A Recruitment Revolution Is Upon Us

I am seeing a revolution happening in recruitment.

In the past 20 years, I have seen recruiting evolve drastically. Before the Internet and social media, recruitment was stripped down the the basics. Recruiting was all about a phone and cold calling. Recruiters would call candidates relentlessly and our best bet was to try and catch the candidates at night and at home. At this time, not everyone had a mobile phone or for that matter e-mail.

Then we came into the age of the Internet. Job boards quickly followed and Monster and Career Builder were household names for every candidate and recruiter. The best way to find candidates was posting a job. Both Monster and CareerBuilder had great resume databases and you could find candidates a heck of a lot faster than a manilla folder.

Job boards slowly lost momentum as candidates quickly got the “active” tag attached them when they were on one of those job boards. Certainly there was something “wrong” with candidates who have their resume on a job board. The top 10 percent wouldn’t dare publicly declare that they were looking for a job because that would hurt their negotiation power.

Then came LinkedIn.

Many recruitment agencies, corporations, and candidates bought into it. LinkedIn was the answer. Most everyone now has a LinkedIn profile. There was and is no shame in having a profile. No one could tell if you were an “active”or  “passive” candidate. Reality set in and people realized they should be a “passive” candidate. Economic uncertainty and recent history of recessions have forced us to look at taking care of No. 1:  Ourselves. Certainly our companies have shown us we are dispensable.

People are getting smarter though. Time will tell if LinkedIn is going away. LinkedIn is like the white pages in a phone book. It is a place to find names. As a consumer, we don’t need to buy LinkedIn’s recruiter product. There is still a majority of the population that does not hang out on LinkedIn. There is Twitter, there is Facebook, there is GitHub, there is Pinterest, there is Instagram, and the list goes on and on.

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Big Data will allow us to identify the right talent quickly. They will be able to identify the right talent through all of the social media platforms and be able to tell by data who is the most qualified, who is looking, and when people are likely to make a change in employment. So, who needs to spend thousands of dollars on a product that is getting diminishing returns on your investment?

So, if we can identify the right talent quickly, where does that leave the recruitment industry? Recruiters won’t go away. Recruiting will go back to the basics.  People won’t be jamming out on their iPods looking through 1,000 resumes to send out 500 InMails to get a 5 percent response rate. The recruiters that will succeed will be the ones that have the two things we had 20 years ago — a phone and ability to cold call. A salesperson who relentlessly calls the right person.

The recruitment industry has gotten lazy and a revolution is upon us.

What are your thoughts? Can’t you see the signs?

Will Thomson is the Founder & President of Bulls Eye Recruiting, LLC which is headquartered in Austin, Texas. His organization recruits Sr. Sales, Marketing, and HR talent around the United States.  Will's 23 year recruiting career includes working for recruiting agencies such as Aerotek and also working as a corporate recruiter at Dell, eBay and Rosetta Stone.  Bulls Eye Recruiting was formed in 2012 as a blog which morphed into a recruiting agency in 2014.  His company works on both a retained and contingent search model for finding the best talent available in the marketplace.  


41 Comments on “A Recruitment Revolution Is Upon Us

  1. Times have changed and recruiting needs to change with the times. Recruiters have to understand that it’s easier through technology to find fits, they just have to stop being lazy and get on the phone, like you said.

    I developed a new way of recruiting that got us kicked out of a national recruiting association. It’s called HireArk, its a full blown recruiting firm with 3 recruiters on every search, it’s affordable, utilizing new tech and old school cold calling. The client even gets a portal (PC and mobile). http://www.hireark.com

  2. Will, I completely agree with your conclusion although I get there for slightly different reasons. I think the big challenge in great recruiting has never been identifying a group of people with the right buzz words on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles but rather in using communication skills (often over the phone but also in person) to figure out if a potential candidate is as well suited to a specific position as is realistically possible. In other words, the ability of a recruiter to really understand in a good amount of detail what is required to be successful in a position and then do a “deep dive” in their screening to make sure those details align (both the hard and soft skills as well as practical things like compensation, location, etc). And, of course, to use this knowledge of both parties in the process to shepherd things forward and help in closing the deal once a decision has been made.

    Like you, I got involved in recruiting in the mid-90s (not really that long ago in the bigger scheme of things). I was living in New York and had the chance to work for several really great recruiting firms, both on the contingency and retained sides of the business. As you know, back then, only a very small number of recruiters were using the Internet as their number one source of information. But corporate directories were much more ubiquitous. Almost all large companies, and most of the smaller ones too, made hard copy directories available to their employees. So, because there were a lot of them floating around, copies always made their way into recruiter’s “libraries” (at least in New York). Also, a lot of directories had titles and department information. I did a bunch of programming work for brokerage firms early in my career (back then it was almost all UNIX C work) and so I started out by specializing in finding IT folks and mathematicians for Wall Street firms. It was never very hard to put together a list of, say, Oracle DBAs working in finance. In fact, with a stack of current directories, it was probably easier than it is today using LinkedIn (with a directory you have a phone number right there and also more and more of the information on LinkedIn is out of date). But that’s never been enough. And today the details matter more than ever. Okay, so LinkedIn can tell you that someone is a Java software engineer, but most profiles are bare boned, and so it’s often hard to tell even the most basic stuff beyond that (is their experience more interface or data access or what) and usually the only way to figure that out is to pick up the phone and call the person and spend some time getting to know what they are all about. Someone can call themselves a machine learning expert but if a particular project is being built around, for example, logistic regression, they might be of no use to the hiring manager if their actual experience has never touched on that. And specificity and complexity just keep on increasing in almost all aspects of the employment economy. And none of the above even gets into everything else that goes into evaluating a candidate (like, are they actually any good at what they do and do they have the potential to do other relevant things and can they communicate well and are they even in the right salary range, etc.)

