Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Onrec Online Recruitment Magazine Feature: How do big recruiters recruit online?

By Lauren Mackelden, Features Editor, Onrec

By Lauren Mackelden, Features Editor, Onrec

Online recruitment has been around long enough now to feel mainstream. But how much do the big recruiters and indeed jobseekers rely on it? Do people just browse online or seriously apply for jobs?

According to Ralf Baumann the StepStone CEO, large recruiters ( i.e. companies employing more than 500 people ) mainly look for candidates via job boards and their company website. Baumann believes candidates also opt for those two channels when looking for a job. In fact a StepStone survey conducted in seven  countries, with 143 large recruiters, revealed that almost every large recruiter uses their company website to look for candidates. And almost all of them also post an ad on job boards. However, Baumann reports that when looking at the usage of social networks such as LinkedIn or Xing, they see that only half of the companies use them. Baumann predicts that in the coming year, large recruiters are planning to opt for online channels even more; 26% want to increase their use of job boards. he says: "Companies are right to invest in job boards as the majority of candidates declare that they use job boards to look for jobs. By contrast newspapers and other print publications will continue to experience a decline."

Use your company website

The company website as an important asset, not to be wasted. Indeed, Nick Waller of Global Retail Jobs says 72% of job-seekers go directly to a company’s own corporate website. However, there is a big discrepancy between this interest and whether they find what they need or expect on the company website. Waller claims only 70% of companies say they are advertising current vacancies on their websites and many still haven’t got a careers section on their website in order to capitalise on this free candidate traffic. He recommends some options: "A  basic approach is to give a list of vacancies and contact details on a site. A more in-depth one would involve a dedicated area that gives details of vacancies, person specifications, benefits and the application process. Some companies take a ‘partnership' approach, working closely with recruitment consultancies and specialised web agencies who manage their online process as they don't have the necessary skills in-house." Waller believes whilst a majority of companies will now use job boards and other external online recruitment services, the ability of the company’s own website to attract a constant stream of skilled and qualified candidates is where most companies would like to be. "Advertising jobs on their own website is not only beneficial in terms of adding functionality for visitors, but it also means a significant amount of content become available for search engines to index, resulting in the likelihood of a considerable growth in the number of visitors to the company’s website."

Bryan Adams is MD of Ph.Creative, an internet marketing agency based in Liverpool. He says: " We’re finding that the recruitment world is moving faster than our own at the moment and this is exaggerated by social media constantly opening up more doors and changing the way in which recruiters operate. We’re also seeing a real increase in companies handling their own recruitment; utilising social media channels to develop their own direct attraction strategies rather than using a specialist agency. For recruiters, new technology has streamlined the search process and made it more effective for employers to find candidates. On the flip side, it has also made it easier for businesses to find suitable candidates themselves and cut out the middle man. For jobseekers, it gives them a true insight into the employer, allowing them to make a confident and informed decision when it comes to a potential career move. On the other hand, employers are now able to thoroughly research applicants, meaning social media profiles are starting to inform shortlist decisions and initial selection. Making an online presence fit-for-purpose will require some initial investment, though Adams says once it’s up and running, the rewards can be quickly realised. Adams  cites the work Ph.Creative has been doing with Nationwide  as a great example of the potential rewards seen through effective online recruitment - he says the online strategy they’ve put in place for Nationwide is already outperforming its traditional job boards by a factor of 10, and continues to improve visibility and engagement.

Adams has some advice for employers wanting  to use online more effectively. He says companies must be attractive online and look like a great place to work. He recommends encouraging staff to be ambassadors of the brand on social media and making them aware of any vacancies, so they are able to assist with the search process. He also advises businesses to ensure they have an active corporate presence and are members of any relevant online communities. "That way, when vacancies arise, companies are in a strong position to quickly engage with these audiences. Brands are becoming more aware of what they’re spending on external suppliers, and as a result are starting to invest more on internal resources in order to take control over their own recruitment. With this in mind, recruitment agencies have to reassess their value proposition and work harder to earn their money."

