Way back in 1999, Business 2.0, an Internet-age magazine that has managed to survive to this day, listed ten principles for the new economy. I wrote a column then that showed how those ten principles applied to e-recruiting. In reviewing them recently, I was surprised at how apropos they still are and how much they have become part of what we do. Back then many of them were controversial ó recruiters wrote angry responses to this column. They said that face-to-face recruiting would never die and that candidates and hiring managers would not accept electronic resumes, online screening, online interviews, and many of the activities around recruiting that are increasingly done virtually. In some cases they were sort of right ó some of these have happened more slowly than I thought they would ó but mostly they were wrong. We have embraced the virtual world more than we may know. Here are the ten principles, updated:
- Matter: It matters less. While we still handle significant amounts of paper, the number of paper resumes that a recruiter receives has dropped dramatically. I know organizations that rarely get more than a handful of paper resumes in a week, but thousands of electronically submitted ones. Some recruiters still print out the resumes they are interested in, but mostly resume distribution is also electronic within an organization. Increasingly, email and websites dominate the way we advertise positions, market to candidates, distribute information about our organizations, handle resumes, and communicate with candidates. Matter truly matters less.
- Space: Distance has vanished. We still spend more time in face-to-face activities than I thought we would. I thought we would be interviewing candidates online with video-based systems and making more hiring decisions without seeing a candidate in the flesh. This has not really happened yet. What we are doing, though, is using more and more online testing and background screening. We are interviewing candidates at some level more frequently using online tools than we were. We are also able to let recruiters live and work from home or on the road because so much is distributed electronically. Telecommuting is popular and growing. Recruiters still need to develop better skills in dealing with virtual space. As most of us are “people” people, we find it difficult to move into this new, rather more impersonal, media. But if we don’t, we will find it harder and harder to be productive and effective.
- Time: It’s collapsing. No one wants to wait for a candidate. Everyone is faced with managers who have expectations of getting high quality candidates within hours of asking. We have begun to deal with this, in the best organizations, by building small and very specialized electronic networks of people within a discipline. We have begun putting together talent pools that are not static databases of resumes, but dynamic groups of people who have been electronically screened and who have the skills we need. These people choose to be in our network and can opt out at will. We send each other emails and newsletters, and keep up to date on new skills and experiences. When we need someone, we tap the pool and have qualified, available candidates almost immediately. As expectations on the part of hiring managers and candidates continue to collapse, we will have to leverage more and more of these tools to stay competitive. Yet we still buy lots of database-focused applicant tracking systems. Mostly we don’t need those databases, but it’s hard to let the past go.
- People: They’re the crown jewels. Talent is scarce. Not necessarily people ó but talent. We are inundated with resumes, yet we can’t find the skill sets our managers want. We have to learn to treat candidates better. They are the crown jewels, and the right one is worth a lot more than any jewel. If store clerks or customer service reps treated us as we often treat our candidates, we would not do business with them anymore. We need to vastly improve our responsiveness to candidates by screening them faster and better, by offering them real-time updates on the status of their application, by reducing the number of interviews, and by cutting down their time in the recruiting process. Candidate service is our weakest ability.
- Growth: It’s accelerated by the network. We need to increase the number of people we contact for any job. We need to search globally. We need smaller pools, drawn from a large, diverse, and global network of talent. Our organization’s growth can only take place when we can grow our services and our range of candidates to meet its requirements. We cannot just be local anymore.
- Value: Rise exponentially with market share. The more candidates we can build a relationship with and the wider we cast our net, the more value we can add to our firm. Diversity builds innovation.
- Efficiency: The middleman lives. I don’t advocate the removal of the recruiter from the recruiting process, as some do. But I do believe that the role of the recruiter should change to be more of a marketer, relationship developer, and candidate searcher.
- The candidate: The candidate is king. The candidate controls the entire relationship and can at any time decide to move on to another recruiter or another firm. Know the markets you are recruiting from and adjust your recruiting practices to them.
- Transactions: It’s a one-on-one game. All relationships are one on one. There are no groups or functions of people anymore. There are no programmers or engineers; only individuals with individual needs and motivations. The recruiter has to understand these individual differences and work with the human resources people to adapt policies and compensation to each person. We need to continue pushing candidate relationship management practices and make transactions as transparent and simple as we can.
- Impulse: The gap between desire and fulfillment has closed. As I said before, both candidates and managers expect swift, efficient, polite and fun relationships. They expect decisions quickly. Neither will wait for bureaucracy or adminsitrivia.
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So the thoughts of 1999 still ring true even after a boom, a bust, and a sort-of recovery. Things are not the same and never will return to the way they were in 1999. Technology, the Internet, and changing expectations of a diverse and global world challenge us now, as they did then.