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Technology: Recruiters’ Friend or Foe?

by
Stephen Lowisz
Dec 3, 2008, 5:13 am ET

There is no doubt that technology has had a significant impact on the way we identify and recruit candidates in this age of social networking and blogging, but have we gone too far?

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a recruiting conference whose major theme focused on technology and its application in the recruiting lifecycle. As I stood in the back of the room waiting for the speaker in front of me to finish her presentation, I was shocked at what she had to say. She stated that “there is no reason to actually talk to a candidate today.” She continued by saying that “email and text messages should be the only means we use to contact and recruit candidates today because that is the medium they use.”

As this well-known speaker’s comments began to sink in, I realized the cause of many of the problems we face today — it’s people like this speaker who teach us to rely almost exclusively on technology! I may not be a doctor, but the last time I checked, every candidate is a living, breathing, human being with the innate craving to have a relationship with other living, breathing, humans.

Within the recruitment profession today, technology has moved from a tool to identify candidates and create efficiencies to a mechanism that replaces real relationships. If we all rely on the same technologies to identify, engage, and recruit candidates, what will be the differentiator from company to company? Are candidates to be treated as a commodity?

Have we forgotten that recruiting is sales? That sales is what builds real relationships? That technology should enable us to be more efficient but cannot engage a candidate in the way a recruiter can? Obviously these are all rhetorical questions aimed at pointing out how our near-reliance on technology is only exacerbating the problems we face today.

As I surveyed the room after I heard these ridiculous statements, I realized the impact this speaker had on the audience of seemingly young, inexperienced recruiters who were attempting to learn at least one nugget of information they could apply when returning to their respective companies.

It is direction like this, from supposed leading authorities in the field, that are causing recruiters to lose touch with candidates and treat them like a number instead of a person.

Let’s break down the obvious: Most exempt-level candidates, whether active or passive, have many choices today of where to work. When an active candidate submits a resume to your organization, you can assume they have applied to your top competitors competing for the same talent. Likewise, passive candidates know that they are in demand and can choose who to speak with.

This reliance on technology has created a ‘post and pray’ and ‘email and wait’ mentality for most recruiters. Sending broadcast emails, blogging, and social networking sites are the same tools your competitors are using to engage the same exact candidates that you want. Although these are fantastic tools to identify potential candidates, engaging them is the challenge. It is difficult to establish a relationship of substance when you have never spoken to the candidate or all of your follow up is done through non-personal means.

If recruiting is sales — and it is — what do we know about the sales process? Every Sales 101 class teaches us that there are five main steps in the sales process:

  1. Develop a relationship
  2. Identify the need
  3. Overcome objections
  4. Fill the need
  5. Advance the sale

Identifying the true need of a candidate is done by asking emotional, open-ended questions, overcoming objections, and then tailoring the opportunity to the individual’s stated need. Posting a job description, emailing the same description to your social network, or blogging about your great opportunity skips the key steps in the sales process — identifying the need of the buyer (in this case your candidate).

We are also taught that consumers of any product or service are initially attracted emotionally, and later justify their purchase rationally. Candidates are no different; if we engage them emotionally, we have a greater chance of having them buy into the position we are selling. There is no substitute for a trained recruiter developing a personal relationship with a candidate to identify their emotional wants and needs in order to present what the candidate wants, not what the recruiter has to sell. This is a common mistake made by recruiters today, resulting in a lack of qualified candidates that they can generate for their companies.

Understand how technology can benefit your recruiting process and hold your recruiters accountable for establishing meaningful relationships just like we expect our salespeople to do. Technology is by the far the most effective way to source potential candidates. The real challenge is what to do with them once you find them. With all of the options passive and active candidates have today, it is even more important to engage them in a manner that builds a stronger bond with them than your competition.

Once you start combining the efficiencies of technology with the expertise of properly trained recruiters skilled in the art of sales, we can reverse the trend created by the ‘silver bullet’ mentality. With 70% of a company’s assets in human capital, talent acquisition should be the most respected shared service within an organization.

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.

  1. Tahir Irtis

    great article.. nicely written.. makes an excellent point.

  2. Garreth Woods

    Too many recruiters are simply afraid of the phone. An over-reliance on e-mail and technology completely dilutes the value that a skilled recruiter can offer and leaves the whole engagement process cold and stale!!

  3. Ryan Foote

    That’s a great article.

  4. Joseph Miller

    Excellent insight.

    People and companies are attracted to the potential scalability that technology provides, but you cannot replace human relationships in service businesses.

    Linked In wasn’t mentioned, but many recruiters use the platform to go crazy with thousands of ‘connections’ which serve to broaden their reach without considering the unintended consequences such as spreading their time too thin with too many shallow relationships and creating time wasting noise for most people in their networks.

