Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

An Architecture For a Next-Generation Holistic E-Recruiting System

One of the most profound changes in the business environment over the last decade was the emergence of e-business, which revolutionized the way companies conduct business. As a part of the e-business revolution, Web-based online recruiting has also changed the way companies hire employees [5]. Indeed, e-recruitng is one of the most successful e-business applications as a method for quickly reaching a large pool of potential job seekers. E-recruiting has enjoyed explosive growth since the late 1990s when the strong economy produced a high demand for qualified employees that the labor market could not fully satisfy [7]. Major advantages cited for the rapid and successful adoption of e-recruiting methods include cost savings, efficiency, and convenience for both recruiters and job seekers [3, 4, 8].

The traditional process has been fraught with task delays and miscommunications, resulting in a protracted hiring process and high hiring costs. Timing is generally viewed as being important in the recruiting process [1]. With regard to timing issues in recruitment, Rynes, Bretz, and Gerhart [6] reported that job applicants frequently drew negative inference about the delays of the recruiting process, and these delays affected the willingness of individuals to accept job offers. While e-recruiting goes through the same phases as the traditional process, the benefits of e-recruiting are accomplished with the extensive use of a central database and an array of Web-enabled integrated applications.

Back to Top

Categories of E-Recruiting Sources

While e-recruiting methods have been widely used since the mid-1990s, no formal classification system has been developed for different e-recruiting sources. In order to give recruiters and job seekers a better understanding of the e-recruiting industry, we propose six categories of e-recruiting sources: the general-purpose job board; niche job board; e-recruiting application service provider; hybrid (online and offline) recruiting service provider; e-recruiting consortium; and corporate career Web site. Table 1 summarizes these six categories of the e-recruiting sources from recruiters' perspectives.

General-purpose job boards provide a comprehensive online recruiting solution to both employers and job seekers across different industries. Job seekers can search for jobs by category, experience, education, location, or any combination of these job attributes. Personalized job agents match job seekers' profiles with the latest job postings and email the list of jobs to the job seekers. Recruiters can search the job boards' databases by skills, experience level, job preference, salary, education, and any combination of keywords to find qualified candidates. When qualified job applicants are available, the recruiter's job agent notifies the recruiter of a list of available applicants. To address job seekers and recruiters' rising dissatisfaction with services and costs, general-purpose job boards have evolved into comprehensive career services where customized placement services, assessment, and candidate relationship management are provided.

Niche job boards serve highly specialized job markets such as a particular profession, industry, education, location, or any combination of these specialties. Most niche job boards operate specialized online communities or newsgroups that draw professionals, such as engineers, programmers, and journalists who share specific interest, skills, experience, and knowledge. The advantages of using job boards include access to a large pool of recruiters and job seekers and availability of state-of-the-art e-recruiting tools. The disadvantages include low brand recognition and the possibility of identity theft. False job postings are listed online and used to steal personal information from unsuspecting job seekers. Medium- and small-sized recruiters with low name recognition can access a pool of qualified job applicants at a reasonable cost.

E-recruiting application service providers (ASPs) develop and market to recruiters and job boards a combination of specialized services in recruitment software, recruitment process management, education and training, and management expertise. The tight labor market for IT professionals has led many small- and medium-sized recruiters to application service providers. Specialized recruitment software for the in-house development of a larger-scale e-recruiting Web site is available for recruiters who want to quickly develop career Web sites on their own server. The disadvantages include integration issues with existing systems and possibility of lock-in, which may occur when switching costs to alternative e-recruiting sources become high.

Hybrid recruiting service providers are traditional media or recruiting firms that provide e-recruiting services to both recruiters and job seekers. Employment advertising in newspapers has suffered historic percentage declines as recruiters switch to more efficient and cost-effective recruiting methods. The Help Wanted Index, a measurement of how many help wanted ads run in newspapers, has registered a continuous decline in the past few years. The advantage of the hybrid (online and offline) recruiting service provider comes from the sharing of existing resources and expertise developed in the traditional job ad industry. The premier content of comes from the editorial resources of the Wall Street Journal as well as from the editorial team. The disadvantages include a strong image to job seekers as a low-tech conventional media.

An e-recruiting consortium is a cost-effective alternative to the services provided by job boards. is the first cooperative, employer-owned e-recruiting consortium formed by DirectEmployers Association—a non-profit organization formed by executives from leading U.S. corporations. DirectEmployers' search engine merely drives traffic directly to a member's career Web site. NACElink is another e-recruiting consortium created as a result of an alliance between DirectEmployers Association and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) ( The disadvantages include potential conflicts among consortium members and low exposure to job seekers due to the small member base.

