Employers, try hiring the on-line way

No one enjoys sifting through countless job application forms - or filling them in. Gabriel Hopkins examines the latest, paperless alternativ e
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Indy Lifestyle Online
More and more job opportunities require candidates to be computer literate. Even personnel officers who have traditionally placed advertisements for vacancies are increasingly turning to electronic means to recruit suitable employees. The process of hiring and firing is slowly becoming automated.

Several new organisations are trying to computerise the employment market and so eradicate the hit-and-miss element of advertising. Computer recruitment consultants claim they can present employers with the details of a few well-suited candidates rather than a deluge of hopeful CVs received in response to newspaper advertisements. Applicants should also profit. After entering their details on to a database, job-seekers know that a large number of employers will be able to assess their qualifications without them having to fill in any more dreaded application forms.

Several groups offer a computerised job-finding service. Some of the big recruitment agencies, such as Reed, are involved, while other specialist companies have been set up specifically to run a computerised system. They are loosely modelled on US groups such as the On-line Career Club and e-span, which have sites on the Internet and have become marketplaces for jobs in information technology and computing. Employers seek candidates with a word-search that looks for key-words in resumes. The result is sometimes a rather clumsy selection with the occasional bizarre mismatch - a company wanting a specialist in hard drives might find it is looking at a CV from a potential driver.

The Employment Network, based in London, tries to avoid this problem by laying out the information in its People Bank in a more structured way. Details such as expected minimum salary and favoured location are collected together with skills, qualifications, a concise personal summary, and a brief psychometric (personality) test. These are then matched with employers' requirements.

Peter Chappell, a director of the company, describes a process where the employer, searching the central People Bank from his own desk, begins with a wide search and then narrows the selection by changing parameters such as salary or age until he finds suitable candidates to interview. He pays pounds 5 to download a full CV, although he will not be given a candidate's name in case his current employer stumbles upon it. This gives the potential employee a degree of power - he can decide whether or not he wants to be interviewed, and will not have to worry about being given a black mark if he says no.

The system seems to be effective. Nick Macris graduated in June 1994, filled in a form in August and was in work by November. He believes the computer matching works, describing the job it allocated him as "exactly what I was looking for".

More than half the jobs in the People Bank are in IT companies: they run the gamut from cleaners to chief executives. CVs are fed in from a variety of sources - universities, recruitment agencies, executive job centres (140 take part) and individual applications. Applicants can feed their details in via the Internet, or on forms that are found in executive job centres or obtained directly from the Employment Network.

Employers should benefit from a quick service as job turnover becomes faster. Peter Chappell says: "You should be on People Bank all your life: nobody is in a safe job any more, it is all mobile."

The Employment Network, 92 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1DH. Tel: (0171) 353 6330. Fax: (0171) 353 5884. E-mail: enquiry@peoplebank.co.uk. Internet: http://www.people bank.co.uk/ten/.