Increasingly organisations are using the Internet as a recruitment source. There are hundreds of recruitment sites online, so where do you begin? How can you be sure that your vacancy will be seen by suitable candidates?

What is online recruitment?

At its most simple, online recruitment involves placing details of your job vacancies on a website. It could be your organisation’s own website, or on a third party site that is dedicated wholly to the business of recruitment. But recruiting online can be a lot more sophisticated than that.

Specialist online recruitment sites almost always permit electronic submissions, meaning that potential applicants can read the job description and person specification, complete an application form and submit a CV, all online, and entirely electronically. There is no need for the candidate to request an application form, and all the applications will arrive, in identical format, in your Inbox along with the rest of your e-mail. Some sites will even search applications for particular keywords entered, and give them higher priority. For example, if there is a particular skill that you consider essential, and an applicant lists this skill in his or her electronic application, it will be given a higher priority than someone who has not listed the skill.

Internet growth

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) publish regular surveys that indicate a dramatic increase in the number of companies making use of the Internet for recruitment purposes. According to a CIPD survey in November 2009:

  • 75% of recruiters were using e-mail to handle job applications or enquiries
  • More than 50% used their company website to advertise jobs
  • Over 22% of employers accepted completed applications by e-mail
  • 98% of graduates have Internet access at college or university, and the majority of these will spend time online looking at career options in their final year
  • So far, less than 1% of organizations are administering selection tests online

However, the survey concluded that there is little evidence to suggest that recruiters are using electronic tools to do anything more than widen their exposure to potential applicants. In other words, the Internet is not yet replacing traditional recruiting methods. Rather, the Internet is establishing itself as one of a number of recruitment tools that, used together, make up a successful recruitment process.

Where online?

Typically there are three types of Internet site where you might want to advertise your vacancies:

1. Your own company website. As the CIPD survey indicates, more than 50% of employers post details of their vacancies on their own organisation’s website. It is a quick and reasonably inexpensive process, although unless your organisation is particularly well known, it may not be very effective. After all, how would an applicant know to look on your website? Job hunters tend to go first to websites listing vacancies from a number of companies and organisations. However, if you advertise the position in the press, it is useful to be able to send applicants to the website for further details about the job, as well as a job description and person specification that the applicant can download.

2. Dedicated recruitment sites. There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to the recruitment and selection of staff. It can be hard to know which recruitment website is likely to be suitable for your needs. Nevertheless, we have listed at the end of the chapter a number of the larger, and longer established recruitment websites that are recommended for general and lower-skilled vacancies. For specialist positions, there are a number of websites, newsgroups, forums and bulletin boards where job seekers in certain industries are likely to look for work. For example, there are websites that specialise in advertising vacancies relating to personnel, and training and development. It is worth saying that workers in more technical industries, such as computer programmers, are more accustomed to using the Internet for recruitment than other workers.

3. Media sites. Increasingly, if you advertise a vacancy with a national newspaper, details of the vacancy will also appear on the newspaper’s website. This can make advertising in newspapers good value, as you are increasing your exposure to potential applicants. Indeed, many job seekers prefer the Web interface, because it allows them to narrow down their search for specific jobs by keywords.

Advantages and disadvantages

Just because everyone is talking about the Internet for recruitment, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with it, just as with any other recruitment method.


  • The Internet can reduce the time it takes to recruit new staff.
  • With care, it can reduce many of the costs, particularly administrative, associated with recruitment.
  • The Internet gives you access to a broader pool of potential applicants.
  • It enables you to advertise your positions across continents, if appropriate.
  • Using the Internet for recruitment suggests to applicants that yours is a modern, forward looking organisation.
  • It is arguably the best way to reach applicants from certain sectors, such as Computing and Information Technology.


  • Most job hunters will look at websites as well as, but not instead of, traditional recruitment media. So it is not yet the first choice recruitment source.
  • Not everyone has access to the Internet (or, more commonly, they have Internet access at their current employment, where it would be inappropriate to be seen visiting recruitment websites).
  • Online applications make applying for a job much easier and less of an effort, and so you may receive a greater proportion of applications from unsuitable candidates.
  • Until Internet access is universal, online recruitment will usually be undertaken alongside traditional recruitment methods, and so add to costs, rather than reduce them.

Using the Internet alongside traditional recruitment methods

There is little point in going to the trouble of using the Internet as part of the recruitment process, if all you plan to do is repeat the information that you have already laid out in the press, or posted on to your staff notice board. The Internet works best when it enhances what else you do.

Consider the web recruitment model below. In this model, you would include a web address in your press advertisement, where potential applicants can go for further details of the position (as well as a telephone number for applicants without Internet access).

