Casting a wider net
A stark finding in late 2016 cast a somewhat negative spotlight on the online recruitment scene in Singapore.
The Monster Employment Index, a monthly review of millions of employer job opportunities, revealed that online recruitment came to a halt in Singapore in September last year. This was the second month in a row that no year-on-year growth in online hiring occurred.
With a plethora of online portals showcasing job vacancies, including Singapore’s own National Jobs Bank, the Monster findings appear to be at odds with more common HR thinking. That would suggest online recruitment remains a key hiring tool in Singapore and across Asia-Pacific, helping HR departments source for promising talent.
One of many platforms
HR leaders and recruitment experts HRM Asia spoke to were adamant that online recruitment was a crucial hiring resource for their respective organisations. However, it was just one of a range of platforms being utilised.
Eric Wong, Head of Talent Acquisition, Asia-Pacific, for wearable technology producer Fitbit, says his company hires candidates that have first connected with it through its own job website, external job boards and social media platforms.
“As we have a large population of candidates, we want to reach out to them through a strong online presence,” says Wong.
The ability to reach out virtually allows Fitbit to connect with a larger talent pool than might be available through more traditional recruitment channels.
Apart from online platforms, referrals, recruitment agencies, and universities form a key part of Fitbit’s overall hiring blueprint.
While acknowledging that no one recruitment channel is superior, Wong says that Fitbit ultimately aims to find the best possible candidate for each job.
“Thus, we look at the different channels as different means to reach out to a wider selection of candidates, therefore allowing us to have a slate of diverse and strong candidates for each role,” he says.
Likewise, Tarun Gulrajani, Head of HR – Asia-Pacific, for polymer processing company Rehau, is adamant that today’s complex business environment means organisations cannot rely on a single recruitment medium.
“If you really want to reach out to good and experienced talent, you have to spread the net wider,” he says, adding that organisations not tapping onto online hiring channels were “really missing out”.
He likens the practice to being in sales, where reaching out to as many potential customers as possible maximises the chance of closing a deal.
“It also helps to suss out the competition and the types of roles that exist in the market, as well as to understand your own bench strength,” says Gulrajani.
Having been in the furniture industry previously, Gulrajani notes that hiring for niche and not necessarily popular industries could be a huge challenge.
“It was not as easy as just talking to a headhunting company,” he says.
Gulrajani instead turned to an online recruitment site to publish a posting for a Sales Director role, and was subsequently able to hire a new leader for the Latin American market.
“It was quite a seamless experience and we were able to get good quality candidates,” he shares.
With the plastics sector also not among the most glamorous of industries, recruiting candidates for roles at Rehau can also be arduous.
Hence, the company undertakes a slew of recruitment efforts, from working exclusively with headhunting companies, to partnerships with universities and polytechnics, and attending and hosting job fairs. Gulrajani says the company also relies upon employee referrals, and is constantly connecting with people on a variety of online platforms.
Recruitment consultants also appreciate the value of online hiring channels, particularly for their ability to tap onto passive talents who are not actively pursuing new job opportunities.
Finian Toh, Associate Director – HR Practice, Kerry Consulting, says online recruitment is an important channel for filling HR positions in particular.
“Online job boards send alerts to candidates and reach out to not only active job seekers, but passive candidates too,” he says.
These platforms can also serve as branding tools, helping to promote a company as an employer of choice. “Additionally, they can easily target candidates from different geographical regions,” says Toh.
Bruno Marchand, Senior Manager – HR and Business Support divisions, Robert Walters, says online platforms have additional benefits for candidates.
“For job seekers, it is convenient for them to browse or apply for job postings with the click of a mouse or by tapping on a mobile application,” he says, adding that the evolution of recruitment has meant that companies can no longer hire candidates through newspapers or direct applications only.
“As we live in the digital age, using online hiring platforms will help us to reach out to a wider pool of potential candidates and clients,” he says.
“At the same time, we recognise that most companies now focus on building their employer branding by creating a strong online presence.” Job seekers are far more discerning today, and will routinely research a potential employer before making an application, so broader branding online is particularly vital for overall recruitment success.
Marchand says the value of referrals cannot be underestimated.
“While online hiring is a convenient and a common form of recruitment for HR departments, they still do rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted industry sources,” he says.
“This applies especially to cases when they are headhunting for management positions and would like to gain a better understanding of the candidate’s personality or proven work track record.”
Don’t forget the human touch
While online and digital channels are currently dominating recruitment practices, Sanjay Modi – Managing Director, Asia-Pacific and Middle East at Monster.com, says recruiters still have a very traditional role that requires a lot of face-to-face and networking.
“The human element doesn’t disappear completely,” he says. “But still, many are also turning to innovative hiring solutions to tap the best candidates.”
“While the paper resume still exists, technology is changing the way we search for and apply for jobs.”
Apart from campus drives and traditional advertisements, Modi says the most commonly used offline hiring platforms are internal job boards and employee referrals.
Toh says print advertising also continues to be an important recruitment channel.
“Print advertising is seen as genuine because few companies would go to the expense of putting an ad in print for a job that didn’t exist,” he says.
Recruitment efforts, be they online or offline, will not be fruitful if the employer has not first cultivated a strong company brand, Toh says. He stresses that company websites, serve as a “one-stop shop” for researching job-seekers.
“It’s very important to have a user-friendly and informative career site to deliver a cohesive brand image that reflects the company’s vision and values,” he says.
Gulrajani believes most HR departments would also incorporate these pages on to their organisation’s broader website.
“If a company has built a strong brand image, some talents may want to connect and reach out directly,” he adds.
Online job websites a big hit
A 2016 survey by recruitment firm Hays revealed the effectiveness of online job websites.
Fifty four percent of Singaporeans deemed online job websites to be the most successful way of garnering a new position.
This was followed by personal networking, including referrals and word of mouth, at 33%.
Meanwhile, social media sites, including LinkedIn, were considered the most effective job-seeking method by 13% of respondents.
Differentiating between online and e-recruitment
Sanjay Modi – Managing Director, Asia-Pacific and Middle East at Monster.com, says there is a common gap when it comes to understanding the differences between mere online hiring and “e-recruitment”.
“E-recruitment is a serious business,” he says.
"It involves a process: constant tracking, screening and selecting a candidate to make a suitable hire. There are various tools to address each of these functions."
Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.