The Recruiting Badlands

Langdon was tired, really tired of his profession. He had been a recruiter for more than a decade. He had enjoyed it for the first few years. He really felt he was helping his organization find the best people and helping people find jobs where they could excel. But lately he had been having doubts. His company didn’t seem to know what kind of people it wanted. When a hiring manager did describe what she wanted, Langdon had more and more difficulty finding the right person. Even the people he managed to hire who had the “right” skills weren’t successful. Many of them were frustrated because the job they found themselves in wasn’t the job they were hired to do. Everything seemed to be in a mess. Langdon is not alone. Recruiting is at a turning point. As a nation and as a society we are moving from an industrial and manufacturing age into the networked information age. There are more uncertainties than certainties, and that leaves recruiters confused and often bruised. Here are five of the big pains that we face and will be dealing with over the next decade. I have ended each section with a series of questions, which I will try to start answering next week. I’ll discuss some of the things we can do about these pains that will help us move from this confused state to a proactive position better poised for action. Identity Crisis First of all, we are confused about who we are and what we should do. The demands hiring mangers are making on us are either not enough for our skills and experience or way too much. There are many paradoxes we are living with. One manager says, “Just go recruit ó post jobs and bring in candidates. I’ll decide.” Another says, “What’s your advice? After all, you’re supposedly the people expert. What competencies should I be looking for?” We have no consensus on what skills we should have or be acquiring to survive and become “A” players in the emerging workplace. We have to ask these questions and find some answers: Who are we? What is a recruiter’s role? Are we a pair of hands for the hiring manager or do we add some value? If so, what value do we add? Competency Confusion Moreover, just when we have the technology, and some reasonably good tools to define the competencies our employees will need on the job, we aren’t sure if those are the competencies that are pivotal to the success of our organization. And while innovation is the key to successfully bridging the gap between the industrial and the information age, we are urged to hire people who are as similar to each other as they can be. We are facing hiring managers who don’t know what they want or which way to turn, so they grab onto the past. They ask us to go get people with the skills that used to be important, but may not be tomorrow. We also face managers and executives who are convinced that their past success can be continued by hiring the same people with the same skills. How do we know what competencies to hire? What strategies could you recommend to the hiring managers? Is the past the best predictor of the future in this day and age? We say it is in behavioral interviewing, but the world is changing fast! How do we talk to and convince senior management? Complex Candidates Candidates are not what they used to be. Even as little as three or four years ago, a candidate was generally looking for a long-term position in your organization and wanted to focus around one primary area, such as engineering or human resources or accounting. He probably wanted a reasonable salary and was attracted by any signs of organizational stability. Today’s candidates are a mixed bag. Some remain traditional, but others want jobs tailored to their particular needs and skills. Some want very flexible work times and even to work virtually for long periods of time. Some are seeking part-time work while others want a schedule arranged just for them. Many candidates are also interested in holding many different positions over time, in rotating and gaining experience in many functions and, of course, working globally as well. Skills may be spread across disciplines, and it is getting harder to put some candidates into any category at all. Many are also demanding a more personal recruiting experience and may need more opportunity to explore your company than candidates have wanted in the past. How do you deal with this potpourri of people? What relationships rule? Who does what in your company, and who decides? How can you possibly recruit the “right” person? Partnership Pandemonium We don’t know who to work with or how to work with all the suppliers of talent that now exist. Historically, the supply chain was quite simple. Candidates mostly came from local newspaper ads or they lived nearby and stopped in to inquire or pick up an application. Some came from headhunters and contingency recruiting firms. Now there are at least 10 major supply chains, including Internet searches; job boards; employee referrals; alumni recruiting; foreign countries; your recruiting website; print, radio or television advertising; college recruiting; job fairs; and employees from mergers and acquisitions. How do you work with all these suppliers? What are the right ratios and relationships? Where do the best candidates come from? Technology Troubles And last of all we are in technology hell. We are bombarded with ATS systems, CRM tools, assessment products, e-marketing concepts, and tools for analyzing just about everything from competencies to how well our websites are working. We all know that technology will be the driver of our recruiting strategies and will be at the center of everything we do. To stay in the mainstream and be a player, we will have to make decisions about the software and the technology we acquire. And we will make some mistakes. We will “waste” some money learning what works and what doesn’t work, and that’s okay. What we should be more worried about is asking the right questions. Are ATS systems really useful at all? Isn’t CRM the best way to go in the long run? What role will Peoplesoft and SAP play in all this? Should we purchase standalone e-marketing tools and other communication platforms, or should they be integrated into other systems? Which of these technology platforms will be the center of what we do? Every century brings its challenges. The 20th century opened with most Americans working on farms and living simple, rural lives. It opened with no recruiters in sight, no HR, no computers or technology. The 21st century has already opened with challenges and change galore. We have to try and navigate through the badlands and out onto the plains where we can see where we’re going. More next time.

Article Continues Below

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


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *