Recruitment agencies may be at a disadvantage against in-house acquisition teams when it comes to making hires over the internet, according to a recent survey. But are company-run job portals really a thorn in the side of the industry, or are they a much smaller threat than some would have us believe?

Cazar, a recruitment firm active in the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions, studied a staggering 3.9 million CVs submitted through a range of online channels. These included the employers’ own career websites, direct referrals, trade portals, social networks and corporate talent pools. An array of sectors were profiled, among them financial services, IT and construction, and all manner of vacancies were considered, from customer service staff to senior executives.

According to Gulf News, the researchers found the bulk of successful applicants – nearly a quarter, at 24 per cent – were hired through company-run job portals. Talent pools and databases of candidates set up by third parties followed, leading to over a fifth (22 per cent) of all temporary, contract and permanent appointments.

Meanwhile, a much slimmer 13 per cent of successful job hunters applied through other websites, like online news and trade portals and social networks. Referrals from employees within the company, along with candidate-led networking, secured 14 per cent of placements, while traditional job boards ended up accounting for an unimpressive four per cent of successful applications.

To Guy Rickett, Cazar’s chief executive, the survey results show how companies are increasingly on the ball with their in-house recruiting efforts. By setting up their own career websites, he argued they’ve taken control of their talent acquisition in a way that lets them “manage quality, time and costs”.

“They have well-structured recruitment processes, professional online recruitment systems, stronger employer brands and more experienced teams than before,” Mr Rickett said.

However, before recruitment agencies begin to fret the easy availability and deployment of technology like company-run job portals spells doom and gloom for their sector, it’s worth considering whether or not the Cazar survey really gives a complete picture.

Indeed, in response to the firm’s findings, one anonymous HR consultant told Gulf News companies that rely on their own career websites alone could be shooting themselves in the foot. “Job applicants post their CVs everywhere, from social networking sites to job portals. They also participate in career fairs,” the consultant said. “How are companies going to know there are other far more qualified candidates out there if they simply rely on their web portals? Corporate websites are only effective when the company is popular.”

Perhaps the size of the employer is the crux of the issue here. Bigger companies have the resources to run effective in-house recruitment campaigns, setting up career websites that are every bit as functional as the big job boards; they employ far more people than their smaller rivals, which goes some way to explain the high proportion of successful applicants using these pages; and they often have brand recognition too, meaning candidates explicitly seek out their vacancies.

So what lessons should recruitment agencies take home from the Cazar survey? Here are a few recommendations for businesses who find themselves up against increasingly successful in-house teams.

Target small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This recommendation was put forward by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation back on January 2nd, when it looked into some of the ways agencies should prepare themselves for changing market conditions through 2014. “The SME market may well deliver results as while they don’t have the volume of activity they also rarely use intermediaries and don’t have procurement specialists,” said the body’s chief executive Kevin Green.

Use as many online channels as possible. As the anonymous HR consultant quoted above pointed out, many companies will miss out by focusing entirely on their own career websites. You should be using every possible sourcing tool at your disposal, from social media to established job boards.

Keep your candidates close. As a recruiter, you’re in the privileged position of being able to build long-term relationships with your top talent, regardless of whether or not they turn out to be the right match for a particular vacancy. With widespread reports of skills shortages on the horizon, this represents an obvious advantage – when candidate availability runs low and bigger companies struggle, you can tap into a long list of capable contacts.