If you do not feel comfortable with the idea of electronic applications, you could include an application form online that should be printed out and completed by hand. Or perhaps you should encourage applicants to e-mail your organisation to request a paper application form. The point is to use the Internet to improve the recruitment process, not to make it more complicated.

Taking it one stage further

There are more ways to use online recruitment websites other than simply to advertise jobs. When looking for work, job hunters will often post their CV, and register their job interests, on one or more recruitment websites. This is good news for employers. For a small fee, you can search a database of job hunters by keywords. You can then review a shortlist of candidates that match your search criteria, without having actually advertised your vacancy online. In addition, you may have to pay the online agency a percentage of the successful candidate’s salary, just as with traditional recruitment agencies.

There are other more sophisticated services that are available when recruiting for staff online. For example, a number of specialist organisations have developed software that reviews incoming electronic applications, and screens and shortlists suitable candidates. If yours is a larger organisation which tends to receive hundreds of applications for dozens of positions on a regular basis, you might want to investigate this software more thoroughly. Most of the screening software applications work by hunting electronic applications for particular phrases or keywords which, if present, indicate certain qualifications or experience that the candidate has. Clever, but not infallible. For example, the candidate may have made sure that his application included all of the essential and desirable criteria listed in the advertisement. It also assumes that you can define the list of keywords that you want to search applications for. What about all the other selection criteria, such as personality?

Using screening software is a good method for filtering out candidates who are clearly unqualified for the role, but may not be as effective for short listing ideally suited candidates. Nevertheless, technology is progressing all the time, so it is worth checking out what software is available for assisting with online recruitment when you are ready to recruit.

The future

Inevitably, we can look to the USA for an indication about where online recruitment technology is progressing. How about online interviews? Would you ever take on a member of staff without having ever met them face to face, even for a few minutes? Some companies in the USA are already conducting online interviews for low-skilled, general positions. Online assessments, like psychometric or aptitude tests, are already in common use in this country.

Which are the best agencies?

There are too many online agencies to make a sensible list in this book. In any case, new agencies are appearing online every week, whilst others struggle to survive. We have listed below three agencies that have seen dramatic growth over of the last two years, and which attract candidates from a wide spectrum of careers. At Monster, you can post details of a job at any time, day or night. Prices currently start at £250 for 60 days. Additional services include help with writing advertisements, Applicant Tracking Solutions, and even complete outsourcing of the recruitment process. As with many other recruitment websites, you can search Monster’s CV database directly, without waiting for candidates see your advertisement. At the time of writing, Monster has over 500,000 job hunters registered. fish4jobs claims to be the UK’s No. 1 recruitment website. You can post details of your vacancy on their website for £275 for 4 weeks. The price includes a page where you can detail a full company profile, giving further details about your organisation. Fish4jobs has close associations with hundreds of local newspapers, and offers a service whereby you can advertise both on the website and in the local newspaper of your choice.

Workthing Like the other sites, offers database searching, help with writing advertisements and a range of job posting options. In addition, Workthing offers a suite of tools enabling you to sift your job applications for keywords and phrases to shortlist candidates quickly. You can then use their bulk e-mailing feature to contact all candidates easily. Prices for the standard job posting service are comparable with the other websites listed above.

If you think that an online recruitment campaign might help or support your search for the right applicant, then do a bit of research before you start. There are specialist online recruitment companies serving certain industries, and there are hundreds of other general agencies that offer similar services to the websites that we have featured.

Writing an online job advertisement

Although we provide a short guide to writing effective recruitment advertisements elsewhere in this book, there are some special rules you should follow when composing advertisements for recruitment websites.

Make it stand out

In print, you make your advertisement stand out with colour, design, size and position. Online, it is highly unlikely that job hunters will ‘browse’ in the traditional way. They are far more likely to search for jobs by keywords. So to make sure your advertisement is seen by the widest possible audience, think of all the words or phrases that best describe the vacancy, and which job hunters might enter into a database. Construct the wording of your advertisement around these words and phrases.

What should be included

Online job hunters will be looking at a summary list of appropriate vacancies, and will make a snap decision about which jobs to find out more about and apply for. Unlike traditional recruitment advertisements, there are a number of elements that you should include online, like salary, the company name and location, as well as any benefits or bonuses. You also want to restrict unqualified people from applying, so state clearly any qualification or minimum experience requirements.

On the whole, you are better off giving more details about the position you are trying to fill than you would in a print environment. You will find that there is plenty of help and advice available online when you post details of a job vacancy, and most online recruitment organisations offer help with the wording of any advertisement that you place.

Online recruitment: Checklist:

  • Have you posted details of your vacancies on your organisation’s Intranet or website?
  • Have you considered using a dedicated online recruitment website?
  • Are your press recruitment advertised replicated on the newspaper’s or journal’s website?
  • Have you researched which web agencies would best suit your needs?
  • Could you write an online recruitment advertisement?