Time to climb on the mobile bandwagon

Recruiters have traditionally held back from using mobile technology because of cost and spee

Recruiters have traditionally held back from using mobile technology because of cost and speed limitations — but the advent of smart phones and 3G is set to change all that. Sue Weekes explains

The old jobseeking adage, it's always easier to find a job when you're in a job, may be true in theory but not in practice.

Whether it's fielding calls from a recruiter or making a secret search on a job board, the confines of a 9-to-5 day don't make it easy for jobseekers to pursue potential career opportunities during working hours. Introduce a mobile phone into the process, however, and it becomes a different matter.

Candidates can discreetly register their interest in a position at the earliest opportunity, dedicated mobile (.mobi) job sites allow them to search vacancies on the move, while WAP alerts can notify an individual about an appropriate position as soon as it becomes available, drastically reducing the time it takes to generate applications for the client.

Mobile technology is a hot topic in recruiting circles at the moment, but in practice it is still early days. Westley Gillard, founder of Zappy Mobile, which has helped agencies and job boards such as ATA Selection, MyJobGroup, Pfj and SecsintheCity develop mobile sites, admits that recruiters aren't quite at the "early adopters" stage yet, but he believes recruitment will be the first big corporate marketing use of mobile technology and one of the biggest non-premium rate services, putting it up there alongside property, car-buying and travel as key sectors when the mobile internet reaches critical mass.

Need for privacy

"Mobile technology will be increasingly important for any sector where there is a need for constant or continual access to information to combat the fear of loss," he says. "Recruitment is one of these because the fear of loss comes from not being able to get a response from a candidate. Using mobile phones to access recruitment-based content quickly also fits with the candidate's need for privacy."

Tim Carrigan, CEO of Ad.IQ Global, has no doubt about the mobile phone's fit for recruitment. His company has developed a mobile response service that makes use of voice, the mobile internet and SMS messaging channels, and which is used across a number of sectors, including recruitment.

"We came to the market with the perspective that mobile is a useful technology for any marketeer. It can help you gauge the return on an ad, it offers a way for the consumer to respond and helps manage a dialogue with the customer," Carrigan says. "And this applies directly to the challenge of recruitment advertising.".

The mobile internet has had its share of false dawns, but a number of factors suggest it's getting closer every day. The introduction of flat-rate data tariffs mean cost is no longer a barrier to usage, and smart phones such as Apple's iPhone are capturing the imagination. For Gillard, the fact that many handsets in the UK now offer 3G [3rd generation] processing speeds is one of the most significant developments. "It overcomes the major historic issue of mobile internet browsing, which was seen as a slow and poor experience," he says.

The mobile recruiting stage, it seems, is set, and those agencies and job boards that believe in innovating and being seen to be at the cutting edge haven't wasted any time in laying the foundations for this future. Professional recruitment consultancy and IT services outsourcing provider Harvey Nash has had a site tailored for mobile phones for several years, but recently made the headlines by being the first recruitment company to offer a service for the iPhone.

In just four weeks it was already boasting more than 11,000 visitors and as well as the ability to search for jobs, the site offers individuals career advice when they need it, explains business systems director Rob Grimsey.

For example candidates can access common interview questions on their way to an interview or, at the end of a bad day at the office on the commute home, a values-based test to help an employee assess whether they should stay in their current job or look for another. "We want it to be able to hit people in the place and at the time they need this advice," says Grimsey.

Onine applications

One of the debates among recruiters experimenting in mobile environments is whether to give candidates the facility to apply online.

Research carried out by Zappy Mobile revealed that around half the respondents preferred the ability to apply for jobs on their handsets on the spot and the remaining 50% preferred to send the job from their mobile to their inbox so they could give more consideration to their application and CV.

Glenn Chapman, managing director of the network of regional job sites MyJobGroup, one of Zappy's clients, is about to launch the mobile site on its oldest job boards (My Manchester, My Leeds, My Sheffield and My Birmingham) and this includes facility to apply online. When a registered user of its site sees a job on the mobile site for which it wants to apply, the MyJob servers are sent a signal to send the CV from its database to the employer.

"We held a focus group and some clients were worried that they would just get a lot of names and no CVs, so we have responded to this," says MyJobGroup managing director Glenn Chapman. "We can also push job alerts out to our users."

Not everyone is convinced of the need to directly apply for a job from a mobile phone, however. Dimitris Mouzourou, marketing manager of Pfj (which specialises in media, IT and digital jobs) and subsidiary the Graduate Recruitment Company, says that whether it adds an 'apply' facility will depend on two factors: feedback from clients on its current service and advances in usage of the mobile internet by general consumers.

