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Online Job Searching Sites are Clicking
Chris Russell, owner of AllCountyJobs.com

Chris Russell, owner of AllCountyJobs.com, said catering to job seeker·s immediate needs is the best strategy for growth online.

Chris Russell, president and founder of AllCountyJobs.com, recently overheard an employee recruiter at a trade show remark that she had managed to knock her advertising expenses down by $24,000 in one year, by switching many of her ads for employment opportunities from print outlets to online job boards.

It was a savings that didn’t surprise Russell, who has been working within the
online job search industry for six years. But it was a comment that showed him that others – employers and job seekers alike – are becoming more receptive to businesses like his own.

“It was a good testament to the fact that people are recognizing us more and more as a low-cost alternative to print advertising,” he said, noting that he is seeing that culture change firsthand. “Year after year, I’m gaining more clients.”

AllCountyJobs.com is the parent company of several regional job search sites, including a local offering, WesternMassWorks.com. Russell said his industry has seen plenty of change since he entered the online arena in 1999, but there are some key factors to which he attributes his own success – and that of his
competitors.

“A lot of sites have come and gone,” he said. “People often try to copy other sites when they see an opportunity like this on the Web that they think will be lucrative. But like anything else, you need to have a background in this business to succeed, in Web business, in Web design. Knowledge of effective job search techniques also doesn’t hurt.

“When people are searching for a job,” he offered as an example, “their first priority is targeting the area where they want to work. The second is using a search method that is simple and easy to use.”

The Net Niche

In short, Russell said those sites catering to job seekers that are thriving are those that have paid attention to those trends and others. And one thing people definitely don’t want, he added, is to waste time sifting through hundreds of job listings in which they have no interest.

He said that’s where some job search Web sites went wrong – they tried to reach a national market with one massive site, and succeeded only in overwhelming the public.

Elaborating further, Russell said targeting an audience means focusing on smaller audiences and using the vast World Wide Web as a tool, not trying to reach everyone at once simply because you can. He said serving as a resource for a concentrated group of job searchers was, in fact, the impetus for his business, based in Trumbull, Conn.

“I noticed the Monsters of the world were lumping Fairfield County jobs in with New York City jobs,” said Russell. “So I got started there: creating a site for Fairfield County, which would only include job listings for people looking for jobs in Fairfield County.”

Using the same model, Russell gradually added other regional sites to AllCounty’s repertoire, serving the Hartford, New Haven, and New London areas in Connecticut, theWestchester, Rockland, Duchess, and Putnam
counties of New York, and, most recently, Western Mass., with WesternMassWorks. He plans to add an Eastern Mass. site as well in the near future.

The business also capitalizes on niche markets such as health care, administration, and Web jobs, through separate job boards.

Bill Cloutier, executive vice president for RegionalHelpWanted.com, said his company also began in 1999, as one small, regional job board (HudsonValleyHelpWanted.com, still in existence) in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The firm now oversees operation of sites in 293 cities across the U.S. and Canada, most of which reflect the name of the region they serve, such as the local SpringfieldHelpWanted.com (in Canada, the ‘HelpWanted’ portion of the address is replaced by ‘JobShops’).

Cloutier agreed with Russell’s assessmennt of the current online job search market.

“Our vision of the market is that recruitment is a local business for the most part,” he said. “We felt we had to do something special to reflect that. So we’ve stayed focused on providing a conduit for seekers to find what they’re looking for, plain and simple.”

Digital Diversity

The gradual expansion of both online services has proven to be a good business model, as have the gradual changes to the sites themselves, all designed to cater to the needs and wants of job seekers.

RegionalHelpWanted includes a number of helpful resources for job seekers, such as articles from their resident ‘career guru,’ Peter Weddle, résumé services, and, like most online job boards, the ability to post an entire résumé right on the site for employers to view.

