As executive chef at the Eagles Bar & Grille in the chic ski resort of Telluride, Colo., Sergio A. Verduzco takes pride in mixing traditional American dishes with trendy Southwestern flavors. And when he needed a new sous-chef, he used the same mixture of old and new. First he placed ads in newspapers and at culinary schools. Then he posted a help-wanted notice in the jobs section of StarChefs, a popular Web site for professional cooks and other foodies (www. starchefs.com).
The ad talked up the chance to learn cutting-edge cooking amid the glorious San Juan Mountains and pointed to the restaurant's own Web site for details. Within a month, about 20 qualified candidates had responded from as far as Germany--twice as many as answered the old-fashioned ads. Verduzco hired a Web respondent--and marvels at how easy the whole thing was. "You fill in your electronic form, you post it in seconds. It's unbelievable," he says. "But what really blew me away was that the service was free."
That's not all. Online recruiting can put you ahead of small-business competitors and on equal footing with major corporations. Last year, only about 6% of small companies with Internet connections used them to search for employees, according to a survey by the Arthur Andersen Enterprise Group. Big business, meanwhile, has seized the opportunity: A 1997 survey by the American Management Assn. found 53% of major companies filling job openings from the Net.
ONLINE JOB FAIRS. There's no one best way to search for talent in cyberspace--it depends who you are, what you're looking for, and how much you're willing to spend. Best known are the commercial career sites, such as CareerMosaic and The Monster Board, where businesses of all stripes post help-wanted listings. Typically, the recruiter pays the freight. At The Monster Board, $175 buys a single posting for 60 days; at CareerMosaic, it's $150 for 30 days. Recruiters can spend thousands of dollars for more specialized services. Among them: Searching by keyword and credential in The Monster Board's resume catalog or participating in CareerMosaic's virtual job fairs.
Mark E. Chatow, vice-president of marketing for Roundhouse Products Inc. in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., used The Monster Board to find a head of operations for his 75-person company, a manufacturer of CD carrying cases. Just days after he posted the job, nearly 100 people had submitted resumes by E-mail, and 10 to 12 applicants merited an interview. "It's inexpensive enough that you can experiment and see if it works for your business," he says. Plus, he notes, the Net gives a quick feel for the market.
Less known, but also effective, are places on the Net that cost nothing. The Web sites of alumni groups and trade and professional associations, as well as topical sites such as StarChefs, often post listings gratis. So do many of the Net's 250,000 "listserves"--electronic discussion groups that route E-mail to their members (table). Some of the thousands of loosely organized Internet newsgroups, coalescing around every possible topic, allow job postings, too.
It was old school ties that helped Jack L. Orchard find candidates last year for a position as a Russian-speaking investment officer. Orchard is chief investment officer for UFG-Croesus Advisors Ltd., a Moscow-based asset-management firm with 15 employees that helps foreigners invest in the former Soviet Union. A graduate of Harvard and Stanford universities, Orchard simply tapped into BranchOut, a Web site that promotes networking among school and corporate alumni. Among other things, BranchOut offers free job boards and a fee-based resume service that culls member profiles to find appropriate prospects. Orchard posted his listing on a section for graduates of elite schools and drew about 25 responses. Many had outstanding qualifications. "This is an electronic version of networking," Orchard observes.
CUT AND PASTE. Web-based businesses, of course, were among the first to recruit online, and the practice is still paying off. Just ask Robert L. Clyatt, chief executive of Web design studio I/O, 360 Inc. In a week, Clyatt snagged both a publicist and a programmer for his 25-person shop in New York by posting virtual ads. A recruiter, he says, would have cost him $20,000. "I'm a one-man crusade against paying headhunters' fees," he says.
Listserves--generally nonprofit and run by volunteers--get little attention but can be particularly useful. Through E-mail, they reach out to potential recruits who might not be job-hunting. Moreover, messages can be cut, pasted, and forwarded to others who might be. Eve R. Lindemuth often turns to LANTRA-L, a listserve for translators, when her employer, Language Management International Inc., needs specialty freelancers. Lindemuth, manager of worldwide translator relations at the 100-person firm in Englewood, Colo., cautions that headhunters must follow a list's "Netiquette." Some lists don't allow job notices. Others include guidelines for them in their rules. When in doubt, ask the list moderator.
If you use a service such as America Online Inc., you might post jobs in discussion areas and on electronic bulletin boards. When William C. Hudgins, editorial director of Hammock Publishing Inc. in Nashville, wanted articles for Road King, a truck-stop magazine he edits, he solicited authors through a forum for outdoor writers on CompuServe Inc.--and quickly corralled 8 to 10 expert scribes.
The narrower your specialty, the more useful a trade association's Web site may be. One example: the "leasing career exchange" on the Web site of the Equipment Leasing Assn. of America (www.elaonline.com), a group for businesses that finance equipment acquisitions. For $295 ($495 for nonmembers), you can post listings for jobs ranging from credit analyst to marketing director. It can't hurt to link from a trade group site to your company's own Web site. If you don't have one, you might consider collaborating with other businesses. Or you could form a consortium: That's what about 28 Rochester (N.Y.) enterprises did at SmartDog, a Web site aimed at attracting high-tech professionals to upstate New York (www. smartdog.org).
If the possibilities overwhelm you, consult Career- Xroads, a directory that covers 500 job sites. Co-author Mark Mehler suggests nervous tenderfeet learn the virtual ropes at a public library. Want to know even more? Try a recruitment firm's seminar. Tampa-based Claybrooke and Associates Inc., for example, charges $495 for one-day sessions held around the country. Mehler and his co-author, Gerry Crispin, give workshops for $595 sponsored through the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations in New York. Or consider following Mehler's advice to hire college kids; their Web skills usually beat those of a personal manager.
Certainly, online recruiting isn't without its problems. Postings can prompt a blizzard of resumes in your E-mail in-box and fax machine. And if you're skittish about competitors parsing your business plans, avoid posting sensitive job descriptions.
But trawling for workers on the Net may soon be more a necessity than an option. Within five years, predicts Robert Thrisk, director of Stanford's career placement center, some "95% of jobs will be posted on the Internet." The percentage of job seekers looking online won't be far behind.