    So, anyway, what it comes down to is that I agree with you 100% that success in the future will depend on the basics. I agree that knowing how to talk to different kinds of people to find out what you need to know will be as important in the future as it was in the past. And knowing enough to recognize a great match for a specific position based on a conversation or two is something that will always be highly valued (and hard to come across). But I think that’s not because of how much things have changed as much as it is because of how much they haven’t.

    Thank you for a well written and passionate article (my wife recently had a baby and with my new sleep schedule fun articles like this have become really important to keep me thinking about things beyond the next diaper).

    Doug Friedman

  3. Doug, the real news here is that baby – congratulations!

    You hit upon a fact I only recently discovered while doing research for some writing I’ve been doing – communication skills – both written and oral – are the #1 most sought after skills – in both the iT and manufacturing sectors. Although we in the sourcing and recruiting business probably know that instinctively, when asked we’d more probably reflexively stop to furrow our brows, cravenly whimper some, “What? Java? CAD?” wincingly while our insides caved hoping we didn’t look too ignorameously stupid in front of the “sophisticated” tech-savvy twenty and thirty-somethings all glancing like-nobody-was-noticing between their “smart” phones and the meeting at hand.

    Not no more, boys and girls. Y’all thought you had it covered between those resources Will just called you out on: LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook and GitHub and for God’s sakes even Pinterest (is nothing sacred?) and to continue: Instagram and the list that goes on and on that he referred to.

    What’s next? Oh for sure there will be more shiny new balls and more “industries” that blossom around them to take your money to teach you how to “monetize” them.

    Get smart and learn the basics. Do what MIT is doing and decide that there’s value in the old stuff and learn how to blend it with the old stuff. This is a fascinating concept they’re putting together:

    If we do what they’re doing there we’ll have sustainable recruiting.

    Luddites unite!

    What better place to start the revolution than ERE.

    I love this place.

    And Will, I love Texas.

    You guys know how to speak to power.

  4. I meant blend it with the new stuff. And, I forgot to add:

    Maureen Sharib
    Telephoien Ensorceler <– The new path in phone sourcing

    P.S. And talking about luddites. C'mon, guys. Isn't it about time we get an edit ability in here?? At least a 5 minute window to change embarrassing spelling mistakes?

  5. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Recruiting is always going to be about relationships and getting to the right people, quickly and efficiently. The advent of social media tools was supposed to allow us to extend our “networks” making it easier to prioritize the right calls.

    Instead, many recruiters have indeed gotten lazy and only know how to pick the “low-hanging fruit”.

    Good recruiters will always be in demand because of the value of relationships within their networks.

  6. I noticed over the last few years that something seems to get missed in these discussions.

    The reality is that a lot of larger companies (not all, but ones I have worked for or colleagues I speak too) get most of their hires through active channels. Or in other words a large bulk of a company’s hires generally come from simply posting the job, employee referrals or links driving traffic back to the careers pages.

    In the future IMHO, this will not directionally change.

    So, the strategy needs to be a comprehensive one that requires how do you optimize your ‘active channels’ while building capability and scalability in the passive channels……Picking up the phone, networking, warm calling, relationship development pipelining and headhunting

    Most discussions seem to be a micro view of the world related to identifying and attracting the elusive ‘passive candidate’ vs. the macro overall view of total channel optimization which the bulk of the hires are the ‘active candidate’.

    Happy to keep reading articles about how recruiting needs to get back to basics and pick up the phone (which it does btw), but just a reminder from a leader in the trenches (so to speak), that if this is all my function did (proactive phone outreach), then I would need a heck of lot more resources with a lot more expense added to try change the percentages from more passive vs. active.

    Or simply put, if 20% of my hires today require a passive strategy, is it really in the company’s best interest to have a solution that tries to make 80% of our hires come from passive candidates?

  7. To loosely quote Danny Cahill . . Finding people is the easy part. Qualifying and convincing them to take the role, help negotiate compensation and keep them from taking a counter-offer is what you pay recruiters to do.

  8. @ Rob,

    That is the reality. For one, there is still no evidence that I’ve seen that actually shows ‘passive’ candidates are better in any quantifiable way. A candidate who is passive now is active in the future, or has been in the past, but does the quality of their work change relative to their job hunting status? I don’t see the connection. Active vs passive is a marketing issue, not a quality one. And the passive route does produce candidates, but at higher cost and on a longer time horizon. Most companies want lower costs and manage to a shorter time horizon, therefore passive strategies are the minority of their work and will be for the foreseeable future.

    I personally see no evidence of a recruiting revolution, much less one that requires back tracking to techniques used during the 60s through the 80s. The development of recruiting has been incremental, the resume databases, job boards, LinkedIn and other social media, all add to our ability to find people, but necessarily to recruit them. If there were an official recruiting body, I have no doubt their training would require cold calling, but the simple fact is cold calling all day doesn’t compare to calling warm leads with some cold calling of desirable candidates who didn’t respond to initial feelers via other communication methods. Nor does finding the highest quality candidate possible do much for a client who isn’t willing to pay the premium in salary and other benefits the fabulous 5% demands.

    What’s more, the rate limiting factor in recruiting is not the availability of candidates, it is dysfunctional hiring processes. Take a batch of well cared for, passively sourced candidates and turn them over along with some easily sourced active candidates, and they are generally treated the same by clients/hiring managers. This is true whether you’re at an agency or in the corporate department.

    A real revolution in recruiting would used evidence based techniques to develop hiring processes that work regardless of whether they’re used by an employer of choice or companies with little to no brand recognition or pull. I have long thought an org like SHRM should take up this issue, but unfortunately they really won’t. Hiring is a process littered with landmines, and many companies doing things which are at best pointless, often counter productive, and less often but still frighteningly prevalent, things that outright unethical and illegal. It’s more than likely that hiring randomly based on a resume would be just as effective as most hiring processes in place right now, and probably carry less risk, minimal as it is already.

