Paul Lima - Toronto Freelance Writer, Copywriter, Media Interview Trainer, Writing Coach

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Online search can Net good talent
 
Word Count: 1,000; Ref #: NP-BE2; Pub: National Post  (March 2003)

By Paul Lima

Halifax native Garnet Brooks is married and living in South Korea, thanks to the Internet. The 28-year-old Mr. Brooks found a job teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) on an Internet job board after graduating from Saint Mary's University in 1997 with a Masters degree in applied linguistics. He met his wife while working in South Korea.

Mr. Brooks admits all did not go smoothly with the recruitment process. When he tried to find out what city he would be teaching in, he was told he "had to be able to deal with a certain amount of ambiguity" when entering a different culture. He was eventually sent to Chinju in southern South Korea but his teaching debut was delayed a month due to paperwork snafus.

After a bumpy start, Mr. Brooks is on his seventh contract and fourth workplace in six years. He found most of his work on Dave's ESL Café, but there are a number of job boards geared to ESL teachers. He is currently teaching in Incheon, about 20 minutes outside of Seoul, and has made many friends -- including a couple from Halifax who also teach ESL.

Michelle Collins did not end up in an exotic locale, but she did find a job when she turned to the Net. The 27-year-old Sheridan College journalism graduate landed her first writing job through Jeff Gaulin's Job Board, a job board dedicated to the recruitment of media and public relations professionals.

After scrounging through newspaper classified ads and finding no openings, she took her search online and was working within weeks. "Even people I networked with as part of my job search said to go to Jeff's board," says Ms. Collins who writes for CanadaOne, a free online magazine for Canadian entrepreneurs.

CanadaOne needed a writer for its Web site and to fulfill a contract to supply content to Microsoft's small business Web portal, bCentral.com. Instead of spending the time and money it takes to advertise for a specialized position in newspaper classified sections, Julie King, president of CanadaOne.com, turned to a specialized job board.

"I had a fantastic response to the online ad," Ms. King says. "Online recruiting is a great way to fill positions that require specific skills, as long as the job site has a strong audience of users."

There are literally hundreds of industry-specific job boards run by associations or other niche players focusing on jobs in academia, agriculture, zoology, the environment, architecture, health care, hospitality and tourism, and many other fields.

Large companies that recruit online tend to start with the generic job boards such as Monster, Workopolis, CareerClick and JobShark. It costs more to recruit through the big boards than it does through specialized boards, but online recruitment is generally less expensive than newspaper advertising or headhunters. Positions get wide exposure because online ads can be seen by qualified candidates across Canada -- and around the world -- who might not see ads placed in local newspapers. Most recruitment notices remain on job boards for at least one month. Applications generally arrive in a standard format that allows automated online screening tools to be used to rank applicants according to education, work experience and other criteria.

A rapidly growing company, 1-800-GOT JUNK? uses online recruitment extensively, but not exclusively.

In 1989, Brian Scudamore, then a university student, bought a used pickup and started The Rubbish Boys, a junk removal service. By 1999, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was born and positioned to become the FedEx of junk removal. The company has annual revenue of $17.5-million, 40 employees at head office and 300 employees overall, including 48 franchise partners across Canada and the United States.

Fuelled by growth, GOT-JUNK?'s head office hired 20 customer service, sales, management and information technology (IT) employees last year and filled 50% of its vacancies using online job boards, says Shirley Quinn, GOT-JUNK?'s vice-president of client services.

Reflecting the rapid adoption of online recruiting by employers and job seekers, the value of the online recruiting industry in North America is projected to grow from US$847-million in 2000 to US$6.65-billion by 2005, according to the research firm IDC.

More than 900,000 Canadians entered résumés into Monster.ca's searchable database, and more than 500,000 job seekers posted resumes with JobShark.ca last year.

To use most job boards, employers sign up online, frequently paying by company credit card. They write job notices, upload them with a click of a button and wait for applications to arrive. Large commercial job boards often send out automatic e-mail notices to registered job seekers when new jobs arrive so they do not have to check the boards on a daily basis. Job seekers register for notices based on specific employment criteria and receive notices concerning jobs that match the criteria.

Employers tend to be overwhelmed with applications in the first week as candidates receive notices, Ms. Quinn says.

While online recruitment saves employers time and money, there are pitfalls. The most qualified candidates seeking jobs online are often employed or considering multiple offers. It is common to lose such candidates to other companies after making an offer, or even after hiring them.

Even if job-screening tools narrow down the résume barrage to a couple of hundred, "you still need the personal interview to get the right person," says Richard Fernandes, managing director of The Staffing Exchange, a recruitment firm based in Toronto.

Mr. Fernandes might be expected to consider online job boards as competition, but he does what they cannot do: He calls people who do not always know they are in the mood to change jobs. He also uses online job boards to find possible candidates for some vacancies, as there are still many employers who would rather have a professional headhunter screen applicants to be interviewed.

Mr. Fernandes has been in the job recruitment business for 15 years -- before the advent of voice mail and e-mail, let alone online job boards.

"Online has bridged the gap between employer and employee," but the online recruitment market is too fractured, he says.

He expects the online job board industry eventually will be consolidated and look something like the real estate industry's Multiple Listing Service (MLS), where all MLS homes are listed in one place, no matter which real estate company has the listing. Most job vacancies will be available from one central location or job board search engine.

As popular as they are, online job boards have not completely replaced other forms of recruitment.

GOT-JUNK? recruits call centre staff through referrals, universities and colleges and the Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) job bank. However, when GOT-JUNK? wants to hire the best available IT, sales and management candidates from across Canada, the company looks online, Ms. Quinn says.
 

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