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Why more job hunters are Stalking the Web

Once the exclusive domain of the high-tech set, the Internet's career market turns populist tool.

When Travelers Group Inc. wanted to transfer insurance executive Elton Stanley from Dallas to San Francisco last summer, he decided to look for another job.

So he hopped on the Internet.

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He ended up joining Exec-U-Net, a membership job-search site for executives making six-figure salaries. He started submitting his rsum electronically to postings on the site.

About a month into his "job mining," as he calls it, he came across an opening for a national sales director at a St. Louis-based insurance company. He applied and within a month the company called him for an interview. Several weeks later he accepted an offer - one that allowed him to stay in Dallas.

"I spent an aggregate two days on the whole process," Stanley says. "To this day my friends don't believe I found this job on the Internet."

Just two years ago, nobody outside of the techie world used the words job hunting and the Internet in the same sentence.

That's all changed.

Everybody from administrative assistants to chief financial officers is logging on and getting hired.

Niche sites catering to every profession imaginable have sprung up like dandelions after a summer rain.

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This job-hunting revolution has even created new jobs, like that of cyber recruiter: someone who searches cyberspace for job seekers. (Texas Instruments has three full-time cyber recruiters.)

"The Internet is the most important development in the field of employment since the creation of the rsum," says Peter Weddle, who publishes Weddle's, a newsletter and Web site about e-recruitment.

The Web job statistics are staggering:

*An estimated 100,000 employment-related site exist on the Web today, posting more than 30 million jobs.

*45 percent of Fortune 500 companies are said to actively recruit on the Internet compared with 17 percent just one year ago.

*Some 65 percent of Internet job seekers today come from outside the high-tech industry, Mr. Weddle figures.

Instant access, quick contacts

For job hunters, the advantages seem too good to be true: Instant access to job openings in any field anywhere in the world (no longer do you have to ask your mom to send you the Sunday classifieds from the local newspaper), and faster contact with companies and recruiters.

Take Romona Merriwether.

Earlier this year, the electrical engineer decided she wanted to move closer to her home state of Tennessee. (She had been working for Motorola in Phoenix.) So she researched companies online in surrounding cities.

She spotted a position as a design engineer with the digital-imaging group at Texas Instruments in Dallas. Within 24 hours a recruiter e-mailed her verifying her rsum. Several weeks later they set up a phone interview. The rest is history.

"The Web site gives you a good look at how well a company is organized," Ms. Merriwether says. On the Texas Instruments site, she was able to check out benefits packages and even calculate cost-of-living adjustments and relocation expenses.

"It's also a dramatic tool for college students. It's definitely replacing the career-planning and placement offices on campuses," says Mark Mehler, co-author of CareerXroads, a book that rates job sites.

When he first put the book together three years ago, Mr. Mehler was hard pressed to find 300 job sites. This year's edition contains nearly 2,000 sites that he considers some of the best on the Web. His biggest clients: Corporations that have downsized and buy his directory "by the truckload."

Companies too are falling in love with the Internet. It cuts recruiting costs, speeds the process, and puts them in touch with a wider reach of candidates.

"It's the most cost-effective tool I've ever seen in recruiting," says Bruce Hatz, corporate staffing manager at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, Calif. "I could fund a Web site that includes unlimited job postings for an entire year for the cost of one newspaper ad that has a shelf life of one day."

HP posts nearly every one of its job openings on the Internet all the way up to the vice-president level. There's a misperception out there "that the Web is all white males and that it's only for technical jobs," Mr. Hatz contends. In fact, the company fills a large number of its administrative-assistant positions through the Internet.

Web skills required

Recruiters also argue that online recruiting attracts higher-quality candidates, since people have to have a certain level of technical skills to search a job site and submit a rsum electronically.

Of the 9,000 rsums HP has received via the 'Net since it started posting jobs online three years ago, close to 3,000 applicants have received offers. "That ratio is better than anything I've ever seen," he says. "The 'Net is somewhat of a built-in filter."

The Web is also becoming a one-stop career shopping plaza with everything from salary information to help on how to change professions.

"We've been telling people for the past seven or eight years that they're in charge of their careers, but they had no resource," Weddle says. "The Internet is that resource."

No doubt one of the biggest tools the Internet will provide people with is probably one of the most important tools in career preservation and job hunting: networking."If there ever was a device that was made for networking it was the Internet," says David Opton, executive director of Exec-U-Net.

Indeed, he and others envision a world on the Web of gated communities - many have already cropped up - where people join to chat and cultivate relationships about their life, and, of course, their work.

Still, while the Internet is without a doubt revolutionizing job hunting and recruiting, most agree that it will never completely replace face-to-face contact.

"When it gets down to it, it's chemistry," Mehler says. "If you have the skills that match the position, you may be called in. Once you're called in, it's chemistry."

Where many job hunters go sounds scary. But it doesn't frighten job seekers. In fact, more people visited than any other career-related site during the month of June, according to New York-based Web-watcher, Media Metrix. Below are the ten most-visited career sites:

Site No. of visitors

1. 2,605,000

2. 1,515,000

3. 808,000

4. 777,000

5. 697,000

6. 669,000

7. 356,000

8. 353,000

9. 340,000

10. 334,000

Source: Media Metrix

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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