Is Your Job Going to India?

Despite advances in technology, the reactionary recruiting model of old is back in full force. Recruiters in many organizations are still spending a majority of their time sorting through resumes in their inbox or finding the “low-hanging fruit” from resume databases ó in many cases I’ve encountered, over 75% of their time is spent in these areas. On the flip side, smart staffing directors will tell you that they’re focusing on quality. They’ll also tell you that the best people are not often hanging around on job boards or posting their resumes online, and that they’d prefer their recruiters to spend their time sourcing passive candidates and networking with great talent. In fact, they say that they’d rather their recruiting teams spend 60-75% of their time in the passive and less-active candidate world. The writing is on the wall: certain jobs in recruiting are invariably at risk of being outsourced, offshored or eliminated altogether. What would make a director of staffing decide to outsource recruiting jobs to a foreign country? Which positions and people are the most vulnerable? Sample Scenario Pretend for a moment that you are a new Staffing Director at a mythical wireless company called (excuse the writer’s block) Mythical Wireless Company. You’ve been brought in to change recruiting at Mythical from a reactionary administrative function to a proactive strategic business partner. Upon examining the state of your 60-person recruiting team you find:

  • A total of 40 of the 60 recruiters spend almost all of their time on “inbox recruiting,” just waiting for active candidates’ resumes to show up on their doorsteps from job boards and newspaper ads.
  • The primary sourcing tool consists of major resume databases ó yet when they ask the best performers in the company if they would ever post their resumes in a major resume database, 95% of them say that they wouldn’t.
  • Surveyed hiring managers say that they rely on recruiters to sort through the hundreds of responses they get ó and that’s about it.
  • Recently purchased assessment, screening, workflow management, and applicant tracking tools perform almost all of these functions automatically, leaving one to wonder, “The recruiters seem so busy, but what are they actually doing?”

There will always be a need to sort through active candidates, you think. But this isn’t “real recruiting.” For your recruiting team to add value, they’ll have to start identifying, building relationships with, and convincing the best people ó the ones that usually aren’t posting their resumes on job boards ó to come work for Mythical Wireless Company. Only then will they be seen as a strategic partner. A Possible Course of Action Being that you’re the new person in town, you might closely examine which recruiting functions could be kept in house and which could be outsourced or even offshored. Two vendors have approached you with an undeniable value proposition: You could pay people in a foreign country $3 per hour to do 80% of the work of your inbox recruiters, who make an average of $80,000 including benefits. Over the course of a year you estimate this could save the company approximately $2.5 million. With pressure to cut budgets, you are forced to examine whether or not this is a viable avenue. Can people outside of the country screen through and route resumes with a reasonable level of quality? Will hiring managers be satisfied with the quality of work? The most obvious positions at risk are the “inbox recruiters.” If 80% of their time is spent on a function that could be done for pennies on the dollar, then many or all of their roles may be expendable. The more strategic, consultative recruiters, who focus more on finding and building relationships with passive candidates, appear to be less at risk, since their jobs could not easily be performed by an outside vendor. While this is a mythical example, it is solidly grounded in reality. Many staffing directors have already begun to pilot this approach with a small set of openings and are working through issues they identify as they expand the effort to the entire company. Unanswered Questions It is obvious that the above scenario brings a host of legal, practical, financial, and ethical questions to the fore:

Article Continues Below
  • Faced with the above scenario, what would you have done? Would you have kept your recruiters on board despite the cost savings that could be realized through outsourcing? Or would you have examined offshore alternatives?
  • Can workers in foreign countries effectively screen through and route resumes?
  • Do you believe that a combination of screening and assessment technology and offshore labor can actually deliver better results than many recruiting departments?
  • What are the ethical implications of outsourcing or offshoring the administrative work of recruiting?

Please sound off by posting an article review.

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (, a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.


12 Comments on “Is Your Job Going to India?

  1. That was a good article Dave, but I must say there were a few flaws. First, we can all probably agree that the recruitment process in the given scenario was broken. It was broken for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest reason was what it ALWAYS is, lack of communication. When the recruiting efforts are failing, the first one people look to, and maybe they are right to do so, is the recruiter. Yes, you have some recruiters hanging on the job boards all day and that is not an effective use of their time or resources. I think most recruiters that have been at it awhile would love nothing more than to be able to spend 75% of our time networking and trying to recruit the BEST talent in the marketplace and I’m sure that some ‘smart Staffing Directors’ would prefer that approach…Let them prove it by instituting that new recruitment process while the hiring managers are breathing down their necks for candidates.

    As for the outsourcing, why would you even talk about wanting to develop a pipeline or network of the BEST talent in the marketplace and mention off-shore in the same breath? The fact is, most people I know who have dealt with off-shore firms for any reason would probably be inclined to agree that if you think so little of the recruitment process to use an off-shore firm, you probably aren’t someone I want to work for or you really will hire just about anybody.

