Four Trends Affecting the Future of Recruiting

Jun 5, 2008

This past week I spent time with a major recruitment advertising agency, a large direct marketing organization, and the top-performing office of one of the largest temp-to-perm employment agencies in the country.

These meetings revealed some trends that might help you develop your future recruiting strategies.

Trend One: The Merging of Sourcing and Consumer Marketing

The buzz in consumer advertising is narrowcasting. This basically means segmenting your customer base into narrow subsets (i.e., professional single women between 25 and 30 who live in the city) and pushing your advertising message to them using a variety of techniques.

Some of these include search engine optimization, organic search, behavioral marketing, the use of talent hubs and microsites, and pay-per-click. The key here is to make sure your advertising can be easily found by the right audience.

The implications of this for sourcing are pretty dramatic. On one level, it means that if a candidate uses a search engine to look for a job rather than a job board, your posting will appear in the first few postings. To pull this off you’ll need to be an expert at developing keywords. These are used as a part of the meta tags built into a web page.

However, in the race to the top of the listing the best keywords win and the best ones are not necessarily the obvious. This whole process is called search engine optimization and there’s more to it than just keywords, but its importance cannot be understated for the next evolution of recruitment advertising.

From what I can tell, the leaders here are Shaker Advertising from an advertising perspective, and Jobs2Web, from the technology side.

Regardless of how you go about it, if you want to hire top people in the future, expect to become an expert using search engines. Once you become an expert at figuring out how to get your boring ads found, you’ll be ready to convert all of these into compelling career messages.

These two steps will dramatically improve your ad results.

Next, combine all similar job postings into one common talent hub or microsite that’s easier to find, a lot less expensive, and even better, it will generate a larger pool of better candidates than all of the individual ads combined. (Email me if you’d like the marketing logic behind this).

Trend Two: Referrals Will Become the Primary Sourcing Channel for All Positions

In a recent Execunet survey, 70% of over 6,000 executives and executive recruiters indicated that networking would be the key to either finding a job or finding candidates, compared to 16% through online advertising.

While this would be expected at the executive level, our own 2007 survey of 800 corporate recruiters filling staff and mid-level positions indicated that networking and employee referrals represented about 35% to 40% of their hires.

This is about five points higher than last year, so not only is networking important, but the trend is up. LinkedIn has helped accelerate this trend, in combination with Facebook, MySpace, and some of the niche social networking sites.

At the employment agency referred to earlier, referrals were also a core part of their recruiting efforts. While this group was primarily placing hourly personnel in general laborer or office admin positions on temporary assignments, it seemed like at least 50% of their recruits were from referrals. More important, the emphasis was on getting even more referrals.

It’s a pretty safe bet to conclude that in the future, referrals and networking will be the primary means companies and third-party recruiters will use to find candidates at all levels. For recruiters and sourcers, this represents a critical shift.

Name generation is rapidly becoming the easy part, with the real skill being effectively cold calling candidates, recruiting them, and getting referrals. Since ZoomInfo is not an opt-in database of names, expect this to become a stronger basic resource tool for those who know how to pick up the phone, recruit, and network.

Trend Three: Increasing Reliance on Metrics, Forecasting, and Workforce Planning

I’ve seen more articles, webinars, and talks about workforce planning in the last few months than I’ve seen collectively over the past few years. This alone indicates interest and demand.

As narrowcasting becomes more prevalent, it will be even more important to plan a channel strategy and track the performance of each ad. Since this is how Internet advertising is priced, recruiting departments will soon be getting a real education on the impact and use of proper forecasting, performance tracking, and Web analytics.

The trend toward the increasing use of metrics and forecasting was clearly evident in ERE’s 2008 Leadership Award submittals. This year companies had to include metrics to prove their performance improvements. In fact, most of the winners and many of the proposals described the implementation of advanced process measurement and monitoring systems. This is a critical shift in approach and an important trend in converting recruiting activity from art to a predictable business process.

Trend Four: Recruiters Becoming Partners with Their Clients and Consultants to Their Candidates

Our 2008 Recruiting and Hiring Challenges survey revealed two big problems. The first was pretty obvious: 76% of the 775 respondents said it was becoming increasingly difficult to find enough top candidates.

The second problem was a bit unexpected: 59% of the respondents said their hiring manager clients were the real problem in recruiting top people. Some of the problems attributed to this nefarious group included lack of good assessment skills, over-reliance on skills and experiences to weed out people, lack of responsiveness, and an inability to recruit top performers.

Of course, these same managers feel that their recruiters don’t understand real job needs, they’re not presenting enough good people, and they’re not very good at assessing ability.

While this is a pretty big gap to bridge, our data suggests that this difference is narrowing. For example, I spoke with six recruiters at the temp agency and each one was top-notch. While each did things a bit differently, they had one thing in common: each was a true partner with all of the clients.

One told me her clients taught her how to weld and drive a forklift truck. Another told me about attending her client’s annual employee picnic. A third told me about visiting her client’s medical office just to find out what color scrubs were worn.

While being a partner means different things to different recruiters, one thing is certain, recruiters who are partners understand the job, the company, and the hiring manager’s real needs. They also send in fewer candidates per hire, have more influence in the decision, and get called to handle more search assignments.

Just based on the other recruiters I speak with every month, it appears that the idea of becoming a partner is becoming recognized as a critical aspect of becoming more productive.

As the demand for talent increases and the pool of traditional sourcing channels dry up, becoming a career consultant with your candidates becomes equally as important. Not only will you be a more effective recruiter and close more deals, you’ll also be rewarded with the best referrals.


While hiring top people is predicted to become even more challenging, those who alter their recruiting and sourcing practices based on these trends will be way ahead of the game. Start by using Web 2.0 and state-of-the-art advertising techniques to position your ads to be found, rewriting them emphasizing what’s in it for the candidate, not the skills required.

In parallel, work toward becoming a partner with your clients. This will give you the credibility you’ll need to network and get better referrals.

Then to get better faster and maintain a constant rate of improvement, prepare a rolling forecast of your hiring needs and monitor your performance weekly. This will give you the information you need to identify problems in real time and make the necessary changes as they occur.

The future is rapidly approaching. Taking these trends into account will help you get ready for it.

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