According to a new report from recruitment consultants Robert Walters, 10% of all internet traffic now relates to recruitment. So the world wide web looks like a fairly obvious place to which recruiters can turn: it gives them a self-selecting audience and it's also fast and relatively hassle-free. There's no messing about waiting for newspapers or magazines to come out and, using e-mail, potential employees can be made aware of new jobs as soon as they're available.
But are there really enough candidates out there to make it a viable recruitment medium for industry sectors other than IT? The answer appears to be yes, but with reservations.
'The internet is practically all I use for recruitment,' says Peter Burden, IT manager for recruitment consultants Direct Approach, which is part of Morgan Rutherford Associates. 'I can advertise on the web for £6 a pop, and it's immediate. If we put an ad in even the best paper-based product, it can take two weeks for it to go in depending on the product's frequency.' He believes it makes life a lot easier for recruiters, 'especially if candidates use e-mail. You never need to shuffle another piece of paper again; the whole process is totally seamless.'
According to Alki Manias, managing director of recruitment web site Taps (www.taps.com), in which Robert Walters has a 7.1% stake, it's a simple matter of increasing reach for a relatively low marginal cost. 'According to a 1997 NOP report, of the six million people with access to the internet in the UK, 20% don't read a newspaper,' he claims. 'If you've bought an ad for £30,000 in a Sunday newspaper, you're still missing out on a lot of people.'
So what kind of people is the internet best at recruiting? Popular sites such as JobServe (www.jobserve.com) and Top Jobs on the Net (www.topjobs.co.uk) tend to specialise in IT positions. But, as Top Jobs on the Net's name suggests, senior management positions are also popular, for the very good reason that candidates are less likely to have people peering over their shoulder.
According to Peter Burden, however, the web is 'appalling for non-technical people', while Alistair Lamont of online recruitment company Where It's @ warns that, 'there's no point going to the likes of JobServe for anything like marketing jobs, for instance.'
Alki Manias believes the internet can also be useful in industries such as finance, retail and marketing, claiming that it's excellent at attracting career changers. 'A high percentage of the people who come to our site are already employed,' he says. 'That's why the blue-chip companies come to us: because they find it very difficult to recruit those sorts of professionals.
'It's all about adding value. American Express recently advertised with us, trying to persuade people to move to Brighton to work for them, which is a life change as well as a job change. They were able to give a depth of background information about local amenities that they would never be able to give in a print ad.'
The consensus seems to be that recruitment on the internet works: it's a matter of sorting out which jobs to advertise, and where to advertise them. What probably won't work is just sticking your job vacancies up on your own web site, tempting as it might seem to rid yourself of recruitment consultants and advertising costs. After all, a sign saying 'Vacancies - Apply Within' in your window isn't usually the best recruitment mechanism, unless you're a newsagent.