    As long as we operate in a market where the hiring process is often an arbitrary meat grinder that treats good, mediocre, and bad candidates alike, and in which there is a real and perceived surplus of labor on the market, hiring processes won’t improve because they really don’t need to. Labor should be a scarce resource, it isn’t thanks to various economic, political, and social factors, so there’s plenty of meat to chuck in the hopper and hope eventually a decent burger comes out. And as long as that’s a cost effective approach, it won’t change.

  9. Great article to drive conversation. It got me thinking just that what we see now is just really different and better evolutionary development more than revolutionary (game-changing) and marked shifts in what and how things are done.

    The process itself largely seems to only have taken smaller, evolutionary steps focused on gaining more and better utilizing candidate data. It’s still a bit too time-consuming, complex, and scattered for business-hiring managers to drive and to reach revolutionary status.

    Make no mistake, the thinking origin of new tools was revolutionary – how can I remove all the middle people (HR and consultants) from the process that business-hiring managers need to drive and control. It’s just that despite the ability to capture more data that question still hasn’t been answered.

    Business doesn’t have the off-season of sports, which is when coaches at all levels drive and participate the recruitment then training and development process. The recruitment revolution is about how/what can be done to squeeze it into the business-hiring manager’s daily business activities so that it doesn’t seem so different.

    Now if asked what would a revolution in the recruitment service industry really look like? Well, then the answer undoubtedly would be based on something that has hiring/business managers completely capable of efficiently doing the process as part of the daily business responsibilities.

    Truly revolutionary recruitment providers will be able to show and sell that this exactly what they do.

    Look at how sales (often regarded as a true business professional much more so than recruitment/HR despite being very closely related in design and execution) works at a company and then value and treat recruitment/HR similarly. That’s revolutionary thinking and probably would significantly change what recruitment professionals into something we don’t yet see or do.

    It also might make many of us think differently about the outsourced, under-resourced, and externally-driven recruitment model.

    I think of of similarly to the genius of iPhones and smartphones isn’t just what they allow us to do feature-wise. It’s as much about simply being able to do well the basics of what we want and need without needing multiple devices to do it. We’re not better because of smartphones, but we’re certainly enabled to do much more without cumbersome delay or needing other resource-dependent assistance.

    The role of recruiter/recruitment has to be elevated from “process executioner” to business-enabler on a much more massive and pervasive scale before “revolution” is what business managers see and feel.

  10. AMEN…back to the basics is always where it is. I’ve been saying the same thing for years. Professional athletes do it every year prior to the season – focus on the basics, why shouldn’t recruiters be taking the same approach!

  11. I get suspicious of calls to get back to basics because I often see no deviation from the basics in many cases, but I do often see people claiming a return to this or that is what’s needed, when it’s really just an excuse for poor performance due to deeper issues. A good hire is the desired end result, whether that person was first spoken to in person, via the phone, or via email is irrelevant. People do not need to get back to basics, they need to go beyond the basics and develop some new damn basics. And I don’t think that what’s at the root of problems with recruiting is an unwillingness to get on the phone with someone. It’s a bit simplistic to say the least, and ignores the portion of the process that we all know is far more variable in quality and full of black holes: the actual interview and hiring process.

  12. Maureen – Thank you for the kind words about our baby. You make an excellent point. Most of the engineering work being done today involves large groups and is iterative and incremental with an emphasis on collaboration and multi-functional teams. So this means that someone who can’t communicate well runs the risk of quickly becoming the weak link in the chain. One thing I’ll add that I’ve seen is sometimes recruiters don’t get this feedback. Some hiring managers feel bad about giving negative feedback on someone’s communication skills because they don’t think it’s nice or even are worried that it might be unethical or inappropriate in one way or another. After all, in our daily lives it really ISN’T appropriate to criticize a stranger for communicating poorly. So the recruiter hears something, maybe about some small detail of the candidate’s technical skill set, and never realizes just how important the communication piece is.

    Rob McIntosh – I absolutely agree with you. The vast majority of hires come from passive channels. However, I’d like to point out that this really isn’t anything new. It used to be that companies would post their jobs in the classified section of newspapers. I know in New York in the 90s that the New York Times was considered the best place to run your help wanted ad for IT or analytical roles. The Sunday Times had a HUGE number of these ads representing mainly local companies but also companies that wanted to tap into the NYC labor pool and relocate candidates. If a brokerage firm with a decent reputation ran an ad for say, an IT project manager, even just a really small ad, they would be swamped with applicants. Often hundreds would fax and mail their resumes (most companies weren’t supporting email submissions at that point). But, exactly like today, there were always a small percentage of positions (a bit higher at companies doing really unique things) that wouldn’t get results by posting an ad. And that’s where all the active strategies come into play. I think the passive strategies don’t get written about as much because the active stuff is tougher and thus maybe more interesting. Or at least there is more debate about those techniques where as posting open needs across multiple boards and media channels has become an accepted best practice at almost all companies.

    One interesting thing to think about for those who have been around for a while is just how much more productive recruiters really are today than they were 10+ years ago. Are agency recruiters generating significantly more fees? Are corporate recruiters filling positions faster? If so then by how much? How much has productivity really increased with the introduction of social networks, multi-functional applicant tracking systems, data analysis tools, etc.? Some of you out there in TA at large companies will actually have hard data to look at if you are interested in this question. I’ve seen metrics at some companies that go back to the ’70s (at least in terms of all the basics like the number of hires by department, size of the recruiting department, time to fill, etc.) It’s interesting stuff.

    Doug Friedman

  13. Recruitment revolution? I’m in Silicon Valley where we strive
    to produce “Credible Hype.” Here goes!

    This week introduced us to Google’s Self-Driving Car. No steering wheel, no brakes, just Stop and Go buttons. And no more accidents!

