The Future of Recruiting: The More Things Change…

The Future of Recruiting - image by Silverisdead via creative commonsNow that we are on our way into exploring the new year, I’ve seen some articles on what’s coming next for the recruiting industry this year, and even as far out as 10 years from now.

When I read one such article written by Kevin Wheeler, I was struck by his comment that although sourcing remains a topic he is interested in, he feels that “the need to conduct in-depth Internet searches and apply Boolean logic to searches is no longer relevant in the majority of cases.”

I was prepared to write an article just in response to that thought, but as I sat down to review his post again on Sunday in preparation for my post, I noticed that Kelly Dingee had commented in defense of electronic talent identification.

In response, Kevin wrote “I think that intensive Internet searching, for most internal recruiters, is a sign of their failure to develop a community of potential candidates. If the position is a unique or one-of-a-kind search, they should probably use a third party recruiter. For volume and routine hiring there should be no need to use anything beyond a network of potential candidates whether proprietary or not. Building that community is what a recruiter’s job is all about – not running searches or becoming a computer nerd.”

Wow. Where do I begin?

Boolean Search is NOT Dead – Nor Will it Ever Die

We are well into the Information Age of recruiting – “characterized by…the ability to have instant access to… (candidate) information that would have been difficult or impossible to find previously. The idea is linked to the concept of a Digital Age or Digital Revolution, and carries the ramifications of a shift from traditional industry that the Industrial Revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based around the manipulation of information.”

When you need to find information, unless you’re using a single word or phrase (I literally shudder at the thought), there is no escaping Boolean logic. You either want something (AND), you want at least one thing in a list (OR), or you don’t want it (NOT).

The reason why Boolean logic will never die is that it doesn’t get any simpler when it comes to information retrieval. Yes, I said “simple.” We’re not talking SQL here –  we’re talking about 3 very basic operators. There is a reason why Boolean logic is the foundation of ALL modern digital electronics – it’s the simplest fundamental logic!

Of course, if you’re using Google, Bing, or LinkedIn, you don’t have to type AND, as every space is an implied AND, so perhaps many people are unaware that they are conducting simple Boolean searches. However, if you use more than one search word/term you’re still using Boolean logic – it is inescapable.

The Boolean operators of a search are the easy part – the more challenging aspect of electronic talent discovery is the entire process of understanding the hiring need, thoughtfully translating it into an effective search strategy, and adpatively modifying consecutive searches to return results that have a high probability of being excellent potential hires.

Yes, searching information systems to find candidates requires thinking. Sorry.

Recruiters Do Need to Know How to Perform Electronic Talent Discovery

While every step of the recruiting life cycle is equally important, the fact of the matter is that you can’t build a relationship with (or hire for that matter) a potential candidate that you haven’t identified in the first place. Talent acquisition is dependent upon talent identification.

Recruiters should know how to search information systems to find and identify talent. It’s not about being a “computer nerd” – it’s about the fact that with each passing day, there is more information available about more people electronically, whether it be in a corporate ATS/CRM, a social network, a blog, a press release, a resume, etc. This is a trend that will continue to accelerate – we will never experience a decrease in access to human capital data.

If a recruiter cannot fully capitalize on all of the human capital data that is readily available and accessible today, they are doing themselves and their organization a considerable disservice, and their organization is at a competitive disadvantage.

When Kevin states that for a corporate recruiter, “If the position is a unique or one-of-a-kind search, they should probably use a third party recruiter” – my question is why? If I was a corporate recruiter, I would never need to use a third party recruiter, primarily due to my ability to leverage information systems and human capital data. I am not bound solely to candidates with whom I have a pre-existing relationship.

More on that in a few paragraphs.

Bottom line: You’re not a full life cycle recruiter if you can’t find your own candidates. Whether or not candidate sourcing should be a separate role or integrated function will be the topic of a future post.

Access to Information is Not Enough

The value of information lies not in the information itself, but in the ability to retrieve the information needed at the appropriate time. Information is of no use or value if it cannot be discovered in the first place.

Having direct access to an unprecedented number of potential candidates via a combination of an ATS/CRM, the Internet, LinkedIn, job board resume databases, Facebook, and Twitter is of no value without the ability to capitalize on that data – the ability to sort through the information and retrieve the right candidates at the right time.

In part 1 of Dr. John Sullivan’s excellent 3 part series on talent acquisition trends for 2010, he comments that “The challenge moving forward isn’t finding people – that’s too easy…” I agree, in that with ready access to millions of potential candidates, finding people is easy. However, finding the right people at the right time is not, nor will it ever be.