    If you really want to save 2.5M, cut 30 of the 40 Inbox recruiters and teach the 10 left over to recruit like the 20 networking pros. I believe that would just about take care of the 2.5M savings.

  2. Dave

    Great article that raises many good questions.

    I personally feel organizations should weigh the outcomes of the inbox recruiting approach as part of their decision making. If the inbox method isnt generating any good candidates why do it at all? I mean are staffing departments just going through the motions with inbox recruiting because they feel they have to? I guess it depends upon the job in question and the company in question.

    Personally, if I were a potential candidate and I got a call or email from someone offshore, I would pretty negatively about the company who was contacting me and probably look elsewhere. I mean if they outsourced recruiting, maybe they would eventually outsource my new job too!

    Finally, I want to continue to re-iterate my position that automated screening and assessment tools do not remove the need for qualified, experienced professionals (not accusing you of saying they do but just wanted to get on my soap box here). The purpose of these systems is to support decision making. While they do replace some decision making the decisions that are automated should be the ‘no brainer’ types that involve basic qualifications etc. The real value of automated systems lies in their ability to centralize and evaluate information to support those making decisions.

    Keep up the good work and the thought provoking question.


  3. Great article, it is hard to put a savings on this due to my experience a good client recruiter or internal recruiter can attract and sell a candidate at entertaining the company so thus she or she then actually entertains an interview inwhich he or she then sees themselves at the company. ‘I think’ it would be hard for someone who is just screen scraping and buzz word searching will be real effective at establishing a solid attraction channel as a 3rd party service unless tightly integrated with the end customers process. Just our bias two cents.

  4. Interesting how even the smallest things can make a big difference isn’t it ? Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase ‘The Tipping Point’ to describe the subtleties that give high performing indviduals and companies that competative edge…. and great recruiters know, it sometimes all comes down to the smallest of subtleties.

    Although outsouring recruiting might seem like a cost-effective way to do business, what isn’t being acknowledged in Dave’s article is that at the end of the day it all comes down to your recruiter asking your candidate to take a risk and take a job with your company. True recruiters know…. ITS ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP.

    Will a recruiter in India know how to advise a potential recruit about relocation ? Will they be able to accurately sell the corporate culture of your company ? Will they be able to accurately screen for leadership characteristics specifically needed for your organization ? Will they be able to build trust with hiring managers in the building and in the field ?

    A vastly underestimated segment of the recruiting process is ironically enough, the most critical. Candidates will not leave their current role, nor will they choose your company over another if they don’t believe what they are being told & if they don’t feel the love.

    Ask any candidate what goes through their mind before they accept an offer, and invariably it is ‘Am I making the right decision’. Great recruiters know this and invest their energy providing counsel, education and strong-hearted advice to their recruits. They close the deal.

    Companies who are willing to leave this responsibility to someone operating out of a bullpen half way around the world, should probably re-evaluate their priorities….

  5. Your points are well taken. Recruiting is about the relationship.

    The outsourcing vendors would tell you that purpose of outsourcing is to free your recruiters to focus on these important priorities – like the relationship. So the question remains: why shouldn’t a company outsource the administrative functions like sorting through mountains of resumes (which is often most of the work) and leave the relationship management work to the remaining group of recruiters? Wouldn’t this mean they would need a smaller recruiting force to manage relationships and sell candidates through?

    Plus – how much selling does a recruiter really have to do when they’re focusing primarily on very active job seekers?

    Some counterpoints that a company evaluating outsourcing or a vendor that focuses in this area might make:

    Will a recruiter in India know how to advise a potential recruit about relocation?
    – Could relocation administrators do this vs. recruiters?

    Will they be able to accurately sell the corporate culture of your company?
    — What about the people who are already sold? Or desperately looking for work?

    Will they be able to accurately screen for leadership characteristics specifically needed for your organization?
    — Not all recruiting departments I’ve seen are very active in the selection process. Can hiring managers build the competency to evaluate talent?

    Will they be able to build trust with hiring managers in the building and in the field ?
    — Can a smaller group of recruiters be counted on for hiring process management?

  6. Hi,

    Great Article Dave!

    In my view any offshore recruiter can not fully replace a recruiter elsewhere.

    We need to look at recruitment as a process (a set of activities that you perform) and decide – ‘Yes, these are the activities I can outsource/send offshore’. For example you may be okay with outsourcing inbox management, resume screening, resume formatting, while you do not feel comfortable with candidate calls, telephonic screening.

    If you analyze the time of your recruiters you will realize that 80% of their time is involved in not so important activities (with less or no direct candidate interface). These not so important but essential activities can be outsourced – whether to India or to a third party within your country (that is your call).

