January/February 2001 // Commentary
A Drawbridge to the Ivory Tower: Online Recruitment Strategies in Higher Education
by Diann Schindler-Ender
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: Diann Schindler-Ender "A Drawbridge to the Ivory Tower: Online Recruitment Strategies in Higher Education" The Technology Source, January/February 2001. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

A medium-sized college in Michigan is facing retirements in a variety of offices within the next three years. While this is an opportunity for the college to review how it serves students and reclassify, redefine, and reengineer nearly all areas of the institution, valuable talent will be lost with these retirements.

A community college in New Jersey has experienced a series of retirements and decided to fill 12 vacancies. In its effort to attract a top-notch pool of candidates, including minorities and people of color, advertisements have been placed in the typical local, regional, and national publications at a cost of $40,000.

In Ohio, a multi-campus institution has 100 vacancies. The cost to advertise these vacancies through print media is astounding. Therefore, the college is looking to balance its need to conduct traditional recruitment activities with its need to maintain a balanced budget.

The Challenge

The situations of these three institutions are representative of a potential employment crisis affecting many higher education institutions across the nation. As the competition for students grows fiercer, resources become more constrained, expectations increase, and technological advances challenge colleges to restructure, valued employees are leaving institutions in ever-increasing numbers. Colleges across the United States will see one-half of their employees retire within the next five to ten years (Judy & D'Amico, 1999). The cost of advertising these new job openings is phenomenal.

Acquiring talented professionals and ensuring diversity will become increasingly important as the gender and ethnic composition of our population changes and the student age population increases (Judy & D'Amico, 1999). To meet the challenge of attracting these talented professionals, most colleges will advertise in traditional media, such as newspapers and journals. But for higher education to be cost-effective and creative in competing for and attracting employees, colleges must do the following:

  • learn from online recruitment strategies enacted by business and industry,
  • understand online recruitment fully,
  • review the advantages of using national Internet-based job boards, and
  • consider special features accessible through job boards that specialize in higher education.

Recruitment in Business and Industry

Business and industry have already turned to the Internet to meet their recruitment goals. The statistics are impressive:

  • "According to the Fordyce Letter, perhaps the most influential and widely read newsletter in the employment industry, employers and recruiters use the Internet to make 48% of all their hires" (Dixon, 1998, p. 12).
  • According to Lee Hecht Harrison, "the most common resource that employers use to post job opportunities is the company Web site, with 43% of employers posting jobs on their own sites, followed by 36% using other Web site job boards as they broaden their search for employees" (Dixon, 1998, p. 12).
  • Management Recruiters International "surveyed 4,247 hiring executives responsible for hiring professionals. They found that about 37% of participants surveyed use the Internet to recruit. . . . 71.2% of technology firms use the Internet to recruit candidates, as do 42.6% of financial services firms, 39% of healthcare corporations, 45% of insurance companies, and 59% of telecommunication companies" (Dixon, 1998, p. 12).

This trend in Internet recruiting shows no sign of stopping. Massachusetts-based Forrester Researcher predicts that although "print-classified-ad spending will continue to increase into the next century," it will "begin to drop in 2002" (Judy & D'Amico, 1999, p. 83). According to research by California-based Austin Knight Inc., a recruitment and employee communications firm, "93% of the companies surveyed say they expect to use the Internet more intensively for recruiting in the future" (Judy & D'Amico, 1999, p. 83).

Similar to business and industry, colleges need to consider new, more efficient avenues for filling vacancies in this job seeker’s market. Indeed, colleges have the ability to replicate and exceed business and industry's use of the Internet to search for and hire talented professionals. While higher education institutions are already using the Internet, they are doing so in a limited way because of many misconceptions.

Perceptions and Misconceptions of Online Recruitment

Online Newspapers and Journals. Currently, colleges pay a premium to advertise vacancies in newspapers and professional journals, such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Community College Times, and the College and University Personnel Association Journal. Recently, newspapers and journals have developed their own Web sites, and they place the same advertisements on their Web sites that they include in their print versions.

However, it is important to note that in these cases, colleges must purchase the advertising before the vacancies appear on the Web sites, and readers must be subscribers to gain access to current vacancies online. The readers of both printed advertisements and online advertisements are the same: current subscribers. Therefore, while it appears that colleges are reaching more job seekers through online newspapers and journals, that is not the case. The only added value of this type of advertisement is that it provides another medium for subscribers to read vacancies: their computer monitors. That convenience alone is not likely to enhance the recruitment process.

College Web sites. Most colleges have their own Web sites, usually geared toward their student and parent populations, with some emphasis on matters of interest to faculty and staff. Often, colleges post their vacancies on their Web sites for a variety of viewers:

  • current employees who have the first option to apply;
  • people from the local area who are interested in working at the institution; and
  • others who are interested in returning to their college environments as a result of family ties in the area, their knowledge of the colleges, and/or because they are alumni.

