Recruiting has an image problem and there seems to be misguided cheer that recruiting will be saved by technology disruption to rid the world of recruiters. The idea seems logical: The artificial intelligence stack, such as bots, machine learning and algorithms, can select the right candidate and place them while corporations work to restructure the hiring process to meet the needs of a 21st-century workforce.
If only it were that simple.
As an executive headhunter and coach for the past 10 years, I see recruiters face many challenges that have impacted their success and the service industry as a whole. A makeover is needed, especially as the industry evolves to coexist with new tech tools that should enhance the recruiting practice. The increasing number of technology solutions is constantly remodeling the approach.
The biggest question seems to be: How can recruiters further develop the human connection with talent when part of the industry’s image problem is due to a seemingly inefficient process, lack of communication and integrity, and time pressures to deliver when change is overwhelming?
False Starts Impact Success
Alan Guinn, CEO of The Guinn Consultancy Group, says the challenges facing recruiters today include poor communication, a commission fee structure that doesn’t reward real investment on the part of the recruiter, and lack of clarity on the skills needed to fill a role.
“Many individuals would wait until more information is forthcoming from the client,” Guinn told me. “The problem is that the recruiter makes his/her money, most likely, on commission — so they want to begin this process as soon as possible in order to find potential candidates and secure the placement. I’ve seen good recruiters actually be required to assist a C-level officer flesh out a position and salary structure for a position with no name and undefined salary.”
Knowledge Is Power
Recruiters need to change this false start norm or risk being burnt out from repeat failure or stress overload. Those who don’t do their research and make the time investment to understand the client, company, future-forward industry trends and culture needs will fail to look good to internal and external clients. It’s a consistent pattern across the industry.
Honesty And Integrity Win
Guinn added, “More problematic is the recruiter who pitches a position ahead of contract and ends up trying to backpedal on something thrown out to test the waters, be it money, benefits or positional responsibilities. It’s this type of move that gives the industry a bad name and is now fostering talk of regulation within the industry. But in an industry often driven by commission and by quotas, the worst sort of human nature can present itself. No one is happy if a placement isn’t made, and fewer are made than one might imagine!”
The end result: The placement fails. The current system is plagued with gaps in information and lack of clarity as to what skills are really required for a role. It is in this exact weakness that data and machine learning can help fix a problem that has held the industry down for years.
Jumping the gun can wreck the credibility of the recruiter and the search, breeding mistrust and failure if the assignment to hire fails. And maybe let’s think about the candidate. How are they feeling about the experience? How has it impacted the company brand?
The Inefficiency Gap Can Be Improved With Tech
Claire McTaggart, founder of SquarePeg, summed up the issue to me this way: “HRTech platforms that source and vet candidates are an increasingly attractive alternative, not only from a cost perspective but because advancements in machine learning mean that all of the data that is generated from sourcing and vetting candidates is used to get better over time. With a recruiter, you are relying on the talent and decision-making of an individual, whereas tech platforms or algorithms use data on past successes or failures to learn over time, so each search should be more effective than the last at a fraction of the cost.”
You Eat What You Kill
About seven years ago, I was talking with my film and animation producer friend, Kelsy Wittmann, about the economic crisis and its impact on hiring. With revenue historically low, it put stress on every recruiter for nearly two years and many companies went out of business.
She described the situation as, “You eat what you kill,” meaning if you don’t make a placement, you don’t put dinner on the table. That’s a stressful scenario for an industry that’s supposed to help companies move forward, and it’s part of the problem with the recruitment model. Recruiters scramble to get talent in front of hiring managers or external clients that don’t fit because there’s this sense of urgency to close. Fear does not provide the right environment to support others.
The Human Differentiator
As Shon Burton, CEO of HiringSolved, tells Fast Company, technology will become so normalized in the recruiting process that companies in the future will differentiate themselves by having humans work with candidates. Before that happens, the human experience needs to be improved by removing many of the challenges across client and candidate management, understanding efficiencies and investing in recruiter emotional intelligence development. Combined, recruiters can become recruitment leaders or ambassadors for the industry and change the recruiter image.
The Bottom Line
Recruiters can’t work in a silo to make this happen. Companies need to see the importance of it as a point of enhancing their own company brand and their bottom-line return on investment. The C-suite, HR, hiring managers and recruiters need to work together to improve and streamline the overall hiring process.
Creating a new image for recruiting means gutting the entire system. It will take guts and a real desire to make a difference. It’s an exciting time for the industry to reinvent itself and create a new image to keep talent and companies moving forward.
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