www.we-need-warm-bodies.com

www.we-need-warm-bodies.com

BY BETH DUGAN

Even as society as a whole is moving rapidly into the Internet era, one in which employers, employees, service providers and customers are intricately and intimately networked, hospitality and foodservice remain laggards compared to many industries.

True, online purchasing has been a reality for many years, and many foodservice e-commerce options are now beginning to appear. But the market as a whole will have to embrace the Internet in a much larger way in the near future.

The good news is that the Internet has great promise in terms of helping foodservice deal more effectively with some of its most pressing challenges. Developing more effective employee recruitment strategies is at the top of that list, and this article offers a step-by-step approach to how onsite operators can use a web-based strategy to reach a wider and more experienced pool of job applicants.

A Virtual Employment Agency
Right now, a variety of factors—an historically tight labor market, the traffic-building advantages job boards offer many commercial Internet sites, the skill-targeting capabilities of so-called "push" technology—are rapidly making the World Wide Web the employment agency and mediator of choice for job seek-ers and employers alike. (In fact, many experts believe that the Internet will displace newspaper ads as the primary vehicle for many kinds of job postings within the next five years).

A few of the reasons:

  • Today's students are computer savvy, and already know that surfing the web is quicker and easier than "looking things up" the old fashioned way.
  • Access to the web is growing exponentially. Local, state and regional job centers increasingly use the Internet to help clients find positions and to train hourly workers. Computer centers at public libraries and colleges give ready access to those who cannot afford computers themselves. Web access is also being offered as a "waiting time activity" in new venues, from commercial copy centers to cyber cafes.
  • The Internet is open "24-7-365"—all the time. A restaurant manager who gets off work at 2 a.m. can look for a new job then, apply for it at his or her convenience, and receive a response at any time of the day or night.
  • The web's unique ability to reach out to potential employees has not been lost on major corporate entities like hotel and restaurant chains and contract management companies. Such organizations make recruitment systems a highly visible feature of their web page models.
  • The Internet can target specific employee skills much more effectively than other advertising mediums can.

At the same time, this trend is still in its infancy. In many respects, the "information superhighway" is a world-wide mess of conflicting information, dead-end links and web sites that are still "under construction." Many pages are like department store windows— with lots of merchandise on display, but the store itself not yet open for business. This is especially true of some industry-specific "e-commerce" sites that claim to make job posting boards a part of their basic service.

Even the full-featured "general" job listing sites have some notable weaknesses when it comes to posting industry-specific jobs (more on that later).

But with all of these problems, the time is clearly now for this industry to more aggressively develop and use web facilities as a tool for addressing its labor problems. Here's how to get started.

Evaluate Available Posting Sites
Start out by exploring some major job board sites to learn how they work. Many sites (e.g., Monster.com, CareerMosaic.com, HotJobs.com) are well known because of advertising on TV and in print. They list thousands of jobs in hundreds of industries, and are usually the first sites to which a novice Internet job hunter goes.

In addition to the listings, they usually offer career counseling information, resume writing advice and an easy-to-use "point and click" interface.They are also popular with employers because of their relatively cheap posting rates and because they readily offer hyperlinks to the client company's own web page.

From there, evaluate other job posting options available to you (see sidebar on page 66). A good recruitment strategy will use multiple posting venues. Pay close attention to the way web posting ads are written. While a web "ad" is in many ways just a variation of a newspaper ad, there are some important differences.

Your listing will need to include the standard information: job title, location, contact person and how to reach him or her, as well as some information about pay, benefits and hours.

But a web ad can be more sophisticated than a print ad. If you desire, you can include very detailed job information. Your company logo and even a musical theme can be displayed on many sites. The ad can also link to your organization's home-page if it has one, so that a candidate who wants more information can simply click to go there and learn more about the environment in which he or she may work.

These options can be a real advantage for onsite operators. You will typically want to emphasize the more attractive working conditions, schedules and benefit packages that onsite facilities typically offer compared to commercial foodservice operations.

Investigate Ad Costs and Options
Next, you'll want to get the specifics in terms of how much your target sites charge for listings and for all of the options available to you. Your earlier research will help you know what to look for. Make sure you consider the following:

Cost. Determine how much an ad costs, for how long it will run and how much memory or lines you will receive. If you will be posting frequently, insist on multi-job posting discounts. Find out if a site offers banner ads (across the top of the page) or premier placements, and what the added costs are for these options.

The general "feel" of the site. How easy is it to use the site? Pretend to be a job hunter and see how many levels or steps it takes to find your listing. For general job sites, specify under which category your job will be listed, if possible. If you are a hospital FSD, you don't want an executive chef's position listed under "Medical-Other."