This kind of advertising is a good approach and can reach outstanding employees. It does not, however, reach a broad group of potential employees; the search for new employee populations is limited by this method.

Business Web sites. A handful of colleges have taken the plunge and are advertising online with Web sites that focus on business and industry, such as www.Monster.com, www.Hotjobs.com, www.headhunter.net, www.NationJob.com and www.FlipDog.com. These sites can help higher education broaden its potential employee pool, especially to specific markets, such as the technical or development fields. However, they are not as effective as they would seem.

Typically these sites contain thousands of job postings and resumes. They can be difficult to enter simply because of the massive numbers of people attempting to log on. Higher education vacancies get lost among all of the other sectors also posting jobs. While some sites do have effective search functions for job seekers, many job seekers sense that their resumes will be lost or overlooked among the thousands posted. Furthermore, searching through resumes on these sites to find employees can be a monumental task.

In both online media and college Web sites, reaching a wide pool of job seekers is often inefficient and can result in even more work for human resource offices. Using these narrow approaches to online recruitment, colleges continue to recruit from the same pool of employees or simply post vacancies on a massive list, with little opportunity to reach the appropriate talent. These methods will become even more problematic as more and more baby boomers retire, leaving colleges scrambling to fill the void they leave behind. Successful institutions understand the necessity of rethinking their recruitment strategies to attract new employee populations.

The Benefits of More Extensive Online Recruitment

A national Internet-based employee recruitment Web site, such as www.HigherEdJobs.com, www.Hire-Ed.org, or www.CCollegeJobs.com, allows higher education to be more cost-effective, convenient, and thorough in its efforts to reach more candidates for employment.

Online recruitment is cost-effective. Colleges can post vacancies online for a fraction of the cost of purchasing advertising in the print media. Furthermore, rather than appearing just once in a monthly journal or for a week in a newspaper, vacancies appear online for 30 days or more.

Online recruitment is a speedy and convenient process. Colleges can get their messages to job seekers quickly by posting job openings directly; vacancies appear online in real time with the simple push of a button. Additionally, job seekers have the privilege of searching jobs online without paying fees, subscription or otherwise. They can engage in job searches discreetly, confidentially, and instantaneously.

Beyond providing the basic advantages of a national Internet-based job board, some Web sites offer even more features that result in greater benefits for higher education. These features include management by higher education experts, matched resumes and job postings, and partnerships with other relevant Web sites.

Many Web sites are developed and managed by higher education experts. These experts understand the employment needs of higher education, its recruitment and hiring processes, the importance of appropriate titles for higher education, and the appropriate resume format. Furthermore, they can incorporate changes taking place in higher education into their Web sites in order to continue meeting demand.

Many Web sites also offer "matched" resumes and job postings. Web sites with this feature allow both job seekers and colleges to enter elements such as titles, salary, skill sets, and professional experiences when they complete resume and job postings. Job seekers enter career preferences, such as location, college type, and the title of the job that they are pursuing. The Web site then matches like elements. Both parties automatically receive e-mail notifications when matches occur, allowing them to view the job postings or resumes within the e-mail messages. Through this feature, colleges have greater opportunities to reach the right talent for the right jobs; job seekers are likewise able to find the right jobs for their talents and career preferences.

Additionally, several Web sites actively reach out to new arenas through connections with other sites. This action increases recruiters' ability to reach a diverse pool of talented professionals by:

  • developing partnerships with organizations whose memberships include potential college employees;
  • acquiring membership/e-mail address lists;
  • contacting organizations representing minorities, people of color, and individuals with disabilities;
  • linking to a variety of other useful Websites, attracting job seekers in specific fields; and
  • connecting with various leadership institutes.

Since the Web sites do the work of expanding the pool of possible applicants, colleges have greater opportunities to reach a diverse pool of talented professionals.

Meeting the Challenge

Edward Miller (1997) reports that technology is altering our "attitudes and expectations about many products and services. Print media alone will not satisfy a nation addicting itself to cellular phones, fax modems, portable computers, . . . and manic pursuit of faster, cheaper, better" (p. 217). Higher education is no stranger to this phenomenon as it relates to student recruitment and curriculum; it needs to face this same reality in employee recruitment.

With increasingly limited resources, colleges are challenged to redesign their processes, redefine employee roles, and attract new populations of talented professionals. As a result, online recruitment is fast becoming the vehicle for conducting searches, reaching a more diverse employee population, accessing more resumes, and bringing down costs. With greater understanding of how Web sites can work for higher education, online employee recruitment promises to be a fast, easy, cost-efficient, and effective tool for addressing a fast-approaching human resource crisis.


Dixon, P. (1998). Job searching online for dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.

Judy, R.W., & D’Amico, C. (1999). Workforce 2020. Indianapolis: Hudson Institute.

Miller, E. (1997). Shock waves from the communications revolution. In F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, & R. Beckhard (Eds.), The organization of the future (pp. 213-220). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

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