The brave new world of recruiting

by 10 Jun 2008

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in recruitment. Craig Donaldson speaks with Rob McGovern, founder of two of the internets largest jobsites, about the latest trends in online recruiting and what they mean for HR

Technology is gradually reshaping the face of recruitment. In coming years, this is set to accelerate, with a number of new developments that will have a significant impact on HR. One such area is in online recruitment and the process of matching the ideal candidate with the right company.

“The internet has created tremendous opportunity to connect job seekers and employers in ways that weren’t possible before,” says Rob McGovern, founder and CEO of Jobfox, the fastest-growing jobsite on the internet.

Prior to founding Jobfox he was the founder and CEO of CareerBuilder, which he sold for more than US$400 million ($421 million) earlier this decade.

McGovern drew an analogy between the job placement process and the first online dating sites, which were essentially online boards with pictures of people. “Now, with the matching-based services that are drawing people together, you can get a much better result, and that kind of capability is moving to the online jobs sector. Ultimately, I think it’s going to make companies save a lot of money and job seekers be more productive in their job search.”

First-generation job sites were a big innovation in their time, says McGovern, however they are a teaser for something that will ultimately be bigger and better. “Remember when we thought the ultimate search engine was Lycos?” he asks. “When Google came along, we couldn’t imagine why there needed to be another search service.”

Just as Google has made a number of innovations in searching, McGovern said there is also tremendous opportunity for innovation in online recruitment. “It’s my belief that we’re at the dawn of a period where the standard resume is going to be replaced with something better,” he said.

One of the problems with job sites is that the quality of data fuelling the process can be poor, he said. In some cases, the candidate has either embellished the resume or the resume is treated as all things being equal – where all words, whether they be key competencies or passing personal interests, are weighted with equal importance by recruitment systems, according to McGovern.

“There’s a lot of whispering and talking in the vendor community in the United States about creating the successor to the resume,” he said. “It feels to me like it’s about happen.

“I think it’s going to get the jobseeker more of what they want and give employers better information. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw an end to resumes in the next 12 months.”

Social networking and recruitment

The traditional model of using resumes and online job boards will be turned on its head over coming years, according to McGovern. “The next wave in the revolution is going to be putting people online. We envision a day where virtually every professional has their credentials on the internet – where companies can pursue them and individuals can signal what they’re interested in and what they’re capable of doing.”

This will be a natural process as the ageing of the workforce speeds up and generational change continues to set in. As a result, McGovern said, the internet is becoming an increasingly social place. “Baby-boomers use the internet like a giant encyclopaedia. You go into a search engine, you search for something and you read,” he said.

“However, if you look at today’s 25-year-old professional, the way they use it is to cultivate their social relationships – and essentially they conduct their life on the internet. It’s our belief that we’re going to see the social fabric of the internet, or the connections between people, become a fundamental part of the overall internet, in the same way that search has become fundamental to the internet.”

While social networking is well established through websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, McGovern said invite-only networking sites capture just one part of the ecosystem. While it’s nice to be invited to be part of someone else’s network on such sites, McGovern said, there are a lot of connections that could be made where there aren’t necessarily natural connections between relevant people when it comes to recruitment.

Google is currently working on something called a social graph API, which is essentially an effort to draw the links between people across all social networking sites. This project makes information about the public connections between people on the web more readily available, and McGovern said this is the natural next step in weaving the social fabric of the internet. “So we’re not relying on our friends to introduce us to each other; it’s just we have a natural affiliation that can be fostered.”

Technology and job alignment

Organisations are placing an increasing amount of importance on job fit and alignment. However, in many organisations there are several layers that can prevent information around job alignment flowing, according to McGovern.

“For example, the hiring manager may know what they want, but then HR is charged with starting the search and goes and hires a staffing agency or recruiting firm. So, with each step, you lose some of the information that is needed to get job alignment right.

“That’s part of the problem today – most jobs aren’t described well to the job search engine, so there are many ways in which important information can be lost.”

The job board industry has tried for the last 20 years to use filtering technologies. According to McGovern, filtering software essentially discards huge numbers of resumes. “Rather than trying to attract 100,000 resumes and throwing away 99.5 per cent of them, technology can help us towards the right candidate in the first place,” he said.

“The ultimate pay-off is when you get longer tenure of your employees. A lot of the time employees quit a company because they were a poor fit for the job in the first place. If we can get the right people into the right job people, they will stay longer and ultimately there’s a tremendous cost saving to companies. So they save because recruitment costs are lower and key positions are not vacant.”

Implications for HR

As developments in online recruitment continue, McGovern often tells customers to try new features on different job sites. “I’m advising my friends in HR that they should think about recruitment from a social networking view.

“We’re all trying to figure out how social networking sites are going to fit into recruitment, so having someone who specialises in this area would help a lot of companies,” he said.

“There are going to be lots of experiments that are going to fail in the beginning, but, ultimately, this young generation is spending a tremendous amount of their time on these online social networks. It’s natural for a solution to evolve within there.

“It’s a matter of time before someone figures out how to do it. That’s the beauty of technology. If it doesn’t work the first time, you get another shot to try it again,” McGovern said.

Rob McGovern will be speaking on tomorrow’s recruiting technology in Brisbane on Tuesday 8 July, Melbourne on Wednesday 9 July and Sydney on Thursday 10 July. For more information please see http://www.humanresourcesmagazine.com.au/breakfast

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