetically candidate focused in all decision-making.  Now in their tenth year, we will be presenting a very special award for the first time.  Best Recruitment Site of the Decade will recognise those websites which have offered outstanding excellence in their service to the jobseeking public since our awards began.  Only sites which have already been nominated by the public, and were Finalists and Winners in the past ten years will be contenders for this, most prestigious award.

It is with immense satisfaction that I look back on the NORAs.  I know that this is still a very young industry indeed, and that it will continue to evolve and transform.  More than ever, candidates will be crucial to shaping the online recruitment sector.  For our part, the National Online Recruitment Awards will continue to reflect the public taste, recognise excellence, and reward achievement.

PS. I’d like to give a sincere thanks to everyone who has been involved in The NORAs in the past decade.  In particular I’d like to thank our judges, especially Louise Triance, Dan McGuire and Tom Atkinson.  The NORAs would not have been possible, were it not for the support of our sponsors, especially Cash Simply / Perms Connect.  Lastly, and most importantly, I’d like to pay tribute to the members of the public who make the effort to nominate their favourite websites every year, and in who’s name we present the awards.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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