February 2, 2006   view past issues

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Feature: The Next Big Thing in Online Recruiting

Read the traditional media or even recruitment blogs these days, and you’d think that employers are desperate for candidates. The commentary is all about search engines as the next big thing in online recruiting. Why are they in the spotlight? Because apparently employers are facing a vast and growing shortage of applicants for their openings, and only vertical search sites, such as and, and search portals, such as and Google Base, can redress the crisis. Employers are in a War for Any Talent, at least that’s the hue and cry, and they need the latest search technology to prevail.

History, however, suggests a different view. It is true that the War for Talent was originally conceived as a quantitative crisis, thanks to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics prediction that the U.S. would experience a shortfall of 10 million workers by 2010. Those shortages would prevent some employers from executing critical operations, and as a consequence, degrade their financial and market performance. To protect themselves, therefore, employers began to compete much more aggressively for candidates. In classic economic terms, they were battling to determine the haves and have nots of human capital.

Then, the economy that drove the War-the late, unlamented bubble-collapsed. Today, employers aren’t competing for candidates; they’re overrun with them. In fact, some employers now complain about job boards the way they used to complain about newspaper classified advertising. Post an opening online, and they’re likely to get hundreds, even thousands of responses. E-mailboxes are stuffed to overflowing with applicants; resume databases now hold more records that a person can effectively assess. If the War for Talent is still a quantitative struggle, the conflict is over. We won.

That, of course, is wishful thinking. The War for Talent is every bit as real today as it was when it first erupted almost a decade ago. It is now, however, a very different conflict. The War for Any Talent-the quantitative struggle for more candidates-has been replaced by a War for the Best Talent-a qualitative contest for extraordinary candidates. And extraordinary candidates are in very short supply. They involve two kinds of workers:

  • Those with critical skills, including workers in certain areas of information technology, certain fields of engineering, and in certain professions (e.g., technical sales), trades (e.g., machinists) and industries (e.g., healthcare);
  • Those who are high performers, especially workers who fill critical positions that ensure effective and efficient organizational operations by virtue of their own performance and by their ability to raise the performance level of their coworkers.
  • These candidates are extraordinary because they are rare and they make an uniquely large contribution to their employer.

    And that’s the problem with search engines and search portals. Their value proposition for candidates is simple: We make it easy to find employers’ job postings. Sure, that increases candidate flow-assuming the search engine site or portal is well known to workers, which is not always a safe assumption-but that flow comes only from those who are actively looking for a new job. To put it baldly, search engines and search portals attract and support active job seekers. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with making it easier for active job seekers to connect with employers, but it is definitely not a strategy for sourcing extraordinary candidates.

    Active job seekers have three defining characteristics:

  • They are a small subset of the total workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at any point in time, just 16% of all workers are actively looking for a job. In essence, search engines and search portals miss 84% of the workforce.
  • They encompass a proportionately smaller population of the best talent. Those with critical skills and those who are high performers are almost always employed and, as a consequence, seldom if ever look for a job. Hence, search engines and search portals miss most of these passive job seekers. And passive job seekers are the best source of extraordinary candidates.
  • They are, by definition, motivated searchers for employment. Active job seekers will take the initiative to visit employers’ sites. While they may use a search engine or a search portal, they’re just as likely to visit an employer’s site on their own (especially if the employer is well branded).
  • All of which begs the question: What’s the recruiting value of a search engine or search portal?

    Certainly, they generate traffic. And, if you’re selling cars or real estate, that’s an advantage. Any person who comes to a car dealer or real estate company’s site is a potential customer. They are, in the language of our colleagues in sales, a “qualified prospect.” That’s not the case with recruitment. A qualified candidate is not anyone who will do the work, but rather the one who will do the work best. Search technology can’t capture those prospects; only a special kind of Web-site can.