It is all too easy to assume that access to information automatically confers the ability to fully capitalize on that information. It does not.  That’s like saying I’m a great tennis player because I own a tennis racket.

Even if you’ve already built a community of candidates, you still have to be able to find and retrieve the right person at the right time. If you think that a potential candidate has been “found” just because they are already in your ATS or CRM, think again. Having a candidate record in an ATS/CRM only means that the human capital data has been captured.

Many ATS/CRM applications are well-nigh unsearchable – candidates go in, but they don’t come out. Consider the Fortune 500 corporate recruiter who recently admitted to me that it’s easier for her to run a search on Monster, find a candidate based on skill and experience, then cross reference the name in their Taleo Talent Management solution to find the candidate record.


Breaking the Bonds of Pre-Existing Relationships

The Information Age of recruiting, unbeknownst to many people, has enabled recruiters to break the bonds of the pre-existing relationship.

A core responsibility of any recruiter is to build a community of potential candidates. For over two decades, recruiters have been trained that proactively pipelining candidates is the best way to ensure that they will have ready access to the right candidates at the right time.

However, there are many intrinsic limitations and weaknesses of this practice. What is the likehood that the best candidate available for a given position is already in a recruiter’s pipeline? Also – what happens when a recruiter’s community of potential candidates fails to produce any viable (appropriately qualified, available, and closeable) candidates?

For the first time in the history of recruiting, a recruiter who has the ability to fully capitalize on the huge and ever-increasing volume of the readily accessible human capital data available to them via their ATS/CRM, LinkedIn, online resume databases, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  can almost instantly identify and engage well-qualified candidates with whom they have no pre-existing relationship.

The Information Era of recruiting enables recruiters with solid e-sourcing skills to no longer be limited solely to candidates with whom they have a pre-existing relationship. These recruiters can find and attract the best candidates, regardless of whether or not they have previously identified them.

I’ll let that sink in a bit. It’s deep.

Social Networking

Nearly everyone in the recruiting industry is buzzing about the opportunity provided by and the importance of social networking. While I enthusiastically engage in online social networking (yes, I’ve even made a hire from Twitter), social networking is simply an evolution of in-person and phone networking – taking what recruiters have been doing for decades in person and over the phone (building and maintaining relationships) online.

While social networks increase access and reach for many recruiters, they do not significantly improve a recruiters ability to quickly find the right people, nor the right people at the right time, unless they are adept at e-sourcing.

Moreover, networking of any kind (in-person, online, referral recruiting) has intrinsically low levels of control over critical candidate variables, and thus a low inherent probability of producing the right candidate at the right time.

Final Thoughts

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

The human element of recruiting – contacting, building and maintaining relationships with, and consultatively selling to (recruiting) potential candidates – has not changed in the past 20 years, nor is it likely to in the next 20.

What has changed significantly, and will continue to do so, is the level of access recruiters have to people beyond their pre-existing relationships, which is 100% due to evolving and emerging information technology.

Large corporate ATS’s contain millions of candidates, each of the major job board resume databases has over 20,000,000 resumes, and LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter alone provide access to over 100,000,000 people in the U.S.!

With ready access to unprecedented volumes of potential candidates, the competitive advantage lies in the ability to  search for and find the right people to engage and attract at the right time.

I disagree with Kevin’s assessment that the need to “apply Boolean logic to searches is no longer relevant in the majority of cases.” However, I wholeheartedly agree with his idea that data mining is an advanced skill that can facilitate recruiting success(on the same level as relationship building, no less).

The ability to quickly and effectively extract value out of information systems containing human capital data enables a recruiter to be more productive – to do more of what most people consider to be “real recruiting.” Quite simply, the more qualified candidates you can identify, the more qualified candidates you can contact, engage, attract and recruit – with or without pre-existing relationships.

Relationships and recruiting go hand and hand. This has been long-known and well established, and there’s nothing new to discover here. However, the next frontier in recruiting lies in the effective information management – ATS/CRM solutions, the Internet, resume databases, social networks and whatever comes next.

With more information available about more people on a daily basis, the complimentary need arises to leverage that information to find the people you want and need. The ability to query social network sites, systems, and databases to find these people to engage and recruit is a highly valuable skill and ability, and will only increase in value to organizations who wish to have a competitive advantage in the “war for talent.”

To paraphrase one of my favorite quotes, Jonathan Rosenberg of Google has said that when people and businesses have access to large amounts of data, the ability to extract value from it becomes the complimentary scarce factor. The ability to extract value from data leads to intelligence, and the intelligent business is the successful business.