May 17, 2007   view past issues

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WEDDLE’s Research Factoid: Who’s Being Hired Online?

WEDDLE’s continuously conducts both primary and secondary research on the Best Practices in employment and HR leadership. Recently, we began to explore exactly who gets recruited on the Internet. In the earliest days of the Web, way back in the mid 1990’s, it was mostly techies. Then, employers and recruiters discovered that they could also reach the highly wired population of soon-to-be-college graduates. Not long after that, they also began to use the Web to tap the ranks of mid and even senior level professionals. And today, the conventional wisdom is that employers and recruiters use the Internet to fill just about every kind of opening they have, save those that occur in the corner office. We wanted to know if the conventional wisdom is true.

The responses below were collected between March 10 and May 10, 2007 for the following question: Of the openings you’ve posted online, were they mostly:

  • Hourly positions? 7.7%;
  • Entry-level professional positions? 23%;
  • Mid-level professional positions? 46.2%;
  • Senior-level professional positions? 7.7%;
  • Managerial positions? 11.5%;
  • Executive positions? 3.9%.
  • What the Findings Mean

    Clearly, conventional wisdom is correct. The Internet has, in fact, become an accepted way to source talent for the full range of permanent positions in today’s enterprises. There are, however, some important insights we can draw from the poll results.

  • Historically, the digital divide was cited as the reason the Internet could not be used to source hourly workers. Their lack of access to the Web made it difficult, if not impossible, to reach unskilled workers and even skilled trades people online. According to our poll results, however, that obstacle has now disappeared. While the 7.7% hourly recruitment rate our respondents reported is undoubtedly smaller than the total percentage of hourly positions in the workplace, it is not an insignificant level of effort. It is proof positive that hourly recruiting on the Web is feasible. No less important, it also signals a genuine opportunity. Given the relatively low rate of this activity, there is likely to be much less competition for hourly talent online than there is for some of the other cohorts of the workforce. In short, Internet-based hourly recruiting is an area where you are now likely to see a better than average return on your investment of time, effort and money online.
  • The results of our survey generally follow a normal distribution of recruiting effort for positions in the workplace with one exception: openings for senior level professionals. Apparently, recruiters are more comfortable sourcing candidates for managerial positions online (11.5%) than they are sourcing for their most senior staff positions (7.7%). A number of factors could be at work here, but it’s most likely that recruiters and employers are simply relying on another sourcing method for their senior level positions. Our research indicates that this preferred method is networking. It is certainly a proven method for reaching senior talent, but ironically, that should make the Internet more important, not less. The Web is probably the greatest boon to networking since the invention of the telephone, but as this finding indicates, many of us have yet to tap its power. As I’ve discussed in previous columns, online networking is different from networking in the real world; it is, therefore, a new competency that recruiters must master is they are to perform at their peak.
  • Many employers and recruiters believe that the Internet cannot connect them with executive level talent. That view is credible, however, only if executives are either too dumb to go online or don’t want to associate with the employers that are recruiting there. (You know, the Fortune 1000, the 100 Best Employers to Work For … those kinds of places.) On the other hand, if executives are just as interested in and facile with the Web as anyone else, they are just as likely to be recruited there. And, that’s precisely what our respondents seem to be suggesting. Moreover, the way you reach executives online is identical to the way you reach any other cohort of the workforce. Use employment sites that specialize in your target demographic–in this case, executives–and the full range of services they offer. Don’t limit yourself to job postings, but instead, combine those listings with employment brand advertising, resume database searches, and networking with prospects on their discussion forums and bulletin boards.
  • Please Note: As a part of our ongoing research, WEDDLE’s has been surveying both job seekers and recruiters on the Web since 1996. We’ve amassed hundreds of thousands of data elements probing:

  • what they do and what they don’t do,
  • what they like and what they don’t like,
  • and most importantly,

  • what they think works best.
  • To add your insights and opinions to our research, please visit the Polling Station at the WEDDLE’s Web-site.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: RES

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

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    Section Two: For Your Consideration

    Peter Weddle has been writing columns for his own newsletter and for the interactive edition of The Wall Street Journal since 1999. The following column has been drawn from that work and updated for 2007. For a complete collection of Peter’s writing, please see our book Postcards From Space.

