Unmasked - The Recruiting Revolution Nobody Dares Write About

By Tony Restell

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Social media has had a profound impact on the recruiting landscape, let's be in no doubt about that. Yet the real recruiting revolution that's taking place is barely getting a mention.

This is doing a huge disservice to candidates around the globe - and arguably it's setting recruiters up for a fall too. Let's unmask the truth and lay it bare...

Unmasked - The Recruiting Revolution Nobody Dares Write About

Delving Into The Past To Predict The Future

Indulge me for one paragraph while I talk about the rise of job boards. The reasons why will become apparent.

Back in the late 1990s, the newspaper industry was dealt a severe blow as the job board industry grew in prominence and stature. Advertising dollars moved online. Recruiters did what they had always done - advertised to attract candidate applications - but via a channel that was both more responsive and far more economical. Fundamentally, though, the recruiting industry was still the same. There was a large portion of all hiring requirements that was filled via advertising methods; and a smaller proportion filled via direct approaches to candidates (mostly through headhunting).

Fast Forward to Today

Fast forward to today and the focus of headlines is on "the death of job boards" and "the death of recruitment agencies". Social sites, most notably LinkedIn, are purported to have introduced job advertising options so effective that they will destroy the traditional job boards. Similarly, they have supposedly given companies a means of directly approaching candidates that means the recruitment industry's days are numbered.

The truth is far different - and requires a step change in behaviour by recruiters and candidates alike.

Let's start with job boards. Talk to a bunch of employers using social channels to make hires and I'm quite certain you'll hear a common theme. Advertising jobs on these sites produces disappointing results - less than the same effort and spend would produce on traditional job boards. What's producing strong results - and does directly impact the job board industry - is the newfound ability to direct market positions to a hand-picked shortlist of potential candidates. But if you want to openly advertise jobs, job boards remain the most effective route.

Now let's take recruitment agencies. Again, talk to a bunch of employers using social channels to directly approach candidates and you'll hear some common themes here too. Firstly, you'll hear that many candidates are now being hired direct through these channels who previously would have come through recruitment firms. But you'll also hear that internal recruiters bump up against candidates wanting to talk to third party recruiters, spurning advances from employers in favour of going through an agent. You'll also hear passive candidates can be quite unresponsive to direct approaches via these sites. You'll hear that direct calls placed to these candidates can prompt interest where none had been forthcoming via social channels. You'll also hear that candidates are becoming immune to approaches via these channels - and in some sectors are actually scaling back their profiles to make it harder to be contacted. That's the hallmark of a channel that's going to be less useful in the years to come rather than increasingly useful.

The Truth

I put it to you that the above doesn't sound like a scenario in which a new medium has come along that is better at advertising jobs than the incumbent job boards. Nor does it sound like the new medium is more effective at approaching and persuading passive candidates than the incumbent recruitment agencies. So to the extent that recruiters continue to do today what they have always done, job boards and recruitment agencies have yet to be bettered.

What has happened instead is that social channels have opened up the potential for employers to do something they've never been able to do before - to direct market their requirements to a select group of candidates. To the extent that this is effective, it most certainly does eat into the size of both the job board and the recruitment agency industries. But it does so by giving employers a whole new way of making hires, not by being better at doing what either the job board or recruitment agency industries have previously done.

In this way, the revolution is far different from what we saw when job boards took over from newspapers. A slimmed down job board and recruitment agency industry are likely to be very much part of the recruiting mix as employment markets recover. Candidates are being done a disservice if they are being led to believe that either one has become redundant. Which of course is exactly the style of headline being peddled today. Employers, similarly, risk scaling back their relationships with these industries too far if the hype is believed. But it takes a brave corporate recruiter to make the case for job boards or recruitment firms when the media talk so incessantly about their demise.

Wake Up and Smell the Hype!

Let me finish with a question to all corporate recruiters.

Picture yourself working a market where hiring has picked up pace a little more. Could you envisage making all the hires you need with social media alone? With no recourse to using recruitment agents? With no job board campaigns to boost your candidate pipelines? If you answered no, perhaps now is the time to be rebuilding your relationships with the job board and recruitment agency industries - in readiness for when that hiring surge comes?

And for the candidates reading this - invest in your social presence for sure, but not at the expense of all else.



Image source: JD Hancock


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