From the May 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

When Oli Thoradson needed a network engineer to fill an opening at Alvaka Networks, his Huntington Beach, California, computer network design, integration and in-systems management firm, he faced a tough recruiting problem. "Qualified candidates are in very short supply," says the company's 37-year-old president and owner.

Thoradson's recruiting methods weren't helping either. "We used newspaper ads, postings on our Web site, even recruiters, but I wasn't seeing the candidates I needed," he says.

Thoradson decided to post a help-wanted notice on Monster.com, a vast online employment bulletin board. In a little over a week, he'd gotten more than 100 responses. "That's twice as many responses as I'd been getting from our newspaper ads, and the quality of the applicants was better," says Thoradson. From those resumes, he hired an engineer.

The punchline: Thoradson not only discovered a deep pool of candidates but a cheaper means of recruiting. A posting on Monster.com cost him just $185, while he typically spends $1,000 for a newspaper classified ad. "I can't tell you how many times I've run an ad without getting a single qualified applicant," he says.


Robert McGarvey writes on business, psychology and management topics for several national publications. To reach him online with your questions or comments, e-mail rjmcgarvey@aol.com

Putting It To Work

Thoradson's not alone. As more entrepreneurs wrestle with the toughest hiring market in more than a generation, many are turning to the Web. At least 3,500 companies conduct employee searches at Career Mosaic (http://www.careermosaic.com), says Bruce Skillings, an executive vice president with New York City-based Bernard Hodes Advertising, Career Mosaic's parent company. At Job Options LLC (http://www.joboptions.com), more than 11,000 employers have active job openings posted, according to the company's president, Michael Forrest. And at Monster.com, the oldest of the Internet job sites, "Over 50,000 companies have used us in the past year alone," says Jeff Taylor, the company's founder and CEO.

"The Internet's impact on recruiting has been astronomical," adds Taylor. "The Net lets companies hire faster. You don't have to wait for your ad to run in the Sunday classifieds or for resumes to arrive by mail."

Better still, there's a bonus in all this for small companies, says Wayne Outlaw, author of Smart Staffing--How to Hire, Reward & Keep Top Employees for Your Growing Company (Upstart Publishing): "The Internet levels the playing field. Small companies can now get large responses." Why? Lower costs make it cheaper to advertise to a broad audience. "You can now afford to search widely for the candidates you need," says Outlaw.

Post an opening for somebody fluent in Japanese and English, and you're as apt to hear from applicants in Tokyo and Dublin as from those in Los Angeles. "We get 5 million visitors a month, and in many cases, small businesses get as many as 400 responses from one posting," says Taylor.

Sound like too much of a good thing? That brings up another plus of online recruiting: Ad length ceases to be much of an issue. With newspaper classifieds, every word costs, and budget-conscious employers labor to be terse. That's not the case on the Web--employers get enough space to give the necessary details. At Career Mosaic, for instance, $160 gets an employer a listing that stays active for 30 days with a length of up to 16,000 characters--around 2,000 words (more words than this entire article)--which is ample to fully describe the position, the applicant's preferred characteristics, the company and more. "We encourage employers to put in lots of information so they only hear from the applicants they want," says Skillings. "The more specific you get, the better the process works for both you and the job-seekers."

Search For Tomorrow

Should you hunt for employees on the Web? "Employers today need to be aware of the Internet as a recruitment tool," says Joan Brannick, co-author of Finding & Keeping Great Employees (Amacom). But, she adds, "Too many businesses have unrealistic expectations about the Internet."

Wayne Outlaw agrees. "Look at online recruiting as one of many ways to find good employees, not the only way," he advises. What are some other ways? Newspaper ads of course, but also networking and seeking referrals from current employees, says Outlaw. "In today's hiring market, you want to use as many tools as you need to reach the right candidates."

Outlaw stresses that posting on Internet job sites is only one way to use the Net to find potential employees. You can drop into chat rooms--many professions have their own--and scan appropriate newsgroups or mailing lists. Also look for mailing lists at Deja News (http://www.dejanews.com) and chat rooms at Yahoo! (http://events.yahoo.com/Net_Events/Chat_Rooms).

And what about posting job openings on your business's Web site? More companies are doing it, and you should consider it, too. But there are problems with doing this. A big one, says Brannick, is: "Will the applicants you want to attract see your Web site? For many small companies and types of job openings, the answer is no."

High-traffic sites--the so-called "portals," such as Yahoo! and Excite--get massive daily viewership. But a low-traffic small-business site seeking a driver for a delivery van can't expect miracles, says Brannick. "Many employers tell me they're frustrated trying to use the Internet to recruit, but that's because they aren't using it properly," he says. "Ask yourself, `Would the ideal candidate see my posting on the Net, and if so, where?' Then put your listing there."

Another option: Use the large jobs sites to proactively hunt for candidates by searching through their resume databases. At Career Mosaic, there are more than 100,000 resumes on file; Monster.com claims more than 1 million. As for prices, Career Mosaic charges $995 for annual access to its database. "We log 3 million queries a week against our resume database," says Skillings, who adds that employers can sort through the databases using numerous variables--from job title to years of experience and geographic location.

Whether posting jobs online, looking for gold in chat rooms or digging through resume databases, growth-oriented businesses are increasingly finding the Net is a key part of their recruiting strategy. "As a small company, you live or die by your ability to bring good people aboard," says Job Options' Forrest. "The Internet lets you reach applicants more cost effectively than any medium ever has." And that means the Net can no longer be ignored when it comes to hiring.

"The only obstacle on the part of employers to using the Internet is that they're phobic about new technology," says Taylor. "There's no other reason to not include [this resource] in your recruitment campaigns. When you do, you'll be amazed by the convenience of the medium and high quality of the applicants.

Contact Sources

Alvaka Networks, (614) 891-2001, ext. 13, oli@alvaka.net

Wayne Outlaw, (800) 347-9362, http://www.smartstaffing.com