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Five Scenarios for the Future of Recruiting

by
John Sumser
Jan 12, 2010, 2:37 pm ET

Spring 2010 conference-logoIt’s an interesting time to ponder the future of recruiting. You can imagine Chicken Little running around crying “The sky is falling. The sky is falling.”

  • The profession is 30% to 50% smaller than it was 18 months ago.
  • Many more HR generalists are filling the recruiting role.
  • Technology is changing rapidly.
  • A new generation is coming to work.
  • Sourcing is simultaneously separating from the selection process and transforming itself.
  • Meanwhile, good-enough sourcing is on everyone’s desktop. It just keeps getting better.
  • Social recruiting is grabbing a foothold.
  • Salary transparency makes candidates smarter about the deal.
  • Workplace reviews create brand management problems.
  • The effective unemployment rate of 18% creates a candidate deluge.
  • Budgets are trimmed to the bone.
  • The publishing industry, which once provided the infrastructure for employment advertising, is dead.
  • Other industries are in peril creating a sea of displaced, disrupted workers.
  • Old ideas of privacy are under assault.
  • Economic forecasts are impossible to believe (your company’s or the government’s).
  • Employment branding is gaining traction in healthcare markets.

At the same time, transformative things are afoot in some recruiting departments. There are stories of large companies who let their internal recruiters raid departments just like external recruiters do. RPOs leverage needs across clients to build serious market clout in specific niches.

So, how do you plan for a future in an environment like this?

Between now and the ERE Spring Expo, I will be developing Five Scenarios for the Future of Recruiting. In ambiguous times, precise forecasts about the future are worse than useless. Explicit predictions create frameworks for bad judgment.

Scenario Planning, a technique developed by Shell in the 1980s, is a useful way to think about the future without getting fixed on specific outcomes. One objective of scenario planning is the discovery of novel insight about the future.

The research, which is sponsored, will produce tools for conversation about the future rather than specific forecasts.

The series of articles will cover:

  • Scenarios, Conversations, Research (this piece)
  • Key Trends
  • Map of the Marketplace
  • Scenario 1
  • Scenario 2
  • Scenario 3
  • Scenario 4
  • Scenario 5
  • Expectations for the Conversation at ERE.

At the ERE Expo, I am going to give a presentation that will just cover enough of the basics to get a conversation started. Being prepared will mean having read the series of articles in advance of the conversation. I imagine a vigorous exchange among interested parties. I’ve scheduled my return to the Bay Area for the following day in order to support a dialog that runs past the convention’s time limits.

About a month after the conversation at ERE is completed, we’ll be delivering a White Paper that documents the process and the impact of the online dialog. Anyone who participates online will receive a copy of the White Paper when it is published.

This is going to be an interesting experiment. I hope you’ll join me.

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. John Hughes

    Good internal recruiting structures have allowed their recruiters to act like external search firms for quite some time now. The interesting thing is as more recruiting departments are downsized and HR Managers take on their duties the functionality and competitive edge they worked so hard to create is now lost. I hope our community stays cognizant of this if/when the economy improves to a point where companies are willing to invest in rebuilding corporate recruiting functions.

  2. Maureen Sharib

    I think the contraction from 18 mos ago is far greater than 30-50%. 70-90% I believe is not out of the question.

  3. Ray Towle

    If it were valid that “good-enough sourcing is on everyone’s desktop” than perhaps in a job market where current available talent far outnumbers current open jobs, then nearly no jobs would be open.

    Currently, the ratio seems to be Open Jobs over Available Talent, (OJ/AT) but the meta-trends indicate that when the USA and worldwide economies turn around that will flip the numerator and the denominator and become (AT/OJ) and when that happens, forward-looking companies will already have their sourcing specialists in place. Mark my words . . . you saw it here first.

  4. Carolyn Kammeyer

    Great article, I very much agree. Its no longer acceptable to just do okay sourcing. Recruiters will have to learn how more about social sourcing. How do you think this will affect corporate versus agency recruiters?

  5. Ray Towle

    A real-time Job Creation Data Update: In the last month, for every open job in America there were 6.1 prospective candidates for that 1 job. This month, for every open job in America, there are now 6.4 prospective candidates for that 1 job. That is a Job Creation Index of -0.3 in only 1 month. The Recruiting Industry is indeed shrinking, and the lack of any successful true Job Creation is the cause. But . . . this too shall pass.

  6. Maureen Sharib

    Ray, I also wonder how much the jobs space is shrinking because of how much the recruiting industry has shrunk. You think that could be a factor?

  7. Steve Gilbert

    I’m looking forward to being part of this discussion. Thanks for the interesting format John.

  8. John Sumser

    The interesting thing that I saw is a very large company that allows its recruiters to act like third party players for internal mobility. That means no asking of permission from the department head before recruiting ahigh potential player into a new job.

    This is not more of the same old ‘teach recruiters to act like headhunters’ in outside matters. It’s leveling the playng field in the market for internal candidates.

    It’s an exercise in demonstrating that employees work for the company, not the department. It creates an internal talent market that is open and competitive. Internal recruiters are not used as a buffer against competition.

    I think it’s a remarkable idea and I haven’t heard of anyone doing anything like it. The concept turns succession planning, job rotation, and other standard HR functions on thier head.

    Recruiting will transform itself with ideas like this.

  9. John Sumser

    The impact of the downturn on Recruiting and HR is different in different regions and different industries. The results from the recovery (if it ever comes) will amplify the difference. It seems unlikely that recruiting in heavy manufacturing will ever be on the same footing as recruiting in information services.

    I think we’ll see growth in industry specific and region specific recruiting styles, processes and techniques.

  10. Steve Gilbert

    As recruiting recovers it will be interesting to see how the industry will change in light of the fact that any recruiter can create nearly the same list of potential candidates to contact for an open position due to volume of online bios.

    Will corporate recruiting departments no longer need traditional search firms and third-parties to find and source talent?

    With all the bios online these days why wouldn’t a company simply do the search work internally in the future?

  11. John Sumser

    That the industry will change is beyond question. How specific companies adapt will have a case by case nature. There are all sorts of things that a company could do. Of course, a company could do all of its sourcing.

    But, the fact that al of the data is out there also suggests that companies with expertise in mining the data will have a market advantage.

    In the final analysis, a company’s strategy has more to do with what makes sense than it has to do with what is possible.

    Right now, sourcing is getting more complex and expensive. To do it effectively, you either have to build in-house expertise or purchase it.

    My guess is that there will be real competition for primary relationships with people on a niche by niche basis.

  12. Maureen Sharib

    John, you said:
    “…the fact that all of the data is out there also suggests that companies with expertise in mining the data will have a market advantage.”

    All of it is NOT out there. I maintain than less than 3% of the workforce is online in a capacity that allows search to find them within a job’s context.

    Steve, you ask:
    “With all the bios online these days why wouldn’t a company simply do the search work internally in the future?”
    For that very reason contained within my assertion above.

    Respectfully,

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