Going External: Advertising

If you have found that there is no one internally to fill your position obviously you are going to have to go outside.

There are several methods you can use to source candidates from the outside. The two most common are advertising and the use of recruitment firms.

Other methods include things like employee referrals and using your own personal network. These can turn up some interesting candidates but you shouldn’t depend on them. I have talked to HR professionals who positively gush at how successful their employee referral programs are. I am skeptical of this. Primarily because referral networks turn up people in limited numbers. You might get one or two potential candidates but your aren’t going to get much more than that and I question whether you have availed yourself of all the possible talent out there if you are using referrals only.

Which brings me back to advertising. Headhunters are trained to believe that advertising is not a good option – primarily because advertising competes with us and companies that use career advertising successfully don’t need us. I have seen advertising work quite well and I have also seen it fail miserably. Do I recommend it? Yes but with some caveats.

The first thing you should take into account (should you advertise your position) is that you have no guarantees that you will fill the position from the ad response. In fact an expensive ad could yield nothing but junk. In that respect the risk is high.

Second the candidates that apply to ads are actively looking. That means they are sending their resume in to other companies who are advertising and are also probably talking to headhunters as well. This means that if your hiring process takes more than two weeks you might lose the candidate. Or you might be faced with a candidate who you make an offer to but that candidate has multiple offers and will use that leverage to get the best offer possible. This is entirely within their right but it doesn’t help you that much unless you are willing to break the bank to get the person.

Third you might be overwhelmed with the amount of resumes that you receive. On the surface this might seem like a good thing but trust me going through a stack of resumes is very time consuming. If you have a strong HR department they should be handling this. In fact they should be handling the entire advertising process; resume screen; phone screen and first interview. If this isn’t the case in your firm you should get some of your staff involved in the resume screening and phone screening. This is a good opportunity for the aspiring managers on your staff. However be mindful of the fact that resume screening is difficult and not everyone is capable of doing it well nor it is appropriate to have someone screening resumes if they are more junior than the person who is being hired.

If you make the decision to advertise you have several options (just to complicate matters)

First there is the traditional newspaper route which depending on your location (smaller town for example) might be your only option. Newspaper ads have the advantage of wide readership but can be very expensive. Some career sections in major papers charge between 5-8,000 dollars (almost as much as some recruiting fees) and you have as I stated earlier no guarantee that they will work. Additionally newspapers have a shorter shelf life – typically three days so you are at the mercy of whoever reads the paper on that particular day. Then there is the painful process of writing the ad and getting in the paper. This can be challenging since some papers have deadlines far in advance of the day the ad will run for their career sections. If you want to make sure your ad appears on a Saturday don’t start putting it together on Thursday night.

The second option you have is the mighty Internet. There are now many on-line resources for advertising your position. The largest is Monster but there may be some very good local on-line career sites in your area. The advantage of using these services over newspaper is that they typically are much much cheaper. Usually the cost is around $500.00 (about what the sales tax is on a newspaper ad) plus they usually run for about 30 days giving you a broader reach. That broader reach also means that geographically candidates will access your job posting from anywhere in the world. This can be a blessing and a curse. In some cases it can uncover candidates that normally wouldn’t be accessing the local paper. But you also might be inundated with responses from people who aren’t even legally able to work in your country. In addition Internet ads can draw even more response than newspaper ads – and you thought you were overwhelmed by the newspaper response. Fortunately many on-line services allow you to build in screening mechanisms that can substantially reduce the amount of resumes you have to wade through. Finally I have found that Internet advertising works great in large urban areas but doesn't seem to have the same results for small towns. You would think that Internet access/use is universal but it isn't.

A third option is to utilize professional associations. Many professional associations have career advertising for their members. This allows you to target a very specific group if you have a position like an internal auditor, accountant, purchasing professional, etc. Usually they are inexpensive (in some cases free) so the risk is fairly minimal. Unfortunately the volume is typically not high so you may not get that many responses. This is fine if the ad yields strong candidates but if it doesn’t you will have to look at for alternatives. Also most association websites are fairly clumsy when it comes to getting your ad up. So you are at the mercy of whatever web geek designed the interface. Trust me some of them can be pretty painful.

Ok this posting is getting fairly long. I am going to talk about how to handle ad response and stay sane in another posting, probably next week. In the interim have a good weekend.

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