Driven smart professional seeks same

Businesses use different strategies to find best employee match, many turn to Web

Every company has strategies to fill job openings and snag the best employees. Filling the proverbial tool box with the right tools is not an easy task, or one for which there’s a one-size-fits-all approach.

In 2005, 51 percent of Washington employers reported having difficulty finding qualified job applicants, according to data collected by the Washington Training and Education Coordinating Board.

The number is down from 60 percent in 2001 but up from 45 percent in 2003. In Clark, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum and Skamania counties, slightly fewer employers – 44 percent – reported difficulty. Benton and Franklin counties, where the Tri-Cities is located, showed the least trouble in 2005 with just 15 percent of employers reporting difficulty.

The bottom line? Companies have to be on the top of their recruiting game.

Vancouver-based Event 1 Software has traveled a long, bumpy road to find an employee-search method that works.

The small specialty software development company that opened in 1998 used to rely on newspaper ads. But placing ads in The Oregonian proved to be overwhelming.

"We got hundreds of responses from people applying for every job in the paper," said Ian Crane, vice president of operations. "Just to run the front desk, we’d get 500 applications. That’s a lot to wade through."

From there, the eight-employee operation tried temporary agencies, which failed to turn up quality employees. Paid staffing services yielded the same results.

It wasn’t until the boom of Craigslist.org, a city-specific, no-cost online classified service, that Event 1 started finding better candidates.

Craigslist has become a popular tool in many industries because it’s free, sector-specific and companies don’t have to be large to bring in a large number of applications, said Tony Johnson, president of TJ & Assoc., a La Center-based business offering custom services in recruiting, business and human resources consulting.

But its local popularity may soon see a downside. Craigslist has introduced fees for posting some ads in heavily-saturated areas such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego.

But according to data on the Craigslist Web site, the fees are minimal compared to other national job-posting sites. It costs $25 to post a job opening in Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Diego, New York, Los Angeles and Boston – $75 in San Francisco. An ad on Monster.com costs $395 and one on CareerBuilder.com is $359.

According to data released in November by New Office Temps Ltd., one of Chicago’s leading recruitment process outsourcing firms, ads placed on CareerBuilder.com brought in 69 applications per posting compared to 51 per posting on Craigslist, seven on Monster and two on HotJobs.com. But Craigslist’s page views per day far outnumber those on the other sites.

Most industries have job Web sites, such as JournalismJobs.com and Dice.com for technology jobs, which have shown success.

"Obviously Dice is good for technology folks but not accounting," Johnson said. "But then you have sites like Monster, which has tried to be everything to everyone, and I’m not sure how successful that’s been."

Personalization has been key for Event 1, and the company found no better way than personalizing job searches than with WorkSource, Crain said.

WorkSource has a business services unit that works with local businesses specifically to help them find the qualified employees they need at no cost.

Employers are able to fill out questionnaires about what sort of employee they’re looking for and the job gets posted on the WorkSource Web site. Then potential applicants can be screened by WorkSource for personality and skills.

The screens can be quite specific, said Holly Parkin, account representative for WorkSource in Vancouver.

"It’s kind of nice for the employer because they’re not getting a bombardment of people and don’t have to do it themselves," she said. "We run the whole gamut from entry level to high level positions. And because we’re WorkSource, we’re really hooked into the industry and are connected."

WorkSource used to be a public unemployment office, but was privatized in 2002 and since has earned a reputation of being highly successful both for businesses and those out of work.

From its Web site, Event 1 directs potential applicants to the WorkSource Web site then takes the results of the WorkSource screen and matches it against the profile of the job the company is trying to fill, Crain said.

"It’s not an exact predictor, but it helps to get a feel for people," he said. "We’re able to make better hiring decisions.
Other local businesses said the quality and number of responses can depend on the position that needs to be filled and the method by which it’s advertised.

"For an admin job, I can put an ad in the local paper and get 150 responses," said Tami Skiles, corporate human resources manager for PBS Engineering & Environmental. "But for a geotechnical position, I can advertise on Craigslist, Oregonlive.com and the papers and get maybe three responses."

PBS Engineering & Environmental is a multi-disciplinary engineering and environmental consulting firm that employs 140 people in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, the Tri-Cities and Eugene, Bend and Bandon, Ore.

The company starts by identifying its need and the best place to market that need. Skiles said she’s advertised on Craigslist for about a year, and has had a great response. Current employees who spread the word about open positions also bring success.

"The best advertisement is people who work here," she said.

When advertising in local newspapers, ensuring the ad will also appear online is key, Skiles said. Some newspapers charge an extra fee for an online counterpart, but she said the money is worth it.

"With our society the way it is, if you can get it online, it’s going to be more successful," she said.

Crain added that the "standard" newspaper route is always used on top of online posts at Event 1.

United Road, a national trucking company with offices and 150 employees in Vancouver, places newspaper ads, takes part in job fairs and gives presentations at schools with truck driving programs, said human resources manager Jamie Herzog.

Job fairs offer great opportunities to talk to more experienced drivers, but visiting schools has proved the most successful, she said.

The company does job searches about three times a year and has not had a problem finding qualified employees.

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