Where the Talent Acquisition Profession is Headed

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Dec 28, 2016
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

The business practice of recruiting has been the same from the beginning of time. My great-great grandfather was a wagon and buggy wheelwright in San Francisco in the 1870s. This was a specialized skill in his day, and whenever he had to hire wheelwrights he would advertise in the San Francisco Chronicle for an experienced wheelwright, take time out of his busy day to interview applicants, and determine if they met his standards. Barring that, he would hire an apprentice and teach them the skills.

The profession of recruiting is, at its heart, an outsourcing of the finding and screening process so as to allow people in production to stay focused on their work. Recruiters have been somewhat successful at becoming specialists in finding and screening talent. We have learned some tradecraft and we use new tools to find and assess candidates, but the final hiring process remains a very human one. It comes down to skills and personality assessments using a very subjective interview process, which still robs the business of productive time. The process itself is built to benefit the employer verses the candidate.

When we use more objective screening criteria, such as skills tests and personality assessments, it is to benefit the company’s perspective and does not directly benefit the candidate, therefore becoming a barrier to entry. This is why some companies have looked to gamification, somewhat unsuccessfully, as a way of assessing some technical talent. Even though this is more inviting to some candidates, it still requires a candidate to invest their time without necessarily directly benefiting from the process.

True innovation would be if we were able to fundamentally change how people manage their own careers, and the entire selection process, in a way that gives candidates more control, at the same time as providing employers with an objective way of selecting candidates.

Close your eyes for a minute (but don’t stop reading) and picture a world where candidates aren’t candidates anymore. They are productive members of society who simply want to find the career path that will give them dignity and reward them for their labor and expertise. Now picture a company that is able to confidently find and hire the absolutely right person almost all of the time based on a process which is truly objective. And picture a day where a candidate has the trust in a system to manage their career into the right company, team, and job. Would this lead to world peace? Well, maybe that’s overdoing it, but certainly to a more stable and happy workforce where work gets done.

I predict that this innovation will arrive within the next 5 to 15 years. Career-management software and companies that will emerge that will use machine learning, psychometrics, social media, and skills assessments in a combined way to offer highly skilled labor the ability to match a company, department, personality, trajectory, and skills that best suit the candidate. This method will be both independent of companies, in order to direct careers from one company to another, as well as being used within companies to provide employees a confident career path. Candidates will opt into the system, as they do now with LinkedIn or Facebook, and so will companies. Individuals, teams, and departments will be part of the assessments so that there is a virtual 360-degree view of both companies and candidates.

Think of the productivity gains when there is no interview loop. Think of the improved candidate experience when they have confidence in the match.

Now, this may sound like pie-in-the-sky. But it offers a glimpse of what probably will happen. No one thought that we’d be putting all of our work and personal information on the web for anyone to browse a few years ago. Online dating services have to deal with very subjective criteria, and they may still have a long way to go, but even so they often leads to marriage. With that in mind, imagine building a program that takes the more objective criteria of career elements and converts them into career paths within and between companies.

This will change the recruiting industry. We are the travel agents of the 1970s who didn’t see an online revolution changing their industry. By the way, travel agents haven’t entirely gone away, but their function is fundamentally different than the old days. So it will be with our profession. When the industry has the ability to find, screen, and hire people via a self-service system, our function might change to process management, or onboarding concierge. We might perform in-house corporate assessment testing that will be needed to provide the employer side of the match. We will become more involved in promotion tracking, employee career path management, etc. It will become more of a personnel-focused function involved with career management, and leaving more core organizational HR functions to our HR colleagues.

Although I’m aware of some companies considering bits and pieces of the solution, I haven’t yet seen anyone effectively looking at the bigger picture of career management from a macro perspective. If this hits the marketplace the way LinkedIn did several years ago, it will be innovation that will change everything.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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