Why the Future of Recruiting Won’t Happen Any Time Soon

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May 29, 2019

It’s *gasp* nearly 2020. The year in which we were all destined to be working freelance.

The year we were all to be put out of work by robots.

It’s also the year I expected to be able to pick up my iPhone and say “Siri, I want to hire a marketing manager.” And technology would handle the rest.

Alas, none of these seminal events have come to pass.

So lately, I’ve found myself fantasizing about job search on a newly colonized planet with no long history of entrenched and outdated recruiting tools and mores.

On this fantasy planet of mine, telepathic communication between job seekers and hiring managers has rendered Earth’s current recruiting practices as quaint artifacts of the past.

In this article, I’ll explore why my fantasy — and all the pundits’ futuristic predictions — remain a distant reality.

AI Disappoints

According to a recent study, only 25 percent of talent-acquisition professionals feel their recruitment technologies meet their current hiring needs to a high or very high extent.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg:

  • 68 percent of talent professionals have difficulty finding candidates with the right skills
  • 51 percent of talent professionals would like to spend less time sifting through resumes
  • 31 percent of hires are regretted

Lest you conclude that AI is the villain, consider the opinion of Ex-Google engineer Richard Liu, co-founder of — a platform that uses machine learning to analyze resumes, personal values, and job descriptions to suggest perfect-fit candidates for open roles.

“Resumes suck!” Liu declared in a Fast Company interview back in 2017.

And, if we’re all honest, the humble resume hasn’t improved much in the last two years.

If Liu is still correct (and I think he is), AI’s lackluster performance in the job search space could all come down to an old adage:

Garbage in, garbage out. Which begs a poignant question.

Why is Liu building a job search innovation around something as faulty and outdated as the resume?

Is this really the best the future of recruiting has to offer?

Rethinking the Resume

Also in 2017, Jennifer Carpenter, Accenture’s former global head of recruiting, predicted the death of resumes.

Similar to Nietzsche declaring God was dead almost a century later than Hegel, Carpenter wasn’t the first to sound the resume death knell.

My company is still hand-crafting resumes for senior executives. It’s safe to say they’re not going away anytime soon.

However, life beyond the resume could happen easily — and instantly.

LinkedIn is the most likely usurper of the resume. But while they may possess the technology to achieve this in a flash, candidate and corporate privacy are complex blockades that demand to be untangled.

For example, Intel (or any top corporation, really) wouldn’t want detailed information about their executives’ accomplishments to be readily available on the Internet.

And yet, this information would need to be made available to enhance the quality of data being fed into AI recruitment tools.

Lack of AI regulation is a growing issue, and one that I’ve explored in its own right. I invite you to check out my interview with global AI expert, Professor Toby Walsh on how AI might transform the future of recruiting — and the society — for both better and worse.

Killing the Resume

Imagine a world where we were able to regulate AI recruiting tools, conquer privacy concerns, and eliminate the resume altogether.

Freelance platforms such as Upwork, Expert360, and TopTal have already given us glimpses into this utopian future of recruiting.

Their platforms have largely stripped the resume out of the equation through the use of Amazon-like internal systems of reviews and ratings.

This could this work for non-freelance employees. LinkedIn’s current capabilities are nipping at the heels of this reality.

But while ratings and reviews offer hope, they’ve only been proven on freelancer/contractor platforms, where hiring decisions are made primarily by evaluating hard skills. Hiring softer-skilled talent such as a Head of HR through a system like this may prove to be problematic.

Which brings us to another job search pain point.

Predicting Candidate Moves With AI

A frequent question that I ask clients is: “what’s your next career step?”

Albeit common, it’s an important question because most have a number of different options. For example, a CFO at a large organization will often consider these roles:

  • COO at the same, or another, company
  • CFO at another company
  • CEO at the same, or another, company

This is a simple example, which I kept simple for the sake of illustration.

If you were to add layers such as company sizes, sectors, and fluid definitions of role types, you’d easily get at least 5-10 suitable career options for each candidate, none of which align directly with their past experience.

In my work, I’ve observed that recruiters are very poor at recognizing these possibilities. Indeed, most of our client engagements involve repositioning a candidate’s past experience to help recruiters see how each of the client’s past career moves is relevant to each next step.

This leads me to conclude that a segment of recruiters is trapped in the past and either:

  • lacking the insight into how roles impact business outcomes, or
  • are unwilling to risk putting forward a candidate who is not a straight fit.

After all, their fee is at stake.

Before all you recruiters out there go on the offensive, remember that AI tools are built to learn from recruiter behavior.

If you, as a recruiter, reject a CFO for a COO position, you’ll be teaching AI/your AI-driven applicant tracking system to make the same mistakes you’re making.

The next time you’re looking for a CEO, your ATS will exclude all CFOs, and you’ll have a compromised pool of candidates.

And in conversations with your client, you may just chalk it up to the infamous “talent shortage.”

Modify Recruiter Behavior

Perhaps the obvious solution is for recruiters to change their behavior and begin regarding themselves as talent agents who represent candidate interests, not just that of their clients.

But 2020 is fast upon us. And human behavior change can take years to stick.

Returning, then, to our imaginary world, let’s take another cue from Upwork.

Recently, it launched a feature which allows the job seeker to showcase the transferable nature of their skills. It called it “specialized profiles.”

The CFO in my example above would have three specialized profiles (instead of three customized resumes), with each targeted toward a role that s/he is capable of performing — CEO, CFO, and COO.

Again, LinkedIn could easily mirror this approach for non-freelance candidates.

To date, however, much like recruiters, employers are not adept at connecting the dots around candidate potential.

Which brings us back where we started.

Human Behavior

Antonluigi (Gigi) Gozzi, chief products officer of LiveHire, in his talk at the 2018 Australasian Talent Conference, said:

“AI is best at understanding what is known about a candidate and is less effective at discovering or revealing what is unknown, yet relevant, about the candidate.”

He went on to state that AI is very useful in black and white situations, but that the act of recruitment is often grey. This is a quandary since, as I mentioned earlier, an existing swath of recruiters are allowing their grey matter linked to grey-area skills to remain dormant.

Recruitment leaders like Greg Savage and Ross Clennett argue that AI is unable to replace recruiters who can perform tasks that robots can’t.

However, the recruiters they’re referring to are those willing to embrace the grey rather than cling to the past — and to the short-term allure of the fee.

Some are the missing link to moving job search forward.

The Future of Recruiting in an (Almost) AI World 

Despite all this talk of technology, in my business, I advise candidates to do something that might surprise you: cultivate strong personal relationships with the right recruiters.

The smartest recruitment professionals have learned the hard way that even the most sophisticated applicant tracking systems are flawed, and the best candidates are slipping through the cracks.

Perhaps in the future of recruiting, recruiters will still need to be people-people after all.

Earth, 2019

For now, it seems we are marooned on our lovely blue planet, with our outdated recruiting ways, at the mercy of time.

We’re waiting for that sweet, evolved intersection of AI, the resume 2.0 and, as Greg Savage once told me, a recruiter from Generation C. (Connected).

When these currently disparate particles at last converge, the future of recruiting will have arrived.

Until then, that imaginary planet of mine remains a fantasy.

At least until Elon Musk builds a rocket that can time travel into the future of recruiting.

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn’t that predicted for 2020, too?

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