Posted by Joe Light for The Wall Street Journal
As recruiters wade cautiously back into hiring mode, they’re throwing out their old playbooks. Rather than sift through mounds of online applications, they are going out to hunt for candidates themselves.
Many plan to scale back their use of online job boards, which they say generate mostly unqualified leads, and hunt for candidates with a particular expertise on places like LinkedIn Corp.’s professional networking site before they post an opening. As the market gets more competitive again, they are hiring recruiters with expertise in headhunting and networking, rather than those with experience processing paperwork.
Inundated by online applicants, McLean, Va.-based government contractor Science Applications International Corp. plans to cut the number of job boards it uses in the coming fiscal year to six from 15 or so, says company vice president Kara Yarnot.
SAIC has asked its 125 U.S. recruiters to find candidates for analyst, engineering, and other jobs on professional social networks instead.
“It’s almost a throwback to the old, dial-for-dollars method of recruiting,” says Ms. Yarnot. “We need to reach candidates earlier, before they’re being pursued by competitors.”
About 24% of companies plan to decrease their usage of third-party employment websites and job boards this year, according to a December survey from the Corporate Executive Board Co., a business consulting firm. Meanwhile, nearly 80% of respondents said they plan to increase their use of job-board alternative methods this year, such as employee referrals and other websites like Facebook Inc. or LinkedIn.
Food services company Sodexo USA, owned by Paris-based Sodexo SA, slashed the number of jobs it posts to third-party job boards by more than half since the recession started, says vice president of talent acquisition Arie Ball. The number of applications to some executive openings at Sodexo rose more than 50% to 300 since the downturn started, Ms. Ball says, but the increase brought many unqualified candidates.
“Recruiters had to put in all this extra time to read applications but we didn’t get benefit from it,” she says. Now, the company is hiring different types of recruiters who specialize in headhunting, including finding candidates to poach from competitors, rather than those who are good at processing and filtering applications.
Companies are adapting their plans as they start hiring again after the downturn. Between November 2009 and November 2010, the total number of job openings rose 32%, according to the Labor Department.
Job seekers who were reluctant to leave their existing jobs—as well as unemployed workers sitting on the sidelines—have begun casting about for opportunities, too. Between December 2009 and December 2010, recruiters saw a 17% increase in applications per opening, according to the Corporate Executive Board.
The trend has in many ways been a boon for job boards, which say they haven’t noticed any impact from some companies’ pullback. But some of the largest sites acknowledge that the new environment means they must do more to keep customers happy.
In the coming months, Monster Worldwide Inc. plans to roll out technology that ranks candidates based on how well their applications fit requirements set by the recruiter, says chief global marketing officer Ted Gilvar. The product has been available to some customers since late last year.
Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group Inc. remains concerned that relying too much on job boards could be bad for business.
Melissa Mounce, the company’s senior vice president of corporate talent acquisition, says the company became concerned that its slow response time to applications was hurting its retail bank’s brand. “Someone who applies for a bank-teller position might also be a customer or potential customer, and we were letting those applications fall into a black hole,” she says.
PNC has reduced its overall spending on general job boards, such as Monster and CareerBuilder, but still uses niche boards, like Dice.com for tech professionals, when the need arises. “We used to post everything, but in this environment, you have to think strategically,” she says.
Additionally, the company is currently reorganizing its recruiting staff to better handle the tens of thousands of applications it receives in a given month. Instead of using senior recruiters to filter through the company’s applicants, lower-level screeners process them first and only hand off the most-qualified. A separate set of recruiters actively searches for more experienced candidates who aren’t likely to come in through a job board.