As hard as it is for me to believe, we are now eight years into the new millennium. Has life changed for the average recruiter? What did a recruiter do all day in 1998, for example?
I have chosen 1998 because it was the last year that I was employed as an internal corporate recruiting leader. A typical recruiter who worked for me spent all day in the office either reading, interviewing, or talking on the phone. It was rare for a recruiter to be somewhere other than in the office. Most resumes still arrived in the mail and were either manually entered into databases or, in leading-edge organizations, were scanned into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Applicant Tracking Systems were just hitting their stride and were starting to move into smaller organizations. The largest firms had been using them for almost a decade, although utilization was poor and many of the features we take for granted today were missing. They were, for the most part, just databases that contained searchable information about people who had applied. We still had file cabinets and Rolodexes in abundance, and every good recruiter guarded them jealously.
Recruiters spent the first few hours of each day scanning and sorting resumes for relevant key words or other requirements so that they could then make a decision whether to call the candidate for a phone screen or show the resume to a hiring manager. Computers, when they were used at all, were looked upon as databases for storing resume data and, hopefully, for retrieving it from time to time. Most departments had only one or two computers and they were a shared resource.
Corporate recruiting websites were hard to find and, when they did exist, were little more than a page of general information with an address letting candidates know where they should mail their resumes. Not even the biggest organizations would have much in the way of a recruiting site for at least another two to three years. Candidates did not think about looking for a recruiting website, and most of them did not have access to a computer or an Internet connection. No one had the slightest idea that interactive websites with video would emerge.
The first job board, Career Mosaic, launched in 1994 but did not really gain much traction with recruiters. Job boards began to become popular with the launch of Monster, especially when Monster ran their famous 1999 Super Bowl advertisement. Newspapers and classified ads were still the way jobs were advertised and the way candidates found jobs. Newspaper supplements were inches thick with job ads.
A recruiter’s life in 1998 was one of paper (resumes and newspapers and magazine ads) and telephones (cold calling leads and screening candidates). Paper was king. The telephone was queen.
Today, paper is dead and the telephone, while still important, has also become much less central to recruiting. The Internet changed it all. Every organization has a recruiting website and job boards are the number one source of candidates for most recruiters. Candidates search job boards and comb the Internet for potential jobs, and newspapers are smaller and much less popular, partly due to shrinking advertising dollars from recruiters.
So what does the future portend?
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Here are my three predictions for this year (and perhaps even next).
The Economy Will Impact Recruiting and Change the Emphasis
Not all is well in the economic picture for 2008. Employment will be robust in health care and retirement-related sectors. Manufacturing, financial services, real estate, and transportation will see cutbacks or freezes. People with management skills will be in demand. Many employers are expanding college recruitment and internships as a way to bring in potentially loyal and less expensive labor and to build a talent pipeline. There will continue to be a demand for technically-skilled people, such as engineers and computer experts. Unessential recruiting will continue to move to recruitment process outsourcing firms. The total number of recruiters employed by an organization will decline over the next two years, forcing recruiting leaders to retain experienced and technically-savvy recruiters who can leverage the Internet to expand candidate sources and be more productive.
The Internet Is and Will Remain King
All recruiting activity will, in some way, center around the Internet. It is the great connector and communicator. Recruiting websites will become more and more interactive and offer everything from live tours to on-demand conversations with employees and recruiters. Blogs, instant messaging, forums, and e-mail will connect recruiters with candidates.
I have to disagree with Howard Adamsky who dismisses many of the latest Internet innovations as nonsense and gadgets. At the same time, he cries out for recruiters to deepen and enhance their communication with candidates. He does not see that these very tools provide the means to do exactly that. Technology, including on-demand video, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and all the other communication tools, give recruiters an unprecedented way to get in touch with candidates all over the world and stay in touch over time.
Social Networks Will Continue to Mature
Social networks, while certainly over-hyped and poorly used at the moment, will become core to good recruiting. Applicant Tracking Systems have suffered the same over-hype and poor use until recently. Now, most recruiters know how to use an ATS well and what to expect from one, and the same will happen with social networks. To ignore them or dismiss them would be a mistake. Well-qualified people have profiles on these sites, and many of them are more than willing to consider a job change. Learning how to tap into these people is the learning curve recruiters will face over the next year or two.
LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and the hundreds of other sites that have sprung up will mature and offer more tools for both candidates and recruiters. Candidates will appreciate the ability to better explain their capabilities and showcase their accomplishments. Recruiters will appreciate the additional information and the ability to get references and make connections that were impossible to find before.
I think 2008 will be a year when recruiters will be forced to build productivity and learn to better use the myriad of technologies at their fingertips.