The recent publication of NORAS 2002, the first National Online Recruitment Audience Survey is a positive step forward for both recruiters and candidates alike. The survey, run by online recruitment specialist Enhance Media with the aid of several of the major generic job boards, several of the sector specific job boards and the support of ABC Electronic offers an excellent starting point from which those interested in e-cruitment can begin and, despite the self-imposed non-participation of Monster.co.uk, the result is an accurate picture of the state of online recruitment in the UK in mid-2002 and a pointer for the future.
The data that makes up the bulk of the report was gleaned from online surveys run off each of the participating sites and amounting to over 7600 responses in the month of April 2002 and analysis of logfiles by ABC Electronic. The logfiles reveal that fish4jobs had the most unique users, closely followed by Total Jobs and GoJobsite but it is the information derived from the surveys that will be of most use to the recruiter.
NORAS reveals that there is a fairly even divide between men and women on job sites, 53% the former and 42% the latter and that the age group 15-44 make up the huge proportion of online recruitment users, a massive 86% (although a start point of 15 does seem slightly unusual), eyebrows will rise amongst recruiters up and down the land though at the survey’s report that none of the sites involved have any less than 99% of users eligible to work in the UK either through birth within the EU or possession of a valid UK work permit. Perhaps this statistics is a result of the myriad Kazakhstani applicants being less adept at filling in surveys than application forms but certainly it raises a question over the credibility of the report as a whole.
More reassuring is the percentages of ABC1s that appear to be using the internet for recruitment, or perhaps this should be deemed BC1s as no site can offer any higher than 1% of social grade A users or more than 4% of users earning £50,00 pa +. Nevertheless all the sites surveyed appear to have a high 60s%+ of users appearing in the higher social grades apart from fish4jobs, a reflection perhaps of it’s local newspaper driven user base. The qualifications metrics reveal that nearly half of the users of generic sites are degree qualified or higher but there is a noticeable jump in these figures for the sector specific job boards where the figure is nearer 70% and occasionally as high as 92%, suggesting that the more specialised sites claim that they can offer a more focused selection of candidates does hold some water.
The growing maturity of the users of online recruitment sites (the survey reveals that the average user has been online for around three years) is also demonstrated by the average working life of those surveyed which is around the ten year mark, with the figures for the specialised sites again coming in slightly higher. The average time since those surveyed last started a new job is also illuminating, with the a figure of around four years across the board(s) confirming the transition from a culture of jobs for life to one of high job mobility. Obviously this increased movement of employees from company to company and industry to industry is part of a vicious circle being accelerated and perpetuated by the growth of online recruitment. The ease of application and wide availability offered by online recruitment makes it easier for employees to move on a more regular basis than previously, this increase in job mobility imposes significant cost increases for a company’s recruitment function, which in turn requires company’s to look at more cost effective ways of recruiting and, hence to an increase in online recruitment. All of which is excellent news for the job boards and specialised sites but should be a significant concern for company’s boards and HR departments.
NORAS provides little encouragement, though, for the pharma sector where the generic job boards are concerned, the question, ‘Which industry sector does your employer operate in?’ elicited no response higher than 1% for the Pharmaceutical industry from any of the boards surveyed. Even if the Healthcare sector is added to the mix, with the vast numbers of NHS staff that entails, no generic site can offer more than 5% of their readership across the two sectors. Factored up this means that the survey suggests than none of the generic sites can offer more than 7100 regular pharmaceutical industry users of their own site per month, and no more than 36000 pharma/healthcare users. This statistic is all the more surprising given the huge numbers employed by the pharmaceutical industry in the UK and the vast armies of staff affiliated to the NHS, bearing out the commonly held belief that the pharma and healthcare industries are incestuous and see very few people leave them.
Passive job seekers seem to make up a significant proportion of the users of online recruitment sites, with an average of 22% of users of the generic sites claiming to be ‘open to opportunities’, again here this figure is slightly higher for the specialist sites and is perhaps a symptom of the increase in job mobility discussed earlier in the article. Despite all this positive feedback perhaps the most interesting statistic to emerge from the NORAS survey is the vast number of users who are clearly comfortable with using the net, are actively looking for jobs and are highly qualified but have never yet applied for a position they have seen online. The question that elicited this information is desperately all encompassing, ‘Have you ever applied for a job that you have found on the internet (ie. Applied online or via phone, letter etc.(what can this ‘etc.’ refer to? Applications by text? Semaphore? – Ed.))? and yet in spite of this the average response for a generic site is 39% ‘No’, and on some sites this figure is noticeably higher and even, once, represents the majority! What does this mean for online recruitment? Can it be that people are still wary about applying for jobs online? Several companies now employ or are considering implementing a policy of only accepting online applications and this seems to be the most logical solution to the situation, as well as aiding recruiters in their administrative work.
The NORAS survey is as comprehensive an attempt to assess the state of online recruitment in the UK as we currently have but still leaves much to be desired, the raw stats demonstrate that many sites have an excellent reach, 5% of the working population accessed the most popular in the month assessed, but how confident can we be in the surveyed information? Traditionally those people who take the time to fill out online forms have that time to spare, so did the survey miss out the high fliers, those without the time to bother with form filling, are they even on these sites? If the information is to be believed then we have yet to see the peak of the online recruitment boom, with over 40% of the readership not yet even having applied online we can expect the successes of online recruitment campaigns to be increasingly impressive as these figures diminish. In addition we can see the strength of the vertical sites in terms of the higher levels of experience and qualifications that their readers seem to have, the ‘focussed response’ that specialist sites sell themselves on looks to be justified. The NORAS report will hopefully continue the process of chipping away at resistance to online recruitment, wherever it may be but it is only when the online campaign is integrated effectively with the offline and the back-end HR systems that internet recruitment will truly pay dividends.