    What if we had a Self-Driving Recruiting Machine? No more hiring mistakes! Eliminate my #1 fear — cutting off the great candidate who speeds to my competitor with rage!

    Scan resumes no more, applicants press “Go” on a DNA scanner. Firm grips determine technical prowess, a lighter grip assesses soft skills. (My gym reads fingerprints to confirm membership!)

    And it’s a mobile device! That candidate I identify with my Google Glass on the subway, at Starbucks, at the trade show embraces next my Recruiting App smartphone, my tablet. A match?

    Uh oh, the hackers. Like the iPhone, this fail-safe tool’s
    cracks get published 20 hours after launch.

    My fellow hiring managers contend hiring is hacked too. Some candidates sound so right it’s harder in 2014 to distinguish who’s good vs. who’s coached. (As author Will T. says “People are getting smarter.”)

    They point to scripts from Resume Writers to candidates who land or lose offers. Countless guides, blog posts and YouTube videos appear with titles like:
    * Beat the Applicant Tracking System
    * Ace the Facebook Interview
    * Shatter the Glass Ceiling with Glassdoor

    Yes, these managers say they too want to get back to where they once belonged. Let’s time warp to regular conversations again! And the most frustrated yell like the rock group Foreigner,
    “Instead of [filling jobs] we play Head Games!”

    Perhaps the solution is more human interaction. I can’t quite yet let the Search Engine Optimists be my designated Greyhound, i.e.,
    “Go Google and leave the driving to us.”

    For what’s more human like hiring, maybe it’s time to say “Leave the Selection/Rejection to us.”

    Or is it?

    I recall astute observations from one in recruiting with a TRS-80. He forewarned, “A poor Evaluator { Recruiter, Hiring Manager, Interviewer } can make a lifetime career of letting good ones slip away!” No dashboard reports if persons they discarded were actually fantastic. Maybe the applicant was nervous or didn’t say the winning number of Years of Experience for tonight’s Resume Lotto drawing. (Our author spoke of late night calls.)

    Meanwhile that judge keeps making errors, like the executive who said Paul Hewson’s music wasn’t worthy. (Hewson’s stage name is Bono.)

    Yes, there is a drive to make it more human, sorely needed. Some suites now enhance online candidate experience. And there’s the Zappos experiment. Will they be more accurate?

    Hands-on hardware engineers use the term “tolerance.” We may demand 1% tolerance or reason 20% is fine. This number declares how far off is okay before breakdown.

    To me that’s the challenge of effective recruiting, be it
    all human, all software, or a mix. Just what is your tolerance for hiring mistakes — False Positives AND False Negatives?

    And how does your high tech/high touch solution prevent well-intentioned Head-on collisions in Headhunting?

  14. @ Douglas,

    “One interesting thing to think about for those who have been around for a while is just how much more productive recruiters really are today than they were 10+ years ago. Are agency recruiters generating significantly more fees? Are corporate recruiters filling positions faster?”

    That’s an interesting question, and probably not answered so easily. The time savings from such tools is obvious to me, but that doesn’t mean everyone will take advantage of the added efficiency. Also, such systems are often implemented in shoddy ways with integration issues, between say the payroll system and the ATS, leading to gains in efficiency in some areas but losses in others. I’d be interested in seeing that kind of data.

  15. Thought provoking article – good read.

    Is a revolution upon us? Possibly. Is a revolution needed? Definitely.

    First, a comment about current tools. This article, like many, points to the social environment as a potential answer, however, many years in, they still haven’t produced as acceptable results as traditional job boards. Why? I believe it is because it has simply flipped the job board model (where the candidate is now the job posting and gets spammed by recruiting offers), so the same problems exist there that existed for employers with job posting. In addition, the social networks are trying to be everything to everyone so just clutter the process with far to much noise. Finding qualified “passive” candidates is one thing, finding qualified and “interested” candidates in another story. And this is why the social environments are not producing the results they should by this point.

    I think the biggest issue is nobody is stopping long enough to ask, why after twenty years, has the online recruiting segment barely improved in the number of hires? At this point, it should be accounting for the majority of hires in an organization, yet it isn’t. Thus why a revolution is needed.

    The biggest issues I see are:
    -recruiting is a team effort and needs to be treated as such
    -the tools are an absolute bear for people to use, because vendors think people looking for a job will have to put up with such clunky experiences. Except for employed professionals, while maybe interested in new opportunities, are not going to “put up” with such clunky tools. Thus they are not there to be found and thus recruiters STILL have a difficult time finding these people.
    -the entire industry business model is broken. It reminds me of how much people loved the video rental store model and thus why they flocked away in droves once more sensible alternatives were introduced. The industry takes advantage of the pain, rather than trying to actually solve it. It is high time it was solved.
    -the technology is completely wrong. Rather than look at the recruiting process and figure out how to improve or automate it, thereby making recruiters much more effective, they give you a set of tools for manipulating a database because that’s how their technology works. Completely wrong approach. As an example, maybe a recruiter here can clarify something for me. When has anyone ever written job requirements that actually include “must live within 25 miles”? I haven’t ever seen that in over thirty years, so why do current online tools allow me to exclude good candidates based on that criteria? Because it is how their tools works, and not how YOU work.

    Here is what I believe the revolution need consist of to be effective:
    -meet the unique needs of all participants in the process (professionals, recruiters, and hiring managers).
    – professionals don’t want to look for jobs, nor to they want to make themselves a billboard on the internet. They want to find good opportunities, that interest them, as they become available.
    – recruiters don’t want to filter through hundreds of unqualified applicants. They want to get a short list of good qualified and “interested” candidates quickly. They also want to be able to reach a broader pool of candidates that are currently available (because a lot of the tools are keeping the best candidates away).
    -eliminate the noise in the process. Let everyone focus on what is important, not hours and hours spent reviewing profiles and job postings.
    -bring human interaction back into the process. After all, this entire thing deals with humans – not arbitrary “data” listings
    -most of all, focus on the process as a TEAM process. Don’t cater to one base or the other, cater to all of the participants needs so they can spend time doing what they need to do, and that is finding and filling jobs with the best people quickly.

