Boom Times for Recruiting Vendors

By Jonathan Pont

May. 11, 2005

A war for talent and increased turnover make for good buzz, but a stronger economy makes for good news. And it’s particularly welcome for a company that brings together employers and job seekers.

    Major players in this arena are experiencing sustained booms. Job site, whose technology powers online classifieds for newspapers owned by Knight Ridder, Gannett and the Tribune Co., reported a record number of unique visitors to its Web site in January.

    Executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry saw its domestic revenues rise by 31 percent for the 12 months ending January 31. Its success generally coincides with a rebound in that specialty after a three-year slump. Businesses adjusting their mix of human resources-related services help the bottom line of companies like Recruitmax, whose software helps attract and acquire talent.

    Temporary workers, who typically constitute about 2 percent of the workforce in times of economic growth, are finding that companies are eager to convert them to permanent status. That generates additional fee revenue for providers of temporary help like Kelly Services.

    Companies that enjoyed having their pick of workers in 2002 now find themselves having to scramble for talent. Not only are frustrated workers looking around more, but they also have more means than ever to find their next gig.

    For now, the economy appears sufficiently strong to keep vendors in nearly every segment busy well into the second half of this year. One reason is that getting a better job requires sophistication.

    “Job seekers need to use up to six different online resources to maximize their reach,” says Peter Weddle, author, consultant and CEO of Weddle’s Publications, based in Stamford, Connecticut. That includes two general-purpose job sites and at least three niche boards–one that is germane to their profession, another to their industry and a third based on geography.

    Businesses, of course, rely on similarly diverse channels. When Jill Pfefferbaum has to fill openings at travel Web site, she starts by posting the job internally and also on Monster, then peppers her network with a description of the job.

    “Anything I can think of,” says Pfefferbaum, the company’s director of compensation. “Friends, family and the ‘Big Red Bulletin Board,’ ” an electronic exchange for her fellow graduates of Cornell University.

    Lately she has experimented with LinkedIn, a growing professional networking site. Finding candidates there, she says, shows that they’re “innovative in ways of developing their own networks,” which is particularly useful for business development. Pfefferbaum relies on free services to conserve her budget.

    Companies still seek human assistance in hiring effectively, and the popularity of employee referral programs is proof of that. A CareerXroads survey on hiring shows that employee referrals in 2004 accounted for nearly 32 percent of hiring sources, compared with 28.5 percent in 2003.

    “Employee referral programs are cheap and proven,” says Deborah Besemer, CEO of BrassRing in Waltham, Massachusetts. The elements are a company intranet that is well-designed and well-publicized and a workforce that is open to telling people about the company.

    “If you have loyal and engaged employees, there is a natural pride in making referrals,” says Joe Hammill, director of talent acquisition for office and printing services provider Xerox in Rochester, New York.

    While companies turn to employees to help build culture, they use another resource to help build expertise–the Internet’s niche boards, which allow greater depth and specialized searching than the mainstream boards. There is certainly no shortage of them.

    Weddle estimates that there are about 30,000 niche boards on the Web. And recruiters find them extremely useful. In a recent survey, 84 percent of recruiters said that niche sites provide access to the best talent. Only 11 percent said that about general-purpose recruiting sites.

    Nevertheless, Weddle predicts that the niche boards will soon have to act more as full-service career destinations, complete with elements such as an advice columnist and content that helps a user manage a career, like ways to acquire new skills. That could drive some users away from the sites, which currently rely on a sense of professional kinship as their primary attraction. “The best talent likes to hang out with peers,” Weddle says.

    Monster, meanwhile, is changing the way it intends to grow. It recently hired 100 people to pursue new customer acquisitions, focusing on prospects in small and medium-sized company markets, where employers had not previously advertised jobs online.

Workforce Management, May 2005, pp. 51-52Subscribe Now!

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