A few of years ago, job sites on the Net were few and far between. Today, there are half a dozen, and if you include recruitment firms with their own Web sites, there are over 100. Most are IT specific, so if you're not a programmer, there's less choice.
Now JobHunter has been launched and claims to be the biggest job database on the Net, pooling classified job ads from over 600 regional newspapers. With between 10,000-20,000 new jobs posted every day, it looks like it could be a major player in this growing Internet category.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
There are four main sections, but if you're a first-time user, go to Find It for local or national jobs. Employers should go to Fill It to post a job vacancy. Once you've familiarised yourself with the easy search interface, go to Smart Search, which lets you outline the type of job you're looking for and emails you when one lands in the database. Advice on compiling a CV, helpful interview tips and regularly updated news about the job market complete a very useful service.
HOW DID THEY DO THAT?
"No HTML authoring tools were used to build the site," says Neil Sutton, account manager at ICL Multimedia Solutions. "They're too limited for the level of complexity needed to build into it." Instead, the back-end system behind JobHunter was built entirely in CGI, Perl and C++ programming languages with some Java-Script. "The biggest challenge was finding a way to get classified ads from 600 newspapers to the site while hiding the technology from the people entering the data."
To that end, says Sutton, the team custom-built a program that takes relevant information from the classified ad, such as which newspaper it came from, job title, industry sector and other relevant "meta data".
It then automatically fed into a relational database and into a Verity search engine. "The other challenge," says Sutton, "was making the search system intelligent. If a user is looking for a secretarial job, the search has to look for PA jobs too."
WHAT'S THE BUSINESS ANGLE?
Marlen Roberts, business development manager at AdHunter, won't say when or if the site is expected to make money but points out that it has the backing of publishing heavyweights like Northcliffe Newspaper Group, Trinity International, Johnson Press, Bristol United Press, The Guardian Media Group, Newsquest and United Provincial. Among them, they sell about 40 million issues a week and control between 60-70 per cent of all classified ads that appear in regional news. "We want to get that up to 90 per cent," says Roberts, adding that the London Evening Standard is the latest paper to post classified ads on the site.
There's no advertising on the site, so how's it going to make money? Are there plans for a rate card? According to Roberts, they will develop a rate card over time. "The problem is that advertisers in the job market aren't Internet aware. We're trying to educate them to think laterally."
When asked whether the Web site could drag customers away from print titles, Roberts says: "The regional press has always been aware of competitors. That's one reason it got involved in free newspapers. They saw the opportunity and made it their own. Now they've spotted the opportunity to market through the Net and they've added that to their portfolio."
Roberts insists the site won't run out of funds and disappear from the Internet landscape. Though she won't say how much, she claims the shareholders have made a significant investment. "The regional press is a huge marketing machine in its own right. It has had over #250,000 in advertising spent on it and that's only the beginning. Our cross-promotion takes in all major cities and towns where there are major papers."
WHAT'S IN THE PIPELINE?
JobHunter follows hot on the heels of AutoHunter in a growing portfolio of Internet Web sites. Next up is property hunter about which Roberts remains tight-lipped. "Whatever is in our database, that's what we're looking to put on the site." AutoHunter, a database of classified car, bike, caravan and boat ads is in what Roberts calls Phase II. "It'll eventually be more functional. There will be more information and a lot more cars. This is a mega investment."
She's not wrong. The #1 million spent promoting AutoHunter is probably the most spent on a UK Web site - ever.
Design: AdHunter designed, ICL developed, manages and operates
Launch: June 97
Setup: Sun Ultra Size: 8Gb
Target Audience: Job seekers
Competitors: Taps.com (appointments section from Sunday Times), VNU's JobNet, top jobs on the Net, monster board, FT jobs, The Guardian recruitment
Hosted: ICL data centre in Stoke. Sits on ICL Net. Server farm
Page Impressions: 250,000 since launch; 100,000 individual users.
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