    Just my thoughts.

  16. @Chris,

    “I think the biggest issue is nobody is stopping long enough to ask, why after twenty years, has the online recruiting segment barely improved in the number of hires?”

    Likely because finding candidates was never really the issue. Sure, it’s easier now, but that just makes feeding the meat grinder of a hiring process until one sticks. When everyone talks of a recruiting revolution, it’s in terms of easier access, more on target candidates, better candidate experience, etc. The issue is the hiring process, plain and simple. Deliver all the candidates you want into a dysfunctional process, the increased volume of candidates will make for more hires but also less satisfaction on the part of everyone because of the volume of work needed.

    And does anyone truly think it’s really that hard to find someone to do any particular job? How many times have you worked on a job where you’ve had multiple candidates in play and some, or all, got rejected for reasons which were mystifying at best? I recently had a colleague at another firm dealing with a client who needed a consultant, but who wouldn’t hire anyone with consulting background. Anytime they saw a consultant, they declined them because they’re background wasn’t “stable” enough. Anytime they found a permanent person who was willing to take it, they rejected them because they thought they’d leave for a perm placement and wouldn’t stay for the full 10-12 months of the project.

    And this kind of stuff is routine. It’s the hiring process that’s broken, not the recruiting portion.

  17. Ahhhh, the good old days.

    I will say that I often say and have written about the basics. It doesn’t matter what tech is out there. Without the basics recruiters won’t and can’t be truly successful.

  18. I love this discussion. It is precisely why I started Archive.ly. I am not interested in fishing. I am interested in hunting. Unlike when I first started “sourcing” and I was combing through paper directories trying to match the department codes trying to piece things together, the amount of data we have available to us today is unbelievable and definitely unmanageable.

    Kudos to LinkedIn for changing the way people view putting their professional information online. It’s too bad that it is at the center for lowering the bar and barrier to entry to what I once thought was an incredible profession.

    I have said recently, “I am like the organic farmer in the time of the microwave.” I will never give up my intuition, discernment or human skills for an algorithm. I am interested in using technology to cut down day to day manual labor, to store data for the next ten years that is relevant and curated by me, but not taking away my edge or letting my intuition get dull. After all an algorithm won’t make someone answer your email.

  19. @Everybody: The problem with coming late into an involved and active discussion of a good posting is that a most/all the good things have already been said (and better than I could say them). Nevertheless, I will try to add a little, if only a paraphrase:
    If their HAS been a revolution in recruiting, then it failed miserably,and the reactionaries are firmly back in charge.

    1) How have cost of hire, time to hire, quality of hire, and most importantly: CONSTANT-DOLLAR RECRUITER MEDIAN INCOME compared over the past few decades. I really doubt there has been a significant improvement, but show me some objective numbers if you can…

    2) Some of the core problems in recruiting relate to the desire for hiring managers to insist upon candidates are unrealistically good for the offered position/company,and an unwillingness to consider realistic choices (https://staging.ere.net/2013/02/15/recruiting-supermodels-and-a-tool-to-help-you-do-it/). Consequently, the “Fab 5%” get deluged, resentful, and arrogant, while solid, reliable, very-capable people people who could do the job get ignored.

    3) The whole “active/passive” dichotomy is BS IMHO- it’s a spectrum of “fast-hire to slow-hire”. I think you’ll find very few real job-seekers who are looking to establish a gradual, long-term relationship with a company; we/they want a decent-paying, well-benefited “employment hookup,” aka “job” STAT!. Likewise, I think there are very few hiring managers who are willing/able to to take 6, 12, 18 months to gradually find the perfect person- they want the perfect person NOW.

    If you want a REAL revolution- then start listening to those of us who actually do recruiting and not slick hucksters or pompous pontificators with high-level connections ready to sell the latest recruiting snake oil or “magic bullet” to desperate and not-yet insolvent recruiters and their superiors who fail to recognize that in most cases they are futilely “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” of their companies’ ill-conceived, over-blown, grossly-dysfunctional hiring practices…


  20. First, we need to understand when and how the recruiting industry started and how it has evolved throughout the past 80-100 years or so. In the early years and during an era of employment loyalties and lifetime careers with ONE employer, our value was based on our ability to identify AND attract workers from company A (usually a competitor) and convince them to go work for company B. So our value was not only that we found the professional (or worker) but that we were able to convince them to be disloyal, leave their employer and come work for our “client”. We did whatever we had to do to get the job done. Our business was a “dirty” business, but one that was well remunerated…a step above the “profession” of a hitman, but with slightly better ethics and no morbid outcome, not usually anyway.

    Since, we have come a long way in professionalism, education, training, certifications, credibility and respect, but still not enough to save our reputations and maintain our value overall. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of untrained, underpaid, and many incompetent recruiters, enter the business every year, continuously compromising the reputation and diminishing the value of our profession. A phone call from one of these recruiters (corporate or outside) rivals only the quality of the automatic pre-recorded telemarketer. Add to that all the new sourcing tools from job boards to social networks, social media and the perfect storm has been created. In the meanwhile and for the past 10-12 years, pro-active, forward thinking corporations, in an effort to lower the cost per hire, have followed suit and entered the recruiting/talent acquisition business.

    Nowadays huge armies of overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated corporate recruiters control the recruiting process throughout most industries and while another army of incompetent paper pushing, non-committal, limited yield, contingent agency recruiters service them. So what is the result of all of that? Level of service and quality of hire is at the lowest in history while time to fill and cost per hire is at an all time high.