Smartphones trigger interest in online recruitment

Rob Searle, commercial director of, declares mobile is a key focus for his company, saying they are now achieving 60,000 mobile visits per month, an enormous percentage of their overall unique user numbers. For the construction industry, for example, Searle says a presence on mobile is essential, saying a large percent of their target audience spend their days working outside of an office environment. Neil Brodie, commercial director for agrees that the adoption of mobile devices is a great catalyst for online recruitment. As he points out, the best candidates are often busy and struggle to manage the job-hunting process. "For people job hunting while already in employment, their smartphone makes efficient use of time. Having all your emails and job searches on a personal device also ensures constant access and complete confidentiality." In fact, Brodie claims 21.1% of all visits to are through mobile devices, with 9.7% of people visit the site on an iPhone, 4.8% on an iPad and 6.6% on other mobile devices.

Neil Brodie also believes social media has been fully embraced by the recruitment sector, with the majority of recruitment companies strategically using social media in addition to their traditional website. He suggests that originally, many recruiters thought that social media would replace job boards but it has in fact, become an additional source by which recruiters can reach out to candidates and promote the jobs available on their site. "Through use of social media, recruiters are able to reach individuals who have yet to make a conscious decision to apply for a new job but who may do so upon sight of the job description on a social networking newsfeed. Visitors to a recruitment website, either on a computer or on a mobile device, tend to be people actively seeking other job opportunities. Therefore, it’s safe to say that although there is a much higher application rate through direct visitors to recruitment websites, the use of social media enables recruiters to promote jobs to a wider audience and encourage them to take the next step and actively search for a new job."

However, not everyone thinks online will be the panacea for all. Phil Clarke is the CEO of people services business at Independent. He sees online recruitment is an essential element of the recruitment process for them and for all their blue-chip clients.  However, though using job boards and social networks is critical to building talent pools and developing a differentiating employer brand, he sees it as only a part of the recruitment picture. He predicts an over-reliance on online recruitment methods, without a balance of experienced, skilled input from recruitment professionals is likely to result in lower ‘offer to acceptance’ figures and more candidates who do not stay the course. Ruth Miller, Director of Mapping & Research Practice at retail executive search specialists court & spark consulting, also perceives potential problems. She says many working in recruitment might believe that the ease of accessing potential candidates through Google, Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook should speed up the search process, however court & spark’s view is different. Miller suggests some reasons why social media may not be ideal: "Over-reliance on Linkedin is an issue as the channel itself doesn’t represent a comprehensive view of the talent available, either because not everyone in the retail industry uses the site or because their use of the site has lapsed.  This can mean the information and contact details are not current so a good candidate can be discounted from the search process due to decisions being made with out of date data. An additional risk for retailers approaching candidates through Linkedin is that they could be accused of poaching, especially if the person in question isn’t looking to make a move."  In response to the changing role of the internet within recruitment, court & spark has developed a specialist Mapping & Research Practice.  However, Miller reiterates that the business intelligence and research undertaken online is always validated by offline knowledge, contacts and their network within industry. 

Big recruiters are therefore  using a combination of online methods; corporate websites and jobboards being popular, with an increasing sprinkle of social media thrown in (some more useful and active than others), plus incorporating the online skills of traditional headhunters for the top jobs. So there is still everything to play for in 2013.

Nick Waller, Global Retail Jobs Ltd

Employers are increasingly using social media as a tool for sourcing and recruiting potential candidates as they feel they get a better idea of a candidate's true character, experience and attributes.

According to a recent research, 37% of job-seekers now use social media to find a new job and 76% of companies said that they use or are planning to use social media for recruiting. More than half of the employers surveyed said that social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are an effective way to recruit candidates.

Case study:

Ph.Creative was recently appointed by leading financial services provider, Nationwide, to design a bespoke careers website, which would act as an online hub for applicants.

Created with enhanced usability in mind, the website supports the attraction and engagement of candidates, and utilises Applicant Tracking System (ATS) technology, to enable aspiring employees to track the progress of their job application and receive automatic updates.

Key achievements since the introduction of the website include:

  • Web traffic increased by a third to 60,000 monthly visitors
  • 90 per cent of all job applications dealt with via the dedicated site
  • Cost per application is one fifth of the amount charged by job boards
  • A greater number of users return to the site and, when they do, spend longer and view more pages
  • Mobile users view on average seven pages, compared with only two previously

Robert Taffinder, resourcing operations manager at Nationwide, said: “We chose Ph.Creative to create our website not only because of its extensive digital expertise, but also due to the team’s refreshing honesty. Far from churning out generic answers to our questions, Ph.Creative presented us with a strategic, innovative solution to meet our needs.”

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