Since the early 1990s, there has been a dramatic change in the process of employee recruitment due to the emergence of the Internet as a significant means of exchanging employment information. The Internet is used today around the world by organizations of all sizes and in every industry. Job seekers can leverage the Internet using a variety of online avenues to pursue almost any kind of job, from entry level to senior executive, from trade work to professional services. The emergence of the Internet has spawned a new industry intent on helping organizations find and select candidates for available jobs using various Web-enabled methodologies. At the same time, substantial research efforts have tried to better understand how job seekers use the Internet to search for jobs and the value of such endeavors in actually finding employment. At the intersection of business practice and research lies significant debate around defining the value of the Internet for attracting and ultimately selecting the right kinds of candidates.
The Internet has emerged as a significant mechanism for employee recruitment because it offers unparalleled promise for facilitating applicant flow to employment opportunities and subsequent decisions regarding the fit between a job candidate, an employer, and an available job. Internet recruitment has enhanced the abilities of organizations to advertise employment opportunities to a global audience. Within the World Wide Web, there are a number of sources for finding available jobs. Job seekers can search online job boards that contain millions of job advertisements, utilize Web sites of professional organizations or niche job boards that may contain more targeted opportunities based on professional interest, or visit the employment Web pages of almost any organization, where information about a company, its people, and its job opportunities can be reviewed and applications can be submitted. The ease with which job opportunities can be found on the Internet has expanded the conceptual definition of a job seeker to include both active and passive candidates. Active job seekers are those who are currently unemployed or employed in positions from which they wish to depart. This concept of the job seeker is consistent with traditional notions of job applicants. Passive job seekers are those who are currently employed, not engaged in active job search, and might not even be thinking about changing their current employment. However, the Internet has provided passive job seekers with a more time-efficient mechanism for exploring job opportunities and has empower organizations with new tools for finding and communicating with this kind of individual.
Because the Internet presents so many options for employment search, research on Internet recruitment has focused on two primary areas. The first area has evaluated the impact of the Internet on the job seeker’s search and the subsequent quality of an organization’s selection decisions. This perspective most closely maps to the interest of employers trying to determine how best to invest their employment-marketing budgets. The second area focuses on analyzing how job seekers experience and use the Internet to find jobs. This perspective blends the interests of job seekers and employers in the hopes of creating a better online employment search experience.
Evaluating the Impact of the Internet
The demand for demonstrating the value of the Internet as a recruitment source has increased with the size of organizational investments in online recruitment. From an employer’s perspective, there are several major sources of online candidates, including Mega Job Boards, Niche Job Boards, Company Web Sites, and Virtual Networking Communities. A challenge for companies is determining the right investment strategy so that sources can be leveraged for maximum return with regard to the quality of applicants, performance of new hires, retention of new hires, and efficiency of the candidate selection process.
Mega Job Boards offer job seekers thousands of job opportunities, provide employers with access to millions of resumes, and represent the primary exchange for employment information on the Internet. The nature of the postings on these sources reflects a focus on basic job information and the minimum requirements for jobs. The cost to an employer of posting to such Web sites is relatively modest compared with more traditional recruitment sources (e.g., newspaper classifieds), and applicants are drawn to these sites because of the number of job opportunities available for review as well as job-seeker support services available, such as resume coaching. The popularity of these Web sites may also be their main drawback for employers interested in more targeted groups of job seekers. Niche Job Boards are typically structured in much the same way as their larger counterparts but offer opportunities and career information targeted at specific types of professional groups such as information technology workers, marketing professionals, medical workers, or engineers. The focus of niche sites toward the professional concerns of specific kinds of job seekers make them popular destinations of both active and passive job-seeking professionals and generates brand loyalty not typically affiliated with the use of Mega Job Boards.
The popularity of the Internet for employment search purposes has been clearly demonstrated by the integration of employment advertising into company employment Web sites. Almost every company in the Fortune 500 has pages on its Web site specifically designed for employment purposes. Within these Web pages, job seekers have access not only to the postings of available job opportunities but also to specific information about an organization, its people, and information regarding the benefits of employment with the organization and insights about how their careers may develop within the organization’s structure and through use of its developmental resources. A fourth category of online recruitment sources is interactive communities that increasingly allow job seekers direct access to employees of firms with whom they seek employment. Such communities allow both employers and job seekers to more effectively leverage social networks in the hiring process and not only learn about employment opportunities but also gain firsthand testimonials about the employment experience available at potential employers.
The variety of ways the Internet can be used in the employment process makes it a dynamic area of study and professional debate. As organizations attempt to find the right kinds of applicants in more efficient ways, comparisons are made not only between the Internet and more traditional sources of employee recruitment, such as newspaper advertisements and job fairs, but also between the different sources that can be utilized for finding candidates. The advantages of job boards for attracting a wide variety of applicants can be somewhat mitigated by the number of non-qualified applicants who apply for positions. On the other hand, employment Web pages on company Web sites typically provide job seekers with more information about an organization and its employment opportunities as well as application mechanisms for filtering candidates tailored to the specific needs of an employer. However, these Web pages can require intensive resource investment to develop and are only as effective as the ability of the organization to drive applicant traffic to the page.