    So, my dear colleagues, peers and clients…it is not about the information, data or technology, although certainly good tools. It is NOT about LinkedIn, Monster and the likes providing easy accessibility to every professional and their cousins. It is about WHO handles that information and WHO partners with the HM. No data or technology can replace the value of a seasoned, knowledgeable, credible, expert on his/her field. A competent, successful, seasoned recruiter, with business acumen and EQ that becomes HR and HMs trusted advisor, can identify, attract, manage process, negotiate and close top talent on time and on budget. But those are a minority and a dying breed, including yours truly.

    There are good, sound, truly innovative solutions for the above mentioned challenges, so obvious that most are missing it…but that would be going into another topic and not for this forum…and if I told you here…I would have to kill you.

  21. Keith – I swear ERE pays you to provoke people with polarizing commentary 😉

    Here is the paragraph that provoked me “The whole “active/passive” dichotomy is BS IMHO- it’s a spectrum of “fast-hire to slow-hire”.

    Fact: There is no difference between the quality of a passive candidate and an active candidates. Passive’s eventually become active anyway, right.

    What I vehemently disagree with is the assumption that there is no value in a strategy that requires you to build a proactive relationship with a group of similar individuals that map to an ongoing hard to fill group of similar openings (or hiring multiple of the same). If posting a job or the traditional approach is not getting it done, then you need so start developing a relationship with people that are not active looking, even if that means you are potentially going to hire that person 12+ months from now.

    The logical nuance is that there is no point trying to build a relationship with people if you only will hire that unique skill set every few years. It does not scale!. It has to map to multiple roles of the same type of profile so the energy and effort to do this reaps the rewards of pipelining for that type of hard to fill talent profile.

    So if you think I am just lamenting about a philosophy vs. actually strategically and tactically executing against this exact scenario, you would be dead wrong. I (my previous organizations) have proofed out the value of doing this exact approach to produce hundreds of hires with passive candidates that were first contacted and then kept in touch with 12+ months in advance of the actual hire.

    Remember life is about timing and recruiting is no different when it comes to timing……One day your passive and at some point for whatever reason you will become active. Simply put, I want to be there for them to think of us first and connect the dots when they start becoming active. Timing, timing, timing.

    I have first hand witnessed strategies of defining what a better quality candidate is (Silver Medalists, Offer Declines, Good fit but not quite ready yet, etc.) and then the results of executing against those pipelining strategies to produce real and tangible results, be it a long way down the road.

    Keith – While I love your passion and conviction, please be careful making obtuse naysayer comments that potentially turn off other people from thinking there is no value in devising a strategy that delineates the difference in a passive vs. active go to market approach. Not suggesting what I highlight above is for everyone in every company (because it is not), but you would be surprised how many peers and industry colleagues I speak too who are constantly trying to crack the code on trying to do passive recruiting at scale for the right price with the best quality……..Just sayin!

  22. @ Rob,

    I don’t think Keith or anyone would disagree that there’s value in building those long term relationships, but just that’s there’s little backing for what it takes to get and keep those relationships going among managers. I think there is incredible value in reaching out to ‘passive’ candidates. I just don’t think most companies are willing and able to maintain such a pipeline. One, it’s a long time horizon and while people pay lip service to the far future, they don’t often act in accordance with long term goals. Most people plan as little and as immediately as possible, and are very near future oriented. That’s not conducive to passive recruiting. Two, not all companies can maintain such relationships because, the more people get to know them, the less they want to work for them. In the long term marketing hype gives way to reality, and if the gap between how your company brands itself and the reality of its culture is huge, people will find that out in short order these days.

    It’s not a question of actual effectiveness, but buy-in. You do get what you pay for, but people still go to the dollar store because in each individual’s mind is a different standard for “good enough.” The buy-in and necessary planning/time horizon for a real passive recruiting strategy just isn’t there in most places.

  23. I have one word for everyone here… LEVERAGE. Every top producing sales person/recruiter will tell you that supply and demand changes from time to time. You have good days and bad! The sales guys that “weather the storm” in the bad times do two thing (and continue to do two things consistently).

    They utilize all of the resources available such as;

    #1. technology, processes, programs, knowledge, sourcing etc… and probably most importantly, they build relationships due to consistency (performance over time). I believe, alone my contacts are really not worth much, but, my relationships are worth gold! Which leads me to #2.

    #2. Managing relationships… who has time to do this? Our industry is reactive vs. pro-active. This is the very reason why an independent recruiter is able to make charge as much as they (we) do. Relationships are forged over time. It is when we follow up and follow through. EG… I have on many occasions ask Rob for a lead. He has always followed up and through; and he’s a busy friquen guy. In turn if he ask me to jump, my answer is, how high? On the other side I would say HR is the worst at follow up… go figure why Rob’s career has upward mobility.

    If the house is on fire you call the fire department unless; if HR/recruiting truly understood or had experience carrying a bag pro-active programs would be developed to nurture and incubate candidates for immediate and future hires.

    Image: A program where recruiters help hiring managers build their future team? And, then HR can tap the that right person, at the right time. Then we would never have to make one cold call again:). My Fantasy:)!!! Until then leverage which is comprised of working smarter and harder. IMHO…

    Sound familiar Rob?

  24. Thanks @Rob for pointing me to this thread. Great learning. I spent 1/2 hour just reading and reflecting on the conversation in progress- lots of learning points. Maybe the revolution is in how we converse about what we do.

    One observation form all the notes is that recruiting doesn’t seem to have a ‘standard’ definition and most of the commentary while refreshing is referencing recruiting from the perspective of a closed system…where it is likely ‘true’: Corporate or third-party perspective, US centric, Technology/vendor stakeholders, etc.

    There were mentions of other stakeholders but no one I saw has argued why recruiting is or is not undergoing a revolution from the perspective of a business leader, community in which the recruiting takes place…let alone from the candidate’s perspective.

