Recruitment sites battle social networking online recruitment sector is gearing up for a pre-emptive land grab as social networking sites look to muscle in on this increasingly lucrative area.

Ad accounts are being reviewed by recruitment sites looking to build their profiles with job seekers and employers, while social networks such as MySpace and Facebook are entering the arena – after all, job hunting has always been about networking and the Net has become integral to the search. In 2005, 17% of job seekers used the Net to find work; in 2007 that figure has leapt to 78%.

Last week, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy won the £3.5m account for Johnston Press-owned site and will be responsible for increasing brand awareness (MW last week). But the agency has a tough task on its hands. Jobstoday carries vacancies from 300 regional titles, but does not feature in the ten most visited job sites. Still, there are more than 15,000 sites.

According to Hitwise, leaders of the online recruitment pack are JobcentrePlus, the NHS job site and then Monster and TotalJobs. Pure play brand Monster appears to be looking to assert its position in the market: it is seeking a European ad agency and is reportedly interested in investing in Friends Reunited’s jobs arm, which ITV is reviewing as it has struggled to take off. Yet Johnston also has to consider rival newspaper groups and their continuing assault on the sector. Trinity Mirror recently snapped up niche legal and financial sites and in a £11.8m deal, to sit alongside its Hotgroup online jobs division it bought in 2005.

Daily Mail & General Trust divisions Jobsite and Northcliffe Newspapers Group have teamed up, as have and The Independent on Sunday as they look to shore up links between their on and offline propositions.

Move with the times
Vizeum head of press and digital Alex Randall says that as classified advertising moved online, the newspaper groups had to move with it and the natural course of action was to team up with online brands – for instance Fish4 is backed by traditional publishing houses Newsquest Media Group, Trinity Mirror and Guardian Media Group Regional Newspapers.

Some observers say the traditional groups have struggled with their online investments, but Randall is more positive: “Which groups back these sites is incidental. Some recruitment advertising does particularly well online, such as IT or finance, but for others established print titles retain their gravitas and credibility.” 

Print is by no means dead: a Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) survey shows 79% of respondents use local newspapers and 76% use recruitment agencies when job hunting, followed by 75% who use employers’ websites.

But recruiters are using online alternatives more. The CIPD survey shows that in 2006, 64% of organisations used technology to recruit candidates.

Graduate appeal
And the sector is to be rocked further as MySpace and other networks enter the fray. Allen & Overy, a global legal company with an extensive graduate recruitment programme, has embraced digital. Alongside extensive blogging about its practice, it has used sites where graduates congregate, such as MySpace and Facebook, to attract interest and advertise vacancies. Some companies are even using such sites to find out about prospective candidates.

TotalJobs head of marketing Sophie Relf says that more rich media, blogging and social networking must be used to keep apace with consumer needs. “Publishing houses realise the internet is a community and that the content must be relevant and help both advertisers and jobseekers. For the online brand, it is important to develop a personality and relationship with users if you are going to stand out,” she says.

Monster UK chief operating officer Alan Townsend adds: “Job hunters don’t only look in one place and as audiences fragment further, recruitment will be via diverse channels from social sites to mobiles.” 

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