Is Our Recruiting Efficiency Hurting Our Company?

Have we become too impersonal today? Too efficient? Will that hurt recruitment in the long run?

Think about it. We’ve got wonderful technology. We no longer need to sift through hundreds of job applicants by hand. We select our criteria and wham — we have our list of candidates. We’ve got efficient phone systems; individuals interested in working for us or talking to us can simply punch in the right numbers. “Press 1 if you … press 2 if you…”

The calls are directed automatically. As recruiting and HR professionals we can then call them back if we want. If not, well …. they don’t know who they’re calling anyway. Makes things so easy for us …. Doesn’t it?

The systems are set up so we barely have to do anything. Which of course we all know in reality doesn’t quite work that way. But the concept sure sounds like a dream.

And we have become anonymous. As people. As individuals. As a company. Particularly when it comes to the outside world and those applicants we really don’t want to deal with. The ones who take up a lot of our time when they do not have the qualifications for the job. Those individuals who call and call and call. Those individuals who are not going to be hired by us. Ever. And that’s great. That’s where the technology comes in handy and is extremely beneficial.

But what about those individuals who could be an asset to our company? Or at least are worth strong consideration for positions. Are we slighting them? Do we miss out on even talking to them because of the screening criteria we’ve used, or the way they’ve worded their resumes? How about the individual who never made it beyond a voicemail left to some anonymous machine because the right person never got the message? If we had met with them maybe we would have known immediately they would have been a strong contributor to our organization. What about those people?

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We all know the value of a face-to-face conversation. As an experienced recruiter, you typically know within minutes of meeting a candidate if they are a strong prospect or not. You know what hiring managers are looking for. You know strong contributors when you see them. You understand that many times the resume does not always reflect the true nature of an individual. Their drive. Their ambition. A positive outlook. A new way of looking at things. A team player. A strong communicator. Those things just simply cannot be fully grasped unless you sit down with someone personally. But of course that does not always happen. It can’t. There is simply not the time.

And with face-to-face communication we add another element. That of accountability. We feel a stronger need to get back to people. We’ve met them. We’ve looked in their eyes. We’ve made a promise. We’ve given them our word. We’ve told them we will get back to them. And it becomes a lot easier to do so. And a lot more important to us.

So … can efficiency be hurting us? It does beg the question: are we sometimes missing out by being too driven by technology and ease of systems? Would a little bit more of a personal touch improve recruiting? Improve our employee base? Increase retention? Build a stronger brand? Even enhance sales? Now that’s an interesting thought.

Kathy Hagens is the founder and CEO of Common Courtesy, LLC. Its origins: as more and more of her co-workers and business associates lost their corporate positions in tough economic times, they began sharing their experiences with her. They were frustrated with not only wanting to work and not being able to secure a position, but also the experiences they were encountering when they were interviewed for positions. It became evident quite quickly to Hagens that the basics of common courtesy seem to be overlooked during the candidate experience. Hagens is a marketing communications and branding executive with more than 25 years experience in building strong marketing organizations. Her experience includes strategic planning, competitive positioning, sales training, branding, advertising, public relations, internal and external communication, company websites, electronic marketing, social media and event planning. Read her blog at


19 Comments on “Is Our Recruiting Efficiency Hurting Our Company?

  1. Yes Kathy, it would be great to have that personal touch, efficiency and cost saving in our recruiting initiatives.

    Unfortunately when the entry point to recruiting starts with reviewing resumes to determine a fit, the human touch will always take a back seat in that process.

    When human touch is the entry point, its a longer process and the cost per hire tends to increase, which is not a good thing in these times.

    Maybe outsourcing recruitment to professionals would improve quality hires and cost efficiency, now that they have the technology to enhance their personal networking capabilities.

  2. Technology should enhance personal interaction not detract from it. Rethink the technologies you (and everyone) are using. Scientific assessments bring a lot of very, very human-centric information and using technology to facilitate that actually deepens human interaction when you have it. Don’t just automate, deepen.

  3. Completely agree Kathy! I have lost count of how many times over the years I have placed people who “looked wrong, were right”. Thats what organizations should be paying for (and valuing) when they partner with an agency. Building a relationship with a recruiter who understands the business and the nuances that will make one person right and another so wrong. Simple criteria and technology can’t do that.

  4. It is important to have a personal touch; maybe it is not feasible at the sourcing stage. However, once I have made contact with a candidate, via phone or in person, I always take the time to send a hand written note or at least a phone call. I don’t rely on “if you don’t hear back from us by Monday etc…” I find it give you credibility as a recruiter and continued to build a positive company brand.

  5. Thanks, Kathy. I agree with you- each applicant needs to feel that they are treated and respected as a human being and an individual. However, as a recruiter I can’t/don’t want to deal with all those people that I can’t get hired, so that’s why I advocate the use of $3.00/hr Virtual Candidate Care Assistants to provide a helpful, person-to-person touch.