    There were mentions of the need for numbers reflecting differences in ‘outcomes’ that would support the contention of a revolution in progress. And yet, no one offered any numbers…just opinions. (I believe the numbers will show little change over 30-40 years)

    There were mentions of passive vs active strategies both in proportion of hires, tools used (basics, etc.)and more. Not revolutionary. That conversation has been going on as long as I can remember…which is longer than most.

    Couple points I would make:
    – w/o data demonstrating significant changes in outcomes -time, $s or quality, we are not talking revolution but arguing practice/process/workflow. It’s simply a tools discussion around efficiency for whatever system you operate in.
    – global is still waiting in the wings and more ‘revolutionary’ ideas are out there than here at the moment.
    – at best, the toolmakers are living better having sold billions of dollars of shiny objects to people and companies who can’t measure the delta (you are one of the few exceptions Rob).

    And its just one man’s opinion but, when the tools that are currently in the hands of employers are in the hands of the person who truly owns and manages their own career is when the revolution begins.

  25. @ The other Rob,

    Once more, no one is arguing the value of these methods, what’s being argued is the willingness and ability of people, at least on the corporate side, to back such efforts. The reality is this strategy doesn’t just happen, it requires continuous engagement on the part of a significant amount of the company, especially hiring managers, who are already stretched thin with the current ‘on-demand’ recruiting model used by most.

    Is there a business case for it? Yes. Is it a valuable and effective method? Yes. So what? As an example, how many companies are still using legacy ERP systems which over task their IT resources when the case for a newer system can be made very easily? Because even among ‘no-brainer’ decisions there’s opportunity cost, you can’t do all of them, and there is inertia to overcome, because often key people see no need for a change in current methods.

    So the argument isn’t over the value of passive recruiting and relationship building, it’s over how to consistently sell it and keep it going in an environment where most people just want their next candidate delivered wrapped in a bow and ready to go with, and this is key, minimal time, effort, and expense.

  26. @ Rob: “Keith – I swear ERE pays you to provoke people with polarizing commentary ;-)”
    Please take that up with Todd & Cie: my invoices are over four years behind in getting paid….;)
    Richa Araujo is quite right: bI have no

  27. qualms about the desirability of establishing LTRs with potential candidates, it’s the REALITY of doing so that I have problems with. In a REAL recruiting environment (far removed from what some of Will’s fellow authors apparently work in), we (recruiters) are usually drinking from a fire hose of immediate requirements. To have already over-worked and under-resourced recruiters also be *held accountable for developing pipelines and establishing relationships with people who may not be interested or available until **LONG AFTER THE RECRUITERS THEMSELVES ARE GONE seems ridiculous to me.

    @ Gerry: Thanks for bringing cold, hard facts into the discussion. While people may say that this or that is better or worse, without numbers to back it up, the arguments are nearly meaningless. What I CAN say (anecdotally) is that contract recruiters in the Bay Area aren’t making (in constant dollars) as much as we did BEFORE the Dot.com ERA.

    Keith “Stirrin’ ****” Halperin

    *On the other hand, this would be VITAL if someone chose to be a niche 3PR.

    **I’ve recruited for over 200 different types of positions over the years, and I never know what I’ll be (contract) recruiting for next.

  28. Well, well well, the recruitment industry has gotten lazy and we need to go back the basics. Huh? What? Basics? Heck no. Going back to the basics ( or, cold calling) has it’s limitations too. A Recruiter can waste an entire day smiling and dialing and still come up empty handed. The “going back to the basics”, the ole’ cold calling days of yore is and was and always shall be the doldrums of recruiting.

    You are experiencing a revolution right now!!

    The candidate tracking systems we use everyday are becoming integrated with job boards, linkedin, job postings, and social media. The ATS, the TMS, the CRM or whatever you call your system is part of the workflow, process, and the vehicle in which resumes are imported and exported.

    The recruitment industry is far far from being lazy. It has become expensive, complex, and metrics driven. It’s gotten smarter. It’s making use of everything and not just one thing (like cold calling). It’s integrated and confusing at times. And, I agree about Big Data because predictive applications use big data now. I see recruiters using messaging systems in the future. But, we will never go back to the basics.

  29. @ Michael,

    How dare you suggest that the techniques learned in the 80s and pushed by current thought leaders – who may have last used those techniques in the 80s – aren’t the end all be all of recruiting. If there’s anything more reliable to rile people up and less useful in terms of actual information than a call to, “get back to basics,” I’m not sure what it is.

    Reading these and other posts, it’s not a revolution in recruiting that’s needed. There’s plenty of people out there, it’s getting easier and easier to connect with them via old and new school methods. What’s needed is a revolution in the interview/hiring process. It’s there and then that the process is most likely to go off the rails with multiple, sometime endless interviews, tests, and endless requests to, “see more people,” well above and beyond what should be necessary to fill one position. We need to start pushing back against poor managers, bad decisions, and out of control processes as much as possible. As long as our role is to facilitate the bad practices and decisions of others, we won’t be taken seriously as a profession. So, as a profession, we need to take a stand and start pushing for a quality process as much as possible. My suggestions would be these:

    1) Any vetting method with no clear evidence supporting its effectiveness should be dropped, period. Credit checks and drug testing come to mind immediately, with the latter allowing exceptions for sobriety testing in safety critical situations. Nor should this step be limited to such ancillary processes; if interviewing itself is found to be ineffective, then drop it or change it so it becomes effective. I only recently looked, but I’ve yet to see evidence that interviewing itself does much if anything to ensure a good hire and subsequent good performance.

    2) Push for standard, open salary requirements. Throwing money at people doesn’t solve problems, but lack of money does create them. Honesty and openness in the realm of salary from both companies and candidates is necessary and the topic should lose its taboo status. “Competitive compensation and benefits,” is a phrase that’s on par with, “cozy,” in real estate; the latter means small space to house/apartment hunters, the former means low pay in the world of the job hunters.