    Use Talent Scouting in Your Employee Referral Program

    Ask any recruiter or HR professional where they find the best candidates for their organization, and most will point to their employee referral program. It’s not always clear what metric is being used to justify this judgment, but there is all but absolute confidence in its veracity. And that troubles me. You see, I think employee referral programs are just like anything else. They can be improved, and in a War for the Best Talent, they must be.

    As they are currently operated in most organizations, employee referral programs solicit workers for their recommendations regarding the people they know who may make good coworkers. There are several potential benefits to doing so:

  • although these programs do incur costs, they are typically less expensive than other sources of candidates;
  • the input from employees about potential new hires provides a more fulsome picture of their capabilities, motivation and likely performance on-the-job (when combined with candidates’ own credentials); and
  • the relationship between an employee and a candidate can make it easier to sell a prospect on a new organization, even when the candidate isn’t looking for a job and is well taken care of by their current employer.
  • The problem with this rationale is that the potential of employee referral programs, at least in terms of their ability to source quality talent, is seldom fully realized. In fact, the candidates identified by employees are generally the people they know best, not necessarily those who would perform best in a specific opening. Said another way, employee referral programs often become the employment equivalent of an activity for “family and friends.”

    These programs may increase retention, which is the metric often used to justify the “quality” of candidates sourced from employee referral programs, but it does not axiomatically lead to high levels of on-the-job performance. When we were waging a War for Any Talent, during the late, unlamented bubble, this get-a-round-peg-in-a-round-hole approach to recruiting may have sufficed. In today’s War for the Best Talent, it will not. In such a battle, the only strategy that will propel an organization to victory is sourcing top performers.

    How should employee referral programs change to ensure they do that? In my view, they must shift from a de facto program for family and friends to an explicit program of talent scouting. In other words, organizations should ask their employees to refer the best people in their field, even if they don’t know them personally. Those employees should then be rewarded when the top performers they identified are subsequently recruited and successfully hired for a specific opening in the organization.

    This talent scouting approach to employee referral is already in place at Eli Lilly and Company. According to a report from the Recruiting Roundtable, this pharmaceutical company uses a three-pronged strategy:

  • First, new hires are asked to identify top performers in their field they have worked with or know of.
  • Second, the HR Department hosts “focus groups” among current employees to target top performers by career field and assign specific individuals to reach out to them.
  • Third, the HR Department hosts “Bring Your Own Rolodex” meetings with supervisors to probe the networks of senior staff and encourage them to build relationships with passive, but high value prospects.
  • As the Lilly strategy makes very clear, talent scouting moves employee referral programs from reactive to proactive operations. It acknowledges that simply communicating the existence of an employee referral program and then waiting for referrals to trickle in is simply not enough in today’s highly competitive market for top talent. Instead, employee referral programs must:

  • reach into the workforce at multiple touch points and on a regular basis;
  • aggressively solicit the names of prospects, even when openings do not yet exist for them; and
  • assign a specific individual to reach out to and build a relationship with each and every prospect.
  • Why is all of that necessary? Because the best talent is almost always employed someplace else. To recruit them, therefore, an organization must convince these prospects to do the one thing that humans most hate to do: change. They have to be sold on the notion that they should shift from the devil they know (their current employer, supervisor and commute) to the devil they don’t know (your organization, a new boss and a different commute).

    Top talent does not make such shifts on a whim or on the basis of a phone call from some stranger. They need a lot of information, and they want to get that information from someone they know and trust. That’s why building relationships with top prospects in advance is so central to recruiting them. They need to be wooed. They expect to be wooed. And, wooing takes time and effort. It is also the central feature of talent scouting in an effective employee referral program.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Remember what you learned in kindergarten: It’s nice to share. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    Section 3: News You Can Use

