The Future Of Recruiting, Part 1

In Re-imagine, Tom Peters’ new book, he applauds my insight into the future of HR. The article he used as a blueprint for some of his own projections of the future of business was entitled, “A Walk Through 21st-Century HR.” His comments on that article stirred me to outline here what my own research, company visits, and extensive benchmarking indicate is “the future of recruiting.” This article is not written for those who believe (or secretly hope) that recruiting will never change. Instead, it’s written for those (very few) with who have the vision and determination to conclude that HR recruiting, as a function, must and will change. I hope you will use this article as a guide to how you need to be thinking and where you need to be heading as a talent manager. The future of recruiting is much different from what we do today. Just as computers and the web changed the way that many of us look for products, or even read articles like this one, a rapidly changing business world and new technologies will change the world of recruiting so that it will not be even recognizable to veterans in the field. Although we know that years from now recruiting will be quite different than it is today, the future of recruiting itself is actually relatively predictable, because most of the tools and strategies that will be used will be borrowed from other business processes that are already in existence. In short, it will not be new ideas that transform recruiting; instead it will be well-proven practices from more advanced business functions and processes that will be transferred into recruiting. Here are a few of the important trends that will impact the future of recruiting. Size of the Department The recruiting department of the future will be less than one third the size of most departments now. Reductions will occur for a variety of reasons. One is because worldwide databases (similar to current credit databases) that include every professional on the planet will make finding candidates easy so sourcing will require fewer staff. Further reductions in staff will come from the fact that managers will be able to do most recruiting themselves, using simple, wizard-driven, “expert” recruiting systems that will be available on their laptops. The next reduction in staff size will be because all candidate evaluations (including interviews) will be done online, through web-based tools. The final reductions in staff size will come from the elimination of paperwork and administration, since all recruiting administration processes will be online and self-service driven. The recruiting staff that remains will be comprised of forecasters and consultants who provide advice to managers only on the most difficult hiring situations. The Importance of Recruiting Although the size of the recruiting department will shrink, it’s overall importance to the business will actually increase. This increased stature will come from work with CFOs that will demonstrate that recruiting (coupled with retention) has the highest economic impact of any business function. Of course, this is a well-known fact already in the sports and entertainment industries. But for some reason, recruiting directors have failed to make the business case within their own corporations. Proof That Recruiting Systems Work Most recruiting processes and services are currently assessed on cost. Like all other business functions, recruiting managers will eventually be forced into shifting from hunches to fact-based decisions. They will demand hard data that proves which tools, sources, and processes produce fast, high-quality, low-cost hires. In addition to the current use of metrics related to recruiting cost effectiveness, recruiting managers will require that ROI and business impacts (in dollars) be routinely calculated. In short, recruiting will run like a metrics-driven business process, just as supply chain and CRM are today. Search Engines Will Make Most Job Boards Obsolete Job boards today make it easy for managers and recruiters to find a large number of candidates all in one place. But they are often little more than online resume books. As robotic Internet search engines become more sophisticated and easier to use, corporations will operate continuous 24/7 searches that will yield more targeted, more current, and higher quality candidates from every part of the web. These “smart” search engines will learn from their mistakes and successes. In addition, when pre-identified candidates who meet their criteria become available, managers will be instantly notified, even if they have no current openings. As managers become more skilled at using search technology, they will be able to supplement this robotic search with a search of a worldwide database that will include all professionals. These combined tools will allow managers to instantly create candidate pools. The Primary Users of Recruiting Tools Will Be Managers Currently, most recruiting is done by recruiters and HR people. But as companies become more geographically dispersed, firms will find that responsibility for most corporate recruiting will need to shift closer to the customer (incidentally, this is true in all business functions). As recruiting tools become easier to use, managers will eventually learn that they can easily do their own recruiting. Managers will supersede HR people as the chief customers for online and technology-driven recruiting services. With managers as their customers, recruiting systems will need to shift their focus toward speed, ease of use, and providing a competitive advantage. A Complete Global Focus Most recruiting done by American corporations is focused on the domestic market, while most of any large firm’s sales and manufacturing occur outside the U.S. As more people realize this, managers will become aware that most of the world’s talent also resides outside the United States. This business shift will force managers to rethink where they place their jobs. This shift in management thinking, along with advances in technology and communication, will allow more workers to work “at home” for companies that are physically located in other countries. These combined changes will make it an absolute requirement that all recruiting be global. Next week, in Part 2 of this series, I’ll look at more of the trends that will shape the future of recruiting.

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Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



3 Comments on “The Future Of Recruiting, Part 1

  1. Excellent thought provoking article. The avenues explored were definitely futuristic in part, not to say that implementation of said types of technology are not in place at this time.

    However, I shall never cease to marvel at the concepts of the technology systems expert who endeavors to take many ‘hands on concepts’ and put them in the arms of mechanistic world of the SW systems and in turn promote this as the ‘slam dunk’ method for future success. Ideologically, this is marvelous and we can all bask in the brave new world concept of handling the human commodity.

    But, there will never be a method or concept that can reach beyong the relationship building avenue to procurement, there by empowering people to perceive of their individual value in the eyes of other professionals in their field of endeavor. There is no system that serves beyong the expedicious, because it can never be a sustitute for a ‘personal referral’ or hands on experience
    with the individual or individuals involved.

    Technology is a tool and a fine one. But it can never take the place of the ‘human aspect’ of recruiting or the knowledge of the experienced recruiter who is a student of human nature, as well as an expert in his or her field of endeavor.

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  2. I don?t think that the technology innovations discussed are that futuristic. Managers are getting trained in innovative searching methods on the Internet and now have available to them very efficient ways of recruiting, interviewing and closing candidates on a particular position. Managers have other duties to assume, so they do use recruiters. However, for those who work for third party agencies, you will notice an increase in corporate vendor lists with very limited numbers.

    I agree with those people who believe that companies who think they can milk Old School thinking for all they can will miss the boat. This industry sector, as any other, is changing its processes as technologies and regional considerations evolve. We need to be alert, analytical and forward thinking to address the challenges ahead. Just my 2 cents?

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