The Top 10 ‘Bleeding Edge’ Recruiting Trends to Watch in 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 2.20.29 PMMost articles that cover recruiting trends highlight what I consider to be obvious approaches that many firms have already adopted. But my perspective on trends is unique because I am focused on what I call the “bleeding-edge trends.” These trends are unique and rare because they have been adopted by less than 5 percent of the major firms. However, they are still important for all recruiting leaders to know and watch because they signal the path that all progressive firms will eventually have to follow. The top bleeding-edge trends are listed below in an easy to scan format.

The Top 10 Most Impactful Trends That May Surprise You

  1. The shift in power to the candidate means current approaches will stop working — 83 percent of recruiters report that the power has shifted away from where it has been for years, the employer, and toward the candidate. In a candidate-driven marketplace, “active-recruiting approaches” simply stop working. Now that top candidates are in the driver’s seat, the best have multiple options, recruiting must dramatically increase hiring speed, offer a great candidate experience, and shift to an emphasis away from assessment and toward excellence in “selling candidates.” Once candidates realize that the power has shifted to them, many will develop an arrogant “why-should-I-work-for-you?” attitude, which you must adjust to if you expect to land the best.
  2. The mobile platform begins to dominate every aspect of recruiting — most firms have finally figured out that individuals should be able to apply for a job directly from their mobile phones. However the best firms are now realizing that the mobile platform should dominate every area of recruiting, because of its versatility and its incredibly high response rate (compared to other communications platforms). The mobile platform should be the primary mechanism for communicating with prospects/candidates, spreading your employer brand messages, to view recruiting and job description videos, and to push relevant open jobs to applicant communities. Eventually it will be used by most to offer live Hangouts/Meetups, for candidate skill assessment, for most candidate interviews, to find referrals, and finally to allow individuals to accept job offers directly on their phone. Recruiters and hiring managers must be able to approve reqs, post jobs, post videos, review resumes, schedule interviews, and other administrative tasks from their mobile phone. Employees must be able to do all referral administration and apply for internal openings on their phone.
  3. Shifting to compelling offers becomes essential — during the down economy, almost any offer was accepted. However, in today’s marketplace where top candidates get multiple offers, the offer generation process must be radically updated. That means that sign-on bonuses, exploding offers, and identifying and meeting an individual candidate’s job acceptance criteria will become essential once again. In addition, hiring managers, compensation specialists, and recruiters will need to update their skills and approaches for creating compelling offers and selling in-demand prospects and candidates. Relearning how to successfully combat counteroffers from a candidate’s current manager will also become essential.
  4. Perhaps the biggest surprise will be the shortage of top recruiters — as recruiting volume and difficulty both ramp up, firms will begin to realize that there is a significant shortage of talented and currently up-to-date recruiters. Expect a bidding war over the few available top corporate recruiters. A lack of quality, leading-edge recruiter training will unfortunately also make the experienced recruiter shortage even worse.
  5. Videos begin dominating recruiting messaging — Online video now accounts for 50% percent of all mobile traffic. So now that viewing videos (rather than static pictures or reading text) has become widely accepted, they must be used in every aspect of recruiting. If you’re not already using video job descriptions, videos for employer branding, video employee profiles, video job postings and video job offers, you need to realize that authentic videos are an essential supplement to all traditionally print messaging. Videos make it easier to see and feel the excitement at your firm.
  6. Turnover issues dramatically impact recruiting — turnover rates continue to spiral upward (they went up 44 percent last year). Increased turnover will mean that the volume of recruiting will increase significantly, but the firm’s reputation for high turnover will also impact your ability to recruit new talent. Given the high impact of new hire turnover, firms will need to begin assessing candidates on their likelihood of an early departure.
  7. Learning to hire whenever scarce talent becomes available — during periods when top talent is extremely scarce, the best targets enter and exit the job market over a matter of days. That means that recruiting functions must shift from their traditional recruiting model, where you hire only when a position becomes open, to a completely different approach, where you hire whenever top talent applies to your company. That means when a top talent applies for a critical high-volume job at your firm, you begin the hiring process immediately and make an offer quickly, even if there is currently no vacant position. Yes, this means that you will hire some talent a few weeks before you need them, but that results in a lower cost than being unable to fill jobs at all because no qualified talent is available when one of these high-volume positions eventually opens up.
  8. Deemphasizing resumes and accepting online profiles — resumes have many weaknesses, but the primary reason that they need to be made optional is hiring speed. This is because few employed candidates have any interest in, nor do they have the time required, to update their resumes. They simply can’t become a candidate at your firm until they update and submit their resume. Firms must learn to eliminate the “resume update wait” by instead accepting LinkedIn profiles for referrals and at least the initial application for regular job openings. LinkedIn profiles are generally more accurate than resumes because they are viewed by so many individuals that any misstatements would be instantly discovered.
  9. Sourcing will add a “find-their-work” component — some of the most competent professionals have weak resumes. Fortunately, with the growth of the Internet and social media, it is now becoming possible to find the actual work of most professionals. And this is a good thing because an individual’s work is almost always a better representation of their capability than their resume. Employees looking for referrals and recruiters need to also focus on discovering the great ideas and the writing, the pictures, and the video representations of their work and the actual work samples of “hidden individuals” who couldn’t be found based solely on their resume. As an added benefit, your firm gathers information on new approaches, whether you end up hiring these individuals or not.
  10. Boomerangs return as a primary source — boomerang rehires of previous high-performing employees have proven to be one of the highest sources of quality hires. Because so many have been released, there is an abundant talent pool to choose from. And in addition, keeping track of corporate alumni is now so much easier because you can find them easily on LinkedIn and on social media. Because of their speed, low cost, and high quality of hire, expect boomerang rehires to reach 15 percent of all hires at major firms.