Also, check out how many positions similar to yours are advertised. If there are too many competing jobs, your ad will not stand out. If there are too few, you may be in the wrong category or potential employees will not know to look there for positions.

Regional issues: If you want employees to live near your area, it will help if a site offers a regional index, so only employees interested in your town/state will look at your ad. A national-only ad means that candidates will have to wade through many ads, and may give up before getting to yours. For hourly workers, you might want to skip the national and industry boards and employ only regional sites.

Cross links. Find out if a site allows "searches" from other indexes. Many do. The more links like this there are, the better the chance that a potential employee will see your ad.

Insist that potential employees be able to access your organization's web-page from the ad if you have one, so that they can get more information if needed. If you don't have one, consider establishing a simple page just for this purpose.

Remember: you are not just posting an ad, you are also "selling" prospective employees on your organization or institution. This is a chance to show them why working at your facility is a better opportunity than the next one on the job board.

On-line editing. Check to see if you can change the copy in your ad once it is on-line. If there is a mistake, you will need to correct it; sometimes, if the ad seems to be reaching unqualified employees, you may need to modify it.

Navigate the Resume Banks
A resume bank is simply a place where job seekers post their resumes for re-view by potential employers. Most sites that offer job postings also have companion resume sites. As an employer, you can access them to search for potential employees.

This method is vastly underused. Most sites have many times more resumes than they have jobs posted. In fact, many of those candidates who have taken the time to post a resume are never contacted for an interview. But...it does take time to read even the summaries of the candidates. Save time by using a site's search capabilities to whittle down the resume list by region, keyword or job experience. Also, consider asking your HR department to screen prospective resumes before passing them on to you.

When Push Comes to Shove

While most of the strategies discussed so far are so-called "passive" techniques, new "active" options are being introduced that can automate the search process for both job posters and posting respondents.

So-called "push" technology permits job hunters to specify criteria for the types of jobs in which they are interested. Then, a software "agent" searches job postings on an ongoing basis, and e-mails them when it finds newly posted jobs that meet these requirements.

Similar options are now being developed for employers, allowing them to indicate the region, the experience and job title, and names, resumes, and contact information they want in potential employees. Large company HR departments already use such software to screen large volumes of incoming resumes. Many job sites are beginning to offer similar capabilities.

Push technology may cost more, but it will deliver candidates based on your predetermined specifications. As this is still a fairly new option, its effectiveness remains to be proven; however, some fast food restaurants are reporting good results with it.

On the other hand, only human judgement can recognize, for instance, that an out-of-work drama major may be interested in an assistant manager's job in a college foodservice. If you learn to navigate resume banks efficiently, you may expand your options by looking for "atypical" candidates.

On the Block
Another new (and still unproven) option is the so-called "auction" site. These are designed for free-lancers or temporary work-ers looking to connect for short-term positions. They promise to fill the bill if you need extra waiters for a wedding, a consultant to troubleshoot your operations, a dietitian to review your menu, a contractor to renovate your space or any other variations of temporary work.

Some websites require that the freelancer provide experience and contact information which you browse until you see promising candidates. Other sites have the employer fill out a job request which is then sent to all registered freelancers who have expressed interest in a particular type of position.

Once the employer and freelancer connect, the job length, pay and other details are negotiated off-line. Typically, these sites require the payment of a small fee to the web site.

Establishing a Proactive Stance
The internet will not replace traditional methods for finding employees, such as word of mouth, in-house advertising or employee referrals. A wise manager will still employ these and any other available method to find experienced people for open positions.

But in an era of so-called "full employment," in which quality service workers are in constant demand, onsite foodservice employers need to be proactive in terms of establishing a strong presence on the web in order to remain competitive.

With the right strategy, you will find that the Internet can help you develop a larger pool of job applicants and a more qualified work force for your department.

A Special Challenge for Self-ops

If you manage a self-op foodservice that is part of a larger institution or corporate entity, potential foodservice job seekers often will not think to check your organization's site for possible jobs. At the same time, large organizations like hotels, contract feeders and restaurant chains will be obvious web site targets for prospective food-service workers.

  • To increase the visibility of your department's employment opportunities, work with your organization's HR department and webmaster (if you have one) to do the following:
  • Proactively advertise management and culinary positions on hospitality-based web sites.
  • Create a separate web page for the foodservice department. It can be linked to your organization's home page, but have its own title and be listed in search engines under foodservice instead of the "main" business of the company.
  • Break out foodservice positions into their own categories in the employment section of your organization's web site.
  • Join appropriate national foodservice associations and advertise your positions on their sites with a direct link to your own page.
  • Advertise on local Job Boards for all open positions. Many of them automatically upload their lists to national job search web sites and will expose you to additional candidate pools.


