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NETworking

A tight job market and a growing Internet are driving a boom in online job listings.

By DAVE GUSSOW

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 1999


Fifteen months after starting work, Brad Peska has never met his boss face to face.

Peska posted his resume online for a class assignment, received an e-mail response, interviewed by telephone and got the job. The Stetson University student is in DeLand; the company he works for is in Boca Raton.

"I really don't think there was any possibility of finding out about a job like this" without going online, said Peska, who is working part time helping maintain computers for DeZines.com and will graduate in May with a degree in computer information systems. "It's been a very, very strange, yet rewarding, opportunity."

Driven by a tight job market and the growth of the Internet, those looking for work and those seeking workers are meeting online. The number of sites posting jobs for businesses and resumes for job hunters has increased dramatically.

The Web is not just a place to hunt for technology-related jobs, which dominated the segment a few years ago. Now, everything from blue-collar jobs to executive positions can be found online.

One sign that online job services are making a bold play for mainstream visibility: Two of the bigger companies, Monster.com (http://www.areermosaic.com) and Hot Jobs (http://www.hotjobs.com), paid top dollar to run offbeat commercials during the Super Bowl.

Monster.com of Maynard, Mass., says that users logged 2.2-milliion job searches in the 24 hours after its Super Bowl spot, compared to 500,000 in a similar period two weeks earlier.

Experts predict more growth. In 1998, 15,000 companies recruited online, a number that will grow to 124,000 by 2003, according to Forrester Research, a market research firm in Cambridge, Mass.

Online recruitment advertising totaled $105-million last year. That is still little more than a rounding error when compared with $8-billion for print advertising in the job category. But online spending will increase to $1.7-billion by 2003, Forrester predicts, with much of the increase coming at the expense of print advertising, such as newspapers, trade publications and magazines.

Forrester analyst Chris Charron says online advertising has the appeal of speed (companies can post jobs faster and respond to applicants quicker), unlimited space (for detailed listings) and lower cost.

A single job posting on CareerMosaic costs a company $160 for 30 days, about what it would cost to run a four-line ad in a large newspaper for three days.

"In our research, it clearly is becoming a preferred venue for classifieds, for both advertisers and consumers," Charron said.

To defend their classified advertising turf, some newspapers created a Web site (http://www.careerpath.com) to post ads.

The St. Petersburg Times puts its classifieds online at http://www.sptimes.com as well as posting job openings at the newspaper. The Times is studying options such as joining CareerPath, according to Mike Foley, vice president of corporate affairs.

"One of the reasons we're not panicking is that newspaper classifieds work," said Foley. Describing online job postings as one of several approaches employers are trying, he noted the newspaper has sponsored a series of job fairs to help employers attract interest at a time of high employment.

Ken Allen, executive vice president and chief executive of the National Newspaper Association in Arlington, Va., says smart newspapers will offer consumers both print and online options. "I think there are some newspapers that are concerned," Allen said. "I'm not sure I consider it a major threat. I think it's another delivery method."

He pointed out that the community newspapers that make up his organization have 150-million readers a week, far more than the 25-million to 30-million online users in the United States.

But there is no questioning the appeal of online recruitment to many employers.

Natalie Vaiser, Peska's boss at DeZines.com and the Web hosting company's chief technical officer, says the company does most of its recruiting online, which expands the talent pool the company can use. It has hired two other staffers without meeting them in person.

"I didn't feel uncomfortable with that at all," she said.

Bernard Hodes, president and chief executive of Bernard Hodes Advertising, which places recruitment advertising, saw the trend early when Silicon Valley clients started asking him to post jobs online. He created CareerMosaic (http://www.careermosaic.com) about five years ago. The site, the firm says, attracts about 3.9-million visitors a month.

"When we created our site, we had no model," Hodes said. "We created a model out of thin air. Everybody's followed suit."

While he can't cite statistics to prove it, Hodes said, "Clients are doing very, very well. People are getting jobs."

Many of the job sites offer free services to job hunters, such as allowing them to post resumes online, in addition to free access to the ads that companies pay to post. Some offer search agents that check data bases for openings that meet a job hunter's criteria and send e-mail responses on the findings.

Linda Natansohn, vice president of consumer marketing at Monster.com, says it has more than 1-million personal resumes in its data base, which stay posted up to a year, then can be reposted with updated information. "We want to make sure they're marketing themselves the best they can," she said.

Some sites also are making it easier for job hunters to learn about the places where they might relocate. For example, engineering companies in Syracuse, N.Y., collaborated on http://www.davincitimes.org, which lists job openings, as well as information about the area's "lifestyle."

As with anything related to the Internet, though, sorting through the vast quantities of information can be daunting. One measure of how much, useful and otherwise, is out there: Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler reviewed thousands of job sites for their book, Career Xroads (http://www.careerxroads.com), now in its fourth printing, to list what they consider the top 500.

Posting a resume online or applying electronically doesn't necessarily guarantee a response -- or even that a human being will look at it. Some companies use software robots or filtering software to search job data bases, scrolling right past resumes if they don't include particular keywords.

EDiX Corp., a medical transcription services company in Clearwater, has been recruiting online for about 18 months, according to human resources manager Michael Andersen.

"You do get a good response, especially for the price," said Andersen, who estimated that a recent online posting received 100 responses.

EDiX hires 40 to 50 people a month based on its online recruiting, Andersen estimated, with the company interviewing and testing by phone. Since many of its employees work at home, they are brought in for training after they are hired.

The Internet "really has expanded by a factor of 10 the number of ways employers and job-seekers can find one another," Crispin said. "We're just beginning to learn some of the terms and technology. Those who are making the investment in it are getting the rewards."

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