Recruiting – It Has (almost) Come Full Circle

The last four years has brought on a change within the recruitment industry – corporate and third party – that at the minimum has sparked conversation around brand, candidate experience, how candidates are sourced or how they find open positions. Several articles have been posted stating how much recruiting has changed and that certain aspects of it will fade away or (gasp) are already dead. To me, it appears to have come full circle – almost.

During the pre-internet/applicant tracking (ATS) timeframe the strategy to find top talent included:

  • targeted campaigns in print advertising with select outlets that would drive the right talent to mail or fax in a resume to the organization
  • partnerships with schools and career service centers for the intern and entry level roles that included campus visits, presentations, interview days, meetings with professors and campus groups
  • research of key professional associations, industry conferences, and either attending events or finding a way to receive a directory of members
  • effective employee referral programs

These were typically done through manual processes, phone calls, letters and monotonous work of opening each paper resume and quickly scanning for fit. I remember spending hours with hiring managers developing recruitment strategies around finding the right talent to apply to our print ads in various niche magazines and newspapers. We did not want hundreds of people to apply because that meant a large amount of work going through the responses.

When the internet and ATS usage gained speed and exploded in the late ’90’s the strategy changed a little but the core points above were still a strong foundation within recruitment plans. With the advent of key word search (boolean) on job boards and in ATS’s the mindset moved from ensuring the right talent applied to bring in as many as possible because maybe our methods before missed some really good talent. These systems could hold thousands of resumes and in time millions. Recruiters would brag to hiring managers that XX number of candidates applied to a posting and that number was typically in the hundreds. They would then add to their bragging that due to the internet or ATS technology they could whittle down the number to a select few and screen them for the role.

The use of the internet and ATS tools built a wall between the recruiter and the applicant. No longer was a fax number, mailing address or email address contained in postings. They were replaced with web site addresses or generic email addresses and phrases like “no phone calls please” or “no faxed or paper resumes accepted”. Recruiters (mostly corporate) were now behind a curtain that only privileged candidates who were contacted would be able to see behind it.

However, as the internet evolved and it moved from one-way communication to two way (web 2.0) recruiters were being exposed via tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Google searches, or other on-line communities. Those that started in recruiting behind the curtain realized they needed to gain certain skills or use the skills they learned during college in social media settings to effectively communicate with candidates. The recruiters that started pre-internet spouted that the changes were not silver bullets but just another communication tool and recruiting is still the same thing as it was 15, 20, or 25 years ago.

I think it has evolved and is similar but a recruiter can be much more effective than pre-internet. The same foundation remains as my bullet points above. Take those points in today’s terms:

  • develop an employment branding campaign that will attract the right talent to your company – this could include social media, job boards, niche industry sites, video, mobile and believe it or not – print
  • university relations and campus programs that can now be managed through on-line tools directly with the school or through other tools that have significantly reduced the workload on building those partnerships but increasing the effectiveness of on-site visits
  • research of specific industry associations, contact lists and networking events can now be done in minutes instead of hours or days
  • automated employee referral campaigns making it easier for tracking, reporting and payments/recognition

There is a mantra I use in managing recruiters today that I know grates their nerves because it goes against the mindset of the “post and pray” days between 1999 – 2008. Less resumes, less interviews, more offers. That is how recruiting has almost come full circle. In 1995 I did not want 200 resumes mailed or faxed to me and today I do not want 200 resumes submitted to a non-high volume role. I want to make sure the role is marketed to the right candidate pool, enticing enough to have them apply and given today’s tools I can quickly and effectively identify top talent through the use of various internet resources. In addition, I want top talent to find me and connect with me about opportunities within my organization, no more curtain to stand behind.

As recruiters we have always adapted to new technologies and in some cases blown out the use of a tool that was not considered as it’s original intent. When developing a recruitment plan are you relying on spray and pray that will create a habit of sit and wait recruiting, or is it an active program that drives the right talent to your organization and a go out and seek mindset? I believe the latter will move your organization forward.

I welcome your thoughts.

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