The internet – so ubiquitous now that it no longer merits a capital ‘I’. Since its inception in the mid 1990s, it has become the go-to starting point for job candidates looking to find work. In fact, according to new research, one third of people who looked for work in 2014 rated the internet as the most effective channel for finding a job post.
A joint study from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Recruit Works Institute (RWI) in the USA surveyed more than 13,000 candidates from 13 countries, including Australia, USA, Brazil, China, UK, Japan, Russia, Italy, Germany, Canada, France, South Africa and India, which together host 59 per cent of the world’s working population – roughly 1.7 billion people. The aim was to find what channels people are using to find work, how effective they are and the resulting increase or decrease in job satisfaction. Researchers came to a paradoxical conclusion: The progress of recruitment technology has both decreased and increased job search time.
As an explanation, partner at BCG and co-author of the study Kazumasa Sakurai says: “On the one hand, the internet allows employers to reach a wide audience with one click of a mouse. On the other hand, applicants can now subscribe to new job postings and spend more time looking, as they review vacancies only periodically.”
Job search behaviour is changing rapidly, yet HR professionals and employers are failing to capitalise on this shift, say researchers. Every year, nearly 20 per cent of workers world-wide change jobs. The study identifies four channels job seekers use to find postings:
- commercial, such as internet job sites, newspapers and job training programs;
- public, such as government-run job services;
- referrals, such as alumni networks and friends or family; and
- direct inquiries through company websites or walk-ins.
Of those who made the switch, 45 per cent of Australians thought the internet was the most important medium to find a job. Other important channels were paper media (12 per cent), referrals from family or friends (13 per cent) and direct inquiry (10 per cent).
Although new recruitment technologies have made the recruitment process more efficient and transparent, it hasn’t made it shorter. Internet advertisements allow employers to reach a wider audience, but the spread of postings creates a dilemma for job seekers. Now, instead of looking in short, concentrated bursts, job seekers in Australia are taking an average of eight weeks to research openings and another five weeks to apply, interview and accept an offer. In comparison, the average length of time between candidate referral and job offer is nine weeks.
It’s not just candidates that are feeling the squeeze, though. A recent Hudson survey titled The State of Hiring in Australia in 2015 found that 28 per cent of hiring managers say job boards are less effective than two years ago. While the internet means candidates can apply to many jobs with minimal effort, it also means less than half of professionals tailor their CVs or cover letters to every application, according to Hudson. This makes it incredibly hard for hiring managers to find the right fit for the job.
These findings give rise to important questions that can help employers bolster the recruitment process and bring it up to speed. Hiring managers should assess how prepared the company is to recruit through multiple channels and how candidate demographics affect channel choice. For instance, researchers found that the average internet job site user was more educated and younger than referral users, who tended to be less educated and older. Do you want to encourage employees to refer quality candidates? Consider implementing referral incentive programs to tap that talent pool. Do you need cost effective methods that build traffic? Then leverage the speed, ease and convenience of internet job sites.
It also helps to figure out why people look for new work in the first place. Two popular reasons are to earn higher income or increase job satisfaction. The Hudson survey found that 70 per cent of Australians want work-life balance, 67 per cent want a higher salary, 58 per cent want career progression and 46 per cent want better benefits. By stressing what candidates should expect by way of flexible work, benefits, workplace culture and more, organisations can highlight what makes their jobs on offer better than the competition’s.
Together, this data creates some food for thought about where employers should focus recruitment efforts in the future. On the surface, the internet seems like the panacea for all recruitment ills. However, companies need to think strategically about candidate quality, alongside quantity. It turns out, the internet doesn’t always have the right answers.