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RETURN ON TECHNOLOGY: Web puts employers on display as much as job candidates

September 17, 2007

Job searches nowadays aren't what they used to be, on both sides of the hunt. Looking for a job is a global endeavor now. And looking for employees produces more candidates, but is more complicated. As with so many other business matters, the Web has changed everything.

At first glance, it would seem the old want ads page just moved into databases. Monster (www.monster.com) was one of the first companies to offer cyberlistings. The employer pays for the listing. The jobseeker types in one or more keywords, an industry (optional) and a location (also optional). Ads appear, with pertinent information. Unlike the old want ads, though, Monster lists jobs for the whole country. It also stores searchable resumes from jobhunters. Monster used to glory in its odd name and put little monsters everywhere, but the little guys appear only occasionally today. CareerBuilder (www.careerbuilder.com) came along soon after, offering its listings through both newspapers and an online search engine.

Pretty soon, specialized job-listing sites went into business alongside Monster. Dice (www.dice.com) is primarily for high-tech workers, for example. TravelJobService.com(www.traveljobsearch.com) limits itself to the travel industry. Education America (www.educationamerica.net) is for K-12 educators. Nearly every industry now has at least one job site, and often more.

But then the Web magic happened. The Web isn't about replacing paper with monitors. After all, even today, more people read newspapers than look at Web job sites. Indeed, around one-third of all Americans aren't online at all, or use the Web only perfunctorily, according to Internet World Stats (www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm).

The Web's contribution is to make connections easier, so it wasn't long until aggregator sites emerged that scoured other sites for job listings. Now you can list a job on CareerBuilder, or even on your own company site, and have it appear on Indeed.com, SimplyHired and many others like them. The local site for the Society for Technical Communications does the same thing, sweeping up listings and showing the results on its jobs board. When you put out a job ad, there's no telling how many times it will be cloned and reposted around the Web, nor how long it will stay on those other sites. Almost certainly long after you've hired someone.

Not surprisingly, some sites have gone even further. Indeed.comis an aggregator site that rifles many other job-listing sites for its own listings. Indeed.comis searchable, very similarly to Google. Pick a city, state and keyword, and Indeed.comreturns jobs listed by either relevance or date. Lots of other sites do that. But Indeed.comgoes a bit further by allowing job-seekers to leave comments about listed employers or search firms. Some of the candid comments are scathing. Some are undoubtedly sprouting out of frustration, but a spate of spiteful comments can send job-seekers elsewhere. When candidates can find jobs literally across the world, losing the best and brightest due to bad press isn't a good policy.

Many employers now use online services to take applications and resumes. Thingamajob (www.thingamajob.com) will do this, as will others. Some of these collection sites are hard to use, though, so realize you may lose some candidates.

There are less-formal job connections in cyberspace, but they're often even more effective. Humble e-mail is often just as good as anything. A friend and associate was looking for an office manager and asked me to pass the word through my network. A couple of days later, he had some six or eight good resumes from my contacts alone. And I'm sure he had many from other contacts as well.

Social networking sites like LinkedIn and MySpace are more systematic. Here, you can check out candidates, riffle through your network for resumes, or pass on the word that you're looking yourself. LinkedIn is a networking site for businessfolk. It's free, and it's getting remarkably popular. Each person creates an account, then links to others on LinkedIn. Each person can invite others to join who are not yet on LinkedIn. Each person creates a personal profile with job history, keywords and other contacts.

Let's say you've spotted an ad for an engineer at Bealsey Engineering, and you want to apply. You look on LinkedIn and discover that somebody in your network has worked at Bealsey and knows the engineering manager. You can then get ahold of your contact and ask for an introduction. Without LinkedIn, you would never have known of this connection. LinkedIn is a massive game of "Who Knows Whom."

One big difference in the online recruiting world is that the employer is every bit as much on display now as the candidate is. The candidate can look up your stock performance, press releases and stories about you in blogs and trade publications. It's now easier than ever to reach out to new people, but it's more perilous at times, too.



Altom is an independent local technology consultant. His column appears every other week. He can be reached at timaltom@sbcglobal.net.
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