Additional Bleeding Edge Trends To Watch

Some additional trends that also reveal the future of recruiting include:

  • Data-based decision-making in recruiting goes mainstream — recruiting leaders are finally realizing that all other business functions now make all major decisions based on data. Metrics-based decision-making will have a huge impact in recruiting because I find database decisions to be at least 25 percent better than intuitive decisions. Forget the low-value historical metrics and expect to see real-time and predictive metrics dominate. If you need increased budget resources, work with the CFO in order to assign a dollar value to how much recruiting results directly increase corporate revenue.
  • Referrals continue to dominate — spamming employee contacts for referrals has run its course. Referrals produce quality hires not because of who they know, but instead because your best employees far surpass even recruiters in finding, building relationships, assessing, and selling top people who are not active in the job market. At top firms, over 50 percent of the hires will come from quality employee referrals.
  • Personalization will become more common  top candidates will no longer tolerate a “one-size-fits-all” approach. In-demand candidates are now beginning to expect a unique and personalized recruiting approach (much like what occurs in executive recruiting). I call this approach “artisanal recruiting.” And don’t be surprised when top candidates begin to expect that even their job will be customized for them. Providing top candidates with choices that include who they work with, where and when they work, and even who their supervisor will be become more prevalent. And because the measured resources mean that you can’t personalize every job or candidate experience, prioritization will become even more essential. Prioritization allows you to focus your resources on the jobs and the candidates that will have the most business impact.
  • Colleges and their students have changed dramatically, but college recruiting has not — unfortunately, corporate college recruiting budgets and processes have been stagnant for years, even though the demand for grads is now soaring. Unfortunately, during the slack college hiring period, colleges themselves, the visibility and the expectations of college students have changed dramatically. A reengineered recruiting model must move beyond a focus on career centers. Instead it must increase its capabilities in the areas of global college recruiting, remote college recruiting, recruiting students from online universities, recruiting “passive” students, and the use of market research to completely understand the job search process and the expectations of this new generation of grads.
  • Large firms will struggle to compete with startups for innovative talent — the recent lavish funding and the economic success of numerous startups will continue to make them attractive to innovators and top talent. Unfortunately, few major corporations have a market-research-driven strategy or a set of tools that allows them to successfully recruit against startups for these valuable innovative prospects with a startup mindset.
  • Workforce planning returns as a hot issue — recruiting shortages and high turnover rates have historically forced executives to focus on developing dependable talent pipelines. Expect an increased emphasis in all aspects of workforce planning, including talent pipelines and talent communities, supply/demand forecasting, succession planning, predicting employee turnover, and leader development. Don’t expect much success in this area because of the volatile VUCA environment and the fact that professionals in each of these workforce planning areas have almost universally failed to produce the promised results because they do not use data based decision-making.

Expect Continuing Disappointments in These Recruiting Areas

Unfortunately, you won’t find any predictions of dramatically new recruiting technologies on this list because our technology sector has continued to disappoint by providing only incremental changes.

Also don’t expect any new innovations in recruitment process outsourcing, in truly global recruiting approaches, in executive search, on corporate career websites, and from those who push recruitment and employer branding advertising. And finally, although these areas are getting more attention, expect little major innovation in the candidate assessment, diversity recruiting, and automated employee referral areas.

Final Thoughts

Many industries are finally experiencing dramatic growth, and as a result, their executives are clamoring for the talent that is required in order to continue that growth. And as the world moves faster, these executives are also expecting a continuing increase in corporate speed.

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Meeting these high-level growth, speed, and innovation needs is difficult enough during normal times. But the escalation of turnover rates combined with vicious competition for top talent has produced a level of difficulty and challenge that recruiting leaders haven’t faced in years. Firms that expect to simply meet those challenges will obviously need some new recruiting strategies, tools, and approaches. However, if the goal of your firm is to go the next step and to dominate your industry, you will need to be on the bleeding edge of recruiting practices. This is because you can’t expect to provide your firm with a competitive advantage if you simply copy the recruiting practices of your talent competitors.

Capturing the lion’s share of top talent and becoming an elite recruiting leader in a highly competitive talent marketplace requires the foresight and the courage to implement the bleeding-edge approaches that are listed here.

Some of the Related Conference Sessions at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego:

  • Build a Battle Plan That Will Win the War For Talent, April 29, 9:30 a.m.
  • The Future of Talent Acquisition, April 29, 4:15 p.m.
  • Bold and Strategic Corporate Talent Acquisition Practices Panel, April 28, 11 a.m.

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.



22 Comments on “The Top 10 ‘Bleeding Edge’ Recruiting Trends to Watch in 2015

  1. John,

    Many thanks for your comprehensive article.

    I’d be interested in your views as to why it has taken companies so long to adopt mobile recruiting (point number 2) and whether you feel it will be a similar story for Video Recruiting (point 5).

    Mike Taylor
    Web Based Recruitment

    1. Those would be interesting discussions. My guess is compliance focus and simply a lack of pressure to improve. As long as candidates and employees are seen as disposable/replaceable, there will be little pressure to improve their experience or the efficiency of the hiring process. So, mobile gets kicked to the side because it’s next to impossible to accommodate the 45 minute fill-out-our-extensive-application-online approach via a mobile phone, and video likewise gets kicked to the curb because since a face to face interview is seen and inevitable and necessary, why do video?

  2. Hi Mike,

    I may be able to assist with point 5 (video recruiting). We actually pivoted from a provider of video interviewing software, to a recruiting agency that incorporates the use of video interviewing. It works much better now. From our perspective, we found that most HR departments were just very reluctant to change behavior. It seemed to mostly stem from the fact that there was some hesitation to ask candidates to do this, perhaps afraid of pushback.

    Our experience though has been the opposite. Most candidates are happy to do a video interview. It gives them the opportunity to showcase themselves, and skip the queue when being reviewed by hiring managers.

  3. The reality is that the majority of companies are way behind the technological advancements. Smaller and leaner companies and recruitment agencies can move faster.

    BUT the hardest thing to change is the cultural aspects. For instance why the hell do people in Europe and the US continue to send out 1 pages resumes? The one page resume is a by-product of a time when people faxed their resumes. A one page resume tells a recruiter NOTHING of value expect that the candidate worked a competitive company (so what>!>!). With the advent of LinkedIn etc, the size of the content is irrelevant but what is important is the quality.

    1. I agree, Graeme. At my last job the owner still wrote descriptions in shorthand as if for publication in a newspaper, and he was trying to save on character/column space. What’s more, recruiting ‘thought leaders’ routinely weigh in on issues like this over and over again, with conflicting advice, and these are quite simply not the issues that need to be addressed. Issues that strike at the root of hiring and the problems associated with it are what matter. Like:

      The reality of stagnant and falling real and nominal wages, and the persistent complaints of a ‘shortage’ of talent despite falling prices, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen in a shortage, belies a severely dysfunctional attitude toward labor in this country.

