Do You Know That You Are Part of the Golden Age of Recruiting?

This “think piece” is designed to stimulate your thinking about the tremendous progress that the recruiting profession has made


Few in recruiting realize that we are now experiencing The Golden Age of Recruiting. Yes, the highest level of sophistication in our long history. I reached this conclusion because as part of our charge, professors are urged to step back and take a big picture, long-term view. By using objective criteria, I find that the recruiting profession has currently reached its highest pinnacle during its centuries of existence. In my research, I determined that there have been only two other notable high points in recruiting during the last 100 years. Those were the 1946 postwar hiring boom and the 1999 “War for Talent.” But, those previous high points pale in comparison to the zenith that we have currently reached. 

Today’s “pinnacle” is defined as a time when recruiting is getting its highest level of executive attention. We are receiving maximum attention in part because of record low unemployment and skill shortages. Our credibility with executives is also at a record high because we are finally making a shift to a more businesslike data and metric-driven objective approach. Of course, our capabilities are at an all-time high. Almost every prospect can now be found somewhere on the Internet. There are now a plethora of new recruiting tools that can do things that were unheard of even a decade ago. 

It’s insufficient just to recognize this pinnacle. We should all be proud and also celebrate this milestone as a notable accomplishment! At the same time, be careful not to stand still; use this zenith as a launch point for even bigger and better things.

Some would also call this an inflection point, a heads-up warning that we may be at a point where the whole industry might begin a radical pivot. I’ve discovered that there are many objective factors that serve to justify calling this important time period “The Golden Age of Recruiting.” Here are some of those major milestone factors. 

  • Highest impact — we now know that recruiting has the highest business impact of all HR functional programs. In addition, we now have data showing the tremendous business impacts of both standard and diversity recruiting. And this means that at no time in our history has our business case been stronger.
  • An executive focus — a 2019 survey of CEOs ranked attracting talent their No. 1 internal business challenge.TA is at the top of the executive mindset. Because of this attention many corporations are now receiving record recruiting budgets.
  • A record demand for talent — with years of steady job growth and record low unemployment, the demand for talent is at record levels. That means almost full employment for recruiters with no layoffs in sight.
  • A shift to a more businesslike data-driven approach — after a long history of being primarily driven by intuition, finally recruiting (at least at major firms) is shifting to a more businesslike, scientific data-driven approach. Recruiting now employs its own data scientists. Recruiting dashboards are finally becoming common.
  • The recognition of the importance of an employer brand — after decades of struggling to justify its economic value, employer branding is now recognized as an important element in both business and recruiting success. Employer branding is now even more important with the growth of employer comment sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.
  • Truly global recruiting — as a result of globalization and remote work, for the first time in history, even medium-size firms recruit for candidates literally around the world. And that means that at major firms, sourcing and recruiting can no longer be home-country centric.
  • A plethora of new and emerging tools — this is certainly the best decade for the creation of innovative recruiting tools. This includes ever-expanding tools in social media, video, texting, truly global job boards, more sophisticated search engines, expanded reference checking, and professional prospect databases like LinkedIn. And for the first time, predictive tools are emerging and firms like Nestlé Purina have demonstrated the value of developing recruiting pipelines and talent communities. Our profession now has emerging robotic tools like chatbots, and we are developing machine-learning enhancements as part of almost every recruiting process. We also have a large number of new vendors, including some amazing ones that have broken virgin ground (Entelo, Textio, Visier, and HireVue, just to mention a few).
  • Our own professional association — once again, we have our own dedicated professional association to guide the future of the talent-acquisition profession (ATAP).
  • A wealth of information sources — with the growth of the Internet and social media, we now have abundance of mostly free information sources dedicated to talent acquisition. They cover almost every information channel including articles, blogs, webinars, podcasts, e-books, conferences, and videos. They are all building on the foundation created by
  • We now have a cadre of visionaries — in addition to amazing growing visionaries like John Vlastelica, Jason Warner, Shally Steckerl, Tim Sackett, Jim D’Amico and Arie Ball, we also fortunately have still-contributing senior founding visionaries like Kevin Wheeler, Gerry Crispin, Lou Adler, Michael McNeal, and Chris Forman. 

Recruiting Still Has a Way to Go 

Despite the amazing progress of the profession, recruiting is still painfully weak in two critical areas. The primary one is measuring the performance of new hires (i.e. quality of hire). There are some simple ways to measure quality of hire (including the would-you-rehire-them question). But most organizations still find a multitude of reasons for not calculating this critical measure.

The second area that begs for upgrading is workforce planning. Unfortunately, few in recruiting go beyond the very basic one-year-out headcount planning. In our rapidly changing VUCA world, if organizations are to acquire its necessary “future skills,” it is critical that they extend their hiring horizons. That’s especially true if they expect to capture more than their share of technology, data, cybersecurity, machine learning/AI, and quantum computing talent.

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The third area that still needs significant development is accurately predicting the success rate and the career trajectory of our new hires. If we are to maximize our economic contribution, we must refine our capability for predicting the success of the new hire beyond their first six months.

Finally, we need to minimize rookie mistakes by adding minimum qualifications for corporate hiring into the recruiting field. Perhaps that includes a certification in TA and a degree in business. 

Final Thoughts

Recruiting is not alone in reaching its pinnacle. Currently, our society is also experiencing the Golden Age of streaming, artificial intelligence, and peer-to-peer driving services, to name but a few. Those who have entered the recruiting profession over the last few years should realize that they are now part of something special. After being part of the recruiting profession for over four decades, and using objective criteria, I find that we are now all fortunate to be professionals during the Golden Age of Recruiting.


Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, follow or connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to the ERE Daily, and hear me and others speak next week at ERE’s Recruiting Conference in Washington, D.C.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.