Cloutier said it’s all part of effectively serving both job seekers and employers, in order to maintain a reputation for results, although he noted that RegionalHelpWanted sites will typically shy away from some of the more trendy online job-seeking tools, such as personality tests.

“We look at ourselves as a quasi-public utility,” he said, “offering what people need without a lot of noise.”

Similarly, while he said the automated systems in place on job boards have become increasingly streamlined and simple to use for both job searchers and employers posting their vacancies, Russell has made the inclusion of a diverse set of resources one of the key facets of AllCountyJobs.

To keep up with the changing face of the Internet and the businesses thereon, he maintains his own job search news and job hunting Web sites accessible through each of the county- wide and niche market sites, and writes his own blog, secretsofthejobhunt.blogspot.com, offering job-hunting tips. He’s also in the process of creating a ‘recruitment referral network,’ a new tool being used by several large corporations nationwide, such as Boeing, to secure quality employees through referrals from current employees or others in the industry.

“The old adage is it’s who you know, not what you know,” Russell said, to explain the newest trend in job hunting. “Companies are finding that their best employees are often found through word of mouth.”

He has even written a book on job hunting: Ultimate Job Hunting Secrets: Essential Tricks, Tips, and Tactics for Today’s Job Seeker, and every new addition to his business, Web-based or otherwise, has served to increase the visibility and, more importantly, the use of his services.

Show Me the Money

But another variable that is contributing to the use of Web-based job searching tools, in addition to convenience and accessibility, is cost.

“Companies using print advertising could be spending $25,000 a year on recruitment,” Russell said, harkening back to that trade show conversation he overheard, “and only about $1,000 a year online. Plus, an employer can submit a one-time post for $99, and that’s attractive to people. I think it has a lot to do with my revenues slowly increasing, year after year.”

Cloutier added that the cost difference could be the most persuasive aspect of
online recruiting for businesses, in particular those with 250 employees or fewer, which have been averse to the practice in the past.

There’s still a large print advertising aspect to recruitment, he said, and online
job boards like those controlled by RegionalHelpWanted.com have yet to eclipse those resources when it comes to the number of employers posting jobs.

However, more and more companies are using newspaper and online classifieds in tandem, Cloutier said, contributing to what is a very gradual shift from newspaper to Web, not a dramatic change in the marketplace.But it’s a change, he said, that is definitely well on its way.

“Currently, only about 20% to 25% of expenditures occur online,” he said. “There is still a lot happening in print. But the experience is so much better online, according to job seekers and employers, that the growth is happening, and we’re seeing a gradual migration of dollars.

“I think there’s a security blanket in print that people are reluctant to give up,”
he added. “But what we’re seeing more of is people holding onto that Sunday newspaper ad, for instance, and substituting the ads they would have placed in weekday editions in the past with online placements.”

Cloutier also noted that online job boards can also target some sets of employers and job seekers more effectively than print outlets.

“One area in which print advertising still works for people is when a company has 20 openings, for example, they need to fill, and they need to cast a wide net. Where newspapers fail, though, is when a company only has one or two openings to fill. Even the size of the ads is restrictive at that point … the print is so small you can hardly read it.”

In addition, Cloutier said, online job boards are increasingly adept at capitalizing on a constituency he calls “passive job seekers.”

“And that’s just about everyone in America,” he said, explaining that such individuals are those who are not currently in transition, but are still surfing online job sites to keep tabs on new opportunities within their industries – essentially, keeping their options open.

“This group of people is really key, and they’re also easier to reach online than in print,” Cloutier said. “Online, the information is right there in front of them … on their computer screen, so they can log on any time and see what’s out there, at home, on the weekends… or on their lunch break.”

The Grapevine

The heaviest traffic hour for most job search sites, in fact, is between 11 and noon, Cloutier said, suggesting that job search Web sites are achieving that goal of reaching job seekers of all types, casual or otherwise,
across the board.

Russell commented that he might have overheard that somewhere, too.
Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

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