The Internet has made the job-search experience more similar to a consumer experience. On the Internet, hundreds of thousands of job listings from thousands of employers are available for individuals to review. Therefore, attracting and engaging the attention of the right kind of applicant audience has become an increasing concern for corporate recruiters. This shift in paradigm toward treatment of job seekers as consumers of employment-related information has turned research attention toward gaining a better understanding of how job seekers experience and use the Internet to find employment. It is not just the generation of an applicant pool that interests companies and researchers but also how to initially attract job seekers who match the employer’s requirements and “fit” with the corporate culture and working environment.
On the Internet, job seekers are more heavily interested in ancillary characteristics of employment advertising than in traditional recruitment sources (e.g., newspaper classifieds). Certainly, the messages contained in an online job advertisement or organizational employment Web site will have a significant impact on job-pursuit behaviors. However, a number of additional characteristics of the employment-advertising mechanisms, such as the aesthetics of a Web site, ease of use in obtaining information and using application tools, perceived credibility of the information source, and trust in the application mechanism, have a significant impact on job-seeker attraction toward a job and the likelihood of pursuing an employment opportunity.
The Internet provides companies with flexibility in how they can present employment-advertising messages on their corporate Web sites. Some organizations choose to present information on these pages in a rather static fashion, providing basic information about the organization with a limited number of supporting Web pages. Other organizations provide detailed information about corporate history, the kinds of people who make up its workforce, developmental opportunities available to employees, and benefits that employees receive as part of an employment package. Best-practice organizations go even further, offering unique insights into an organization’s culture through virtual tours of company headquarters, profiles of employees in popular occupations, information that provides a realistic preview of what someone might expect when taking the job (e.g., an employee’s typical work day), and inventories that job seekers can take to assess whether their personalities match the profile of a successful employee within an organization.
The Internet allows organizations to unleash the creative powers of its marketing department on the job-seeking public. However, the effectiveness of online employment advertising is contingent on the receipt of information by the job-seeking public and subsequent actions in which they engage (e.g., application, recommendation of the company to job-seeking friend). As means of employment advertising become more advanced and tools become more interactive, the sophistication of users required to effectively receive employment-marketing messages and successfully apply for jobs increases. To this end, employers and researchers have attempted to consider how different types of users experience and use the Internet as a tool for job search. The characteristics that most impact online job-search experience include age, race, gender, past computer experience, and current employment status. Older job seekers tend to be more concerned about the security of their personal information when using online job search tools. The demographic makeup of individuals featured on a Web site may have an impact on the way minority members or females perceive the company’s perspective on diversity. Passive job seekers may be more sensitive to the ease with which they can find information on an employment Web site or within a job-search engine, as their time for job search may be limited while at work or while searching for jobs after hours.
Employers at the cutting edge of online recruiting consider the possible experiences of different kinds of job seekers when designing employment Web sites or job advertisements to be used on job-search engines, so that the information communicated and means of application can be optimally facilitated. Based on the type and number of employees an organization is trying to attract, an employer may design a Web site to have more of a recruiting, selection, or mixed orientation. Employers who design employment Web pages primarily for attracting applicants are likely to provide more marketing-oriented information that casts the organization in a positive light, so that a maximum number of potential employees might be attracted to the job opportunities. Employers who are more concerned about finding the right kinds of applicants as efficiently as possible design their Web sites with a greater selection orientation. To this end, job seekers might be able to view information about an organization, but the focus of information would be to encourage use of an online screening tool that will either formally filter applicants or promote self-selection into or out of an applicant pool. Job-search engines are typically more selection oriented, as they allow job seekers to view information about available job opportunities and provide a mechanism for efficient application but allow little opportunity for job seekers to learn about any one employer. Many larger organizations have the luxury of blending these orientations together so that a job seeker can learn about an employer and then submit an application using some sort of automated mechanism.
The Internet will continue to change the way job seekers find and apply for jobs. Traditionally, networking with friends and professional connections has been the most effective way for a job seeker to obtain high-probability employment leads. Virtual networking promises to affect the way job seekers find and gain access to high-probability employment opportunities. Such networking takes place on Web sites specifically designed to facilitate such connections and also through some of the larger job boards, whose members number in the hundreds of thousands. Acquisition of information through such channels may supplant the value of certain information provided by employers through their Web sites, such as employee testimonials. Future research in the area of Internet recruitment will certainly examine the impact of virtual networking on job-seeker perceptions and subsequent applicant pools. In addition, future research will likely focus on testing models of job-seeker perceptions to better understand how Web sites can be designed to optimize the job-seeker experience and maximize corporate return on investment. Although the Internet has enabled organizations to realize tremendous gains in efficiency with regard to the recruitment process, it has also changed the standards by which recruiting and hiring are measured. Research and practice must continue to converge on the areas of Internet recruiting that lead to smarter and faster hiring of employees. Nevertheless, Internet recruiting has forever changed the way employers and job seekers find each other, and it will continue to be a powerful force in shaping the workforce of twenty-first-century organizations.
- Computer-based career support systems
- Electronic employment screening
- Human resource information systems (HRIS)
- Internet career assessment
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