    3) Develop evidence and research based standards for a more regular hiring process. We need hard research demonstrating what techniques work and where diminishing returns kick in. Otherwise the hiring process will continue to be an out of control monster with 1 step in some companies and 40 in others, one or two interviews here, ten to twelve there. And real research based on effectiveness is what’s needed, not LinkedIn surveys for God’s sake.

    4) Treat recruiting and employment as steps in the same life cycle process for all employees. Accountability needs to be on the managers for engaging in the hiring process, accountability beyond the date of hire needs to fall on recruiters too for quality purposes. There should always be a presumed DSLA in place, and there should be hard research done into when and where in the process accountability for retention shifts from the recruiter finding a good person to the manager/company being able to keep them.

    5) Push for better treatment of workers in the US. Recruiters and HR leaders need to stop being Yes men and women for the whims of whoever happens to be in charge and develop professional standards based on evidence for how much time off, hours worked, etc., should be offered. As the workforce increasingly globalizes people in the US are inevitably going to notice that their European counterparts get twice the time off and then some, and yet, through some miracle, the companies they work for don’t collapse into dust when they take a week off and don’t answer their cell phone and check email every ten minutes. In the US we are burning out our workforce with lower and lower pay, fewer and fewer benefits, and more and more hours worked. When people are dealing with capital equipment they know the machine’s limits and tolerances and maintenance schedule, and respect it if they want the equipment to last. But people are considered to have no limits, no need for real down time, no maintenance, and are just terminally pushed for more and more and more with no regard to burn out. We treat our machines better than our workers, that has to change.

    Recruiting feeds people into a machine that is largely beyond our control. There is no talent shortage, there is no lack of willing and able people. There is a severe problem with hiring; it’s a meandering, standardless maze of conflicting and redundant and often useless processes that people get thrown into and it grinds them down. That’s where the revolution is needed.

    1. This is an amazing comment that hits upon everything wrong with the current hiring system.

      There are decades of research on personnel selection methods (Google: “The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology”). Sadly, the academic research is largely ignored or rejected by industry practitioners.

      I’m curious if you’re seeing any promising signs of change in the way companies are hiring?

  30. I work in IT now, I’m not noticing a shortage. I see some regional issues, but no overall shortage. The problem with claiming a talent shortage is there’s a documented labor surplus. We know the unemployment rate, and it’s high, well above the ‘natural’ rate, and that’s only taking the BLS stats at face value and not counting the ones who have just dropped out of the workforce or are under employed or off the unemployment dole but still not employed. So, is the reality that there’s a talent shortage, or is the reality that there’s a perceived shortage with other actual reasons driving it, like people not wanting to switch jobs, or take a new one even if they’re on unemployment, when it means a double digit percentage point drop in salary? I don’t see prices of gas, groceries, rents, or mortgages going down. I don’t see taxes dropping. I do see salary offerings perpetually dropping.

    I remember in corporate hearing complaints of not being able to find people after numerous interviews, after hearing those complaints I’d ask, “We’ve interviewed more than ten people, could any of them have done the job?” The answer was almost invariably, “Yes.” At which point I’d try and drill down and find reasons why no hire was made and I’d get no where, or more vague requests to, “see more people.” When I look at pipelines for various jobs, rarely do I see a lack of people or interviews. I do often see a misalignment of salary: what they’re already making or the mean for the area is much higher than what’s being offered. When scanning job descriptions I also often see requirements that should be rethought, from the understandable but often unnecessary desire for a college degree to completely contradictory requests, like someone who is ready to take the “next step in their career,” but who also has already done the work the company needs done; you can’t have both.

    In my experience both generally and in IT there’s no candidate shortage, there’s plenty of people to feed into the hopper, it’s when they get into the hiring process that things meander and get turned around and upside down. The follow up questions to claims of a talent shortage should be: Have you seen resumes of people who could do the work? Did you interview people who could do the work? If the answer to those questions is, “Yes,” and they still haven’t hired someone, a shortage isn’t the problem. There’s something else driving the issue, or what I would call a self imposed shortage. A lack of people isn’t too common. An extra long, foot dragging hiring process that loses people to other opportunities and just plain frustration is common, contradictory and/or overly broad job requirements are common, and low salaries are common, and all cause way more problems in my experience than a lack of qualified people.

  31. I appreciate everyone’s comments and points of view on this thread…with many valid points. Whatever we call it, we all agree that is the recruiting ENGINE that is broken, (and has little to do with tools, although poor deployment and integration can cause problems), together with the sub-par OR overworked recruiting professionals that can’t properly manage HM’s expectations and effectively shepherd the process to completion, on time and on budget.

    This thread has motivated me to formally write an article with what I feel would be potential intelligent solutions to the overall problem. I will be happy to be the one to open of the next can of worms and accordingly, wear a bullet-proof vest for the next couple of months. Stay tuned, I will posting up shortly!

  32. Revolution? More like evolution. And when has that not been the case? “Old school” recruiting methods have never really gone away, only the mix of tools gets changed. Change has always come fast & furious to recruiting, driven by advances in technology, new generations coming into the workplace, and employment market trends. I think the biggest difference between current changes & the past is that it’s happening FASTER than ever before. Surely the growth of social media & mobile is driving the job market now. And ultimately, I agree with Mr Crispin on his point that in the end, if there’s a revolution, it’ss taking place on the side of the job seekers.

  33. @ Gerry Crispin

    The revolution will happen from the candidate’s perspective when they hold more power in the equation, which is not now and won’t be for a long time.

  34. Hi Ji-A,

    Sorry I missed your reply a while back. I don’t see any changes. I see one or two companies here and there trying different things. Google a little, a couple companies I recall reading who went to 4 day work weeks, etc. It’s sporadic, not wide spread, because most companies don’t feel it’s necessary, nor are they willing to train most of their managers to handle management in the current model, much less a new one that would require even more demands on their time.

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