      The wealth gap is perpetually widening, and while CEOs negotiate for ever more severance pay in their contracts should they be fired, they and the recruiting ‘thought leaders’ in their back pockets persistently try to convince people money shouldn’t matter to them, or worse, make arguments about Opportunity! and ‘job satisfaction’ assuming basic salary needs have been met when they haven’t.

      Hours worked and off time have gone through the roof and floor respectively, such that the average time off for the average American more closely mirrors that of a sweatshop worker than a professional from any other developed nation.

      Systems in the US are pathetic, and treat employees as pure costs when they are in fact revenue generators. And this is the root of the issue, financially and culturally. Employment is seen as a ‘favor’ rather than a mutual relationship. People are ‘lucky to have a job,’ and employers simply assume an ownership role over people rather than one of collaboration. They have things they’re ‘allowed’ to do, time they’re ‘allowed’ to take, etc. And on the financial side should one leave or get fired, it’s seen as a savings for the company by most accounting systems, despite the cost of turnover and vacancies, and the burnout of the remainder of the workforce for carrying the workload.

      These are the issues ‘thought leaders’ never get into, because it leads to unpleasant conclusions and advice they’d have to give to their money makers; clients. Instead people harp on minutia, irrelevant details, and whether or not free bagels make up for a double digit percentage drop in wages.

  4. 1) The shift in power to the candidate should have happened the second employers started claiming a ‘talent shortage.’ It didn’t, wages have been stagnant or down, and for the vast majority of people still haven’t recovered to pre crash levels in real or even nominal terms. As such, the same practices will continue until an actual shift in power happens.

    2) Seems like a fad to me, but I expect it will continue to grow but not dominate the field. The prevelance of ATS systems that take 45 minutes to get through an application on a desktop or laptop pretty much belie this trend, as no one is doing that over the phone.

    3) Price is the ultimate indicator of the balance between supply and demand. Until it goes up it won’t really matter how compelling any other aspect of any offer is.

    4) Likely correct, but once again price is the ultimate indicator. What’s also likely to happen is companies will find out ‘top’ recruiters in agency and corporate will still only be able to do so much with perpetually dropping salaries, toxic cultures, and 80 hour work weeks, with no time off, or at best the lowest in the developed world.

    5) Doubt it. There’s no compelling reason why, nor do many companies devote much budget to recruiting as it is, much less to production of videos which will need perpetual updating and photogenic participants. Nor will their PR campaigns, video based or otherwise, offset online reviews that are in stark contrast to the message they’re trying to convey.

    6) Yes, but no. Firms will not have to assess people on the likelihood of early departure. If they want to minimize turnover, they have to concentrate on retention, and then on avoiding those who might leave despite their best efforts. But as long as the best efforts to retain aren’t there, and in most cases they’re not, turnover will remain an issue which they can’t head off with more careful selection. That approach implies power in the selection process that your basic assumption assumes they are losing; the candidate has the power now, right? If so, so does the employee. If employers will not have the pick of the litter at any price they choose to name anymore, then they have to appeal to a wider range of candidates on the monetary and non monetary front. As such their focus should be changing their own practices to retain people, and not maintaining a narrow cultural match profile and only choosing those who fit that. The focus of this point is wrong, though the gist of it is right.

    7) Easier said than done. Employees are revenue generators, but most companies treat them as pure overhead, or cost, and their models/approaches are aimed at strictly limiting costs. I agree a business case can be made that pre emptive hiring for scarce talent keeps costs down, but to do that most companies have to acknowledge and tally the costs of turnover and vacancies. Most don’t, much less do they hold anyone accountable for those costs unless the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan and it’s obviously tied to under staffing.

    8) Could happen, most companies still seemed tied to resumes as if they were magic, though.

    9) I don’t see this happening so long as issue 7 isn’t addressed. As long as the cost of not hiring is seen as nothing people will continue to look for reasons to say ‘no’ rather than ‘ye’s to anyone in particular, devaluing the work necessary to ‘find their work.’ Or, from the recruiter’s perspective, why develop the person when the manager is going to concentrate on the 5-10% of their experience that doesn’t match the spec rather than the 90% that does? So obvious matches will still be the focus.

