PR Technique Online Recruitment: Using the Web to catch staff - The Web has presented PR shops with a new way to reach and recruit potential staff, especially from outside the industry. Marc D. Allen reports on how the big agencies are going about it

Around the globe, around the clock - in any language, in every medium - Hill & Knowlton is turning a world of resources into a world of opportunity for clients worldwide. At least that is what the video on its Web site (www.hillandknowlton.com) says. The video is designed to make H&K look particularly impressive - not to potential clients, but to job seekers.

Around the globe, around the clock - in any language, in every medium - Hill & Knowlton is turning a world of resources into a world of opportunity for clients worldwide. At least that is what the video on its Web site (www.hillandknowlton.com) says. The video is designed to make H&K look particularly impressive - not to potential clients, but to job seekers.

Around the globe, around the clock - in any language, in every medium - Hill & Knowlton is turning a world of resources into a world of opportunity for clients worldwide. At least that is what the video on its Web site (www.hillandknowlton.com) says. The video is designed to make H&K look particularly impressive - not to potential clients, but to job seekers.

This is just one of the many creative ways in which agencies are now using the Web as a recruiting tool.

Visit any agency's Web site and you're bound to find a list of current job openings, information about corporate culture and a list of benefits.

Many sites encourage applicants to send resumes via e-mail, creating a hassle-free way to apply. With a tight labor market, PR recruiters are looking to the Web as another avenue to attract job seekers from both inside and outside the industry. A good site can make a good first impression, which is extremely valuable.

Sikita Skinner, student programs coordinator for PRSA, says that it is important to provide company information for job seekers so they don't have to spend extra time calling or writing in for basic data. Many agencies are offering that and more. Text 100 (www.text100.com/usjobs) is trying to entice applicants with testimonials from current employees about the benefits and working atmosphere.

'The opportunities that Text 100 affords me are security, flexibility and understanding,' one says. 'This is the first job I have ever had that when my child is sick or there is a daycare problem, I don't feel that my job is in jeopardy if I take the day off. Text 100 is truly a wonderful company to work for, you really feel like a family.'

'Of course,' says Cathy Edens, marketing manager for Text 100 North America, 'it's in the best interest of management to say it's a great place to work. I can say it, or human resources can say it, or the company can say it. But when it comes from the mouths of our own people, I think it has meaning. When we want to give a good idea of what it's like to work here, we ask our people to contribute their thoughts. Then we publish that information.'

Burson-Marsteller has been going through an entire Web site redesign (www.bm.com) to focus on a career center. The new site offers profiles of its employees and 'a day in the life' stories so applicants can get a better feel for the company. An applicant can see possible career paths outlined, plus get an idea of the benefits employees receive.

Celia Berk, managing director of human resources worldwide, says the intention is 'to give people a good and realistic sense of what it would be like working in the company and why they should choose this company over another.'

Like just about every PR agency, job openings are listed on-site. And like most companies, Burson accepts resumes via e-mail. That makes applying simple, but 'what the technology has allowed is this tsunami wave of resumes to come at a company now,' Berk says. 'It's one thing to get them; it's another thing to sort them and know what you've really got there. So volume doesn't necessarily equate to quality.'

At www.edelman.com, which an independent panel of PRWeek judges ranked number one among the top agency Web sites, the candidate filtering process begins online. John Edelman, managing director of human resources, says it starts with a drop-down window where applicants are required to 'prequalify' by answering questions about themselves, their experience and their interests.

The information goes to Edelman, which farms out the top resumes to the appropriate human-resources personnel at various local offices. This saves applicants who are willing to work anywhere from applying to several offices and lets Edelman match the right person to the right office.

'We try to provide a lot of up-front information about Edelman,' he says. 'We try to be open about what it's like here and give as much orientation and information about benefits as possible. It's sort of a mutual sharing of information - we try to provide information to the potential applicant, but we also get information from them in terms of the pre-screening and questions we ask.'

All of this is great, says Jack Bergen, head of the Council of PR Firms - but particularly if it attracts people who aren't already in PR. 'A good Web site,' he says, 'is one that reaches out beyond the industry into sources and talent that normally wouldn't know about us. Any Web site that's oriented around people in the industry just creates more turbulence.

You have people moving back and forth between jobs.'

What the council has done is create an online site with a testing/assessment program for potential PR practitioners. The applicants' tests are sent to an industrial psychologist to see if the recruit would do well in the field. And in October, the council's site (www.prfirms.org) is offering an Internet-based orientation program for new PR people.

'As good as online recruiting is,' Bergen says, 'it doesn't replace face-to-face. It's a good way to follow up a face-to-face meeting, but I don't believe it can be used alone.'



DOS AND DON'TS

DO

1 Make the information on your site compelling so it shows off your strengths and your creativity.

2 Offer the opportunity to apply online. When applicants are looking for a job, they're interested in applying then and there.

3 List the job openings and descriptions. For entry-level jobs, provide a salary range.



DON'T

1 Reveal too much information that may give your competitors ideas about what you're doing.

2 Focus all your energies on trying to find new people. Remember: you need to keep your current employees happy.

3 Write job descriptions in industry lingo. If you're trying to attract candidates from outside the industry, you need to communicate in a language they can understand.



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