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Taking a Page from Recruiting

Fireman's Fund uses's Internet-based sourcing solutions to build its own "talent community."

The dot-com bust may have made for less of a seller's market for IT talent, but there will always be vacant positions that need filling—and good people are never easy to come by. Traditional recruiting practices can be expensive in terms of both cash layout and the time costs. But by taking a page from external recruitment operations—and by harnessing the power of the Web-internal HR departments of insurance companies can significantly reduce the time and expense it takes to fill an open position.

That has been the experience of Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. (FFIC, Novato, CA, $12.8 billion in assets), which has been working with Austin, TX-based for the past year in a successful effort to improve the recruiting process. Working on an ASP model, enables companies to approach recruitment and hiring from a pre-requisition orientation, or through what CEO Kevin Bethke calls "proactive continuous sourcing."

Emergency Mode

The typical approach of a company that needs a new employee is to issue a requisition based on the requirements of the position and act in "emergency sourcing mode," according to Bethke. "Once that requisition is created, the recruiters and hiring managers get active. Our approach is a little different. We provide the technology to allow large corporations to build their own private talent community—they are the only ones who have access to communicate with those individuals," he adds. "The community will have a mixture of active candidates coming from, say, some of the job boards, such as, but they will also have a much larger mix of passive candidates who are not actively looking and are typically higher-quality candidates."

Normally, when a personnel requisition is issued, a sourcing agency will be called on to recruit the ideal candidate for an existing position—a costly undertaking. Through, however, companies can build relationships with high-quality candidates in advance of either party's active search. targets passive job seekers by letting casual seekers create a member profiles by providing only an e-mail address and a password. "That then allows an organization to send marketing messages to those potential candidates," communicating a positive impression of the firm, Bethke explains.

FFIC contacted after the carrier had created a centralized career center. Formerly, recruitment had been managed by 60 separate offices. "We weren't capturing any data, so we knew there were cost efficiencies to be achieved by centralizing the organization, reducing staffing and increasing the amount of technology we used," says Carrie Sue Weston, human resources marketing manager, FFIC. The carrier set the objective of creating a data-driven Web-centric recruiting model and built a central repository for all data collected. "In the following phases of the project we sought to be able to collect data beyond the active job seeker, and to be able to segment the captured data," Weston recounts.

Having identified as a potential partner, Weston explains, a cost/benefit analysis led to the conclusion that if the carrier could "capture more data on people and rely less on external sources to do it, we should be able to reduce costs and reallocate that money to invest in"

Within five months of implementing technology in June 2001, FFIC decreased resume processing fees by 46 percent, and experienced a 66 percent reduction in contingent agency fees. FFIC realized a 145 percent increase in captured candidate data from the career site, as well as a 40 percent reduction in the amount of unqualified material recruiters would need to review. The carrier has built a 50,000-member private talent community of potential candidates.


In the past, FFIC might have paid a recruiting agency $20,000 to source a candidate. Since that candidate belonged to the agency's own pool of contacts, it could just as easily pluck the same person from FFIC for another 20 grand from another employer. "Now we can behave like an agency and offer candidates exclusively to our internal FFIC customers," Weston says.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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