Everything today points to the mobile channel playing a leading role in recruitment. The technology, phones and uncompromising demands of Generation Y have aligned to create the ideal conditions. All that’s needed now is for the recruitment industry to broaden its vision of what’s possible, says Helen Griffiths, Business Development Manager, Oxygen8 Group.
For all that the recession may have flooded the jobs market with potential new candidates, the task of sorting the good from the bad remains as onerous as it has always been for those in the recruitment business. Agencies, which themselves may have downsized during the downturn, now find that they must work twice as hard if they are to beat rival firms in placing the best candidates with clients.
To succeed, recruitment managers must think laterally about how to engage with and nurture potential recruits, harnessing innovative new strategies and new tools – those capable of reducing the administrative burden of identifying talent while facilitating convenient real-time contact.
It is surprising, then, that the recruitment industry has yet to more fully exploit the potential of the mobile channel, which offers exactly these facilities. Mobile communications allow agencies to automate and accelerate initial contact and screening processes, while making it easier to engage with potential applications when they are at work or on the go.
The early bird
A new survey by Manpower has found that a sixth of employers are currently struggling to fill key positions despite continuing high levels of unemployment, because of a dearth of sought-after skills in areas such as engineering, management, sales, skilled trades, teaching, accounting and finance, and IT.
Those individuals who go on to successfully fill such roles may already be in work, making the ‘courting’ process difficult for the recruiter. Sending and receiving personal emails at work may feel too risky to the candidate while speaking on the phone would be too public. A rapid exchange by text message, on the other hand, could be just what’s needed to move the recruitment process on to the next stage, without the applicant being inconvenienced during the working day.
The alternative is that the recruitment executives must work out of hours, contacting applicants when they are at home – by which time the opportunity may have been missed.
For candidates, the appeal of the mobile medium is that they can peruse and respond to job opportunities swiftly and discretely, whether at work or on the move, never missing a new lead. For the recruiter, the channel offers a highly cost-effective opportunity to engage with prospective employees in a direct, timely and personal way. Through which other medium can a message be opened by 97% of the target audience?
The enormous potential of the mobile channel for developing individual relationships has been readily seized in other fields, particularly marketing and customer service, where the impact has been transformative. In comparison, the recruitment industry has been relatively slow off the mark. Even where basic SMS capabilities are included as part of agencies’ applicant management systems, these functions often remain under-used because agencies have not known how to unleash their full power.
That’s not to say that recruitment agencies are ignoring the mobile sphere; more that they may need assistance in translating their vision into tangible applications.
SMS is best
Currently, innovation is being led by the online job boards. Jobsite, for example, has launched an iPhone application which is already receiving more traffic than Yahoo and Bing put together. Many recruitment agencies, by contrast, don’t yet even have mobile versions of their web sites, making it hard for applicants to engage with them when away from their desktop PC.
Dedicated mobile ‘apps’ aren’t strictly necessary. SMS messages used in conjunction with a web site that has been optimised for mobile use is a more sustainable proposition because it requires less effort on the part of the user. Harnessing the simple text message is a great way to start the exploration into mobile recruitment, reaching right into the pocket of any individual and allowing two-way communications to take place in real time without the demands of a personal phone call.
Mobile communications could be the missing link in getting applicants to make that first contact, in response to an ad on the Tube, in a newspaper or on a public billboard. Encourage a short-code SMS response, and the first contact has been made, paving the way for initial text-based screening, following by the issuing of a link to an online application form. Much of this can be automated, too, potentially saving the agency a lot of time and money at this early, admin-intensive stage.
Confirming or changing interview appointments is another easy way this cost-effective channel can be exploited to transform the recruitment process and remove administrative overheads from the business.
While no one can question the importance of the personal touch in HR, under-estimating the unique role that mobile communications can play in recruitment is to run the same risk as those late to appreciate the value of online self-service in this people-centric industry. Each medium has its place, and offering choice – as retailers, banks and marketers generally have found – is vital in maintaining customer engagement and satisfaction.
The National Online Recruitment Audience Survey (NORAS), conducted by specialist recruitment advertising and research agency Enhance Media, has shown a 300% growth in the use of mobiles and handheld devices for job-seeking over the past three years, confirming that applicants are increasingly looking for jobs in this way. This trend can only increase as Generation Y moves up and through the workplace.
Most recruitment firms are keen to respond to this growing demand for mobile services, but many need help getting to the next level. Once they do, they will find that they are able to stretch higher and go further, without over-extending themselves. Those firms that are first to harness the opportunity strategically stand to gain a lot of ground quickly; those who continue to ‘wait and see’ may find they are never quite able to catch up.