  5. J.P. Winker

    Stephen – nicely articulated. One of the important values-added by recruiters is to initiate a relationship with candidates on behalf of their company. This can’t be done via email, blogging, or Twitter. It can be done in conversations over the phone. An over-reliance on these newer technologies would systematically eliminate this relationship-engagement contribution, and reduce the recruiter’s usefulness over time.

  6. Darrin Grella

    I agree with you thoughts. Technology is INCREDIBLE! I am a big fan of utilizing tech as tools to make our team more effective and not a means of replacing what we do. I am a big fan of Twitter, blogging, and mobile recruiting.

    Technology and its tools change rapidly, but one thing that never changes is human nature. People like to have a connected relationship of trust. I feel that we, as recruiters, need to embrace technology, get crazy with it but not lose touch ENGAGING with our candidates.

    darringrella
    http://darringrella.blogspot.com

  7. Ginna McBride

    This article brings it all back in to focus….really, we all crave the HUMAN touch.

  8. Pauline Jordan

    It’ll be interesting to see what impact this attitude (of candidates being worth only email or SMS only) has on employer branding in the coming years, and whether candidates will vote with their feet (or fingers).

  9. Donna Eaglesome

    Great article and posted comments! It’s nice to know there are recruiters out there who value engaging with clients as opposed to depending so much on technology for recruiting.
    From a job seekers perspective, I would much prefer to engage face to face. However, I’ve come to realize that before I can go any further, I now need to make the time to get savvy with social media. If that’s where recruiters are looking, that’s where I’ll have to be too and that’s what I now need to learn. Please think about those of us who WANT to work and have a great contribution but who first need training/self training on the technologies that recruiters appear to be using.

  10. Nancy Anton

    Perfect! Finally we are brought back the the most important step in recruiting, PICK UP THE PHONE! Who cares if you have 30 names or 3,000 names, if you aren’t talking to the candidates, and developing a relationship, you aren’t going to be making placements and that is what we are supposed to be doing. I noticed at the last 2 conferences I attended, far more was said about sourcing… not much about actual recruiting, talking/ phone/ face to face. Phone fear is death in this business and there is no way to be effective without getting over that. If you aren’t using the phone, you are only a referral source, not a practicing recruiter. Keep track of the hours spent in a day.. How many hours are on actual calls? Increase that and your effectiveness will also.

  11. Lindsay Thompson

    Great perspective on the value and limitations of technology. Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, texting, etc. are all really important tools, but good tech just enables conversation and relationships, which are still the key.
    **
    For example, GreenJobInterview.com provides web-based video interviewing, a first interview via webcam prior to an in-person interview. Web video tech is an improvement over phone for early interviews and let you see candidates “face-to-face” to evaluate their presentation and communication skills, personality, enthusiasm, etc. before committing time, resources and travel to an in-person meeting.

  12. Keith Halperin

    Technology-
    Good: if it allows for the elimination/automation of low value-add, low touch recruiting functions.
    Bad: if it allows us to do much more of what should never be done to begin with

    IMHO, some of the comments have a curiously dated quality. What kind of candidates are likely THESE days to say: “Oh, I didn’t receive the proper amount of human interaction and respect due to me as a person, so I’ll take myself off to one of the other 85 places that are just BEGGING for me to work for them. Hmmmph!” So the employers say:
    “OK, Sunshine, go on your way. We’ll talk to the other 85 folks who are better and cheaper than you who are just BEGGING to go work for us!”

    As I see it, some employers (none of those employing our Gentle Readers, of course) will revert to the historic pattern of treating candidates and recruiters like dirt- BECAUSE THEY CAN. Others will end up treating candidates poorly not through any conscious intent, but because the remaining recruiters are so overwhelmed that people get lost in the shuffle.

    As a candidate, I don’t care if I’m contacted by phone, email, or a note flown in by Hedwig- I just want to hear what you’ve got and kept in the loop. As a recruiter, I try to treat candidates politely and decently, because that’s how I want to be treated myself.

    As far as sourcing candidates (which I usually do as all or part of my functions), whether they are located on a job board, internet, SNA site, or cold-called the old-fashioned way won’t really matter too much to us, because (except in rare circumstances) you won’t have to pay more than around $3,000-$3,500/month for someone to do that (and often a lot less if they don’t have to cold call). However, there will still be a need for people who can successfully build relationships and close. (Better hope you’re one of those!)

    Cheers,
    Keith keithsrj@sbcglobal.net 415.586.8265

  13. Sylvia Dahlby

    Great article! Technology will never replace “old school” recruiting skills for two reasons:

    1) Technology is only a tool, and any tool is only as good as the hand that uses it – Facebook or text-messages never hired anyone or accepted a job, humans still have to make the decisions. All the technology in the world will not make you a better recruiter if you lack sales & people skills, it will only help you do more work, faster.

    2) Technology allows for greater deception and a good recruiter will always need to make human contact to discern the truth. Think of it as “false packaging” of a product – what you see on a resume, Facebook profile or in an email is not always what you get.

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