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Recruiting Technology Is Not Flat (Yet)

by Jul 6, 2006

While reading Thomas Friedman’s best-seller, The World Is Flat, this past week, I came across a passage that I found to be very relevant to the recent emergence of new recruiting tools and technology. According to Friedman, “Introducing new technology alone is never enough. The big spurts in productivity come when a new technology is combined with new ways of doing business.” I’m a recruiting technology geek, and have been an early adopter of new and exciting tools such as Jobster, ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Simply Hired, Indeed, and others. For the uninitiated, here’s a rundown of these:

  • Jobster: a constantly evolving tool that allows recruiters to deliver job information to targeted audiences via a variety of means. Its job board aggregator allows job seekers to find jobs posted across the Web and use the Jobster service to connect with people they know in Jobster’s client base.
  • ZoomInfo: Google for recruiters. ZoomInfo scrapes the Internet to create profiles of people who are referred to on websites, press releases, etc., and often includes their contact information. Anyone can create and update his or her own ZoomInfo summary.
  • LinkedIn: allows users to create profiles (which are searchable) and virtual networks with people they know and people they would like to connect with. These networks allow users to connect with users divided by degrees of separation. LinkedIn also has job-posting capability.
  • Simply Hired/Indeed: job board aggregators. These websites not only pull job search results from job boards across the Internet, but they also offer the opportunity for companies to wrap their jobs directly into these aggregators at no cost. Jobster, HotJobs, and Google Base also fit into this category, but Simply Hired and Indeed are primarily focused on aggregator functionality.

After using these tools for some time however, I’ve come to realize that what Friedman said is directly relevant to what is preventing the broader adoption of these new recruiting tools. And, I’m not referring to adoption by recruiters like myself. These new recruiting tool vendors are not having too much trouble attracting new clients who are looking for the next “killer app” in recruiting.

These tools were designed to solve some of the major challenges that recruiters face today, including 1) how do we more effectively and more efficiently connect with targeted audiences of passive and semi-passive candidates, 2) how do we better qualify candidates earlier in the process, and 3) how do we more effectively separate the best from the rest in a more objective and efficient manner? These tools, as designed, offer a great opportunity to solve these challenges.

In my opinion, these tools offer a better way. Recruiting is a two-way street, however. The general public needs to see these tools as a better way, too. These tools help to alter the paradigm of how people find jobs. It’s one thing to build a better mousetrap, but if the mouse doesn’t know where to find the trap, or doesn’t know what to do with the trap when it finds it, the trap isn’t very effective, is it? So far, most of the efforts of these recruiting tool vendors have been on building their client base. But, very little effort has been made to sell the public on this changing paradigm. When people consider making a career move, do a majority of them know to pursue opportunities via their networks? Do they know intuitively how to best present themselves online, or make themselves better able to be found by the right opportunity? Do they know what to do when they receive an email out of the blue, soliciting their interest or asking them to refer their friends for job opportunities? Currently, no. So when Friedman said, spurts in productivity happen only when “new technology is combined with new ways of doing business,” this is the type of thing he is talking about.

If anyone is close at this point it could be LinkedIn, because you connect only with those who are active users of the service. But, the use of LinkedIn is still relatively limited with a reach far short of the workforce at large. In order to be viewed by the general public as the new and best way to connect with great career opportunities, it is time for these recruiting tool vendors to spend more effort and resources on educating the public on why these tools are better than what the job boards have been selling for the past decade. This is a difficult proposition, as each of these companies is growing its business and is primarily focused on building client bases and increasing revenues. Reaching out to Joe Public to explain the virtues and benefits of these tools is both risky and challenging at best, with virtually no guaranteed payoff. But, imagine the possibilities if the company was successful. The days of post-and-pray would virtually be over. More people would know how to help their friends and colleagues get connected with great opportunities and, in turn, be helped themselves. More semi-passive candidates would understand what to do to enhance their online profiles and increase the chances of jobs finding them.

Job boards, applicant tracking systems, and resumes in their current formats could be history. The first generation of recruiting technology (job boards and applicant tracking systems) created an environment that has frustrated job seekers and recruiters alike. Job boards and applicant tracking systems have not done a good job in connecting the right people with the right jobs, and have not been effective tools to reach passive job seekers. These new recruiting tools offer exciting opportunities for recruiters to connect with active and passive job seekers in a more efficient and effective manner than ever before.

So far, I’ve had success using each of the tools I mentioned above. The potential of these new recruiting tools, however, has only touched the tip of the iceberg. The culture shift that these tools represent must be more effectively presented to the general public as the way for people and jobs to connect in the 21st century. These vendors cannot rely on word-of-mouth and viral marketing alone to spread the word about their products to the general public. It is time for these vendors to get as aggressive as the major job boards in their marketing and advertising, including to consumers. Generating broader adoption by the general public can only increase the success that their clients are having using their tools. In the meantime, if you haven’t given these tools a try, what are you waiting for? These tools are already allowing recruiters to make connections with candidates in ways that were, at the very least, more difficult and time-consuming previously. More recruiters using these tools to reach active and passive job seekers can also only increase the broader adoption of these tools by the general public.