    10) Probably, because it’s easier and has lower cost. But I feel this approach will start to fail. Bad blood, lateral or lower salaries, and in your own assumption and more importantly other opportunities will be in the mix, along with the fact that it’s impossible to ‘sell’ boomerang candidates as they know from personal experience exactly what working for that company in that job is like. Rhetoric will not work, reality will dominate.

  5. Thanks John for sharing these unique ideas about the trends expected in recruiting in 2015. Nowadays the recruiters will have higher budgets and even higher hiring volumes, the social network is gaining more and more importance and becoming the preferred channel to promote the talent specially in the middle east region. I came across this article while surfing the internet and i think this will be relevant to the discussion..

  6. There is a new technology element – job map – that agencies need to pay attention to. As Job seekers will move away from strenuous reading of job listing text toward the visual exploration of jobs displayed on map at their exact location.

    (Disclosure) Our “J.UMP” job map service maintains daily average of 1,000,000+ aggregated jobs on our site.

    We also provide “white label” job map outsourcing service to staffing agencies that want to ride on this technology shifting with their own brand job map, to be the firsts of the industry on this technology move.

  7. The number 5 on Dr John Sullivan`s recruitment prophecy of the 12th of January, 2015 says , “Online video now accounts for 50% percent of all mobile traffic. So now that viewing videos (rather than static pictures or reading text) has become widely accepted, they must be used in every aspect of recruiting. If you’re not already using video job descriptions……….” (please read the complete article if you have`t). Seriously, this is so spot-on.

    Officially, youtube is the second largest search engine in the world and it does socially pull-in 1 billion users a month. This platform is an untapped field for recruiters and candidates. It was J. Oswald Sanders that said, “eyes that look are common, eyes that see are rare”. If only people would put on the glasses of innovation and see the richness of business opportunities in video recruiting – please watch:

  8. Though recruiters realized the need of implementing technology and software to optimize the process however implementation shows a very poor process design in all the application that are being in use. A pure lack on statistical analysis is still very much present in all the process design and all the application seems like just a fancy UI without anything to add value on decision making. Maping a value driven data collection strategy, efficient statistic analysis and life cycle management thoughts could at least make difference for the time being as there is huge scope down the line for optimizing the process.

  9. Dr. Sullivan, your credentials are astonishing to say the least, thank you so much for this information and all the details of your distinguished career and publications. I am doing research on future trends in corporate hiring for a literary work set in the future, and I’m very grateful for the information you have provided here. I will be resourcing and reading your other material and books, and wanted to let you know how grateful I am for having found you and your word along the way at the start of my research. Enlightened opinion leaders such as yourself are making a great contribution to our country and our world at a time when the urgency for thinkers with insight and vision are so greatly needed. Thank you for leading the edge, Dr. Sullivan, thank you for your dedication and work.

  10. Why is – “why-should-I-work-for-you?” – arrogant? All companies should be think why should this person work for us?

  11. You’re spot on with the importance of video in recruiting.

    I head up a tech company in Boston and we use a platform called Sparc – – for our recruiting. They create video based job profiles which do a fantastic job engaging today’s top candidates.

    If you’re looking to add video to your candidate outreach, utilizing employee generated content, I would highly recommend looking into what Sparc has to offer.

  12. Dr. John, Thanks for the full list. Really useful.
    The need of right HR software for small business is, as important as for the established Enterprise. If you start right, you’ll do good, has came true for many startups. I definitely recommended best platform for Recruiting software with top software comparison, features, verified customer reviews and pricing etc Softwaresuggest/recruiting-software

  13. “Dr. John, Thanks for the full list. Really useful.
    The need of right HR software for small business is, as important as for the established Enterprise. If you start right, you’ll do good, has came true for many startups. I definitely recommended best platform for Recruiting software with top software comparison, features, verified customer reviews and pricing etc softwaresuggest/recruiting-software

  14. This is a great list of recruiting trends, John! Couldn’t agree more with the shift in mobile and video becoming so prominent for candidate engagement. Additionally being able to harness passive candidates based on specific skill sets, just as much, if not moreso than active candidates. These are key aspects of optimizing a talent pipeline. iCIMS elaborates more on 8 of these key talent pipeline strategies to better connect with any candidate here:

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