When two companies buy Super Bowl ads to battle for the same customers, they're usually hawking soft drinks, fast food or beer.
This year, something was different: a couple of clever commercial spots promoted Internet job sites rivals Monster.com and HotJobs.com. And by the time the Broncos crushed the Falcons, online job searching had hit the big time.
|HotJobs founder Richard Johnson is convinced the Web can offer more than a collection of ads|
"Huge numbers of people are now realizing the power of this capability," said Peter Weddle, who tracks employment related Web sites in a weekly newsletter. "Job seekers by the million are now coming online."
Traffic at HotJobs is now five times what it was in December, said its founder Richard Johnson.
Even a Net-based jobs service not pumping big bucks into TV ads, such as NationJobs Network, can attest to recent solid growth. Vice President Bob Levinstein counts 325,000 subscribers to his service, a number that is growing by nearly 15,000 new job seekers each month.
There are three factors contributing to the success of online job hunting: reach, convenience and cost. A highly-skilled worker can connect with thousands more prospective employers by posting a resume on an Internet service like HotJobs than by sending individual resumes through the mail. Conversely, employers have access to a much wider pool of applicants than they would simply by relying on response to a traditional newspaper ad.
It is also much easier for job seekers to search through a large database of current listings online than it is to wade through dense classified sections of newspapers at the local library.
But perhaps the biggest reason for the success of online job agencies is cost.
From an employer's point of view, it's a no-brainer. If a company hires a headhunting firm to recruit new talent, the company will take 5 to 10 percent of the employee's first-year salary as a fee. For a high-tech employee earning $80,000, that's as much as a hefty $8,000 fee owed to the recruiting company.
Glenn Gutmacher, who teaches a seminar on online recruiting techniques, said headhunters "get those fees because they're known for having candidate pools. If you can find a niche Web site that has that kind of network ... [it] could be a tiny fraction of a normal fee."
According to a 1998 Employment Management Association survey of 256 companies, the average cost per hire via traditional newspaper advertising was $1,180 including everything from the design of the ad to the interview process while Internet recruiting decreased that cost to $678 per hire. What's more, Weddle said, the typical Internet job ad stays up for 30 days, while a newspaper ad is more likely to run only once.
Finding a Job With a Click of the Mouse
Last fall, mechanical engineer Dan Parks was planning to relocate and needed a new job. He had tried the usual methods, scouring the trade journals, looking in his local paper, the Dallas Morning Journal, for out-of-state ads and sending resumes and cover letters in the mail.
It was only after applying for a job posted at NationJobs one which he had earlier applied for out of the newspaper that he was offered a position in January with a major manufacturer of aircraft interiors. "This is a lot easier," he said of the his online job hunt. "It's a lot more efficient and a lot cheaper."
More and more people may be having Parks' experience, but overall, the Web is still a minor player in the job market. A 1998 study by the Olsten Forum on Human Resource Issues and Trends reported that while 25 percent of companies accept online applications or resumes, only about 2 percent of the workforce is hired this way. Others put this number at 3 to 5 percent.
"The Web is still just a tool it will never replace face-to-face communication," Mark Mehler, co-editor of Career XRoads told the San Francisco Examiner. "I believe in three to five years, the maximum the Web will have is 25 to 35 percent of the job market."
Kate Wendleton, president of the 5 O'Clock Club, a career counseling network, said Internet job searching must be put in its place. Only "10 percent of all jobs are filled through ads," she said. "The Web is an ad."
"You should answer the ads on the Web," she added. "But it's like trying to win lotto." At its most useful, she said, "It's a good source to see who's hiring."
HotJobs founder Johnson is convinced the Web can offer more than a collection of ads.
"We're trying to move beyond that," Johnson said, "We're trying to make HotJobs like your own personal headhunter." He said this can be done by offering users "foo-foo stuff" like a personal home page, info on salaries and relocations services.
His site includes a program to automatically fill out resumes because "people hate filling out forms." It is also just now beginning to allow recruiters to post tests online which applicants have to pass in order to be considered for the job.
Parks found his job through NationJobs using its personal job scout feature, which sends users a regular e-mail list of job postings that match the user's requirements. This feature is offered by fewer than 10 percent of job sites, said Weddle. But the rest will have it in the next year or two, he added.
Truckers, Morticians and Accountants Oh My!
The online job agency model has taken off, with the major sites being joined by dozens of smaller niche sites specializing in specific professions.
"If you want to get people from a specific niche, people tend to gravitate toward sites that have that niche as a specialty," said Gutmacher.
For truckers looking for work there is truckers.com or layover.com. Morticians can check out funeralnet.com; accountants, accountingnet.com; chefs, starchefs.com. With these sites, job recruiters can know their audience.
Not only do they cater to available positions, but they serve as virtual water coolers for anyone in the profession to learn about the latest in his field, ideally improving his own performance. "Sometimes the best job is a promotion within your own company," Gutmacher noted.
This splintering took off last year and already, it may be too much. "There are probably more than 10,000 employment-related sites on the Net," Weddle said.
"There are dozens of just finance-related sites," Gutmacher noted. "I don't think the market can support that many in the long term ... employers aren't going to want to put jobs on these niche sites."
What could slow down the advance of the Internet into hiring, Weddle said, is that the sheer number of sites could be daunting, as well as the fact that "the human resources department is typically at the end of the food chain when it comes to acquiring new technology the equipment and training necessary to use the Internet."
And so consolidation of smaller sites has already begun. "I think we're almost at a peak as to how many sites there can be. I think they're going to get bought out by the bigger players or they're going to do deals," Gutmacher said, referring to niche sites that are pairing up with the big players. African American-oriented site Netnoir.com now sends its job-seeking users to special pages on MonsterBoard, CareerMosaic and other big players.
"There's no one site that's perfect," Weddle said. "You should use several sites. You should take a look at the larger sites but you should also try to find one or two niche sites that best match your background and interests."
Though Web job sites are "a powerful new medium that recruiters [and job seekers] should add to their arsenal," Weddle said, it is not a replacement for traditional methods.
Still, he can't hide his enthusiasm. "I think these online sites are the greatest thing to happen to employment since the creation of the resume," Weddle said.