Could You Automate Recruiting? Some Thoughts on Recruiter Value

From time to time I hear recruiters discuss their fears of being “automated out” of a job. A common fear is that the Internet and enterprise software tools will mean the elimination of recruiters. I have written several articles where I have discussed the potential that technology has to take over many of the activities recruiters do and how the skill sets that recruiters need has changed. If we explore each of the key technologies, we can see what they have to offer. The Internet Obviously, this is the killer app and the foundation technology that most of the others use in one way or another. What it allowed us to do, first of all, was to post jobs so that they were exposed to potentially tens of thousands of people at a time. Today this is common practice for almost all organizations, as it allows us global exposure at a tiny fraction of what it would have cost to do it with a newspaper or magazine. It also has given us the power to communicate effortlessly with candidates, gather data about the candidate, provide feedback, and market ourselves to them without anyone having to say a word. It allows the candidate the ability to learning about our company, our jobs, and our culture without leaving the house, and it allows us to market our uniqueness to the candidates. The Internet has also allowed us to do inexpensive research. We can learn more about markets, competitors, candidates, and the supply chain than was even dreamed about even five years ago. The Internet is a tool and can be applied in numerous ways to make our lives easier. I make an analogy to the engine of a car. It makes the car go, but it is not the car or the driver. You need all three for the car to be of any use. The Recruiting Website The recruiting website has become (or should have become) the primary way you market to candidates. With a modest investment of time and a little creative juice, any organization can have an effective tool for pointing out organizational strengths and for sending clear messages to candidates about the culture of the organization. A good recruiting website can also assess candidates’ qualifications for specific positions, and even conduct skills assessments and help reduce the volume of candidates who can now apply for jobs because of job postings. These sites are vital to the success of any recruiting effort. Any organization that does not have a robust website will not be able to compete very well in the competitive labor market that we will soon be in again. They enhance, even enable, the recruiter’s ability to select the right person and build interest in the organization. Still, websites are not able to “recruit” anyone. The Applicant Tracking System The cornerstone of many efforts to automate recruiting revolves around the applicant tracking system, or ATS. These tools have been around for about a decade and have become familiar to all recruiters who have been part of large organizations. Even most smaller organizations have by this time figured out some way to use an Excel spreadsheet or its equivalent to track resumes and candidates. Applicant tracking systems allow candidates to submit resumes that are then stored in a database. Recruiters can access these resumes in a number of ways, mostly by doing keyword searches for specific terms within the resume. This way, a few relevant resume can be retrieved from thousands that may be in the database. Other common features include ways to track requisitions and which recruiter is assigned to them, automated responses to the candidates via email, routing of resumes to hiring managers and recruiters, interview scheduling, and reporting for compliance and for internal purposes. Only a handful of these have any capability of interacting with the candidates themselves. The ATSs are really just backend data keepers and dispersers. They are useful but they cannot do “recruiting.” Enterprise Software (Peoplesoft, SAP, Oracle and the like) These big, comprehensive tools are designed for storing data and generating reports. They do payrolls and track benefits. They assign employee numbers and tally up hires, layoffs, retirements, and deaths. Some of them have basic applicant tracking systems that come with them or can be bought as an add-on. They are not a threat to recruiters, but could make their lives easier by providing the means to track and report and correlate things like turnover to source of hire, or performance level compared to source of hire or to an employees application. If the data gathered by these tools can be interpreted and tied back to the recruiting process, many improvements in recruiting could take place. What Can and Can’t Be Automated? All the administrative aspects of recruiting can be done by the Internet or by the other software tools available. Mot screening and some level of candidate assessment can be done by good recruiting websites and other specialized software. Candidate communication, especially of a routine nature, can be easily automated as can such mundane activities as interview scheduling, relocation assistance, and offer letter generation. Background screening and other aspects of application processing can also be almost completely automated. So, where’s the recruiter in all this? Hopefully, you can still see the many things left for a recruiter to do. Sure, we may need fewer of us to deal with a greater number of candidates, but what’s left to do is challenging and worthwhile work. A modern recruiter should focus on the front-end, or candidate side, of recruiting. This means using technology to source the candidates that you can then spend time getting to know. Building relationships, fostering communication, and exchanging information should be a major part of what a recruiter does. By using technology, this becomes easier than ever before and allows a reach and scope that was never possible before. Today’s recruiter needs to create talent strategies for her organization, help do more effective workforce planning, and gather the data needed to understand both the demand and the supply side of the talent equation. They also need to build and nurture strong candidate relationships and sell the organization to the candidate with great skill. This chart summarizes what I have been saying. I welcome you feedback and thoughts about it. I am sure some of you will disagree with where I have placed things, and I would like to hear your suggestions for additions or other changes.

The recruiting process is one that will never be fully automated, although much of the backend can be (and will be). The front end is where both value and opportunity lie.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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