Secrets of Online Recruiters Exposed

By Glenn Gutmacher

Sep. 29, 2000

Many of the recruiters that I train came to me thinking that if they have anonline presence with the big career, job, and résumé portals like,they’ve covered their bases for Internet recruiting. Anything else I can showthem, they say, is just gravy. Au contraire, mon ami: and the likeare the gravy. The vast majority of candidates to be found online are elsewhere.

It’s true: While Monster and its competitors have about 5 million uniquerésumés in their databases, you can find double or triple that number on theopen Internet. There are billions of Web pages, plus many more millions ofarchived newsgroup postings and user group and listserv messages. Many of thoseare passive job seekers waiting for you to find them. And don’t forget you canfind people online who don’t even have résumés posted, but who have certainskill-sets, often targetable by location and company as well. The whole Internetis your database if you know how to tap it.

Here are a few of the techniques you can start using today to find yourdesired types of candidates, in specific locations:

Virtual Communities

Ever hear of Geocities, Tripod,or Angelfire? These are”community” Web sites that let people express themselves and findothers who share their interests. To that end, the sites offer chat rooms,clubs, free e-mail, free Web-page creation tools and server space to upload yourpersonal home pages, and more. The good news for us recruiters is that manyfolks upload their résumés as one of those free pages.

These three virtual communities are among the biggest ones, with millions ofmembers each. As a result, even bigger Internet companies bought them. (Yahooacquired Geocities; Lycosgot Tripod and Angelfire),which added more functionality — including better search engines that allow youto search within the community’s pages.

So let’s say you wanted to find résumés of software engineers inMassachusetts who are comfortable on the Unix platform. (If that’s not who youneed, don’t worry — you’ll see how to easily adapt this for other candidatetypes or locations.) On Geocities, go to,and in the text field under “Explore Our Neighborhoods,” type:

  1. resume (without the usual accent marks; using them will mess up theresults) AND software engineer AND unix AND MA
  2. Then click the “Search” button and start grabbing thoserésumés.

Note that Geocities’ engine searches for words contained in the page bodyor in the title (those words in white type that appear over a darker colorbackground at the very top of your Web browser). Our search assumes a fewthings:

  • The word “résumé” is in that title at the top (e.g.,”Résumé of John Smith”). Most people do so by convention;admittedly, some résumés slip through the cracks if they don’t includethe word on their résumé page. The search is not case-sensitive: If youuse a lowercase “r”, it also catches pages using a capital”R”, and vice versa.
  • MA is in the address part of their résumés near the top. However, thatMA could be deep in the body of the résumé, specifying the location of apast employer or collegiate alma mater, while the candidate no longer livesin the state. Geocities won’t let us specify where in the résumé that MAshould appear. You could try spelling out “Massachusetts,” butpeople rarely write the whole state name on their résumés, so we’lleliminate many good résumés as a result. As tradeoffs go, it’s better touse the MA and get more good résumés for the effort of eliminating a fewrésumés that referred to a past employer or school.
  • The terms “software engineer” and “unix” appear in thebody of their résumé. But what if the candidate is a software engineer butphrased it as “test engineer” or “software programmer”?Those résumés would probably be eliminated from our results. That’s whyit’s important to substitute different search phrases, thinking of thevarious synonyms that candidates might use other than just the official jobtitles or skill terms we assume.

Boolean Searching Targets Better

We can do this same search on Angelfire orTripod, and get even betterresults in many cases. Conveniently, their parent company, Lycos, has created asearch engine that delivers results on both sites at once. In addition, theirsearch engine supports some features of Boolean logic, which is the ability tocreate long search strings using the operators AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR. Theseconnector words allow us to search for those job-title or skill-term synonyms inone search. They also better ensure that the candidates live in the geographicarea we’re targeting.

We’ll stick with our earlier example, but now we’d like to narrow oursearch to candidates in greater Boston, because when all of Massachusetts isincluded, some candidates live too far to commute, and it’s unlikely that theywant to relocate (even if we were willing to pay for it). The area codes forgreater Boston are 978, 781, 617, and 508. (If you’re not sure which areacodes are within a commutable distance of a particular location, visit This site lists all U.S., Canadian, and Caribbeanarea codes in alphabetical order, with the towns that they cover.)

Go to In the text box beside “Search Angelfire,”type:

  1. resume AND software engineer AND unix AND (MA NEAR (781 or 508 or 617 or978))
  2. Then click the “Go Get It” button for very targeted résumés.

This search assumes that:

  • These area codes are near the top of résumés of greater Bostoncandidates. Using this type of search, we admittedly lose a small number ofcandidates who omit their phone numbers from their résumés, but theaccurate targeting we achieve more than offsets this: ZIP codes and townnames tend to be less efficient search parameters, but may be better incertain circumstances. Fortunately, most search engines ignore parenthesesas a search character, so whether the phone number begins with 781 or (781),the résumé will still appear in our results.
  • The word “MA” would be located within 10 words of the area code.(That’s how the Boolean operator NEAR works.) This makes sense, since theonly thing between the state and the phone number atop a résumé should bethe ZIP code and perhaps a blank line space.

Relatively few search engines support Boolean search, though that number isgrowing. From the perspective of both search flexibility and amount of the Webindexed, the best ones are,,,, with Altavista currently the leader. Although it may be astar in other respects, popular currently has limited Booleancapabilities. Since the search syntax varies by site, click the “Help”link within the advanced search section of whichever site you use for guidanceon proper phrasing, or your searches will generate errors or zero results.