This is an exciting time: We’re watching the emergence of the second generation of recruiting technology. The tools and rules of the game are changing, so don’t get left behind with yesterday’s technology. In the meantime, I encourage these new recruiting tool vendors to do more to educate the public as to how these tools offer a better way.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Tim Nelson

    Good article and analysis. I have spent the last 5 months reviewing these products and taking their Demo’s as I re-entered the technology recruiting field after a 3 years absence to go back to school to get my MBA and have found the same to be true about the tools you have mentioned. Three you missed are Spoke.com (Similar to ZoomInfo but reaches below the ‘C’ Level and V.P. to the ‘worker level’ but does not provide much contact information like Zoom does), broadlink.com/profiler & Eclipse (Profiles any company at will with all information ever existing on the net and private databases -Best but most expensive tool – you get what you PAY FOR) and the ‘Most likely to make a difference in our time as recruiters’ concept: Nimblecat.com (Matches job orders and candidates on a much truer algorithm
    and accuracy than careerbuilder, Jobster or other ‘matching’ services – and it’s FREE)

  • Dave Lefkow

    Ben – nice to see you on ERE!

    You’ve done a great job summarizing the new technology landscape that is emerging. 100% agree that, while the recruting world is becoming better educated about the new tools available, the missing link is candidate education. Who’s educating them on what this new landscape means to them and how they can position themselves for success?

    Ironically, Jeff Hunter and I are working on a new book for candidates called ‘Brand Talent.’ I can’t tell you everything about it yet, but I think it will hit on a lot of the points you mention, and we would love your input as we work on it.

    Thanks for bringing up a very relevant and timely point!

  • Stephen Fowler

    Just wanted to say I am with you on this, I certainly feel technology has really been a revolution for the recruitment industry.

    Today I came across zoominfo, there are now no excuses to find top talent!

  • Eduardo Comella

    My ‘five cents’ on Stephen Fowler’s recent comments:

    I agree that internet recruiting (through Zoominfo or any other similar search engine) is a powerful tool to ‘find’ top talent.

    However, the name of the game is not TO FIND top talent, but to ATTRACT them to our Corporation or to our Clients.

    Although there are ‘no excuses’ to find active or passive job seekers through the use of the Internet, this is not a guarantee that we will be able to convince top talent to change jobs.

    Here is where our recruiting skills, experience and ethics are put into play.

    The human factor (we… recruiters) will never be replaced by technology.

    Respectfully,

    Eduardo Comella
    Executive Partner

    COMELLA CONSULTING GROUP

  • Ben Gotkin

    Eduardo – Great point, recruiting technology is nothing more than a means to an end. These new tools allow you to connect with larger groups of targeted candidates than ever before. They also enable less active or passive job seekers to be found without necessarily keeping a resume up-to-date. There is great power in this technology, but the technology alone is never enough.

    Back at the Spring ERExpo, Kevin Wheeler told us that successful recruiters in the 21st century will need to know how to leverage technology to build and maintain relationships. As I state in the article, I believe these new tools are a step in the right direction to enable Recruiters to do just that.

  • Angela Jahnke

    Stephen,

    I discovered Zoominfo about a year ago, but was unable to get the funding for it. I’d be interested to hear back from you in a few months, after you’ve used the site and can provide more feedback on its success. I’d still like to push this issue with my higher-ups.

  • Tim Heard

    Stephen,

    I wouldn’t bank too heavily on ZoomInfo. It’s an interesting site, but probably only useful to you if you’re seeking executive level talent. Even then, the info you find there may be fairly dated.

    To be clear, I’m not trying to slam their service. They’ve done a pretty amazing job at scouring the Internet for contact info on employees. … But it’s hardly a silver bullet.

    Regards,

    Tim Heard

  • Keith Robinson

    Good article but yet again find myself agreeing with Dave’s point about education. As a 27 year recruiting vet we really have undergone a revolution BUT we live and breath this business the consumer on the other hand dips in and out.

    They can opt in or out of much of what we as an industry can create, right down to not taking ours calls or responding to our emails.

    Education is 2 fold, one is Brand Building, educating them to the potential that the organisations hiring brand holds for them both as a consumer as well as an employer. A term a group of us brits have coined is the Employment Consumer. This makes them more likely to ‘open the doors’ to our technology and not reject or advancies

    Second, is educating the ‘jobseeker to the art of the possible, giving them the skills to us the range of tools that exist. Most developments today focus on the recruiter, very few start with the jobseeker, active or passive in nature.

    As an industry we follow the $ and traditional that has been with the ‘recruiter’, I see a change comming as the candidate becomes more aware of there value.

  • Roger Maris

    I liked Ben’s article and nobody can disagree with the education aspects. However, I do believe that he needs to stress the trust relationship between recruiter and client or HR and candidate more. I have been on both sides of the ball several times in my 22 years and I will never forget the companies that chose to violate that trust relationship. It makes both sides feel trashy. It really hurts our industry to have individuals trade trust for the opportunity to make a buck. Recently, one of my close friends received information from an insider of a prospective employer that the manager of Remington International in Chicago, Pete, bad-mouthed him to a client company just to shove one of his commissioned recruits in the door. It really hurt my feelings that some recruiters are willing to trade their self-respect and our industry?s reputation for a quick $100. What happened to honesty and ethics in our industry? I really think this lack of respect needs to be addressed before our industry is viewed as the ‘lowest’ by society.

    We are an honor-based industry, and if you can’t trust recruiters to filter large quantities of information and pluck the best candidates, then we are no better than someone who exaggerates their skills to land a job. The trust has to start somewhere and it should be our own industry that takes on that responsibility. If we don?t address the issue then are propagating the problem. There is no recourse; we all just look bad in the eyes of the outsider, and that hurts our industry and each one of us.