The company likes the current simplicity of its current site, which was set up more than a year ago and allows jobseekers to search for jobs by keyword or by sector and location. While you can't apply directly, it allows candidates to view full details of a job and send a message to the consultant regarding the role to request further information.

It also allows candidates to sign up for SMS job alerts, and a direct feed from the Pfj website means that the mobile site is updated as soon as a new job is uploaded.

"It's perfect for letting candidates know about last-minute jobs as they can't be expected to be sat at their PC awaiting an email, and calling each appropriate candidate can be quite a long process. SMS alerts are an ideal medium for communicating these roles, whether they be exhibition sales or editorial roles," says Mouzourou.

"For the media, IT and digital sectors that we recruit for, highlighting how we embrace technology is key and we will continue to develop the service and offerings to candidates and clients, constantly taking feedback from customers via our blogs."

Speed of response from job alerts is also one of the benefits cited by the online job noticeboard SecsintheCity, which specialises in secretarial, PA and administrative jobs.

Instant response

Marketing manager Simon Prince explains that because it can segment its database in numerous ways such as location, salary requirements or availability for work, it can send highly-targeted WAP alerts and get an instant response from the client. "It would be very hard to do this without a .mobi site," he says. "One of the things we want to do is send out job information to candidates and also job ads with our branding."

Due to the limitations of SMS, namely not being able to send out more than 160 characters in one message as well as no scope for graphical content, Gillard believes WAP job alerts are the way forward.

"You can provide the job hunter with all the information needed to make a decision by sending a full job spec, as well as make it extremely simple to respond and generate interest in the jobs by offering simple calls to action," he says. "In addition you get to transmit your brand logo consistently and professionally to your job hunters."

He adds that one of his clients sent an alert out to 150 matched, registered candidates unannounced and received an open/view rate of 27% within three hours, along with three good applications. "Their feedback was that pound for pound, the response using mobile WAP alerts was better than using one of their preferred job boards."

CV Library, another of its clients, has developed a facility that allows it to send matched WAP job alerts out to jobseekers on behalf of their advertisers. In recent campaigns it has received 12% application rates on average from, typically, 20% view rates. "So we know the medium works and works well," says Gillard. "As their job hunters become more familiar and accepting with this channel, it is likely that the view rates and apply rates will increase significantly."

Simon Prince has also found that WAP alerts have proven most successful for promoting the SecsintheCity.com .mobi site. Raising the site's profile is a major part of its current strategy and is also paying off for its main site. "We're getting around 5,000 unique users a month and we've had people register on the main site having visited the .mobi site first," he says.

The future certainly looks mobile even though the reality isn't quite there yet. Recruiters that may have built their mobile site initially as a differentiator are already seeing tangible benefits. Gillard believes 2008 still offers scope for those who want to "get in first" and predicts 2009 could mark the turning point for the mobile recruitment movement. Consider yourself warned.

When response is everything

While building dedicated mobile sites is currently the most talked about applications of mobile technology for recruiting, it is also a powerful tool to gauge, track and manage response to a recruitment campaign. Ad.IQ's mobile response service allows jobseekers to use SMS, voice or a .mobi site to respond to a job advertisement at any time of day or night. Contact data is then gathered for the client, and response data can be analysed to reveal which ads have generated the right response.

It has managed campaigns for more than 10 of TMP Worldwide's clients, including Royal Bank of Scotland, Powergen, MI5, IBM and the AA and where the mobile response service comes into its own is for seriously big campaigns by organisations such as the British Army, explains Ad.IQ CEO Tim Carrigan. "The attraction of mobile versus the internet is that mobile is a low-cost medium and it's also inclusive," he says. "The people the Army is trying to reach, for instance, are not necessarily the kind of people who will spend the day surfing the internet."

Given the Army's target group, texting is seen as the ideal method of communication both for the initial call to action and to help manage candidates through the process. It received 7,784 replies to a major campaign in the first two months and, significantly, 40% of the SMS replies were made outside of call centre hours.

"Recruitment advertising is a very response-oriented form of advertising; it has a singular objective, so being able to drill down and see which ads are generating most candidates is vital," says Carrigan, who added that it is working on adding new features to the service that will include sending interview reminders to handsets to reduce no-shows. "It's important to have a dialogue with the candidate using the method of communication they are comfortable with."

Mobile internet usage (january 2008)

Mobile internet users 17.31m

Text messages (SMS) sent 6.3bn

Picture messages (MMS) sent 42.52m

The Mobile Data Association predicts:
• Worldwide cellular subscriber base will reach 3.75bn by the end of 2008
• The UK will account for 75m of the global figure
• Text messaging volumes in the UK will reach 60bn for the whole of 2008

* Statistics and information courtesy of the Mobile Data Association www.themda.org

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