Last but not least, for whichever searches you do, don’t forget to dig deepinto the results. Many Internet searchers stop after the first page or two ofrésumé links, but good candidates may be 10, 20, or more pages deep. In fact,the deeper you go, the more likely you are to find candidates who have notalready been contacted by many recruiters.

Your Own Candidate E-Newsletter

Searching for on-line candidate information is powerful, but to reallysucceed, you should also be cultivating a following among passive job seekers.Think of what top e-marketers do with niche community portals such as parentingWeb sites, sports and hobby sites, business and finance sites, or otherspecial-interest portals. Their prime goal is to drive traffic back to theirsites on a regular basis, because once people are there, they can buy goods,services and so on.

The e-marketers’ most cost-effective tool for this is not some splashy TVad or billboard campaign. They send you a weekly or monthly newsletter by e-mailtelling you what’s interesting on the site, as well providing as topical newsblurbs and links to useful resources. This achieves two things that are vitalfor recruiters as well:

  1. It maintains top-of-mind awareness for the brand. I may not remember tokeep visiting a site on a regular basis, but if I get an e-mail, it remindsme the site is there. When you’re competing against hundreds of othercompanies for a given type of candidate — especially if the other companiesare better-funded — anything that raises awareness of your company name isvery helpful.

    Also, e-marketers don’t know when a given recipient of theire-newsletter is more likely to buy — or in your case, when candidatesreceiving your e-newsletter are more likely to release their résumés.However, by sending the newsletter consistently (on a monthly basis; moreoften will be perceived as annoying by some), you will at some point duringthe year catch people when their personal circumstances have changed,opening them to the possibility of a job change (e.g., when they get a jerkynew boss, are turned down for a promotion, or are worried by rumors ofdownsizing/merger).

  2. It establishes your credibility as a resource. If your content consistsmostly of job openings at your company, and they’re not in the market atthat moment, they’ll unsubscribe in a heartbeat and you’ve lost themforever.

    On the other hand, by making the majority of the content somethingthat ANY professional can use (industry-specific news and “managingyour career” information), they will want to keep receiving it.Providing this useful information over time results in a perception ofcredibility and expertise for your firm, and you’ll be one of the first toreceive their résumés when they’re ready.

So where can you get e-newsletter content, and how do you send it to a largedatabase, all for free? For the content, I recommend a mix of short blurbs:

  • Six to eight topical industry news headlines: For this, you can sign upwith services like to receive daily news in whatever narrowindustry niche(s) you want. Also, talk to people who work in the same nicheas your newsletter recipients; they usually know of new developments intheir fields because they receive things by e-mail and read their tradepublications. They can provide blurbs and Web links to original sources formore details.
  • One to three general career tips: These could be on job interviewing orrésumé writing, or “managing your career topics” such as how toposition yourself for a promotion, run better meetings, or manage your time.You’ll find these kinds of stories on most popular career Web portals. Formore eye-catching interest, spin each blurb a bit to reflect your targetaudience (e.g., entitle it “Résumé writing tips for IT workers”or “Job interviewing tips for financial professionals,” dependingon which newsletter version you’re compiling).
  • One to two company-specific job opportunities: Just the job title, aone-sentence summary, and a link for the full job description. Also includethe link to where all job descriptions for your newsletter’s candidatetype can be found online.

Keep the blurbs in your newsletter short: one or two summary sentences,preceded by a headline and followed by the Web address (e.g., on they can view the full story

If you summarize and don’t plagiarize,especially when you include the link to the original source, you won’t getinto copyright trouble. Given the high quantity of items and concise format,everyone in your target audience is likely to find items of interest, andrecipients can quickly scan the whole newsletter and click on the links belowthe blurbs they find interesting.

As for newsletter distribution, you can use services like, which let people subscribe to your newsletter online themselves, oryou can import existing e-mail addresses into it. It’s all via the Web — nosoftware to install. You just copy and paste your newsletter text into a box,and click Send. Remember to promote the free newsletter in of all yourrecruitment marketing materials and candidate communications; you’ll besurprised how many subscribers you gain

You can see good examples of free recruiting newsletters that follow thisformat by signing up for “Accelepoint” at (whichtargets technical writers/designers, who even get friends of the company towrite original articles just for them), or my newsletter for recruiters byclicking “Newsletter” at

Automate Things…at a Price

You want more ways to find passive candidates? If terminology like”flipping” competitors’ Web sites, “data-mining”newsgroups and user groups, and “peeling back” URLs is new to you,then a whole world of candidates awaits. Consider this article an invitation tolearn more about the special tools for finding “hidden” experiencedcandidates as well as taking your on-campus recruiting to a new level. That alsoapplies to the numerous ways to make your company Web site a more effectiverecruiting tools.

A growing number of companies provide further training on such Internetrecruiting techniques. Visit for a fairlycomprehensive list that includes upcoming course schedules. Many of thesetechniques can also used through fee-based software packages and Web-enabledtools from vendors listed in such directories as Workforce Tools on

Some systems even automate internal and external job posting, maintenance ofyour company Web site’s jobs section, résumé management, candidateassessment/testing, and candidate communications (including the aforementionede-newsletter). Such systems fall under the category of “end-to-endsolutions.” If your résumé and candidate volume is large enough or yourcost per hire is too high, this may well be worth investigating.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with