Recruiting Technology Is Not Flat (Yet)

While reading Thomas Friedman’s best-seller, The World Is Flat, this past week, I came across a passage that I found to be very relevant to the recent emergence of new recruiting tools and technology. According to Friedman, “Introducing new technology alone is never enough. The big spurts in productivity come when a new technology is combined with new ways of doing business.” I’m a recruiting technology geek, and have been an early adopter of new and exciting tools such as Jobster, ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Simply Hired, Indeed, and others. For the uninitiated, here’s a rundown of these:

  • Jobster: a constantly evolving tool that allows recruiters to deliver job information to targeted audiences via a variety of means. Its job board aggregator allows job seekers to find jobs posted across the Web and use the Jobster service to connect with people they know in Jobster’s client base.
  • ZoomInfo: Google for recruiters. ZoomInfo scrapes the Internet to create profiles of people who are referred to on websites, press releases, etc., and often includes their contact information. Anyone can create and update his or her own ZoomInfo summary.
  • LinkedIn: allows users to create profiles (which are searchable) and virtual networks with people they know and people they would like to connect with. These networks allow users to connect with users divided by degrees of separation. LinkedIn also has job-posting capability.
  • Simply Hired/Indeed: job board aggregators. These websites not only pull job search results from job boards across the Internet, but they also offer the opportunity for companies to wrap their jobs directly into these aggregators at no cost. Jobster, HotJobs, and Google Base also fit into this category, but Simply Hired and Indeed are primarily focused on aggregator functionality.

After using these tools for some time however, I’ve come to realize that what Friedman said is directly relevant to what is preventing the broader adoption of these new recruiting tools. And, I’m not referring to adoption by recruiters like myself. These new recruiting tool vendors are not having too much trouble attracting new clients who are looking for the next “killer app” in recruiting.

These tools were designed to solve some of the major challenges that recruiters face today, including 1) how do we more effectively and more efficiently connect with targeted audiences of passive and semi-passive candidates, 2) how do we better qualify candidates earlier in the process, and 3) how do we more effectively separate the best from the rest in a more objective and efficient manner? These tools, as designed, offer a great opportunity to solve these challenges.

In my opinion, these tools offer a better way. Recruiting is a two-way street, however. The general public needs to see these tools as a better way, too. These tools help to alter the paradigm of how people find jobs. It’s one thing to build a better mousetrap, but if the mouse doesn’t know where to find the trap, or doesn’t know what to do with the trap when it finds it, the trap isn’t very effective, is it? So far, most of the efforts of these recruiting tool vendors have been on building their client base. But, very little effort has been made to sell the public on this changing paradigm. When people consider making a career move, do a majority of them know to pursue opportunities via their networks? Do they know intuitively how to best present themselves online, or make themselves better able to be found by the right opportunity? Do they know what to do when they receive an email out of the blue, soliciting their interest or asking them to refer their friends for job opportunities? Currently, no. So when Friedman said, spurts in productivity happen only when “new technology is combined with new ways of doing business,” this is the type of thing he is talking about.

If anyone is close at this point it could be LinkedIn, because you connect only with those who are active users of the service. But, the use of LinkedIn is still relatively limited with a reach far short of the workforce at large. In order to be viewed by the general public as the new and best way to connect with great career opportunities, it is time for these recruiting tool vendors to spend more effort and resources on educating the public on why these tools are better than what the job boards have been selling for the past decade. This is a difficult proposition, as each of these companies is growing its business and is primarily focused on building client bases and increasing revenues. Reaching out to Joe Public to explain the virtues and benefits of these tools is both risky and challenging at best, with virtually no guaranteed payoff. But, imagine the possibilities if the company was successful. The days of post-and-pray would virtually be over. More people would know how to help their friends and colleagues get connected with great opportunities and, in turn, be helped themselves. More semi-passive candidates would understand what to do to enhance their online profiles and increase the chances of jobs finding them.

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Job boards, applicant tracking systems, and resumes in their current formats could be history. The first generation of recruiting technology (job boards and applicant tracking systems) created an environment that has frustrated job seekers and recruiters alike. Job boards and applicant tracking systems have not done a good job in connecting the right people with the right jobs, and have not been effective tools to reach passive job seekers. These new recruiting tools offer exciting opportunities for recruiters to connect with active and passive job seekers in a more efficient and effective manner than ever before.

So far, I’ve had success using each of the tools I mentioned above. The potential of these new recruiting tools, however, has only touched the tip of the iceberg. The culture shift that these tools represent must be more effectively presented to the general public as the way for people and jobs to connect in the 21st century. These vendors cannot rely on word-of-mouth and viral marketing alone to spread the word about their products to the general public. It is time for these vendors to get as aggressive as the major job boards in their marketing and advertising, including to consumers. Generating broader adoption by the general public can only increase the success that their clients are having using their tools. In the meantime, if you haven’t given these tools a try, what are you waiting for? These tools are already allowing recruiters to make connections with candidates in ways that were, at the very least, more difficult and time-consuming previously. More recruiters using these tools to reach active and passive job seekers can also only increase the broader adoption of these tools by the general public.

This is an exciting time: We’re watching the emergence of the second generation of recruiting technology. The tools and rules of the game are changing, so don’t get left behind with yesterday’s technology. In the meantime, I encourage these new recruiting tool vendors to do more to educate the public as to how these tools offer a better way.

Ben Gotkin is the executive director of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (established in 2016) and principal consultant at Recruiting Toolbox. He draws from over 24 years of recruiting experience in a variety of tactical and strategic leadership roles at organizations including Recruiting Toolbox, Marriott International, RSM, The MITRE Corporation, Intelsat, and BAE Systems.  

As a consultant/trainer and in his practitioner roles, his expertise has ranged on topics including recruitment strategies and processes, sourcing, interviewing & selection techniques, recruitment technology, program management, college recruiting, employment branding, and more. He was the founder and a past-president of the Washington, D.C.-based recruiter community, recruitDC. He has also served on The Candidate Experience Awards Council, was a board member of WTPF (a Washington, D.C.-based HR organization), and was an Expert Advisor with the Human Capital Institute. He has been the author of several recruiting blogs, has written and been quoted in articles for numerous recruiting-focused websites and major national publications, and has been a featured speaker and panelist at the ERE Expo, Talent42, Recruiting Trends Conference, SRSC, SourceCon, Social Recruiting Summit, and WTPF. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.