    I call these special sites career community centers. Unlike search engines and search portals, they provide a value proposition that appeals to people who aren’t looking for a job as well as to those who are. In essence, they have something for 100% of the workforce. They provide job postings for the active job seeker and career advancement information, content and functionality for the passive person. Equally as important, they facilitate personal development and support peer-to-peer interaction and collegiality, regardless of one’s employment situation.

    Not all employment sites are career community centers. Many job boards have successfully been able to make the switch. (And, certainly, search engines and portals could do so, as well.) They have transformed themselves from simple listings of open positions to destinations that engage, educate, encourage, enlighten and entertain, whether a person is actively looking for a job or not.

    For example:

  • The online employment section of the Dayton Daily News. It offers a video game-like experience called “Nail the Interview.” This feature educates the player, while challenging and entertaining them, and simultaneously builds community by allowing players to compete with one another and post their game score (the salary offer they get). Whether you’re looking for a job or not, it’s fun, instructive and a way to connect with others in the workforce.
  • It offers the Case of the Day. This feature enables active and passive job seekers to hone their professional skills in a peer-centric environment. Its educational value is so highly regarded that eleven teaching hospitals around the country require their students to participate as a part of their residency.
  • A WEDDLE’s 2006 User’s Choice Award Winner, it offers a feature called the Lounge. It’s an on-site hang out with everything from Radio TalentZoo-a podcast of information and news for the advertising industry-to blogs and discussion boards for individual interaction.
  • If you want to win the War for Any Talent, search engines and search portals are your ticket. They will efficiently direct more active job seekers to your site. If, on the other hand, you want to win the War for the Best Talent, find an employment site that will attract extraordinary candidates. They’re my bet for the next big thing in online recruiting.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about WEDDLE’s newsletter. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and benefit from your recommendation.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: IEEE Job Site

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of the IEEE Job Site.

    The IEEE Job Site connects you with the world’s largest targeted technology talent pool. More than 1,400 leading corporations in fields ranging from ASIC design to aerospace and defense system development use the IEEE Job Site.

    Find senior-level managers, engineers and technology experts, and make job offers to these top-notch candidates before your competitors know about them. Register an account and you can begin posting positions within minutes! Click here for a special offer available only to WEDDLE’s Newsletter Subscribers.

    For more information or to place a posting today, contact Deb Grant at or call +1 732 981 3420.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Annals of Improbable Research., a scientific humor magazine, has cited a recent academic study entitled “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Leads to Inflated Self-Assessments.” In a nutshell, the research found that incompetence is bliss. Those who don’t perform up-to-speed, also don’t recognize their own lack of competence or the competence of others. This profound cluelessness was supported by data reported in The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book. Written by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, it looked at the emotional intelligence of workers by creating an “emotional intelligence quotient” (EQ) composed of their self-awareness, social-awareness, self-management and relationship-management skills. It found that the average EQ for workers was 74 (on a 100-point scale), and that EQ scores increased with seniority in the organization. Supervisors averaged 77 and managers averaged 77.5. At that point, however, an interesting phenomenon occurred: beyond the managerial level, EQ scores declined. Directors dropped to 74.5, junior executives slipped to 72.5, senior executives came in at 71, and CEOs actually earned the lowest emotional intelligence quotients in the enterprise with an average of 70.5. For all of you out there who are absolutely convinced that the boss doesn’t get it and is totally ignorant of their ignorance … you just may be right.

    Health Magazine reported that it had devised a formula to determine the most depressing day of the year. I’m not sure why identifying this downer of a day is important to our health, but the magazine did, in fact, point out the culprit. Using such factors as the weather, impact of accumulated debt, guilt over failed New Year’s resolutions, the availability of events to look forward to, and general motivational levels, it fingered poor, old January 24 as the worst day of the year. Now, for people who were born on the 24th day of January (like my daughter) and for those who were married or got a big promotion or won the lottery on that day, this designation will obviously seem misguided. For them, the day is cause for celebration. And I think we should share their joy; after all, the worst day of the year is now over, so we all can look forward to a 2006 of over 300 days that, by definition, must be better.

