Last month, I wrote an article entitled, Is Your Job Going to India? In the wake of that article, I received a flood of responses from staffing directors, managers, and recruiters. The staffing industry’s response to this piece will surprise you ó and recruiting may never be the same again. First I’d like to make something clear. This article on offshoring was more of a question than an answer. The purpose was to bring to light a very real choice that staffing directors are making every day: Can outsourced or offshore labor take over the more administrative pieces of the recruiting process and whose jobs are at risk? The opinions expressed below from staffing directors, recruiters and vendors were selected from the many I received. Out of respect for their authors, I have chosen to keep their names, companies and certain details confidential. Responses From Staffing Directors What surprised me most from the responses I got is that there are not many compelling arguments against offshoring out there among staffing directors. In fact, I had several staffing directors email me asking where they could find some offshore assistance with tasks like resume processing and database mining. Another mentioned that the article would be used as a motivation tool for his recruiting team which, in his opinion, was starting to fall into a very reactionary recruiting mode. Even those who were most reluctant to consider using offshore labor had to admit that there may be some merit to the approach:
As an American I am completely opposed to offshoring jobs. As a business person, however, it’s my fiduciary responsibility to examine all possibilities. Quite a conundrum. Like most recruiters, I bristle when I hear about any outsourcing, as the connotation is that jobs will be lost here. Outsourcing part of the work, laying off more recruiters, and asking the survivors to do more is not going to produce the results one would hope for. But if you outsource the administrative part of the function and allow recruiters to do what they do best ó network, build relationships, sell candidates ó without further reducing staff, then the idea might have some merit, one I have been reluctant to consider.
Responses from Recruiters I also heard from a few recruiters, who were just as frustrated and scared by the reactionary recruiting efforts they took part in. Perhaps the most poignant response I got was from a regional recruiter, who said the following:
Just wanted to thank you offline for putting my fears into words. I worked as a contract recruiter for a large consulting firm, recruiting nationwide. Due to time and budget constraints, I wasn’t allowed to meet the hiring managers in person. I became just the type of ‘inbox recruiter’ you described ó getting all of my candidates (except one, whom I found through my own recruiting) from responses to our postings and internal referrals. All I did was screen resumes, conduct phone screens, present candidates, and guide them and the hiring managers through the process. In 9 months, I made over 80 offers without once meeting a candidate… My point: Despite the fact that the company that hired me seemed satisfied with my service, I felt like a resume monkey. I felt completely expendable, or at least replaceable, with smart overseas labor (okay, very smart labor ó but it could be done). I declined a full-time offer with the company because I could easily see my job (in its current format) going overseas, yet I couldn’t see a way to make myself more valuable. With over 50 reqs and a cumbersome internal process (up to eight approvals required for every offer), I could barely spare a minute for external recruiting. Now I’m back trying to build my own business. I know I have to make my services so valuable that I won’t be outsourced. You hit the nail on the head with your article.
Responses From Vendors Several vendors contacted me about the services they are starting to provide large companies in the areas of resume mining, processing, and screening. I heard through the grapevine about several companies that have been successfully experimenting with the approach and are achieving some of the same time and cost efficiencies I hypothesized about in my article. While experiences were mostly positive when companies used offshore labor for repetitive and administrative tasks, some companies also told me about the risks and failures they experienced when they tried to take on too much of the recruiting process:
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I worked for a company that started an offshore recruiting service. It just didn’t work out. The reasons were obvious: People in the U.S. have a different work ethic than other countries, and there are different time zones, dialects, and language barriers. [The offshore recruiters were] using the same recruiting job boards, and no relationships were being built with hiring managers. If you have a hiring manager for XYZ Company talking to someone in India who merely works as a ‘resume miner,’ it just won’t cut it. Recruiters are sales managers too. They build the relationships in both corporate and agency environments. They get to know the local recruiting landscape and how to bring value to recruiting. Much like when someone buys a home or car, managers want to deal with a live person.
Conclusions Some things we’re all going to have to face up to in the coming years:
- Regardless of what you think of offshoring, it is about to become a very real, much more common phenomenon in the recruiting industry. If current trends continue, you may not recognize today’s recruiting department in the next five years.
- If your primary role is sorting through active candidate inflow, your job is potentially at risk ó whether through full recruitment process outsourcing, offshoring, or both.
- Offshore recruiters ó by their own admission in most cases ó will never be able to perform as full-lifecycle recruiters. They will also not be able to fully replace the recruiters who do things the right way, i.e. the ones that focus on finding the absolute best talent and building strong relationships with hiring managers and passive candidates.
- Offshore recruiters are also not likely to be able to effectively sell the best talent on working for your company.
- By taking on the less-than-glamorous pieces of recruiting, offshore recruiters may enable you to focus on and get better at higher value activities.
While the risks of offshore labor are very real to many, the opportunities are also great. The value of a good recruiting team cannot be found in how many resumes they process or sort through, nor in the number of individuals they screen or schedule. The real value a recruiting team provides is to give your company a competitive advantage for great talent ó regardless of how the work is split up. As companies begin to outsource and offshore the administrative aspects of recruiting, this presents a very real opportunity for recruiters to excel in the areas that add the most value to their companies. If you have examples of your own positive and negative experiences with offshoring, please share them by posting a review below or emailing me at email@example.com.