    Gensler, an office design firm, released the results of its survey of over 2,000 office workers and their employers. Its findings suggest that there may be more to the office cubicle than meets the eye. Nearly 50% of the employee respondents said they would put in an extra hour of work each day if their employer improved their working environment. For a person making $50,000 per year, that’s a productivity gain worth over $5,100 to the company. Employers, however, see the situation differently. They recognize the problem–fewer than four-out-of-ten (38%) said they would be proud to show important customers their offices–but don’t think it’s important enough to fix. Almost half said that creating a productive workplace was not a priority at their companies. What should we do with this finding? Put the recruiting power of a pleasant working environment to work for us. If you have one, emphasize it in your branding and other recruitment messages; if you don’t, work on educating the senior leaders in your organization. Their investment in upgrading the workplace will generate a two-fold return: greater productivity among current employees and better talent among the new ones you recruit.

    The Hay Group conducted a survey of 170 HR organizations and found that more than 50% had set up a coaching program in the past 18 months. The poll also revealed that the use of coaching programs is growing at the rate of almost 40% per year, and more than 60% of U.S. employers have now implemented them. What makes these programs successful? The Staffing Industry Report provided the following suggestions (with our emendations):

  • Find the right coach–Coaching is a very personal experience that requires openness and candor, so make sure there’s good chemistry between the coach and the person being coached.
  • Get the chain of command engaged–Coaching takes time and the results are seldom immediately apparent, so supervisors and managers must buy into and support the process.
  • Target specific outcomes–Coaching is not a venting process, but a remedial exercise, so set specific objectives and establish metrics for measuring progress.
  • Do your homework–Coaching, like any other service, can be effective or a waste of time, so carefully evaluate prospective coaches and select the one that has the right expertise and experience for your specific situation.
  • The Society for Human Resource Management published the results of its study of the sources employers use to recruit diverse candidates. Over 190 organizations participated in the poll. Their sources are listed below by the percentage of respondents who cited them:

  • 79% The Internet
  • 67% Employee referrals
  • 62% Job/career/college fairs
  • 52% Company intranet job board
  • 50% Newspaper
  • 46% Partnering with colleges and universities
  • 31% Professional organization’s newsletter
  • 25% Recruiting agencies
  • 9% Television/radio
  • 6% Other.
  • While almost eight-in-ten respondents cited the Internet, not everyone uses that resource effectively when sourcing diversity candidates. The best approach begins with your corporate career site. It is the virtual reception area for your employer. The words and images you use there must sell your credibility as a place where diverse talent can advance their careers as well as find a job. That same message should then be repeated in every job posting and with an aggressive employment branding campaign at employment Web-sites.

    WEDDLE’s continued the presentation of its 2007 Spring-Summer Training Series and is now accepting reservations for the remaining three programs. All of the sessions are delivered via toll-free audio conference. You get the PowerPoint slides for each program in advance, and on the day of the training, you simply dial in and have the presentation delivered right to you. All of the programs, which are presented by WEDDLE’s Publisher Peter Weddle, are listed below:

  • Completed: Best Practices in Sourcing Passive Prospects Online
  • Completed: Building a Corporate Career Site to Attract Top Talent
  • Completed: The Sum & Substance of a Great Employment Brand Sponsored by Bernard Hodes Group
  • May 30, 2007: Blink Recruiting: Getting to “Yes” Fast With Passive Prospects
  • June 11, 2007: Transforming Your Resume Database into a Candidate Gold Mine Sponsored by Bernard Hodes Group
  • June 21, 2007: A-to-Z in Best Practices for Online Recruitment Advertising
  • These are great learning opportunities that are within the reach of everyone’s budget. Even better, if you sign up for two or more programs, you get a discount. Registrations are limited, so reserve your seats now. To get pricing information and sign up, please call WEDDLE’s at 317.916.9424.

    Please Support Our Sponsor: RES

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

    Request Your Complimentary Staffing Scorecard

    Do you have a World Class Staffing Function?

    There are five (5) cornerstones of Human Resources and Staffing that when fully optimized will create a world class staffing organization.

    RES has developed a unique scorecard that will enable you to see where your strengths and areas of opportunities exist.

    By analyzing the results from this scorecard, you will see what areas your company performs well and where initial focus is needed to drive the organization towards becoming world class.

    To request your complimentary staffing scorecard, click on RES.