When Scott Weeler heard that an online employee recruiting service had 93 resumes from generator technicians in its database, he was anxious to take a look. Bay Diesel and Generator, the diesel engine repair company he founded in Chesapeake, Virginia, has doubled in five years to $10 million in sales and 44 employees. As a result, Wheeler is constantly prowling for qualified mechanics.
"It's hard because it's not an executive search," explains Wheeler. "We have ex-French Foreign Legionnaires, and we have bikers with tattoos you wouldn't believe." But when Wheeler signed up for the service and checked out the resumes in its database, instead of qualified candidates with highly skilled backgrounds, he found 93 resumes that mentioned the word "generator" somewhere. His advice about online job sites: "Don't give them your credit card number based on what they tell you [they'll find for you]. Make them send some sample resumes first."
It doesn't hurt entrepreneurs to be careful when using one of the estimated 40,000 internet job boards, says Peter Weddle, a Stamford, Connecticut, publisher of job board guides. Many boards will be ill-suited to a specific employer's needs--and some may be shady operators who will take your money and run, Weddle warns. Still, more than half of recruiters responding to a survey by Weddle reported filling a quarter or more of their vacancies with candidates found through the internet.
Despite his difficulties, Wheeler has found online recruitment to be a central part of his hiring strategy. "I'd say 75 percent of the candidates who come to work here come from online applications," he says. Wheeler's favorite: Monster.com, which allows him to narrowly define the skills and experience he's seeking. "As a result, we've gotten more qualified resumes from them than from any headhunter we've worked with," he says.
Online isn't all good, however. Weddle says that while some sites let you post jobs for free, costs for employment postings typically range from under $100 to nearly $400 for specialized sites, such as those run by professional associations. Employers often pay additional fees to search online resume databases, he adds. And resume searches only reach the 16 percent of the work force who are actively looking for new or better jobs, according to Weddle, so they offer limited effectiveness. Though online recruiting is probably essential for many hiring efforts, it's best to deploy a multipronged approach, using print ads, recruiters, job fairs and other tools.
A similar principle applies when selecting employment websites. Weddle recommends a "Rule of Seven," in which employers post openings on seven different boards. Two should be general-purpose, like Monster, CareerBuilder or the thousands of smaller, nonspecialty boards. Three should be niche sites catering to the career, industry and location--one of each--you're seeking. And two should be diversity sites focusing on minority hires.
Before posting anywhere, look around. "Do some comparison shopping if you want to get good results," Weddle says. For example, he recommends sites that include resume searching in the price of a listing, rather than those that charge separately for searches.
Online postings must be written more carefully than print ads, Weddle stresses. Space constraints don't apply on the web, and employers should use the room to tell candidates all the reasons to apply to their company. "It's an electronic sales brochure, and it has to be crafted to take advantage of the electronic medium," he says.
Nowadays, many employers are going online in-house, creating employment sections on company websites. Third-party sites are going beyond listing jobs to become employment portals with career advice and more. And, in a development that demanding customers like Wheeler will appreciate, Weddle predicts widespread deployment of pay-for-performance plans, where employers are charged only when job-seekers click on an ad.
Mark Henricks writes on business and technology for leading publications and is author of Not Just a Living.