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Job Sites Deliver Too Much--and Too Little

Web: Companies are swamped with resumes, but that may be what most employers don't want.

May 04, 2000|ELIZABETH EAVES | REUTERS

From Los Angeles to London, eye-catching billboards make it look easy: Log on to a Web site and find a new job.

But even though industry experts say the future of recruiting is on the Web, employers and job-seekers report only limited success using online recruitment sites to fill vacancies or take a step up the career ladder.

This is partly because the job sites have been too good at what they do: Companies are overwhelmed with applicants.

"You get a lot of resumes, but how that shakes out in effectiveness is another story," said Stacie Haller, a vice president at staffing company Accounting Principals.

Such concerns are not uncommon among those who have used job sites, and the nascent industry is responding. The strongest competitors are striving to improve and refine their services, while a ripple of consolidation is catching up with the weakest players. Specialty sites that focus on narrow professional interests or locations also are becoming popular.

"Online recruiting isn't the promised panacea," according to a study from Forrester Research, which interviewed 3,000 online consumers and 50 recruiters late last year. It concluded that the quality of jobs offered on the Internet is below average and that online resume databases generate little response.

The success rate among job-seekers is telling. The study revealed that only 4% of respondents found their latest job using the Net, compared with 40% who landed a job from a referral and 23% from a newspaper ad.

Career Web sites offer extensive job listings and resume databases as well as extras such as chat rooms, company profiles and advice for job seekers.

Employers say big sites such as Monster.com and HotJobs.com let them cast a wide net for less than the cost of newspaper advertising. A 60-day job ad on Monster.com costs roughly $200 to $300, said Merrill Lynch recruiting analyst Thatcher Thompson. An employment ad in one issue of the Sunday New York Times business section costs $917 per column inch.

Owned by global recruiting and advertising company TMP Worldwide Inc., Monster.com is far and away the job site front-runner in traffic and revenue, and is among a select club of profitable Internet companies, Thompson said.

The site announced last week that it has 7 million registered job seekers. But it may be that millions of job candidates are not what most employers want.

"The Internet has such wide reach, but a lot of people say you are gaining quantity but not quality," said Brian Lee, chief marketing strategist at recruiting consultancy Hunt-Scanlon Corp.

Exclusivity also is lost when the recruitment net is cast so wide. "If you do find someone out there and they're really good, 10 other recruiters have already found them," said Richard Cohen of Management Recruiters International in New York.

A recruiter at a growing specialist security house in New York City said she avoids the biggest employment Web sites.

"I can't really pre-screen given the amount of resources I have, so I can't use them," said the recruiter, who asked not to be identified.

She also noted that for companies with less-powerful computer systems, a barrage of e-mailed job applications, each containing attachments, risks bringing down the system.

Instead, she uses Jobtrak.com, a site for recent college graduates that allows employers to pre-screen by designating universities.

Her experience reflects a trend toward specialized sites. In the Forrester Research study, Monster.com had the highest number of users, but Craigslist.com, a tiny, Bay Area nonprofit organization, scored highest for efficiency in finding employees.

And Lee at Hunt-Scanlon cited specialist portals such as Execunet.com and Dice.com as highly successful.

But Monster.com founder and Chief Executive Jeff Taylor said that down the road, niche job sites likely will take up only 10% to 15% of the market. He compared them to ink-and-paper specialist trade publications, which never took away the bulk of job advertisements from major newspapers.

Dimitri Boylan, chief operating officer of HotJobs, said his company was responding to competition from specialist sites. He launched a new strategy in January to provide different "channels," or sites-within-sites, for different types of jobs.

"It is a specific response to the micro-sites," he told Reuters.

Monster.com had an "intern-to-CEO" strategy, but the company doesn't yet consider its Web site appropriate for all hiring needs, said Peter Blacklow, Monster's marketing vice president. It is using another, non-Internet TMP recruiting division in its search for a new president, Taylor said.

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