Huge job-posting sites, like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, get most of the headlines, but the more interesting story in the online careers realm is that many IT companies are quietly turning to the Web to attract, identify, and retain qualified employees. And here's the big news: they're outsourcing entire recruitment efforts and even many human-resources tasks. Full-service Web recruitment portals host everything from private-label job boards to interview forms, personality questionnaires, and corporate requisition sheets. Most often, the server power and all the software are hosted on the vendor's site, or removed a step further to a dynamic hosting site such as Exodus Communications.
No one can agree on what to call these services, and, uncharacteristically for a hot Web category, no catchall buzzword has emerged. You may see them referred to as e-recruiters, hiring-management ASPs, or collaborative hiring tools. What these companies all have in common, according to vendors and analysts, is an attempt to automate the most tedious aspects of recruitment, like filtering resumes, exchanging letters, and shuffling forms. They also exploit the Web as a medium to extend the hiring network, cut costs, and make the whole experience more user friendly. Think of them as one-stop shops for recruitment and all the HR-like things that relate to it.
"It's providing Web tools to solve a large enterprise process problem," offers Mark Lange, vice president of marketing at BrassRing Systems (formerly HireSystems), in San Mateo, Calif. Lange's company sells Web-based employee recruitment workflow software and counts Ariba, Data General, SAP, and Inktomi among its IT customers.
"Every solution creates a problem, and the problem the Web created is the proliferation of job boards," Lange says.
Sorting through candidates
These aren't just job sites or resume trackers, though they provide both services as parts of broader offerings, sometimes themselves outsourcing those functions to business partners. Some have evolved from Windows-based client/server HR systems or resume trackers into full-service recruitment application service providers (ASPs). Take WebHire, in Lexington, Mass., for example. It sells exclusively Web-based hiring tools that go far beyond resume collectors. Ditto for Resumix, in Sunnyvale, Calif. Previously just another name in resume tracking, Resumix now sells a Web-based enterprise suite that provides Web-browser access to hiring managers and tools for integrating with HR systems from such ERP vendors as Oracle, Peoplesoft, and SAP.
Another vendor, Icarian, in Sunnyvale, Calif., tries to distinguish itself by adding tools, such as job-satisfaction questionnaires, that aid employee retention long after the hire. But H. Michael Boyd, program manager of the human resourcing strategies program at IDC, in Framingham, Mass., is skeptical about basing these services' value on retention. "A lot of people leave an organization because they don't like their boss, and there's no amount of automation that's going to change that," says Boyd, a 25-year veteran of HR.
Katherine Jones, research director at the Aberdeen Group, in Palo Alto, Calif., agrees with IDC's Boyd. She sees this new emphasis on retention and career personalization as just the latest trend in recruitment management, and she questions its staying power. "They seem like bright ideas that may not ever create revenue for the employer, the employee, or the vendor," Jones says.
In fact, the major recruitment vendors (see additional resources links below for a list of the main players) don't appear to differ in the type and breadth of their product lines. A shakeout may soon come, says Jones, in part because no one has established a dominant brand name the way, say, Monster.com did in online job boards.
Follow that bouncing resume
Here's one scenario on how these new Web requirement sites work: Assume you are interested in a job listing at Merrill Lynch and you send in your resume. It may not go to Merrill Lynch directly, but instead be rerouted to HotJobs.com's Softshoe, the Web site that runs a private job board linked to Merrill's intranet. Your resume goes into a central database, where it's searchable by any recruiter linked to the system. Merrill can also export job listings to popular job boards. The same system can be used to share follow-up documents among the members of the hiring team, including headhunters and employees asked to help evaluate the candidate.
A key benefit of the "Web-ification" of hiring, according to Thomas Pinckney, vice president of client services for HotJobs.com, is the ease with which it links remote participants. "The Internet really changed the game," he says. "Recruiters typically work remotely, but they need to work collaboratively. I can go to any computer in the world and look at my Softshoe system." Softshoe has several IT clients, including Sabre and HomeGrocer.com.
The next generation of recruitment ASPs will likely include support for wireless handheld devices and multiple languages and currencies, predicts Mike Hadad, vice president of worldwide sales at Alexus International, an ASP in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Hadad's company recently signed Lucent to a major contract for a broad range of features covering the company's entire recruitment effort. "It'll be rolled out in almost every time zone in the world," Hadad says. GTE is another client.
Lange says the cost for BrassRing Systems' main products, HireSystems and Joboo, varies from $25,000 a year to $500,000, with the price determined by complexity of the configuration and the volume of applicants processed.
Most analysts agree that these Web recruiting services have demonstrated their ability to streamline the hiring manager's workflow, and a couple of the vendors cite studies that show them shortening the hiring process. "These tools get rid of the administrative nightmares and broaden the reach," says Boyd. "But," he emphasizes, "it really comes down to who fits and who doesn't." He cautions against being mesmerized by glitzy dot-coms. Make sure that a vendor has a history of employment expertise, he adds.
Aberdeen's Jones concurs: "When everything fits together, it's great." Of course, that could be said about everything.
Web-based recruitment software vendors