Report summary: e-Recruitment: Is it Delivering?

E-recruiting, embracing the term web-based recruiting, can be described as any recruiting processes that a business organisation conducts via web-based tools, such as a firm’s public internet site or its corporate intranet. We use the terms online recruitment, internet recruitment, and e-recruitment interchangeably.

This e-recruitment study set out to answer the following questions, using evidence-based research:

  • What are the overall trends in e-recruitment use and practice? Which parts of systems are web-enabled and what are the related benefits and challenges?
  • What is happening in practice? What are the e-recruitment methods that are being used, and what are the real experiences from organisations attempting implementation?
  • Does it work? How do organisations evaluate the success of their e-recruitment initiative?

There were four main phases to the project: a literature review, a survey, an IES Research Network event on e-recruitment, and a series of case studies. The survey provided the overview of use, while the case studies illustrated more in-depth analysis of some of the issues organisations are facing.

Trends in e-recruitment

There is growing evidence that organisations are using internet technology and the World Wide Web as a platform for recruiting and testing candidates. The IES survey of 50 organisations using e-recruitment reported that the primary drivers behind the decisions to pursue e-recruitment were to:

  • improve corporate image and profile
  • reduce recruitment costs
  • reduce administrative burden
  • employ better tools for the recruitment team.

Fifty-five per cent of respondents expected their organisation to reduce its use of other recruitment methods in the future. The key limiting factors to e-recruitment most frequently reported were:

  • the cultural approach of the organisation towards recruitment
  • the lack of knowledge of e-recruitment within the HR community
  • internet usage by target candidates
  • commitment of senior management.

Issues raised as causing concern with e-recruitment included the quantity and quality of candidates applying using web-based tools (eg organisations being inundated with CVs attached by email, many of whom were not suitable for the post), the relevance of shortlisting criteria (eg the validity and legality of searching by keywords), confidentiality and data protection, and ensuring diversity of applicants.

The trends in e-recruitment use suggest a changing landscape whereby in future the candidate is connected to the central system and there is involvement of the line manager in the process (see figure). In addition to the reported benefits such as cost efficiencies, the role of HR in this model is viewed as more of a facilitative role, in theory allowing time for recruiters to become involved in the strategic issues within resourcing.

Figure: The e-recruitment landscape

The e-recruitment landscape diagram

Source: IES

E-recruitment methods

Advertising job openings, tracking the source of applications, and online enquiry forms, were the most frequently used methods for attracting candidates. In many cases, web-based technology in selection and assessment is only being used by the most selection-sophisticated organisations that can afford the high start-up and maintenance costs. The IES survey reported that, out of the 50 organisations surveyed:

  • a large proportion were using online application forms (67 per cent)
  • only four per cent were using psychometric tests online.

There was wide variety in the extent to which online applications were structured, and also in how they were screened, eg electronically by keywords or manually. There exists a great deal of variation and less maturity in this part of the e-recruitment process in terms of application and use, than in the application of internet technology at the attraction stage of the process.

In terms of applicant tracking and workflow systems, of the 50 organisations surveyed, 78 per cent received CVs and application forms online, 49 per cent used email response letters, with 39 per cent using progress-tracking systems. Only nine per cent provided status reports to hiring managers.

Evaluating impact

The experiences of IES members suggest that the emergence of fundamentally new e-enabled recruiting processes not only increases the opportunities, but also the risks associated with the resourcing process. Hence, evaluation of those risks and benefits becomes more important. It is claimed that current measures of impact in this area focus on efficiency (input and output measures), as opposed to measures of effectiveness and quality of output. The evidence from the IES survey, which asked organisations to indicate which evaluation measures they used, suggests that the former is true. Number of successful applications, cost per hire and internet/intranet site traffic analysis, were the most frequently used measures in our sample; all input-output measures. Measures of quality were less evident.

Working with a small number of the case study organisations, a framework was developed and used as a mechanism for exploring the availability, and validity, of the data each organisation held on their staffing processes. The intention was to determine the usefulness of a supply-chain approach to measurement in making optimal investment decisions in e-recruitment systems, and in measuring the value of e-recruitment. The categories of measurement we explored with the participating companies were:

  • cost of recruitment and selection activities
  • time taken to fill
  • volume/yield
  • diversity and legal compliance
  • candidate and employer satisfaction
  • quality/value of the recruit.

IES case study members shared our conclusion that better information about the end-to-end process should lead to better decisions about any investment in e-recruitment. An evaluation approach linked to the staffing process, as ‘value chain’ we argue, is the way forward if organisations are going to truly understand the value of e-recruitment.

Implementation challenges

The findings from the survey indicated that key implementation challenges were the cultural approach of the organisation towards e-recruitment, and the lack of knowledge within the HR community. This has implications for training within HR to develop the capability to deliver e-recruitment, and also elsewhere within the organisation (eg at line manager level). Further implications of e-recruitment are that it may allow a more strategic role for HR. A compelling argument why online recruitment should be integrated sooner rather than later, is that it will serve to move the recruiter up the value chain, allowing them to be far more strategic. Finally, cultural and behavioural change was reported as the significant challenge in ensuring that e-recruitment delivers.

Assessing your organisation’s e-recruitment strategy

The experiences of Research Network members underline the complexity of considerations and possibilities of e-recruitment. The report also offers a series of self-assessment questions, which, if answered specific to your organisation and its HR function, provide the basis for an e-recruitment agenda.


What are the key messages from our research? In examining the findings, the key message for recruiters is to acknowledge that the adoption of e-recruitment is about more than just technology. It is about the recruitment system being able to attract the right candidate, the selection process being based on sound and credible criteria, and the tracking process being able to integrate with existing systems. Perhaps most significantly, e-recruitment is about cultural and behavioural change, both within HR and at line management level. From our evidence, we suggest that for e-recruitment to deliver, it is about developing the capability of HR to facilitate the system and to view the staffing process as an end-to-end process, similar to that of a supply-chain.