    Harvard Business Review published an article entitled “A Players or A Positions” by Mark A. Huselid, Richard W. Beatty and Brian E. Becker. In their view, employers should “adopt a portfolio approach to workforce management, placing the very best employees in strategic positions, good performers in support positions, and eliminating nonperforming employees and jobs that don’t add value.” The rationale is logical-“Companies simply can’t afford to have A Players in all positions”-but its implementation is much less straight forward. The concept presumes that workers are already in place in an organization and that workforce management is, as a consequence, simply a matter of moving people around. The reality, of course, is something very different. Most organizations are continuously adding employees, and recruiting is driven by a very different set of dynamics. Many hiring managers set requirements for their openings that virtually dictate the acquisition of a top performer, regardless of the value of the position to the organization. That may make our job more difficult, but their rationale is also logical: hiring average performers can be hazardous to their career if they’re going to be held responsible for the results. Until that issue is addressed, I think limiting A talent to A positions is a concept that gets an F.

    Putnam Investments commissioned a study of retired workers who have returned to the workforce. Called “The Working Retired,” it found that more than a third of the respondents were working full time-disabusing the notion that retirement age workers seek only part time employment-and that, on average, these employees were earning $36,800 per year, 60% higher than their non-working peers. Why are they still involved in the workplace? Pundits typically offer two explanations-today’s retired population lost their retirement savings in the bubble, and they are more likely than previous generations to have their sense of self tied up in their work. This study, however, suggests that a different motivation may be at work. Despite the conventional wisdom that most retired workers own their own homes, an astonishing 60% of the respondents were still making mortgage payments.

    WEDDLE’s launched a new outreach program called “Let Your Librarian Know.” It’s designed to assist organizations that may hire only a small number of new employees each year and thus would not make enough use of WEDDLE’s publications to warrant buying them regularly. Let Your Librarian Know is an easy way to bring WEDDLE’s three annual publications-its Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet, Directory of Employment-Related Internet Sites, and Guide to Association Web Sites-to your local library, where you can use them absolutely free. All you have to do is contact the library. Most librarians appreciate their patrons’ suggestions about books to add to their Reference collection, so make the call today and Let Your Librarian Know.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. The advertising manager in your Marketing Department has just quit, and all your post Super Bowl promotional copy needs a last look right away. Where can you go online to create an innovative candidate sourcing campaign?

  • 2. One of the lawyers in your Legal Department got an early Valentine’s Day gift-an engagement ring-and has decided to move to be nearer her fiancĂ©. Which of the following sites would enable you to develop a convincing argument for a suitable replacement?

  • Emplawyernet
  • 3. The Enron trial has made your CEO take a hard look at your Finance Department. She wants to bring in a more senior executive to be Treasurer. Where could you go online to cash in on some great prospects?

  • ExecuNet
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories

    The Write Jobs

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: National – USA

    Fee to post a job: Less than $100/posting

    Posting period: 35 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: No

    Number of resumes: N/A

    Source of resumes: N/A

    Top occupations among visitors: Writer, Editor, Copywriter

    Other services for employers: Banner advertising

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: No

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but, a marketing services site.

    2. All but, the site of a staffing firm.

    3. All but, the site of a job board for telecommuters.

    Support Our Sponsor: IEEE Job Site

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of the IEEE Job Site.

    The IEEE Job Site connects you with the world’s largest targeted technology talent pool. More than 1,400 leading corporations in fields ranging from ASIC design to aerospace and defense system development use the IEEE Job Site.

    Find senior-level managers, engineers and technology experts, and make job offers to these top-notch candidates before your competitors know about them. Register an account and you can begin posting positions within minutes! Click here for a special offer available only to WEDDLE’s Newsletter Subscribers.

    For more information or to place a posting today, contact Deb Grant at or call +1 732 981 3420.