Online recruitment: Quantity at the expense of quality?

Let's face it, we've never before lived in an age where such a plethora of job opportunities are accessible to us at the mere touch of a button. But is this instantaneous solution really all it's cracked up to be? Is the constant search for new and supposedly better ways to reach the job seeker really an advance, or merely adding to the woes of the already stressed out candidate who, when faced with a huge list of all too often bland and uninspiring job posts, struggles to separate the wheat from the chaff?

You can do everything from ordering your groceries, buying a knick knack off Ebay and booking a holiday through to getting your daily dose of news, gossip and music online, but when it comes to enabling people to make career choices have we become too clever for our own good? Are companies/recruitment consultancies in danger of disenfranchising themselves from job seekers because of the amount of dross in terms of job posts out there? Some might say they already have. So what price progress? And is it really progress?

Not so long ago as well as using national newspapers and niche publications to advertise their vacancies, just like with product advertising, the regional/local press was often scheduled tactically by employers sought to attract people not necessarily in their locale.

Using clever, creative, eye catching campaigns aimed at the casual browser as much as the active job seeker, it was how some companies went about getting their staff, whilst others chose to play it safe by using the local press or maybe the occasional job agency to meet their staffing needs.

For the job seeker, it was quite simple - you knew where to look. There were specific newspapers and magazines that you made sure you bought or were in the subscription list.

Fast forward to today and clearly online is where it's at. But where are the advertisements with the allure? There are some out there somewhere, but you try finding them in a typical job search that brings up hundreds of search results. In my view, the migration from press to web has come at a price - loss of creativity and forethought, purely in favour of cost.

Yes, you can now post on several job boards for a fraction of the cost of a well thought out press campaign. Indeed, for the vast majority of advertisers, it's de rigeur to do just that. But where's the allure?

Look through a typical job board and the general standard of recruiters day-to-day job posts is, frankly, poor. Cut and pasted job descriptions with badly written intros preceding them talking about "our client are" plus, when the author of the piece does try and elaborate beyond bullet pointed blandness, the result is often an ad littered with grammatical errors.

That today's job seeker can access so many potential opportunities at the touch of a button is to be marvelled at in a way, but equally the recruitment advertising process has, whilst technologically advanced, purely in my opinion, at the same time creatively dumbed down massively. Yes, there are those that will argue 'what about microsites, web banners, viral marketing, social networking sites etc' and I agree, those options are available to the 'clever' employer. But, the majority of bog standard vacancies online seem to be poorly written and slapped on a few job boards by recruiters with a 'fingers crossed, we're competing with hundreds of other similar posts' type approach, in the main by recruitment consultancies.

Imagine if product advertising went the same route. I guess it is slowly, but will the days of the classic, humorous and often award winning advertisements soon be replaced by mind numbingly boring online ads? The answer is no. But, where recruitment is concerned, a lot of the joy factor has simply gone out of it.

The phrase 'human capital' surfaced in the marketplace a few years back and at the time I thought to myself that it sounded as if it was turning recruitment into a sort of 'virtual cow herding' process. That was, some might say, seemingly just the beginning of the decline into making the advertising process just that, a mere process rather than a carefully thought through one. Candidates are increasingly just numbers, particularly to many recruitment consultants. And my God we are letting salespeople write a lot of the copy that's out there in job cyberland. No wonder it's in such a mess.

Today, the disillusioned job seeker sits at their keyboard and types in a job title and some keywords and is instantly hit with hundreds of propositions, many of them bereft of an ounce of creativity and allure, but at a fraction of the price of a press ad. How on earth can they sift the wheat from the chaff in that lot? And we call that progress,? To me it's simply another sign of how as a society there is an increasing but misguided demand to be able to do everything right now and from the comfort of our own home.

Where's the allure, the coaxing, the surprise element, the wooing of the casual browser? Answer: that sort of approach doesn't really exist anymore. it's like the Royal Mail's 'Granny Smith' - (look her up. She is what the Royal Mail stood for for many years) it's not important. Just get your copy out there and hope for the best. And to be frank, the quantity of jobs online may be vast, but the creativity is by and large awful. That's my take on it at grass roots level anyway. The day-to-day picture is not a pretty one.

How I yearn for the days when clever, well thought out targeted press campaigns attracted decent quality candidates by using their power to woo the casual browser. When creativity solved a brief and a thousand staffing solutions and even won worthwhile awards.

I know it's now all about analytics, the power of your SEM campaigns and your candidate attraction strategy, but really, aren't we becoming just a little too scientific, robotic and ultimately, anal, about it all? Is quality the sacrificial lamb we've had to give up in favour of quantity?

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