    The key advantage which India or countries in a diffrent business time zone offer, is reduction in Turn Around Time (due to time zone diff). So while your recruiters are sleeping – there are some agents working on your inbox, managing databases to identify potential candidates, sorting candidates and screening resumes. And once they arrive back in office next day – they have a call list ready for the day. Sure this is going to increase effectiveness of your recruiters as they are focussing only on key activities and are reaching potential candidates faster than earlier.


  7. Hi Dave,

    It?s a nice article. You have raised few interesting issues. I have some experience in this activity as I was working in a company in India who has outsourced part of the recruitment activities to India from USA. I have following observation to share:
    Part of the recruitment activities can be outsourced which will help the onsite recruiter. This can be catogorised as database management, managing response to job advertisement in different medium, evaluating profile, getting information like salary, location issues, notice period and collecting other standard info.

    They can also help in doing research on passive candidates, mapping competitor companies, warm up call to selected canddiates, etc.

    Yes , its true that doing main recruitment activity ( for perm job) from India is not quite feasible, but it will definitely help main recruiter in focusing his/ her activities to core area. We can term that as buddy system, where main recruiter will get assistance from few junior recruiters in outsourced country.

    Also we have to understand that it?s not so easy to find right quality of people at low rate in India. And it?s not possible to put people who are working in BPO for this activity, as it?s a completly different process.

    To conclude, yes part of recruitment activities can be outsource which will help end recruiter to perform better and focus in a particular direction. Also outsourcing will depend upon lots of factor and its not so easy a process which can be outsourced easily.


  8. Forgive my analogy of this article, but outsourcing ‘inbox’ functions seems a bit like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It would seem to me that ‘in-boxing’ is something to be fixed internally, not to be outsourced. Of course there are reasons for screening qualified candidates who happen to be in the job market or actively seeking a position from time to time, especially in industries with high turnover that is no fault of the candidate, such as IT. But if a recruiter is failing to develop passive candidate pipelines, they simply either need to be trained or to be replaced by another internal recruiter who will do the job. Outsourcing decisions are usually made because internal capabilities can’t meet the level of service that outsourcing can acheive.

  9. Hi,

    Outsourcing can be a strategic option for making your business more productive & profitable – if you know when to take advantage of it. Consider the following criteria when deciding whether to outsource:
    1. It’s less expensive to have someone else do it than to do it in-house.
    2. The job is a routine one that wastes valuable time and energy.
    3. The task is a need that’s only temporary or that recurs in cycles.
    4. The activity can be done cheaper in-house, but drains resources that could be better used elsewhere.
    5. The skill required is so specialized that it’s impractical to have a regular employee do it.
    6. The activity isn’t one that people enjoy doing.

    Companies operating from India are doing a great job on the outsourced recruitment assignments …especially with a combination of good recruitment automation tools….and you could take a call to outsource your recruiting function too.


  10. What many people continually fail to recognize is that many, dare I say most, recruiting and staffing organizations were decimated over the last four to five years, leaving fewer recruiters with more and more responsibilities and little investment in infrastructure to support administrative functions. As previously stated, most recruiters I meet are desparate to find some way to spend the majority of their time establishing relationships and cultivating pipelines of potential candidates.

    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. But, if you outsource the administrative part of the function and allow recruiters to do what they do best — network, build relationships, sell candidates — without further reducing staff, then the idea might have some merit, one I have been reluctant to consider.

  11. Fascinating discussion (just what I had hoped for).

    I must say that I’m a little surprised that the overwhelming majority of people have said that outsourcing may be a viable avenue for them that they need to look at. If this is the prevailing mindset, the implications could be very far reaching in the recruiting industry.

    Another surprise is that no one’s brought up any ethical (or patriotic) issues with sending recruiting jobs overseas. Going in, I thought this would be a common response. Anyone have any thoughts on this?


  12. I understand the point you’re trying to make about recruiting and ‘inbox recruiting’.

    I worked for a company that started an offshore recruiting service. It just didn’t work out. There were a lot of offshore recruiting companies cropping up that same year and they were failing miserably. The reasons were obvious: People in the US have a different work ethic than other countries, different time zones, dialect and language barriers, using the same recruiting job boards, and no relationships being built with hiring managers.

    If you have a hiring manager for XYZ company talking to someone in India that merely works as a ‘resume miner’ it just won’t cut it. Recruiters are sales managers to. 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, they want to deal with a live person.

    Yet, isn’t easy to make something in China because the value of the dollar and cost to manufacture it there is cheaper. However, recruiting is different and it can’t be manufactured like a Chinese widget. Although the recruiting methodology can be changed and improved, you can’t take out the client interface, interaction, and all the human aspects of everyday recruiting and ship it overseas for someone to handle via email. It doesn’t work.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *