Looking for a job? Just log on to the Net

With so many recruitment agencies online, jobseekers can afford to be picky.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Anthony Bohana is a computer support expert who confesses to suffering from sloth. When he decided to look for a job, the thought of trawling through magazines was less than inspiring. Instead, he found a job on the Internet. His contact with Reed Computing Personnel, one of the agencies most eager to embrace the Net from the start, led to in five interviews, three job offers and his current position with the Salisbury brewery Gibbs Mews.

"I'm a `techy head' - I love my job and if I didn't work on computers for a living I'd be doing it anyway, so I have all the facilities at home," Mr Bohana says. "I did a search, had a look at the vacancies and e-mailed off my CV."

Reed's efforts in harnessing the World Wide Web have been prodigious. The company, set up 36 years ago in the days of paper files, recently hired the Cyberia cafe in London to launch a "virtual recruitment branch". It had been running its own less ambitious Web site since April last year, having already launched Direct Access, a bank of CVs that employers could look at themselves. The virtual recruitment branch, however, promised a surreal experience in "Colony Alpha", in which only the on-screen Reed carpet would look familiarly terrestrial.

Only computers with Windows 95 can whiz through Net space to meet virtual recruitment consultants on the virtual balcony, rendering the concept slightly open to accusations of being more bluster than substance, a charge often levelled at the IT industry.

"We have not made any secret of the fact that the virtual reality branch is a look towards the future and a bit of fun," says Katy Nicholson, Reed Computing's spokeswoman. "But it is just that, and you will be able to have this virtual reality experience, should you so wish it, as you look for a job. It is such cutting-edge stuff."

Reed's less-stretching Web site, however, is so confident of its ability to deliver that it is also acting as a hub for dozens of competitors, including Recruitment Exchange, one of the first to explore the Net as a tool. James Reed, chief operations officer, says Reed would like to be the hub of Net recruitment: "We hope people will look at the jobs we have and not want to look at the other sites."

To be successful, a Web site has to have clear signs of vitality, and no hint of being merely a nominal presence. Wendy Joseph, who found a new job without stepping out of her old office, is still receiving calls from agencies with which she registered in April. "Some agencies were much better than others, and I'm still getting calls from companies I registered with back then," she says. "But you can remain as anonymous as you like until you see something you want to go for. The sheer volume of jobs - was the only drawback, but if you're methodical, you can fix your criteria and narrow the field."

Ms Joseph, who changed from being a software tester with BT to business analyst with Bacon and Woodrow, an actuarial company in Epsom, Surrey, started by calling up "jobs" and sifted through a handful of recruitment agencies. She could call up the geographical area she wanted or the latest jobs on offer. Within two months she had found a new position. "I'd really recommend this method," she says. "It's not like looking through magazines." She was also able to assess the quality of jobs from each agency.

James Reed predicts that Web sites will "increasingly mimic the physical world", although there is no sign that the real world is dispensable yet. Ms Joseph dealt with a "tiny" office in Guildford, Surrey, after e-mailing her CV, and no agencies currently do any more of the process by machine. But the rise of the Net as a recruitment tool is evident. The magazine Computer Weekly, analysing the results of its summer seasonal survey, has found the first significant demand for skills for the Net and World Wide Web. The race to the Net is over. The competition now is for the best site, and agencies are having to demonstrate that they know how to put their theory of technology into practice.

Reed Computing Personnel's Web site is at http:// www.reed.co.uk/computing/index.htm