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HR Magazine, April 2004 - HR Technology

By Drew Robb  4/1/2004
 

HR Magazine, June 2004
Vol. 49, No. 4

Internet jobs site can reduce time-to-hire.

To cut costs and reduce the time to fill empty positions, an ever-increasing number of companies are setting up career portals on their corporate web sites.

“Over the last 10 years it has gone from a fairly uncommon practice to a prevalent one, particularly among the Fortune 500 and [Forbes’] Global 2000,” says Michael Moretti, a research analyst for HR.com.

How popular is it with these large firms? Very, according to iLogos Research, a division of the San Francisco-based vendor RecruitSoft Inc., which has been tracking this area since 1998. Each year, iLogos visits the web sites for the Fortune 500 to see if they have a corporate careers web site. The first year, 86 percent of the companies had a corporate web site, but less than a third of them had a career site. Two years later, every one of the companies had a web site, and 79 percent had a career site. By 2003, 94 percent had career sites. This trend holds true across regions and industries. (See “Make a Good First Impression.”)

But while such technology has become ubiquitous among major multinational companies, it is not limited to such firms.

“A company of any size can leverage online recruiting,” says Jim Holincheck, a research director for technology consulting firm Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn. “Certain vendors focus on servicing small and medium-size businesses, offering products which don’t have all the features and functions but come in at a lower price point.”

Before you decide to move your recruiting efforts online, however, you should consider your delivery options and staffing needs.

You Have Options

No matter which software or methodology is used on the back end, establishing a career portal starts out with one common action: setting up a link or a button on the corporate web site, typically on the home page, labeled “careers” or “jobs.” Clicking that link or button transports visitors into the recruiting application, which often has the same look and feel of the corporate web site.

Web recruiting software typically falls into three basic categories, although they may overlap because they all offer additional functions beyond posting jobs. For example, most also include applicant tracking and reporting functions.

One option: Take advantage of the web recruitment function included in enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems’ HR modules.

“When a company has purchased an HR suite, it is just a matter of turning on the web-based front end,” says Steve Gillooly, senior consultant for New York-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting LLC. “Everything from the configuration of the site to the creation of the supporting data and the tracking of applicants is just an extension of the core ERP system.”

Instead of using that built-in function, you may choose to purchase a specialized best-of-breed recruitment application from a software vendor. Some companies specialize in a particular industry, and others target businesses by size. Most of these packages can operate as either a stand-alone product or can link to the company’s HR management system (HRMS).

For example, BearingPoint Inc., an international business and technology consulting firm based in McLean, Va., uses software from Recruitmax of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., to drive recruiting on its corporate web site as well as on its internal career portal and its alumni network portal. Through these sites, people can apply for jobs themselves or refer others. To get information on new hires from the Recruitmax application into the company’s HRMS from PeopleSoft of Pleasanton, Calif., BearingPoint created a customized interface that sends an extensible markup language (XML) feed every hour to a helper application that sits on the PeopleSoft side of the fence.

“It makes PeopleSoft think someone is sitting there keying the information onto the panels,” explains Dave Muller, BearingPoint’s manager of recruiting technology and operations.

“Beware of getting into scope creep and ‘feature-itis,’ ” he says. “Just because the software can do something isn’t a good enough reason to do it. Figure out strategically what you want to do and just use the features you need to accomplish that.”

A third option is to use an application service provider (ASP). Many best-of-breed vendors offer their software on such a hosted basis. Also, recruiting web sites such as Monster.com host corporate career sites. An ASP is easier to set up and support, and this method may increase security. “Some companies don’t want potential applicants to have access inside the firewall, so they have someone else host the career portion of their web site,” Holincheck says.

“If you go with the ASP model, typically you are looking at a fixed duration contract. Make sure you understand what will happen at the end of the contract or if the vendor is acquired by another company,” says Holincheck. “If, when you do your due diligence, the vendor looks like it poses some risk, make sure a copy of the source code is put in escrow.”

Setting It Up

Requirements for setting up and maintaining a web recruiting system vary greatly from one company to another. For example, it generally takes clients 30 to 150 days to set up SAP E-Recruiting from SAP of Walldorf, Germany, on their web sites, says Mike Head of Pecaso, an HR technology consultancy based in the United Kingdom.

It took the better part of a year for Time Warner Inc. to completely migrate over to BrassRing’s recruiting software, even though the company uses the software on an ASP basis, says Greg Fittinghoff, vice president of systems development for the New York-based media giant. However, the effort paid off, he says. “The benefit of being able to get your open positions out to a wider audience both internally and externally using these tools is not to be underestimated or undervalued,” Fittinghoff says. “The big benefit with this system is that it has lowered our cost of attracting talent to Time Warner as an enterprise.”

The process included establishing a worldwide recruitment group to facilitate placement of people throughout the company, he says. Each division still handles its own special needs, such as hiring a new editor for Time magazine or hiring talent to work on HBO productions, but other positions can be filled through the worldwide group.

“When doing a project like this across the enterprise, it is important to understand what the business process is first and get everyone agreeing on it,” says Fittinghoff. “Then you can match up the technology to meet that business need.”

Bringing the job listings together on an enterprise basis and making them known to current employees has provided a big boost in morale, he says.

“Using these tools to aggregate all the open positions in Time Warner into one central spot...has had a very positive effect on retention,” Fittinghoff explains. “Employees can see that their career path doesn’t have to be tied just to their one division, but to the company as a whole.”

Other implementations last only weeks or months. It took one Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) employee about 16 weeks to configure the Oracle iRecruitment module from Oracle Corp. of Redwood Shores, Calif., to give the recruitment site the look and feel of the rest of OHSU’s web site and to create instructions for the candidates to follow, says Joe Tonn, HRMS manager at the Portland school. In the year since implementation, the applicant pool has increased by upwards of 65 percent, and the time to fill each position is down from eight weeks to just over four, Tonn says. Processing all the additional applicants hasn’t added to the workload as 70 percent to 80 percent of the applications now come in electronically, and the staff no longer has to do the manual tasks required under the previous system.

“One of the big pieces [of an implementation] is struggling with change management,” says Tonn. “Involve the end-users early in the process, not after the system is ready to launch.”

Before an implementation, “Keep in mind whom you are targeting,” says Ann Meany, a consultant for Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a Washington, D.C.-based human capital consulting firm. “If your target group does not use PCs, you are disenfranchising a large part of that audience. Internally, if your employees don’t all have desktop access, consider putting up kiosks for them to use.”

Once these web recruiting systems are rolled out, they are relatively easy to maintain. “Generally speaking these don’t need a lot of technical resources,” says Holincheck. “Usually you don’t have dedicated employees working on these systems unless you get into more of a multinational implementation.”

BearingPoint’s Muller has 2.5 full-time employees supporting its global recruiting application used by 125 recruiters and 6,000 hiring managers in 32 countries. OHSU’s Tonn, on the other hand, says support is only an occasional activity for his staff, which monitors the software, upgrades it as needed and answers one to three user calls per day.

The web recruitment systems are intuitive, requiring only two hours to one day to train the staff, managers say.

Recruiters can review and process the applications and pass them on electronically to hiring managers, who can receive the information by e-mail or through a portal. For example, 80 percent of the managers at BearingPoint simply review the candidates via e-mail and push a button to indicate whether they want to set up an interview or approve an offer.

“Using a career portal cuts the costs per hire, decreases the cycle time to fill a job and reduces dependency on agencies,” Meany says. “It certainly changes the whole complexion of recruiting.”

Drew Robb is a California-based freelance writer who specializes in technology, engineering and business.
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