A community divided?

Nov 20 2001 by Brian Amble Print This Article

You want to reach a pan- European audience? Your problems are over. Internet recruitment is a fantastic tool - there are no geographical boundaries, it’s open and available to everyone and it’s the one true international, all- embracing medium we have. Amazing!

Or so everyone thought it would be a few years back. But it transpires that many recruiters are still sceptical and lack the hard facts that would make them more comfortable in committing their pressurised budgets to the web.

Those that have leapt in have certainly provided everyone else with valuable lessons learned. They have discovered what others feared - that different nationalities and cultures, living and working in different markets use the Internet in very different ways. Their attitudes to job hunting on the web vary. Their barriers to usage also differ.

These issues merely scratch the surface. What’s been the impact of the web on traditional European recruitment media? How has the traditional employment marketing mix changed? And how do you formulate a global recruitment strategy when you’re suddenly without defined anchor points? Many clients are asking for advice on these issues - understandably keen to put some science into the planning process. So, taking the bull by the horns, we decided to find out exactly what’s going on not just in the UK, but across Europe - to track current Internet recruitment usage and to create a template which will help our HR clients put together high impact recruitment strategies. The kind of information we needed, though, didn’t exist. There was plenty of sound bites about the domestic market - but there was no comparative pan- European on- line recruitment study available.

‘Euro Facts 2001’ was born out of this need for a clearer understanding of where we are and where we’re going. We partnered with The Guardian to develop the survey and through the Bernard Hodes Global Network and Guardian European media partners, we created an in-paper questionnaire which was carried in seven major publications across five key European markets.

We crossed our fingers hoping for a good response and weren’t disappointed. Almost 5,500 replies came flowing in, balanced across five countries. 58% of respondents were from a Services background, 23% in Primary/ Manufacturing and 19% in the Public Sector. The majority of respondents were aged between 25 and 44, with 71% of them male, 28% female and a worrying 1% unsure. What did the results tell us? A lot more than we expected, actually. And not just about attitudes to Internet recruitment, but also how potential candidates currently search for jobs, how they expect this to change, and an insight into some very interesting cultural differences.

First let’s look at Internet usage. Across the survey, 58% of Internet users had already used the Internet for job hunting - and currently ranked this sixth in their top ten reasons for logging on. Over 60% of respondents felt they would use the Internet for job hunting in the future and the UK had the highest incidence of Internet job hunters - 78% of respondents, followed by Ireland, then Germany, France and Spain. So there’s no doubt that web recruitment activity is on the increase right across Europe.

Not surprisingly the overwhelming majority use national newspapers to find career opportunities and felt they still would in the future. All of these stated national press as their most valuable source of job leads - however only 35% of total respondents rated national press as their most valued source and respondents felt strongly that they would use job centres far less in the future. Germans stand out from other nationalities in their love of job fairs and these continue to grow in popularity.

Of course it’s still early days, and only 3% agreed with the statement that, ‘the Internet is the only source you need to find the job you want’. True convergence between the two media appears to be emerging in the UK - an impressive 82% said that they expect to use national press in the future and the exact same percentage said they would also use the Internet.

So what can we glean from these statistics? It’s not so much that candidates are migrating to the web - more that they are integrating their sources and combining techniques.

So the key implication for recruiters is the need to roll out multi- media campaigns and not simply rely on one or the other. Of course, in the future the importance of the Internet as a job hunting tool is set to grow. However, its rate of growth and place in the employment marketing mix will vary country by country. Essentially, the Internet is one of a growing number of channels to the market - not the only channel.

The highest expectation of future Internet use was in Spain, where web recruitment is less mature than in the UK or Germany, and from our respondents, currently appears to have the lowest current usage. This could be telling us that expectations are highest where there is less maturity. One pattern we can see emerging is that our respondents are quite loyal to their preferred method of job hunting - those that used trade press felt it was the most valuable, those that used local press felt it was most valuable. This may seem blindingly obvious, but it does tell us that candidates will stay with their tried and tested method of job hunting and luring them away from their preferred route will take time, creativity and effort.

We asked our respondents what they felt were the barriers to Internet usage. It came down to two main issues: cost and speed of access. It’s not so much that candidates are migrating to the web - more that they are integrating their sources and combining techniques. ... the watchword here seems to be, when creating a campaign or a dedicated recruitment site, try to make life as easy as possible - and be selective about what’s included in your message.

This was consistent across Europe although most notable in Spain. Information overload was also an issue, along with many respondents’ inability to easily find relevant information. So, the watchword here seems to be, when creating a campaign or a dedicated recruitment site, try to make life as easy as possible - and be selective about what’s included in your message.

How respondents actually use the Internet when interacting with recruitment sites varies.

Simply wanting to find out ‘What’s in the market’ ranked highest for all nationalities, except in the UK, where the number one activity was more clearly focused - ‘Find a new job’.

For Germans, actually logging on with the intent purpose of finding a new job ranked a relatively lowly number four, more affirmation that you need to tailor your approach depending on the marketplace. So if Germany is one of your key markets, where most recruitment web users are casual onlookers, you may need more hits to get your hire.

In terms of whether people know what they’re looking for, or rather stumble and fall into your recruitment posting, 53% of respondents found information about recruitment websites from articles in newspapers and magazines. 44% followed up web addresses from ads in traditional media and 40% also said they found their way through search engines. 35% mentioned word of mouth. So, ask your job board about their PR programme and how many positive column inches they receive - not just about their advertising.

Opinions about the Internet were not all positive - only 24% of all respondents thought it a good medium for providing relevant job vacancies, but 53% agreed that it’s easy to apply for jobs on- line. Just 31% agreed ‘the job lists on the Internet are usually current and up- to- date’ - cynicism may already be taking hold - perhaps worth noting by on- line media owners!

So, despite the added power of the Internet in assisting job hunters across Europe, there is an element of ‘could do better’. Recruiters still need to tailor their messages to individual markets be it on- or off- line, to fit each culture. And if you think it’s complicated now, the digital age will see the convergence of TV and mobile Internet media, substantially shifting the employment marketing mix even further.

Still, no- one fancied a quiet life, did they?