John and I were trading emails last week, and he asked me to elaborate on one of the comments that I made. I have been thinking about it ever since.
The recruiting profession is at a unique moment in time, and it’s not just because of the economy. We are at an inflection point where the tools and tactics that the vast majority of recruiters spend their budgets on is completely different from those being discussed and debated throughout the profession.
The last time I saw this was a decade ago. Even as early experimenters began using the Internet to bring talent into their organizations, the lion’s-share of corporate recruiting budgets still went to the newspapers, and it took the better part of the last 10 years for that to change.
That shift was driven by lower costs of publishing online, freedom from the space restrictions of a print ad, searchability, and the ease of access of online classifieds relative to their print predecessors. As a result, recruitment advertising shifted from one-way communication via print ‘broadcasting’ to doing the same thing online — the same model, but using the new medium.
Today we are seeing a shift from that online broadcasting model to a conversational model, one that is enabled by the social networks and Web 2.0 technologies.
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There’s a relatively small group of very vocal (via social media, of course) experimenters out there right now who are testing an endless variety of Web 2.0 and social media tools based around the conversational model. Through trial and error, they are figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Most have very little to show at this point in terms of ROI, both because the tools are so new and because so much of their time and energy is necessarily wasted on those experiments that do not work.
These experimenters have an outsized impact on the thinking within the industry, and as their experiments bear fruit — generating hires for their organizations that demonstrably show the ROI of their efforts — they will drive more and more strategy going forward.
The companies that form the backbone of the online broadcasting model (job boards, job distributors, and the software companies that enable companies to manage their candidate flow) are already under siege by cost-cutting from their customers due to the difficult economic times. So far, I don’t believe that the early stages of this shift have had a large impact on the spending of their customers, and that makes it a particularly difficult time for them to adjust to a fundamental change like this one. But they have no choice but to evolve — the current plight of the newspapers illustrates what happens to those who are slow to realize when the old business models become obsolete.