The corporate career Web site is the hiring source most widely used by Fortune 500 companies, according to the 2002 iLogos Research study. Deployment of the corporate career Web site is a natural extension of the portfolio of e-business applications when the company has already established an e-business Web site and enjoyed high Internet traffic. The initial development cost of the career Web is high compared to other recruiting sources. However, the cost of posting additional job openings is marginally increased, whereas the fee for posting additional job openings is considerably higher at job boards. A career Web site also has a cost advantage and flexibility compared with job boards in publishing corporate information such as university recruiting, workplace, diversity, benefits, career opportunities, and culture with which applicants can make informed decisions about job applications [2].

Back to Top

The Architecture for the Holistic E-Recruiting System

E-recruiting systems have evolved through numerous technological developments since their introduction in the mid-1990s. At the early stage of corporate e-recruiting, the purpose of the career Web site was to simply post job openings on the static Web page for job seekers' information. As the e-business technologies advance and recruiters gain more e-recruiting experience, the front-end e-recruiting systems add new features and functions, target job seekers better, and integrate with a back-end human resource management system. An advanced e-recruiting system of large companies has been powered by an enterprisewide system and incorporated best-practice recruiting methodologies to achieve strategic advantage.

While sound architecture is critical to the successful development of complex systems and seamless integration with other systems, it has not yet been well established for the holistic e-recruiting system because of its infancy. The architecture helps recruiters and system developers understand how various components of the e-recruiting system work together to achieve recruiting goals. Here, a high-level architecture of the holistic e-recruiting system for a corporate career Web site is presented. Since the architecture is a roadmap to the development of the e-recruiting system that supports the recruiting process, understanding the e-recruiting process is required in order to better identify architectural components.

The architecture of the holistic e-recruiting system consists of eight distinct yet interrelated subsystems: applicant tracking management subsystem; job requisition management subsystem; job agent management subsystem; prescreening/self-assessment management subsystem; e-recruiting performance analysis subsystem; candidate relationship management subsystem; workflow management subsystem; and database management subsystem. The accompanying figure shows the relationships between e-recruiting processes and the eight components of the holistic e-recruiting system.

Applicant tracking management subsystem. Finding the right candidates for a particular job is a difficult and costly task for recruiters and hiring managers. The functions of an applicant tracking management subsystem include gathering job applications, storing candidate profile resumes, checking the status of each candidate in the recruiting process, generating requested information for decision makers, and disseminating the information to other human resource management systems. The fundamental technology for applicant tracking is a Web-based search engine that scans through the applicant database based on keywords, phrases, or natural languages.

Job requisition management subsystem. The primary function of this subsystem is to streamline job requisitions and online postings. Users of the job requisition management system are recruiters and hiring managers. Job requisition and approval submissions can be processed without a manual data entry into a job database when integrated with a human resource management system. This subsystem is a single automated job posting point to multiple recruiting sites such as an internal career Web site, external job boards, and industry consortia. During the recruiting process, the job requisition management subsystem allows managers to regularly monitor current job postings and close job postings as they are filled or cancelled.

Job agent management subsystem. The purpose of this subsystem is to promote information exchange between e-recruiting users and the e-recruiting system by using a personalized search agent. Creation of the personalized job agent is interactive, leading to the creation of a unique profile. For job seekers, a job agent can perform a particular search based on job search and communication parameters such as job locations, job categories, and the frequency of job search. Based on the job agent's notification, job seekers may apply for jobs online or ignore them. Recruiters specify to the personalized job agent the duration of the job postings, frequency of the candidate search, and mode of notification.

Prescreening/self-assessment management subsystem. The purpose of this subsystem is to assess the degree of match between applicants' qualifications and job requirements at the time of online job applications. To improve the overall quality of job applicants, the prescreening/self-assessment management system minimizes the submission of job applications from job seekers who do not meet basic job requirements. For certain job categories, prescreening helps recruiters sort through a pool of resumes and rank them based on a predefined scoring system. The choice of the questionnaire item is crucial to the success of this subsystem. Commonly used question items include levels of technical skills, personalities, interpersonal skills, work ethics, and aptitude. The process of the prescreening/self-assessment tests is interactive and has an option of "exit any time without completion."

