Job-seekers click on the Internet

Web sites connect workers, employers quickly, efficiently

February 21, 2000|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Like many job-seeking college grads, Shaoqing An has tried the traditional routes -- smudging his fingers on the morning classifieds and stalking the aisles of job fairs.

So far, the only two job offers he's received have come across the computer screen at his southwest Baltimore apartment. Both were in response to the resume Shaoqing posted on the Internet after graduating in December from the University of Baltimore's business school.

"I spend a lot of time on the Internet," said Shaoqing, who turned down the job offers but continues to flood the Internet with digital copies of his resume. "It's very, very convenient. And it's free."

The Internet has become a powerful new tool in recruiting and job searching. Job-seekers such as Shaoqing are clicking their way through scores of new job-assistance Web sites. Some, like Monster.com and Careerpath.com, act as go-betweens for hundreds of thousands of jobs. Others cater to niche audiences: Cooljobs.com brokers fantasy jobs such as river guide and circus performer while 6figures.com promises big bucks.

Experts say the trend has benefits for job hunters and employers alike.

Companies now accept resumes, applications and even conduct interviews via the Internet. Job-seekers are learning more about the financial status and job opportunities of prospective employers as a result of research provided by online career counselors. And online recruiting is breaking geographic barriers, allowing a store manager in Baltimore to upload a resume onto the Internet and receive a job offer within days from, say, a Fresh Fields store in Seattle.

"It opens up a vast array of opportunities in other cities that weren't available before," said Helen LaVan, a professor of management at DePaul University in Chicago and an expert on job recruitment.

Hannah Mazo, a staffing consultant at Aetna U.S. Healthcare in Greenbelt, calls it "a whole new ballgame."

Mazo attended a job fair last week at Towson University, where she collected paper resumes. But she also told job-seekers to e-mail resumes to working@aetna.com.

"The large majority of resumes we receive come through our online site," Mazo said. "That is our preferred way of accepting applications."

A recent survey of 435 companies, conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, found that 25 percent of them were visiting colleges less often and that 9 percent of entry-level employees were hired through the Internet. High-tech companies surveyed said they hired 15 percent of their entry-level employees via the Internet.

As with any shift from traditional to new methods, there are risks. One is that companies might ignore intangible qualities such as communications and interpersonal skills, which are best gleaned in face-to-face interviews. Another is the potential for invasion of privacy.

By sharing their name, home address, phone number and personal information over the Internet, job-seekers risk having private information fall into the wrong hands, such as telemarketing firms. Workers have been fired when the company for which they were working found their resumes on an Internet job-search site.

Some Internet employment-assistance companies allow customers to post job inquiries anonymously to protect their privacy, said Michael Forrest, president of JobOptions and one of the pioneers of Internet recruiting.

"That's an area where we see huge opportunity," Forrest said.

Ed Potter of the Employment Policy Foundation in Washington believes that, overall, the trend bodes well for the economy. He says, for example, that baby boomers might be more inclined to retire if they feel confident that they can use the Internet to find part-time jobs or, if money gets tight, go back to work. That could open up more jobs to young workers.

"I'm hard-pressed to find a down side to all this," Potter said.

Some companies, including Target and Home Depot, have installed computer kiosks in their stores to enable potential employees to fill out a job survey, watch videos about the company and apply for work.

Lynn Canneti walked into the new Home Depot in Cockeysville on a Friday in January and asked for a job application.

"They said, `No, no, no. You don't fill out an application, you do it by computer now,' " said Canneti, who spent a half-hour completing the computer survey and was offered a job the next day.

"I thought it was a great way to apply for a job," she said. "Very convenient, very quick -- and you don't even have to dress up."

"One great advantage is, if a man or woman with expertise in plumbing applies for a job in Glen Burnie but we have a need for them in Towson, we can send them there," said Home Depot spokesman John Simley. "If you're still using paper, you're in the minority."

One drawback is that people without home computers do not have equal access, which is one reason Home Depot has installed computers in all its stores.

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