Aggressive, Yet Subtle

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - Passive job candidates - those who aren't looking for something new but would receptively listen to a great offer - remain the most highly prized catch by recruiters.

The techno-savvy recruiters navigate the Internet maze looking for these people, who represent a proverbial pot of gold. Their résumés don't appear on the job boards, but their names and activities on the Internet signal talent in myriad other ways.

According to Hanover, New Hampshire-based Intelligent Search, which conducts Advanced Internet Recruitment Strategies (AIRS) seminars, companies currently fill 30 percent to 40 percent of job openings by recruiting. Just a few years ago, this number was much smaller. Recruiting firms are more aggressive, and human resources groups operate more like recruiters.

Understanding how technical recruiters use the Internet to find passive candidates and what they're looking for provides great insight into how you can discreetly position yourself to be found. Passive job hunters no longer need to be passive. They can be quite aggressive in their passivity.

Pay attention to the advice AIRS gives to recruiters, suggests Mike Foster, president of Intelligent Search. This way, everyplace recruiters search for candidates, they'll find your name. "If you build a home page," Foster adds, "register it with the top eight search engines, make sure its spiders/robots can find you, then you're golden."

Build an Interesting Home Page

Online recruiters know that a personal home page often tells them more about a candidate than a résumé. And they cull through virtual communities to find them.

If you want to be discovered, build a home page and organize it as a business would. Merely posting a résumé makes you look just like everyone else on a job board. A home page should provide a creative snapshot of a full range of personal and business interests.

Kirk Sears, co-owner of recruitment firm Wilmington Group in Wilmington, North Carolina, says his clients are looking for well-rounded people with business knowledge, not just mercenary programmers who can swoop in for $100 per hour. A good home page tells him a great deal about a person and his interests outside of work: Does he run triathlons? Is he an amateur photographer? If your friends would find these tidbits interesting, so would a good recruiter.

If you really want to catch Sears' eye, he recommends that you associate your name with your projects. If you've worked on one that received a lot of press, link to those articles. Make it easy for him to find your accomplishments. Make it easy for him to learn more about your company and its accomplishments. "It's hard for people to brag, but it's a mistake not to," says Sears.

Bruce Ellsworth, a recruiter at Pyxis Corp. in San Diego, looks at lots of home pages. He explains, "We're looking for content, not bells and whistles." That may be tougher advice for technologists to hear, because their home pages resemble technical experiments. Apply the same design principles to your home page that a company would; if the page is hard to download, then people won't look at it.

Include an E-Mail Address

The bit of content that every recruiter really wants is your e-mail address, and a phone number if you're willing. The really smart recruiter wants to converse with you about long-term goals. Even if you aren't the perfect fit today, who knows what openings will appear tomorrow?

Sue Weiss, whose Silicon Valley-based firm, Weiss Group, recruits management teams for pre-initial-public-offering companies, recommends that you "look well-rounded, not just technical. Show your business sense, your common sense."

"IT people are the worst at networking," Weiss adds, "and you can quote me on that." Which brings up another interesting point: The age-old job-hunting advice about building and staying in contact with a network of people remains just as relevant in the online world. People who don't publish and who don't belong to professional associations, user groups or newsgroups also don't show up on the Internet. Subsequently, they won't show up on an Internet recruiter's radar screen.

Include Links

Home pages should link to any organization that might signal some expertise; these links can be to an alumni directory, a professional organization or your current company.

Recruiters use a search technique called flipping. Mark Mehler, co-author of a book on Internet job-hunting titled CareerXroads 2000, explains that this technique can get recruiters closer to a community of qualified candidates.

Flipping finds pages linked to a specific company or professional organization.

Do the following advanced search: and add the term resume in the keywords box. What appears is a list of sites that link to the professional organization and include résumés.

Find a Convenient Location

Once you've built a creative, interesting home page and linked it to all the right places, you have to put the site where recruiters can find it. They typically comb the virtual community sites, such as Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire and Xoom.

Placing a home page at such sites may be anathema to a software engineer who doesn't need the sites' page-building tools and find the ads annoying. Keep in mind, however, that the point isn't to impress your techie buddies, but to be available for a date when an online recruiter comes courting.

The Final Search

Recruiters use search engines to cull through home pages in these communities.

Be sure that the top eight search engines will find your page, because these handle approximately 95 percent of all Web traffic. When defining the meta-tags that these engines will reference, use words that describe skills you have and want to use.

Be sure to index your home page in a number of ways, especially if you're changing directions or acquiring new skills.

Note that the search engine for certain community sites, such as Yahoo, will pick up only the first three to five words on a home page. And most spiders review only the first 100 words on a page. Try to subtly work in a summary of skills at the top of your home page.

Stewart Morris, president of Stewart Morris Associates Inc. in Santa Monica, California, recommends that you think about how someone would search for a position that you might like to have. Do that search and see if and where your name comes up. Morris also suggests posting the date when you last updated your résumé and spelling out your certifications in addition to including the acronyms.

Be Active

Although home pages are the primary sourcing mechanism for online recruiters, they aren't the only one. Online recruiters comb user groups for candidates, and the more specific the user group, the better.

Tracy Claybrooke, president of Claybrooke and Associates Inc. in Tampa, Florida, suggests that passive job seekers be included in professional associations' listings.

"Be visible, publish if you can, write articles in newsgroups," Claybrooke says. In other words, make sure your name appears on the Internet in association with your business and technical interests, as well as your geographic preference.

Kirk Sears, back in Wilmington, reviews newsgroups to see who knows what and how active they are. "Newsgroups aren't used as often because they take time [to cull through]. ... We've had good luck."

Sears points out that the people who take time to be involved in newsgroup conversations are typically the more outgoing, helpful types, i.e., high-quality passive candidates.

For people who have been deluged with calls because their name appeared as a reference on a job board, the fear of being overwhelmed with recruiting calls looms. As Sue Weiss says, "It's not about getting more calls, but better calls."

Job-hunting for the employed is like dating for the single: Being a wallflower won't get you to the dance floor.

Shand is a freelance writer in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Advice to the Manager: Fighting Off RecruitersOnline recruiting techniques take advantage of a manager's key retention tools: public acknowledgment of work well done and opportunities for employees to learn new skills and network outside the company.

Mark Mehler, co-author of CareerXroads 2000 (Jist Works, 2000), says, "Companies make it too easy for recruiters by putting employee names and e-mail addresses on the Web site." Attempts to shield employees from online recruiters may annoy them more than it stymies the recruiters.

Defensive Tactics

-- Flipping: Recruiters search for pages linked to a company's domain. Create a policy against linking to the corporate site and have someone check it.

-- Mining newsgroups: Recruiters review conversation threads to find experts, then contact them via e-mail. Ask employees not to use company e-mail when participating in newsgroups, so it's more difficult to trace their activities on the Internet.

-- Searching home pages: Recruiters may contact people based on information on home pages. If you link to home pages on the corporate Web site, make sure they are behind the firewall. Otherwise, these pages can be found by flipping.

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