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It’s Time for Recruiters to Adapt (Again!)

by
Shanil Kaderali
Apr 11, 2013, 1:20 am ET

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” — Charles Darwin

There is a great article by Adrian Kinnersley on Why Recruiters Will Be at the Heart of Our Corporate Future. I agree with some of the points. The rumors of our professional death have been always greatly exaggerated since our early ancestor recruiters found the first stone-age axe makers. Our profession, however, will change due to disruptive trends (Doesn’t it always?). These trends and their impact apply to in-house, outsourced (RPO), and  third-party recruiters alike.

My focus here is on two specific disruptive trends and the strategies to adapt and re-invent if needed. This article is more than about skills development, though some suggestions will help you in your recruitment efforts. As a former AIRS trainer and talent acquisition leader having developed training programs for recruiters, I can say that constant learning is what keeps gives us the edge in changing times (it always will).

Trend #1 — Emerging Technology Will Continue to Disrupt Recruitment

  • Social media, mobile, Big Data, and SAAS will converge, especially in social graphing/sourcing and job-assessment technology
  • LinkedIn’s No. 1 driver for its revenues are recruitment, and this will grow

Does sourcing and assessment technology offer so many compelling competitive advantages that it can replace human recruiters?

Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Recruiting involves relationships, non-intuitive research, and understanding nuances that involve human emotions and motivations. While a psychology degree isn’t required, those advanced algorithms can’t figure those out emotions and motivations out just yet. Technology that identifies qualified labor through collective intelligence (like social media/peer reviews); data mining for better sourcing (education, experience) with Big Data and then incorporates job assessment technology (with a SAAS) will impact certain jobs. Technology targeted at bypassing the recruiter and HR usually falters since it lacks an engagement mechanism for candidates and ignores that simple fact: managers usually don’t want to be recruiters.

Also, LinkedIn shouldn’t make us lazy. It’s a great tool. However, it’ll likely continue to raise  prices year over year on recruitment products, and likely continue to add restrictions on other technologies so it monetizes the recruitment pie and grows its business.

Goodbye Monster. I was an early user/client. I’ve bought LinkedIn licenses, ad impressions, banner ad and InMail campaigns, and measured the ROI for my former employers/clients. Some of these LI options generated great ROI and others, so-so for my needs.

What technology doesn’t do effectively yet is engagement in building relationships with the vast pool of quality candidates and hiring managers. For recruiters, that means, it’s going back to basics here.

Strategy for this first trend: Go back to the basics, simplify

  • Get personal and simplify your messaging on-line and in-person. You need to distinguish yourself.  I suggest putting the focus of the opportunity in the perspective of the candidate. This will get them more engaged.
    •  “This opportunity would take you more in the direction of new media with your business development background … it would really stretch your skills
    • Know your hiring manager’s lingo — Sit in on some interviews to hear their questions and shadow one of the top professionals you are recruiting. Learn their language and use it; this will create a better relationship with the manager. I am extremely impressed primarily with your expertise of “scaling applications to millions, and transforming the possibilities of  the cloud” …
    • Give good phone — pick it up — You can’t just rely on LinkedIn InMails all the time
    • Get the edge with technology — Some technology will complement our efforts. Be current. (Hypothetical: Imagine wearing Google glasses and doing a LinkedIn facial recognition search at a conference and introducing yourself to a candidate knowing their background already. It’s a nice party trick, notwithstanding privacy concerns.It’s been rightly blogged about ad infinitum that recruiters need to develop their own personal brand with Facebook and Twitter pages. That won’t change. Training from Shally Steckerl and others really help you sharpen your skills in these areas.

      Trend #2 — Companies Will Hire Fewer Full-Time Employees, Hire More Contingent Staff, and Outsource More

      • From a 2010 IBM report surveying CHROs globally: When asked about labor flexibility models for the next three years, 50 percent indicated they would increase using contingent labor; 53 percent would hire more part-time workers, and 56 percent would increase outsourcing. These are global trends.
      • In another recent study, it was projected that by 2020, more than 40 percent of the workforce will be freelancers, and since the recovery, from 2011, 25 percent of new jobs created have been temp jobs.

