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Blogs A New Frontier in Online Recruiting

May 3, 2004
Related Topics: Internet, Candidate Sourcing, Featured Article, Staffing Management
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Web logs, or blogs, as they’re commonly known, come in all forms and fashions--from a teen’s rant about his school day to links to leading job news to a running discussion of a corporation’s hiring practices. But knowledge about blogs and opinions about them are as varied as corporate recruiters themselves.

    Kevin Kelley, senior human resources specialist for Lattice Semiconductor, made his first foray into the world of blogging with SemiconductorJobs.com, which features job listings, interviews with human resources experts, and news about the semiconductor business. SemiconductorJobs.com interviewed Kelley in March about job openings and the corporate culture of Lattice Semiconductor, headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon. "What sold me on it was the low cost and the circulation to people who were passive candidates--the jewels in the rough."

Only going to grow
    Since March, thousands of people have clicked through from the SemiconductorJobs.com Web site to Lattice Semiconductor’s, and about 100 would-be employees have submitted résumés. Candidates are still being interviewed, Kelley says.

    Lattice Semiconductor was offered free exposure on SemiconductorJobs.com--a kind of "try before you buy" proposition--and Kelley says he plans to use the blog for future recruiting. "I think it’s a great method, and something that’s going to grow in popularity," he says.

    Another believer is Karina Miller, human resources manager at Impinj in Seattle. SemiconductorJobs.com interviewed her in November, and 114 applicants said they learned about Impinj through the site.

    "It goes directly to the right target audience," Miller says. "I like the informal nature of it." Although the blog hasn’t yet led to any hirings, she sees the exposure as a way to learn about potential candidates in a low-supply, high-demand industry.

    Jason Davis, launched SemiconductorJobs.com in October. In a recent five-day span, his site had been visited 9,000 times.

    In an industry in which almost all qualified employees have jobs, hiring is "almost impossible to do by advertising," Davis says. So recruiters look for new means to attract applicants. He cautions human resources managers not to expect immediate hires from using his blog. Instead, "a lot of people will consider you as a possible place of employment because of the work we do here."

    It’s not just the semiconductor industry that’s blogging. Technorati.com reports that it’s tracking 2.1 million blogs. Blogs for Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, humor columnist Dave Barry and Harvard Law School are among the 100 most popular, Technorati reports.

Replacing traditional ads
    The idea of Web logs was born in the late 1990s, when a handful of adept Internet users began sharing running commentaries online. Today, Kinja.com serves as a Web log portal, collecting news and commentary from blogs for such diverse topics as the media, baseball and gays. Employers can usually find a blog for their industry through Google--by typing "nursing blog," for example.

    The Boston Globe launched its own blog last year on its jobs Web site BostonWorks.com. Jason Butler, senior product development manager, edits the Job Blog and the Human Resources Blog, which provide links to articles from around the Internet to "help recruiters do their jobs better," he says.

    The BostonWorks.com Web site receives 15 million to 20 million page views per month, Butler says, while the Job Blog gets "hundreds of thousands" and the Human Resources Blog gets "tens of thousands." The Web site also features prominent advertisements by major corporations.

    One employer that has had success with BostonWorks.com is Tufts-New England Medical Center. The medical center uses a program called Position Manager, which automatically sends its available jobs to a number of Web sites. Some, like BostonWorks.com and CampusRN.com, also have blogs on-site.

    Almost all the medical center’s job searching is done through Web sites, says Jeanne Waller, manager of recruitment and employee relations. For the first 12 days in April, the hospital received 853 online applications, with one-quarter coming from BostonWorks.com. About 35 percent of contacts came from CareerBuilder.com and 11 percent from the hospital’s own Web site. "We’re doing very little [traditional] advertising right now," Waller says.

    "We’re using our money much more wisely," Waller says, paying about $10,000 annually to have Position Manager send out the job openings and track the responses. "We’re getting bombarded by résumés."

    Another health-care provider that has turned to online recruiting is Advocate Health Care in Oak Brook, Illinois. Elizabeth Calby, director of sourcing and selection, says online recruiting provides "the opportunity to be connected to many different sites in many different ways."

    The hospital has advertised on CampusRN.com for less than a year--including having its ad appear on the upper-right corner of CampusRN’s blog page--resulting in eight hires. "We’re happy with it, considering it is one aspect of our overall sourcing strategy," Calby says.

Personal touch
    Butler predicts that as the market picks up, employees will start job-hopping and turn to blogs to seek out "organizations that have a more human voice." Blogs serve as a means for recruiters to say, "We’re real people; here’s what we’re looking for," Butler says, although he admits there is "some risk in having people talk directly to the audience."

    One company that is trying this personal approach is Microsoft, which launched its own blog in March to talk about technical careers at the company. At this point, Microsoft is unwilling to discuss the blog, says Gretchen Ledgard, a senior talent scout and one of the two women facilitating the blog.

    Johanna Rothman, who runs Rothman Consulting Group and focuses on managing product development, has blogs on her Web site for hiring technical people and managing product development. She also writes for BostonWorks.com. Rothman says that blogs enable a corporation to describe itself and its jobs better than a traditional Web site and provide insight into the corporate culture. "When an organization writes a blog, it has much more opportunity to really attract people who fit the culture."

    It also serves as a networking tool, she says. "This is taking the place of the rubber-chicken dinner."

    But not everyone is sold on the notion of blogs. Steven Rothberg, founder of Minneapolis-based CollegeRecruiter.com, which targets college students and recent graduates, has had an online presence since 1996. During that time he’s seen a lot of things come and go. "All of them get a ton of buzz," he says, but the question is whether they pay for themselves. "How much more revenue is generated for each page of content?" he asks, referring to companies such as Microsoft that run their own blogs. "Probably not as much as you’re paying staff people--so why are you doing it?"

    David Carpe, founder of Clew LLC in Boston, which provides market research and competitive intelligence consulting services, says one problem with blogs is that "there is so much diary-like content to wade through to find meaning." However, employers are combing through them to recruit potential job candidates. It gives recruiters a chance to see what and whom the blogger knows, Carpe says. "For good recruiters, it’s one weapon in their arsenal."

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