In 2000, a survey by the UK research company BMRB found that searching for jobs was the fourth most common use of the internet in the UK, behind e-mail, shopping and booking travel or holidays. That was in 2000. It is becoming even more common. A survey by Ilogos, another research firm, found that 91 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use their own websites for recruiting, up from 79 per cent in 2000 and 57 per cent in 1998.
There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way candidates look for and apply for jobs. Companies, too, have adapted to the medium and increasingly expect to advertise jobs online and receive online applications. Online recruitment is now even more popular than internet shopping and e-banking.
All the same, plenty of recruitment sites have gone out of business in the past year, including financial services sites fincareer.com and onvocation.com. Others appear to be struggling, including Futurestep, owned by global search firm Korn/Ferry, which is mainly a CV collector rather than a jobs board.
Views on the role of the internet in recruitment have totally changed since the first online recruitment sites set up only a few years ago. In fact, a more topical question in 2003 might actually be is there such a separate concept as "online recruitment" or is it now just one integrated channel within the whole recruitment mix? At the most recent Recruitment Society Internet debate the speakers may not have quite reached that point, but they did start from the question of "is the internet fundamentally changing the relationship between the client and the recruitment company?"
As with many online concepts, pundits originally used their favourite word of the dotcom era - 'disintermediation', about the effect online recruitment might have on more traditional recruitment methods. Clearly that has not happened. The fears that online recruitment was the beginning of the end for recruitment advertising revenue have proved false. Online and traditional methods cohabit the recruitment arena, hopefully improving the general offering.
However, the Internet has had an impact on recruitment advertising. There is no doubt of the impact if we look at the American newspaper market where newspapers have bought control of one of the top 3 online recruitment sites, Careerbuilder, to stem the tide of lost revenues. This suggests that we may see a similar strategy in the UK.
There are also those who argue that personality - not technology - still rules and that emotion must be put back into the process of recruiting. Certainly, the internet can be personalised to meet individual needs, but it cannot replace communication between candidate and company.
What becomes apparent is that the candidate and client cry for more, not less, personal contact and consideration is now louder than ever. In a market where there are fewer job opportunities (online or in print!) more candidates, and where thanks to email it is easier than ever for an individual, if so minded, to use "spray and pray" applications, the limitations of the medium are self-evident.
Finally, the perception that online job-hunting does not work for senior jobs is fading and that there are many well-paid jobs advertised nowadays. No doubt, we will get a clearer idea how successfully online job hunting works when the economy picks up and more firms start hiring.