E-recruiting performance analysis subsystem. This subsystem analyzes the strategic, financial, and operational performances of an e-recruiting system in order to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the career Web site. Table 2 summarizes major metrics used at leading companies. Performance reports are generated based on predefined report format and real-time data. As each user has unique reporting requirements, this subsystem should provide recruiters with an easy-to-use report generator equipped with a variety of reporting options. The performance analysis subsystem should be able to alert managers of an exceptional situation when certain performance measures do not meet thresholds defined by managers.

Candidate relationship management subsystem. This subsystem provides recruiters with long-term relationship management programs and tools needed to effectively manage applicants. One of the disadvantages of the e-recruiting method is a lack of the human touch such as a face-to-face meeting or conference call. The candidate relationship management is designed to provide applicants with a feeling they have an ongoing relationship with the company through a "virtual human touch." Delivering a maximum level of virtual human touch will increase the chance of job acceptance by candidates by implicitly indicating the attractiveness of a company's job opportunities.

The rationale behind the use of a candidate relationship management subsystem is that maintaining the best pool of job applicants at all times is faster and more cost-effective than looking for new job applicants when jobs become available. Given the widespread adoption of the various e-recruiting technologies in the job market, only companies with a positive long-term relationship with job applicants will gain a competitive edge.

Workflow management subsystem. While each of the previously mentioned subsystems supports the e-recruiting process partially, the workflow management system integrates these subsystems to support the entire spectrum of e-recruiting activities. This subsystem enables interrelated subsystems to collaborate around the e-recruiting activities and to integrate with other human resource management systems. For example, once job applicants have entered their resume and profiles in response to a job opening, the workflow management system triggers the applicant tracking subsystem for candidate screening, and a job agent sends a list of candidates meeting the desired requirements to hiring managers for further actions. The potential value of this system is currently regarded as the driving force behind the standardization of e-recruiting processes.

Database management subsystem. The holistic e-recruiting system stores all the data on jobs and applicants at a centralized database. During the traditional batch-mode recruiting process, once recruiting is complete, paper-based applications and resumes are kept in the file cabinet for a predefined period of time and thrown away. Later, when a new job is available, another recruiting cycle begins with a new collection of job applications. E-recruiting has changed the recruiting practice from batch-mode to ongoing recruiting. Many companies encourage job seekers to submit applications and resumes online regardless of the current job availability, store the applications and resumes at the centralized database for a considerable period of time, and evaluate a pool of job applicants stored in the database as soon as a new job is available.

Back to Top


Even though the holistic e-recruiting system is the most advanced and effective one among the e-recruiting systems, it is also the most expensive and complex. Choosing the e-recruiting system that best fits the company's needs depends on many variables such as company size, IT infrastructure, number of job openings, target job seekers, job categories, location, and so on. For instance, given the trade-offs between function and cost, the holistic e-recruiting system may not be the best choice for some small- or- medium-sized companies with only a few hiring needs a year.

The development of the holistic system would be very complicated and challenging without a comprehensive e-recruiting plan and technology architecture in place. We expect that further advances in Web-based technologies and experience with best practices will accelerate the adoption of the holistic e-recruiting system.

Back to Top


1. Barber, A.E. Recruiting Employees. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1998.

2. Brice, T.S. and Waung, M. Web site recruitment characteristics: America's best versus America biggest. S.A.M. Advanced Management J. 67, 2 (2002), 4–8.

3. Gale, S.F. Internet recruiting: Better, cheaper, faster. Workforce 80, 12 (2001), 74–77.

4. Miller, S.M. Help wanted: Is the online job market working for your business? Office Solutions 18, 4 (2001), 27–29.

5. Munger, R. Technical communicators beware: The next generation of high-tech recruiting methods. IEEE Trans. Professional Communication 45, 4 (2002), 276–290.

6. Ryns, S.L., Bretz, R.D., and Gerhart, B. The importance of recruitment in job choice: A different way of looking. Personnel Psychology 44 (1991), 487–521.

7. Thomas, S.L. and Ray, K. Recruiting and the Web: High-tech hiring. Business Horizons 43, 3 (2000), 43–52.

8. Tomlinson, A. Energy firm sharpens recruiting, saves money with in-house job board. Canadian HR Reporter 15, 2 (2002), 7–8.

Back to Top


In Lee ( is an associate professor in the Department of Information Management and Decision Sciences, College of Business and Technology, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL.

Back to Top


UF1Figure. Interrelationships between e-recruiting processes and architecture of the holistic e-recruiting system.

Back to Top


T1Table 1. A summary of recruiters' perspectives of six categories of the e-recruiting sources.

T2Table 2. Metrics of e-recruiting performance.

Back to top

©2007 ACM  0001-0782/07/0700  $5.00

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2007 ACM, Inc.