We hear all sorts of conflicting messages these days. For example, we hear that virtual recruiting works best, but then we learn that people are really seeking personal contact and want old fashioned face-to-face contact. We are told that our candidates are members of social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and then we find out that many of our best candidates are not part of any social network. We hear that young people want freedom and flexibility and, in our interviews with new graduates, we hear them say they want stability and guidance.
What these mixed messages mean is that we are entering a new century and dealing with deep changes in the nature of business, work, and recruiting. The simple formulas and beliefs of last year are no longer applicable. A door has opened and let out the comforts and habits of the 20th century. Many of us now miss its familiarity and the rules that gave us a sense of security and certainty.
Indeed, our profession has changed fundamentally, although we are just beginning to see and understand those changes. The habits and skills we developed in a slower moving, more certain 20th century no longer work so well. Our cheese has been moved, as the eponymous book says, and we miss the familiar world of paper resumes, face-to-face recruiting, ringing telephones, cold calls, and classified ads. Technology and the Internet feel unfamiliar and foreign.
But, here are a few of the many things we have to look forward to:
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- Personalization of the recruiting process. Today, every candidate is treated pretty much the same. Recruiters call that being fair, but I call it a lack of customer service and concern. A survey recently completed by McKinsey of global CEOs shows that the majority believe that their consumers will have a greater impact and influence on the way they manage their organizations than their employees or other stakeholders. This is a big change from five years ago when the same survey indicated that employees would have the biggest impact.
Candidates are our equivalent of consumers and they are driving the changes. We are all individuals and want our uniqueness to be understood and evaluated. Retailers and product manufacturers understand this and provide hundreds of variations on products to meet our individual needs.
We will need to use technology to communicate with candidates better and more frequently and at a deeper level than we do now. We will have to tailor jobs to meet candidates’ qualifications rather than to keep looking for the “right” person for our standardized job profile. The whole matching process will become more dynamic and offer the candidate more choices. Interactive Web 2.0 technologies will continue to emerge and become a core part of the candidate experience.
- Development integrated with recruiting. When the supply of skilled and ready people is exhausted, which it already is in some professions and soon will be in many others, we will have to look at developing people internally or hiring people without the skills we need and training them. Sutter Health, a major heath care provider in Northern California, decided that it was more cost effective in the long run to train nurses than to continue investing so much in recruiting them. Other organizations, in other fields, have followed this lead.
It will be more and more common to see the integration of recruiting, development, and retention into one function that some are calling “talent management.” This will greatly improve the decisions that are made every day as to whom to hire or develop and can help control costs and more effectively deal with the talent shortages we face. But, it will also mean that recruiters will have to expand their reach and become more strategic and capable in many other areas.
- Selling and marketing as important skills for recruiters. A vital ability for recruiters to have will be determining an organization’s employee value proposition or, in other words, being able to explain to a candidate why the organization is better than another. The candidate pool is going to get smaller for some professions and filled with more and more unqualified candidates in others. Overall, the candidate pools will be savvier, smarter, and more discriminating, just as the consumer pool has become.
The Internet has opened information channels and raised awareness to much higher levels than in the past. The burden on recruiters to explain corporate strategy and decisions will mean that you have to know more and probe more deeply yourself.
Candidates will seek out firms with good reputations and financial track records, just as they are already doing. That is why lists such as the “100 Best Companies to Work For” are so popular. Candidates are literally shopping for jobs and not, for the most part, taking whatever comes along.
What makes all of this difficult is that every candidate, recruiter, and organization is at a different stage in the process of change. This creates uncertainty, anger, and frustration, and results in many mixed messages.
It is always comforting to hear that things are not really changing and that soon we will all be back reading resumes on paper and talking to candidates on the telephone. But, the long-term reality is that progress never moves backwards and that it’s best for us to adopt an experimental and forward-looking view of things.
The entire recruiting profession will look different, be run differently, use different tools, and be based on different assumptions than it was in the 20th century. And that’s good because we will need all the new tools and practices we can get for the new problems of talent shortages, rising free agency, smaller firms, and rapid change.