Paradigm Shift – Recruiters Exit Stage Left

A paradigm is a shared set of assumptions and a particular vision of reality. Joel Barker, a well-known speaker and the author of the book called “Paradigms” defines it thus: “A paradigm is a set of rules and regulations (written and unwritten) that does two things: (1) it establishes or defines boundaries; and (2) it tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful.” Let’s look at a few of the paradigms that govern most recruiters:

  1. Every candidate must have a resume.
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  3. Interviews are vital and the primary way of assessing a candidate.
  4. Managers want both of these things, and a recruiter has little choice.
  5. Ability or aptitude or personality testing is at best ethically suspect and at worst illegal.
  6. Recruiting is not primarily a marketing or sales function. It is a matching function.
  7. The Internet is an extension and improvement over print ads and cold calling and little more.
  8. For jobs outside of technical areas or high tech, the Internet is a marginal search tool.

Many Swiss clock makers were forced into bankruptcy by the quartz watch movement (which THEY invented), because they missed the paradigm shift that was required to make use of it. Their paradigms said that clocks must have hands and a dial with numbers on it. The quartz movement made possible digital watches with no hands and no faces. The Japanese had no such paradigms and could look “outside the box” to develop the digital watch which was cheap to manufacture and extremely accurate. It took the Swiss almost a decade to adapt and gain back a small amount of the market share they once had. I propose that the recruiting profession is undergoing a fundamental shift of its paradigms and most recruiters — yes, that probably means you — will not shift your paradigms and will become increasingly challenged and less successful. Resumes and interviews are not necessary. Managers don’t want or care about either. Managers want good people quickly. The Internet now gives us the capability of assessing people without a resume. Resumes builders and on-line, real time tests and simulations can determine a candidate’s skill level and ability without any interviews at all. While laws and HR regulations may be a bit slow to catch up to this new reality, there is nothing that really stops a recruiter from moving into these areas except his or her own paradigms. The Internet is not just a tool. It is not just a faster horse and buggy. It is a transformational way of dealing with the world. I am writing this article from a hotel room in Hong Kong. The room is completely equipped with an in-house Internet service that allows me to connect to the worldwide Internet for about $7.00 an hour. It has a fax machine and data ports and should tell any observant person that the Internet is not a passing or minor event. Over the next year or two, the Internet will largely begin replacing the traditional tools of sourcing candidates such as cold calling and the building of proprietary databases. Recruiters who have built their profession on having private, guarded information are going to quickly become unsuccessful. People move too often, change their information too quickly, and don’t even stay in the same field for long. Databases today have to be built day-by-day and are a dynamic resources. Any static information is useless. Everyone is getting on the Internet. Televisions are beginning to come equipped with browsers. Cable and telecommunication services are one and the same. Within a couple of years, even the least educated job seekers will be using the Internet to submit information about themselves and to advertise their availability to prospective job providers. The entire act of seeking employment is going to change. Fewer will be actively seeking work, and more will be passively available for organizations savvy enough to find them. This will require excellent marketing and Internet branding skills for employment and will mean that recruiting will be largely a sales and marketing function. The tools of the sales and marketing profession will enhance a recruiter’s productivity and success. However, there are many untapped markets for people. Recruiters are just often blind to them because of their paradigms. For example, a few years ago a housing developer hired a sales person to work in the model homes. The sales person, new to home selling, asked why she was in the model home? She asked why the sales people did not go to homes where people had “For Sale” signs and ask if they were interested in a new home? Of course, management said that “this isn’t the way we do business,” the people come to us. A bit later they decided to experiment with her idea, went to homes that were for sale, and sold hundreds of homes. Her simple, paradigm-busting idea has opened a huge new and very successful market. I believe that there are thousands of people who would like to change jobs or move to another part of the country but don’t know how to go about it. Are you finding these people? I know of hundreds if college students from small and mid-sized schools where corporate recruiters seldom ventures who would love to work in your company if they just knew how to reach you effectively. Do you make it easy for them? These are just a few ideas of untapped or poorly tapped markets. It only requires imagination and a bit of bravery. Recruiters — get prepared. Your old world is exiting stage left very rapidly.

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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