Progress: Graphic by rustybrick on Flickr (cc)
Progress: Graphic by rustybrick on Flickr (cc)

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.

ERE Media, Inc. CEO David Manaster continues to learn about recruiting every day. His first job in the profession was way back in 1997, and he founded ERE Media the following year. Today, David spends his time thinking up new ways that ERE can serve the recruiting community. You can follow David on Twitter or email him at david(at)ere.net.


8 Comments on “(R)evolution

  1. I think you make a lot of good points in your article. The Internet has proven to be a very helpful tool in reaching out to a wide audience, and LinkedIn is increasingly effective. (I do not like facebook for recruiting as it becomes a compliance/invasion of personal information nightmare). I think LinkedIn and job-related social networking sites are more the wave of the future — access to a lot of people, quickly, who may be interested actively or passively.

  2. Interesting Article, I have been an avid Internet person for sourcing candidates, I’m seeing a shift in the business back to the old days using todays technologies, ATS systems and Web sourcing tools. Right now I think the key for the future is utilizing these tools as just a source and focusing very heavily on the candidate relationship building process. There is alot of power when an employer calls you and says “I have a need” and within 2 hours you can identify 3 candidates that match the criteria by simply picking up the phone. This is the way the big billers are doing it and more than ever the business is moving very heavily back in the direction of the “personal touch” Web 2.0 is simply 1 source of finding candidates, are as job ads, recruting calls, newspapers referrals etc…

  3. Darwin made observations about how survival of the fittest is an evolution driver. In corporate terms that means recruiters who learn from their experience and engage in staffing process improvement based upon evidence will come out as survivors.

    Companies that create candidate attraction through a positive application experience will have a fuller pipeline and a lower cost of talent acquisition. Companies that effectively use Web 2.0 design principles to engage and inform candidates, deliver a brand positive experience, and treat candidates as decision makers will win in the end. As Pines and Gilmore state: “The Experience is the Marketing.”

    One of the next practice, experience-based recruiting approaches is the work-sample candidate evaluation. Web 2.0 technology allows candidates to take parts of a job for a test drive. Currently less than 10% of companies are using resources like this (contact me for a copy of the SHRM White Paper). Thus, reinforcing David’s assertion that the SPEND is not aligned with the most effective resources.

    High fidelity simulations, such as the Virtual Job Tryout® use Web 2.0 to draw candidates deeply into considering the company and the job. Work sample-based candidate evaluation captures and reports the data required to predict on-the-job performance and document return on investment.

    Recruiters who engage in the rigor and discipline of return on investment analysis will obtain the funding needed to embrace and embed next practices. These “accountable-adopters” will be the ones who evolve and win the war for talent

    Joseph P. Murphy
    Shaker Consulting Group
    Developers of the Virtual Job Tryout®

  4. Hey David, saw your latest post on ERE about(R)evolution within the recruiting industry and you and I are on the exact same page. I too entered into the recruiting industry back in 96-97 and saw how things changed with the introduction of the large job boards (i.e. Monster) and definitely see a parallel in today’s environment.

    I do believe that Web 2.0 will have a profound effect on the recruitment process, even more than job boards did because at its core the job boards were still about applying to a Job Ad with a standard resume. The pile just changed from a paper pile to a digital pile, which in some cases was an obstacle to some because they couldn’t use that cool, coarse and colorful resume paper or add some kind of cologne so they could stand out(-;

    Like you stated, Web 2.0 is making it conversational and as a result I believe the recruitment process will be more relationship and referral/recommendation driven. Which I think is a good thing. In full disclosure, I do have a “skin in the game” as it relates the belief in this transition, and it is called Cachinko. We have been in development for a while (we introduced our concept at the ERE last April) and went into live production last week, with some pretty strong feedback thus far after just a couple of client demos.

    What excites me is to watch all these recruiters trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, trying to use these other social/professional networks to try and recruit. I believe our strength and value is that we are built specifically for recruitment and more importantly, the referral process, for everyone involved not just the recruiter, but the people being recruited as well. I guess time will tell, but articles like yours continue to give me hope.



  5. Sure, things have changed from the recruiter perspective (execution). However, from the client’s perspective things have not changed much. Access to names is one thing, but recruiting prices, time-to-completion and success rates have not. Why?

  6. @Alison – Thanks for the comment!

    @David – I think that the social media tools are enablers of the “personal touch” approach, but I agree that nothing will ever replace human contact or actually speaking to another human being.

    @Joseph – I don’t think it’s clear to anyone yet how effective social media tools are in terms of getting ROI for those using them. I’m sure that as the experimenters discover the best of these tools, the spend imbalance to which you refer will become more and more apparent. I do not see many companies truly measuring their results, and I know of none that is rigorously measuring hires and returns from their efforts vs. their expenditures in time and capital. If you do, let me know!

    @Eric – Congrats on going live with Cachinko! When you have time, I’d love to take a look at the latest release.

    @Robert – I’m not sure if I understand your question – are you referring to changes in these metrics over the last 10 years, or since the rise of social media tools in our profession? Either way, I don’t have access to any metrics on recruiting prices, time-to-completion and success rates over time. Is there somewhere that those are available? I’d love to see them.

  7. I think Robert S. has it right- we are seeing “old wine in new jugs”. I believe that far more important than the technologies we use to find people (which is becoming a low-paid or automated skill for most ordinary hiring) is what the technologies do to the work and the conceptions that surround it. As an example: for a number of years I have been urging my colleagues to concentrate on niche markets, exceptional relationship-building and closing skills, or high-touch, high value-add recruiting activities. I still stand by most of this, but as the use of inexpensive, quality broad-band video becomes commonplace, what is the meaning of “high-touch” i.e., “What will you do in recruiting that still requires you to be face-to-face?” I do not know the answer to that.

    IMHO, recruiting will become the realm of a relatively small number of highly-compensated elite recruiters, who will have “sticky” skills that can’t be easily eliminated, automated, or outsourced. I do not see much future for mid-level Western recruiters and sourcers who do quality work for a decent, middle-class income. Another analogy: the NFL. There are a few hundred professional NFL players and they get very well paid, and I think (most of them) are worth it. If you are quite good but not NFL quality, you can not expect to make $100k/yr playing non-NFL football in the US. If you do world-class sourcing/recruiting, you are performing a very high-level service and are “entitled” by the market to a world-class compensation. If you are not in that class or do not have something special to offer, you will be competing with folks who get much less for the quality work they do.

    Keith “Jeremiah” Halperin keithsrj@sbcglobal.net 415.586.8265

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