With all the media hype surrounding the internet and technology, you could be forgiven for believing...
With all the media hype surrounding the internet and technology, you could be forgiven for believing that the web is the be-all and end-all of any companies future, and yet for many businesses nothing could be further from the truth.
Looking at my own industry, recruitment, you only have to turn on the television to be inundated with a plethora of advertisements singing the praises of web-based recruitment companies and warning you not to listen to the voices!
Other firms advertise they can provide a full career advice service, but just how much truth is there in these claims and what exactly can these companies provide for the aspiring job candidate via the internet and telephone?
Having spoken with candidates who have tried using some of these web-sites with their cast the net wide approach, the general feedback has not thus far been encouraging.
The most common criticism is, once signed up, they are literally bombarded with job vacancies via email, many of which have little or no relevance to the kind of work they registered for. When the vacancy is for the right industry it is often either below their minimum salary requirements or, conversely, way above this salary level but requiring skills and experience they do not possess.
These are the people who, having tried the web-based approach to no avail, turn to the more traditional recruitment firms looking for help and guidance.
The services and skills provided by these companies for both candidates and clients are well known, but it is the personal touch such companies can offer that gives them a competitive edge.
Good consultants will always endeavour to meet face-to-face with prospective job candidates wherever possible.
This not only allows the company to get a more in-depth idea of the experience the person has gained from their years of working, but gives an insight into the type of person they are.
When asked by a recruitment consultant to meet for a talk, job seekers should dress for an interview.
Moreover, in addition to a CV, job seekers should bring along any supporting documentation, eg certificates demonstrating passes in training courses (both in-house and external), and be prepared to answer some searching questions.
This meeting and the information gained gives recruitment consultants a much better grasp of who the job seeker is and the specific type of work they are suited to, information and impressions that simply are not available when dealing over the net or telephone.
This allows consultants to present the best possible picture to prospective employers, en-hancing the job seeker's chance of getting that all important first interview.
Just as important to the good consultant is the opportunity to visit client companies and survey their working environment.
Is it a busy, bustling office with telephones ringing constantly and people rushing around, or is it a more sedate and thoughtful atmosphere?
How do the staff and different teams within the company relate and communicate with each other, what systems are used, is there a staff canteen and does the company have any particular policies that candidates should be made aware of, for example regarding smoking?
In many ways, recruitment consultants should see themselves as an extension of a company's Human Resources function and with the information outlined above to hand on both the employer and potential employee, consultants can match up people to the right role within the right company.
Matching the wrong person to the wrong job may lead to a company going through the whole recruitment process again, wasting time and money and reflecting poorly on the recruitment consultant who placed the person there in the first place.
In summary then the internet can be used as a tool for our business, saving time when receiving and sending on CV's and job specifications and as an advertising medium, but the personal touch when recruiting new staff is vital for guaranteeing any company's continued success.
The recruitment industry is not alone in this light. Stockbrokers, too, have seen the internet making in-roads on their business, with new execution-only web-based firms springing up almost by the day.
However, one company, Dolmen Butler Briscoe, still believes the personal touch is paramount when advising clients on the best ways for investing their funds.
Dennis McGuinness, Head of Stockbroking, Scotland, relates how many people were hit by the recent fall in price in technology stocks where they were encouraged to invest via the web on the back of media hype, unaware of the inherent dangers of investing in these volatile stocks.
"People should always seek advice from a professional," he says. "Someone who can point out the pitfalls and potential benefits of any particular strategy with the experience and knowledge gained from constant dealing in these markets. We are not a push-button society." My sentiments exactly.
Gary Drummond is a consultant at Elite Appointments
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