  6. Kathy – I definitely agree and it’s an interesting tradeoff to consider between being personal and being efficient. I think as long as you incorporate both to your best ability candidates are going to be appreciative and have a good candidate experience. Even things like picking up your phone rather than letting it go to voicemail will speak volumes to your candidates.

  7. Hurting relationships indeed. Quality recruiting is about relationships and trust. With today’s online processing and Vendor Management Companies, it is almost impossible to do a good job. Almost always, valuable information we need to qualify candidates is omitted from template job descriptions, and the slow response times from the automation makes 3rd party recruiting a speed game. (Who can get the candidate submitted first) Obviously, this results in cutting corners and poor qualification. Forgive my frankness, but Bountyjobs sucks. They have done nothing but hurt the third party recruiting business in my opinion.

    Finally, the automation is typically managed by a “non-decision maker”. My industry is healthcare, and I’ve been in the industry for 17 years. Everything goes through Human Resources to begin with, and NONE of them can make a hiring decision for a manager. Technology may help organize the candidate flow, but it dose not make for a better hiring process.

  8. Great discussion! While the cost per hire does increase with more of the human touch, I do have to ask “or does it?” What is the value of the personal touch and deeper human interactions? What is the true value in finding the person who “looked wrong, was right”? The reality is, we may need the technology upfront. But only to a point.

  9. Technology vs humanity is an old subject and one that has generated a lot of great fiction and science fiction. But reality is fortunately not so stark. i think when we talk “technology” in the hiring context most of us are thinking ATS, tracking systems, social media metrics, categorization schemes and communication protocols. OK, those are useful, to an extent. But there is much greater value in science, applied through technology, the science of psychometrics. That means judgment based on objective, defensible criteria. Human judgment is flawed – very flawed, even. I wish it weren’t so. Proper assessments give a better judgment, a fairer judgment, a deeper judgment of a person than, overall, people’s opinions. By all means, keep human interaction in the hiring process. Let science (and technology that supports it) improve the human interaction not detract from it.

  10. @ Kathy: I believe that by hiring $3.00/hr Virtual Candidate Care Specialists who allow $50+/hr recruiters to concentrate on higher-value add activities, cost/hire may actually decrease as recruiter productivity increases.

    @Paul: Very true. Behavioral Recruiting (the application of Behavioral Economics principles to recruiting) recognizes and works with the reality of human cognitive biases and heuristics- it deals with how recruiters, candidates and hiring managers really act and think, as opposed to how we’re repeatedly told they should act and think. We should talk more, Paul.


  11. Kathy, I think that you are right- we need technology to a point, but I wonder if recruiters are using the right kind of technology? It is difficult to get a true sense of a candidate during a traditional resume review or phone screen, and as you wrote “As an experienced recruiter, you typically know within minutes of meeting a candidate if they are a strong prospect or not.” On account of this, have you thought about video interviewing? The company that I work for, Take the Interview, provides asynchronous video interviewing, which would allow you to ask candidates your most important questions and review their responses at your convenience. Getting to know the “true nature of the individual” before the in-person interview. I think video is one way that can enhance efficiency while still allowing you to improve your employee base.

    Steve Handy
    Take the Interview |

  12. Kathy, wonderful piece and thank you for taking the time to address the downside of technology! I couldn’t agree more that the “art” of recruiting, will never be replaced by automation. While the act of sourcing may be more efficient in today’s world, truly effective recruiting and attracting of top notch candidates will always require a human touch. We have saying in our coaching practice “Companies may interview someone based on their online profile, but they ONLY hire those they like and connect with in person” – the same philosophy applies to companies: “Top talent may find your company thanks to your social media campaign, but they will ONLY work for those companies showing their human side through face2face interaction”!
    Ken Schmitt
    President/Founder, TurningPoint

  13. @ Ken: I think that Skype, tele-presence, etc, will minimize the need for F2F hiring (or working) interaction for many positions.


  14. Nothing replaces face to face interaction. Just ask the airlines, who can charge a premium to the business travler who needs to make a last minute reservation in order to influence a deal….

  15. Keith, great point! Although, it’s funny that we started using web-based interviews when I was with Heidrick back in 2001-2003, and our Partners always preferred to meet the candidates f2f when possible – except when they were trying to save the client money on travel. I think a lot of it has to do with the level of the search, the location of the candidate in proximity to the position and the actual position. In my view, this is also one of the issues with young professionals coming out of college – many of them have lost the ability to interact directly b/c they are so used to texting and FB without any real interaction. One of the “soft skills” most sought out by hiring managers is communication skills and the more f2f interaction, the better 🙂

  16. @ Evan. Those clients/companies/managers sound very “*old-school”, “Boomer” to me….. I concede the possibility that there are some aspects of a business transaction (besides a handshake) which can’t be effectively done via: broad-band tele-presence, but I don’t know what those would be. I can imagine major firms starting to say: “we don’t meet face-to-face for deals under $100,000”.


    Keith “Old School Boomer” Halperin

    *Probably the same ones that don’t like allowing tele-commuting or out-sourcing when it’s feasible.

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