Feature: Agencies virtually lure job seekers

As the Internet swiftly becomes important to finding and hiring employees in the private sector, some federal agencies also are aggressively going online to lure job seekers, while others are doing little on the Web to sell themselves.

Agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Energy Department (DOE) are using the Web as an integral part of their human resources departments.

Gerald Venanzi, a program analyst with DOE's human resources department, said the agency recently redesigned its Web site for job openings. The redesign marks one step in what for DOE will be a continuous effort to improve job recruiting by using the Internet, he said.

"The caliber of individual we want to come work at the Department of Energy is going to be looking on the Internet for jobs," he said. "So we've taken that to heart and have tried our best to make a significant presence on the Web."

The department recently launched a search engine (http://www.ma.doe.gov/pers/doejobs.htm) that enables prospective candidates to search for jobs using criteria such as location or job title. The search engine has been used more than 27,000 times since it was unveiled in June.

The department also developed a map of the United States that uses icons for all DOE facilities. Click on the Albuquerque, New Mexico facility, for example, and find out what jobs are available at the facility and learn more about what kind of work DOE employees perform there.

In addition, some agencies within the department allow people to apply for jobs online. Venanzi said the department wants to see more opportunities for applying for jobs online. In addition, discussion about encouraging the practice department wide "is in the mill now. That's what we want to do in the future," Venanzi said.

The department also would like to see more benefits information on job Web sites and more material about "how [people] can make a contribution to the nation" by working for DOE, he said.

An IRS official said the agency has had great success advertising for jobs using online services such as Monster.com (http://www.monsterboard.com) and HotJobs.com (http://www.hotjobs.com). In one hiring campaign, the official said the online advertisements led to hundreds of online replies. The agency advertised the same jobs in the Washington Post classifieds section, which was more expensive, and it received far fewer responses to the advertisements, the official said.

The agency's jobs Web page (http://www.irs.gov/hot/employment/index.html), offers information about current job openings. It also highlights some of the benefits of working for the IRS and of government service in general.

The IRS official said that including a bulk of information about the IRS on its Web site saves taxpayers money, because for every potential job candidate who mails in a resume, IRS workers must pull paper information describing benefits and other pertinent information, they must put the material into an envelope, and the IRS must pay for the postage to send the letter to the job seeker.

DOE has created a large Web presence because using the Internet is cost-effective, and it is where people are looking for jobs, Venanzi said.

Government employers, just like employers in the private sector, should take advantage of the Internet as an important tool in their human resources arsenal, said Gerry Crispin, an international expert on online recruiting.

Job recruitment online is exploding, said Crispin, co-author of CareerXroads, an annual, best-selling directory of the 500 best job, resume and career-management sites on the Internet.

"Every corporation has a task force focused on e-commerce, and they all recognise that part of their recruitment strategy is to use the Internet to make their company more attractive and the recruitment process more productive and efficient," he said. "Increasingly, the highest transfers of resumes comes not through the mail, not through fax machines, but through e-mail and other online forms."

A recent study by Hanrick Associates, an Internet consulting firm, found that 80 percent of graduating students seeking corporate jobs check company Web sites before submitting resumes and that nearly 60 percent say information on corporate Web sites influences their decisions on whether to apply for a job.

But some agencies have yet to develop their sites to recruit online. The Agriculture Department has not yet developed a high-profile job-recruitment effort online, but the department must create one, said Ira Hobbs, deputy chief information officer for the department.

Hobbs, who also is co-chairman of a committee of the CIO Council that examines workplace issues, was involved with the CIO Council's issuance this summer of a report detailing IT work force needs in the federal government and proposing a strategic plan to tackle the issue. Among other things, the study called for more use of the Internet to find new hires.

The USDA generally is approaching online recruiting passively, not interactively, Hobbs said. "Interactive is the way you want to go, where people can send their resumes online," he said. "That's where we all want to go."

But while using the Internet to drum up job candidates may become standard for government in the future, effective online recruiting is not easy to accomplish, said John Putzier, president of FirStep Inc., a Pennsylvania-based human resources consulting firm. Putzier also is chairman of High Tech Net, a professional group for human resources workers in information technology.

"Some companies have really mastered the art [of recruiting via the Web], and others are just floundering," Putzier said. "Some companies, because they are so desperate for IT workers, widen the net they are casting so they have to go through a lot of unqualified candidates. It's not an economical technology if you use the shotgun approach."

Crispin, who has studied private- and public-sector online job recruiting, said the federal government remains "traditional" in its approach to finding new employees.

"That's a serious mistake," he said. "If the seeker came to the [federal] site, would they be engaged? Probably not. Job seekers have choices now, so you have to market your jobs, not just list them."

Many federal agencies do little more than post job openings through the Office of Personnel Management's online job board, http://www.usajobs.opm.gov.

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