Job Posting Options

General Job-posting Sites
Postings on the general boards like Monster.com reach the largest potential audience. They will often pick up candidates with backgrounds in other fields who are interested in trying a career in foodservice.

Such sites also have some major drawbacks. First, foodser-vice positions tend to be listed under a variety of inconsistent titles and categories that vary from site to site. A hospital FSD looking for new employment may not find the ad for the position at your CCRC if it is listed under "other."

Second, these sites tend to have global access. Employers can suddenly find their mailboxes overflowing with applications from people who are looking for work visas.

Finally, these sites often rank postings according to criteria that is not obvious to users. You may post a listing only to find that a competitor has paid more to place its ads in a more visible position. The boards will also sell "foodservice" space to non-food-service companies who want to tap the foodservice labor pool. Sometimes the first 10 -12 jobs listed may be in another industry altogether.

Regional Employment Sites
Regional job posting sites narrow the focus considerably, but still will reach a general job-searching candidate pool. Check with your local newspaper, college or trade school, chamber of commerce, city or county job centers to see if they support a local site. Some of the major Internet search engines, like Yahoo.com, also support local job-posting via their "personal home page" options.

Local sites attract candidates who are already living in the area or are in the process of moving to it. The number of local sites that are available will typically depend on population patterns. You may find only one or many that service your area.

Industry-specific Sites
Industry specific web sites offer an obvious alternative. On the other hand, they sometimes are hard to find and use, especially for less-sophisticated potential employees.

But if you are looking for someone with specific experience and skills, these are often the best choice.They will have a better system for categorizing job types such as manager, chef, executive chef, cook, waiter and so on.They will also use industry terminology, so that experienced employees can evaluate what the positions really require.The main drawback is that these sites tend to draw much less traffic.

This is a very active area of development. Most major distributors as well as a variety of new e-commerce "portal" sites targeting the hospitality industry are seeking to develop strong job posting and recruitment options as a way of building traffic, so you will want to continuously monitor them for new developments.

Association Sites
Many foodservice associations offer job posting opportunion their web sites. Most will post jobs for members at a nominal cost and allow a more detailed job description than general boards do. Also, only candidates truly interested in the field will search for positions at these sites.

The major disadvantage is that some associations allow access to their postings only to members or those who work at member establishments. This can seriously restrict your pool of candidates.

Corporate Web Pages
Most major chains and contract companies promote employment opportunities on their websites. If you are a manager at such a company, contact your webmaster or HR department to find out how to list open positions and how to connect any you have posted to regional job posting sites. Also, make sure inquiries go directly to you (or your local human resource office). It is easy to lose a promising candidate if your system excessively delays your ability to respond


A Sampling of Job Board Options

NAME URL INDUSTRY SPECIFIC RESUME BANK? PUSH SERVICES? PICK REGIONS? NOTES ON THE WEBSITE
Americas Employers www.americasemployers.com n y n y General help
Best Jobs www.bestjobusa.com n y n y Look under Travel/Hospitality Services
Career Builder www.careerbuilder.com n y y y Look under Hotel/Restaurant Category
Career City www.careercity.com n y n y Look under Transportation/Travel
Hcareers www.hcareers.com y y n y 2,055 jobs listed, breaks industry into specific segments, e.g., chefs, gaming, etc.
Recruiting Concepts www.recruitingconcepts.com y n n n Managed by a recruiting firm
Hotel Resource www.hotelresource.com y n n n Help Wanted and Positions Wanted listings are intermingled.
Hotel Restaurant Jobs www.hotelrestaurantjobs.com y y y y For now, very few ads or resumes
NACUFS www.nacufs.org y n n y Job postings on line. Check out the connections section for easy access to management company home pages and supplier home pages to find positions with those companies
F n B Office www.thefnboffice.com y y y y Includes food manufacturing as part of the industry. Pushes resumes to companies
Restaurant Recruit www.restaurantrecruit.com y n n n List of restaurant chains. Click on logo will bring you to their websites
ASFSA www.asfsa.org y n n n Very few postings, independent schools can post management positions for a very low cost
Foodservice.com www.foodservice.com y y y y Nice layout
Escoffier On-line www.escoffier.com y n n n Not a job website, but a list of links to many of hospitality sites (and from there to job and resume postings.)
Chef Job Network www.chefjobnetwork.com y y y y Site for hands-on chefs, culinary managers and bakers
Association Central www.associationcentral.com n n n n Has Hospitality/Foodservice as a main category. Good way to find association web pages
Monster Board www.monster.com n y y y Has Auctions site. Need to look under both Hospitality and Tourism and Restaurant and Foodservice. Also, in job posting section, first job lines may not be hospitality related. Good location for independents seeking high level managers. Site will return many resumes from outside US, wanting work visas.

PHOTO: ©TIM SCHNEIDER/SIS