      Strategies for this trend: Monetize your relationships and think beyond one job

      • You don’t have to become your own boss 100 percent of the time, but if you work in-house, begin to monetize the relationship if it does not conflict with your current role (Be ethical — there is a fine line). If there are restrictions on your ability to earn income outside of your role where there is no conflict, get legal counsel. Know your rights but be smart and discreet. Staffing is cyclical and you deserve to make an income if your job is going to be impacted and it has no conflict with your current role.
      • Form alliances with recruitment firms to help them land business where there is no conflict for you. I know a company with an outside loyalty program for contract recruiters and others with client referral bonus offerings. You don’t have to become a salesperson, but you should selectively assess which introductions are gratis and which you can monetize.
      • Partner with recruitment firms that ensure you get access to tools (like LinkedIn, etc.)
      • If you’re an in-house recruiter, don’t resist working for a RPO (or Managed Services Provider that offers RPO services) … bring your skills to a new environment. They are not the enemy and they may end up being an employer or contract one day  They can learn from you but may not be able to afford you full-time. (So what about part-time?).
      • Gain global experience if possible. U.S. hiring will be stagnant. Demand is greater overseas and as such, so is hiring. I know two recruitment companies with recruiter exchange programs. They send recruiters for six to nine months to specific host countries (usually Asia) to gain experience with their U.S. and global clients. You can always apply for a global role if your company has those to offer. This obviously would only really apply to the demographic that has the flexibility. It’s not for everyone but you get global on your resume and may learn a second language and truly have an enriching personal and professional experience.

      Given globalization and workforce segmentation strategies requiring fewer U.S. full-time recruiters, many more recruiters will likely have one or two jobs, freelance contracts, etc. Some already do this anyway. The labor model and the nature of how we do work as recruiters will change. Being a consultant for one company (1099) and employee (W2) for another will happen more and more for recruiters in the future. Having two part-time jobs or clients may become the norm. Be flexible. Change your thinking now about what may happen in future.

      Also, as recruiters, we like to help people. It is good karma. However, we may need to be selective with sharing contacts and referrals to enable us to supplement our incomes. So yes, embrace capitalism.

      At the upper echelons of the American workforce, salaries have soared. Companies are fighting to hire and reward people who will help grow their company with this talent in short supply. Our skills are useful but we have to adapt. Welcome to the brave new world. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or feedback as to how to navigate these new waters.

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. Chris LaFontaine

    Another trend that should be noted here is that of adapting to where the talent pockets are.

    For example, professions such as experienced Product Management (hotter than heck right now), IT, web and UX development, and many healthcare related professions are desperately needed right now (i.e., there is a talent shortage. This can be evidenced by the rapid climb in salaries (in Product Management salaries have climbed 50%-100% in the last five years) of these professions and that, for the most part, they are always full-time positions.

    Compare that to fields like finance, law or traditional engineering, and you see an overabundance of talent compared to jobs and thus generally a salary decline.

    One thing I like to advise recruiters – always go where the salary scales are climbing, it is the clear indicator of where the talent shortages (and thus highly sought after recruiting services) are generally the most lucrative.

  2. Keith Halperin

    @ Chris: Well said. Unfortunately recruiter compensation is still below where they were in the pre-Dotcom ’90s (in terms of constant dollars).

    @ Shanil: Thank you- very practical. If I may add: Recruiters should learn to concentrate on learning, mastering, and improving those skills that are high-touch and high value-add. These skills (mentoring, advising, building relationships, closing, improving and streamlining hiring procedures, acting as an on-site, on-demand Project Manager liaison between the client and remote resources) should pay at least $50/hr. Lower-touch skills (scheduling, coordinating, most kinds of sourcing, posting positions, administrivia, etc.) can be “transourced” (no-sourced, through-sourced, or out-source) for usually U.S. minimum wage-cost or less. While we should be familiar with these other skils (as we know how to type and use MS Office), we shouldn’t expect to make decent livings doing them.

    Cheers,

    Keith keithsrj@sbcglobal.net

  3. Shanil Kaderali

    @ Chris & Keith: Great comments. I appreciate your input.

  4. Keith Halperin

    @ Shanil: Thank you.

  5. What Will Disrupt LinkedIn? - ERE.net

    [...] When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion and acquired the technology along with its 13 employees, this changed the world of photo technology. Kodak employed 140,000 employees. It is now bankrupt. Those jobs disappeared. (For recruiters to survive innovation and not go extinct the way of Kodak, see my article on adaptation.) [...]

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