At this time of year, and for the last 12 years, I am usually immersed in a sea of recruitment websites.  This is a lot less fun than you’d imagine, but far more fascinating too, and often involves very late nights squinting my eyes at spreadsheets and job boards.  Whose stupid idea was it to start the bloomin’ NORAs anyway?  So for the first time, allow me to give you a little peek behind the curtains of the National Online Recruitment Awards.

The nomination process normally runs from early July to September.  I decided in 2001 that as a voting system is subject to easy manipulation of online submissions, open nominations would allow the general public (particularly jobseekers) a simple way of telling us which sites they liked, and why.  Anyone can nominate via the website, or recruitment websites can display a banner, encouraging their own visitors to nominate them in a simple click.  Nominations for 2012 closed last Saturday, and we received 15,386 traditional nominations, and 148,962 One-Click nominations for 583 separate websites in total.  This is where it gets tricky for me.  I need to scrutinise all sites, and ensure they are nominated in the correct categories (yes Monster have been nominated in the Best Small Recruitment Agency category).  This means I need to visit all 583 websites.  Fortunately, I am already familiar with most of them, but a lot coffee is still consumed late into the night in the process.  Even more fortunately I now have a stellar line-up of Shortlisting Judges who then take most of the load, in pairing down the numbers to the 5 Finalists in each award category.  These judges are all experts in either traditional recruitment, online recruitment, or HR, and cannot have any direct connection with any sites they are assessing.  As people with very full schedules, this is an enormous commitment.  Every site is assessed from the perspective of a jobseeker.  We have no interest in whether any job board offers great value to its advertisers, but seek to determine the “candidate experience” of each.  We have always looked for great design, ease of use, available facilities, and of course number of vacancies advertised, but in addition, we now want to see how each website extends its reach through the use of social media, and usability on mobile devices.  Once the Judges have agreed upon a shortlist, the Finalists will be announced on Wednesday 26th September.

Once the 66 Finalists in our 12 award categories are revealed, our second and very separate, judging panel set to work.  This is to ensure that every site is scrutinised on its merits, and any possible bias is prevented.  Again they will visit every website, and use it as a candidate would.  It is vital that the credibility of the awards is maintained, so that every Finalist and Winner can rightly say they deserved it.  We appreciate that an immense amount of work has gone into developing every one of our Finalists, and we want to recognise the teams who have produced them.

In almost every industry sector in the UK, there are awards to recognise achievement.  Often these awards are big business in themselves, where companies pay to enter, and the event itself can be a costly black-tie and ballgown affair.  As the NORAs are initially nominated by jobseekers, sites can be entered whether they want to or not. Equally, a formal industry-only event would exclude those whose opinions we seek to represent.  Because of this, the NORAs event in London is open to all, and is a far less formal affair than you might expect.  Recognition, celebration, and a healthy dose of networking, are very much the order of the day (or night, as it were).

Now in our 12th year, the NORAs have become the definitive recognition for recruitment websites in the UK.  This is due in large part to the involvement of the public in the nomination process, the enthusiasm of the participants, and of course the expertise and endeavour of our Judging Panels.

So tonight, I’m planning on registering with another 20 websites.  I hope my broadband holds out.

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

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