Why not become a cyber job-hunter?

The world of online recruitment has come of age! It's more secure, more flexible, and more productive. If you haven't yet experienced the joys of virtual job hunting, it's time you logged on, says Karen Mannering

By Karen Mannering

Now that the Christmas decorations are firmly back in their boxes and we are all looking forward to the spring, thoughts often move to a career change. More people start their job hunting at this time of year than at any other, and the good news is that the job market is quite buoyant at present. According to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, employers in the UK are expressing their strongest New Year hiring intentions since records began - a very good sign!

The latest Secretarial & Support Staff Survey from London recruiters Gordon Yates (gordonyates.co.uk), just published, shows that the highest proportion of job hunters would go first to a jobs web site to look for new opportunities (65% of those questioned, as opposed to 29% who would turn to The Guardian and 27% who browse companies' own websites for vacancies). So if you have been holding back from exploring cyber-recruitment, now is the time to get familiar with the online world.

Traditional recruitment practices meant that jobs were advertised and responses filtered through the personnel system. The power lay with the personnel officers, and there was little opportunity for an applicant to be proactive and to market themselves. Anyone sending in a CV or profile in the hope of grabbing attention by demonstrating initiative generally received the usual "we'll keep it on file" response. In fairness, many organisations do keep CVs on file, but very few ever return to the drawer and give them a re-read at recruitment time. It is more likely that your CV will gather dust until it is discarded six months later as being "out of date information".

Recruitment has trudged along in this fashion for many years and numerous books have been written on refining the process. However, something came along that re-wrote the rule books - the world wide web. On its own it brings awesome changes but combined with economic demands for highly skilled staff, it has resulted in completely new ways of recruitment and selection for organisations and individuals. Now, at the click of a mouse, you can access millions of jobs all over the world, target your ideal employer and view their vacancies, or simply register your CV, to see how it fares with the millions of employers now accessing online recruitment.

Economically, employers in the UK are facing skills shortages in some sectors, and therefore the recruitment net is being cast ever wider. One of the huge benefits of online recruitment is that it's available to a world-wide audience.

One of the largest players, monster.co.uk, is quick to capitalise on this upsurge in interest with an advertising campaign across a number of national and regional TV stations, including ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and Viacom networks, starting in January. As one of the oldest (over 10 years old) and biggest recruitment brands on the Internet, Monster's re-emergence on UK TV ties in with its belief that 2005 is set to be year of the job seeker.

What's the benefit?

Online recruiting is simply faster, better and less expensive. Stepstone Solutions (stepstone.com ) reports that clients have had their hiring times reduced from between 8 and 10 weeks to 6 weeks. In one organisation, the system had been used to recruit over 400 people with only eight in-house recruiters, who had built a talent community of over 24,000 candidates - all in only nine months. Such a feat would be impossible using traditional recruiting methods.

The sheer volume of internet traffic and the speed of recruitment has also had an impact on temping agencies. When you need staff quickly, the internet offers solid advantages. The online service Book a Temp allows employers and recruiters to take a temp on directly, and become responsible for the recruitment, selection, payment and administering of temporary staff. Employers only pay a one-off cost of £48 plus VAT booking fee if a temp is provided from their database (bookatemp.co.uk).

If finding a new job is one of your New Year's Resolutions, try the online option. Work your way through the pointers below and make this resolution one that you truly keep!

Aspects you should think about...

Q How much personal information should I put on my CV?

It is tempting to add a picture of yourself and scan in your signature, just because you can, but others can also use this information disreputably. Some internet gurus strongly advise against placing your signature in the public domain in this way - who knows what you might end up "signing" for!

Many companies identify applicants by a unique number, rather than by name, until the final selection is agreed upon. Confidentiality is paramount. An online recruitment site must give the feeling of security, give assurances of privacy, and also provide a password protected area for personal items related to your career rather than just provide a list of jobs.

Q How do you know that you have the right key words in there?

People searching CVs for the best candidates need to search high volumes in a short space of time - and often let computers do the searching. They search on key words. For example someone wanting to recruit a PA with management experience will search on the word "management". If your CV does not contain that word, because perhaps you thought you could explain that aspect at the interview, the search engine will not pick you out. To increase your chances of selection it helps to make a list of the key skills you wish to get across to potential employers, and weave them into your CV.

Q Where your CV is being posted?

Never launch your CV directly onto the web. Register with a reputable company who control the process, and find out exactly where your CV is being placed and who will be viewing it.

Q How long will your CV reside for?

Find out how long your CV will remain on the web. Skills can soon become out of date and it is in your interest to make sure it is constantly up to date.

Q Can you post several CVs, worded differently to maximise your chances?

In theory this is possible but in doing this you could jeopardise your chances by being called twice for the same job, or not remembering which CV states which mix of skills. Even if undertaken innocently, this type of action appears dishonest and may lead you to being struck off the database altogether.

Q How and when is your CV deleted?

Check the deletion policy of the company. They may delete your CV without you knowing, similarly you will not want to be repeatedly contacted after you have already found a new position.

Karen Mannering is the director of Karen Mannering Portfolios, a personal development consultancy, and the author of several business management books. She specialises in the promotion of women in the workplace, offering solid career advice and coaching.

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