The death of the employment agency and the rise of the new generation recruiters

The recruitment sector is about to undergo one of the most transformational revolutions any service sector has witnessed over the past decade. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have told the leading recruiters.  As they stumble along with their outdated working practices, a new generation of players are about to render them irrelevant.

The world moves fast…

In the brave new world of the Internet of Things, endlessly-advancing social networks, powerful always-on mobile devices and immediately accessible information and opinions are at the centre of incalculable business processes.

This whirlwind of digitisation has altered every business service sector profoundly and forced all players along the food chain, from the tiny operators to the business behemoths, to adapt and alter at pace. The recruitment sector though doesn’t seem to have noticed.

…but recruiters move slow

Now, in a sector such as recruitment/talent acquisition – which is all about getting information on available individuals and managing this information for the benefit of you and your clients – you be forgiven for thinking that recruiters would view this brave new world as the opportunity of a lifetime. Their target market – those interested in new jobs – is (always!) online, mobile-savvy, and deeply knowable at the click of a button. Any marketing consultant worth his salt could probably outline what they need to do in about two minutes flat.  An ‘obvious’ marketing plan would involve advice to build / reinforce their brand, create an active social presence, and deploy (in an integrated way) all the new-fangled online strategies they can muster to attract and engage with talent. This would doubtless include online ad network tools, job-boards, and would be led by a ‘mobile-first’, targeted social communication proposal. Without trying too hard, if they followed the simple 21st century marketing path of the least resistance, recruiters could grow their talent pool, satisfy their clients and network their way to growth and profits.

As baffling as it is true though, recruiters don’t do this. If you looked into the operation of any standard recruitment firm what you would immediately observe is their failure to reasonable exploit email, automation tools, jobs-boards, databases, and social networks. You would also discover their shallow pool of talent. And you would lament their failure to market their own companies, the professionals who work there and the clients that they are supposed to be serving.

They’re stuck in the past – and lazy!

The root cause of the failure of recruitment companies to adapt is to be found in their ancient acquired businesses practices, which revolve around one thing – ‘securing the next client project’. They live for the next assignment. They are always ‘selling’. They only bother to look for talent when – and only when – their sales pitch wins a client project. This reactive search involves placing a passive advert on a jobs board, or through a social network, or on their own passive website. Their next move is to sit back and pray that a talented person applies. 100 years ago they did the same thing, just not online.

Unsearchable data-dumps

As they wait, they might check their own talent pool database. However, despite the ‘online and live’ nature of this database, it is of limited value because of its internal flaws. The search functionality might be compromised, the information not segmented properly, or the entire list might just be badly managed over time (‘the next assignment’ leaves to little time to actively manage a list of past applicants in-house). Some recruiters avail themselves of third party databases (think in Norway, Monster in Sweden or LinkedIn), but as has reminded everyone, when you ‘share a database of low hanging fruit’, its worthless ‘as everyone has access to it’. Moreover, many shared third party databases are also badly segmented, insufficiently managed and suffer duplication errors (and let’s not even mention privacy or confidentiality issues!).

The net result of all of this reactive action is that only a tiny portion of the ‘talent’ recruiters are looking for finally responds by uploading/emailing/posting their CVs and cover letters. And when the recruiter has (inefficiently) reduced this CV list down to around seven candidates (spending roughly seven seconds on each CV?) they empty the failed candidate’s details into their useless database mountain and invite the lucky ones in for an interview. The hope is that amongst this select group there is one person good enough/specialist enough/experienced enough to fill the role.

It’s all about the talent fool!

This last sentence will strike most business experts as weird. Recruiters live and die by the quality of the talent they engage with. Their clients depend on this talent to operate and progress and grow. But recruiters today largely only engage with talent at the end of their six-week recruitment cycles, namely at the interview stage. Imagine a football team that only thinks about scoring in the last two minutes!

The talent who did not make the interview drop out of sight, and 33 per cent don’t even get a rejection response, according to IBM. When the job is filled, the recruiter has no time to think about anything other than…. the next recruitment assignment and the next six-week assignment. Those who didn’t make the cut are ignored. Those who made the interview but were rejected fade away. And the entire cycle begins again. An advert is shoved out via mass advertising, sponsored blanket marketing kicks off again, and unsolicited, untargeted campaigns run on social networks. They will push out pre-canned messages to all and sundry, without even pausing to customise the macro field. The inefficiency of it all is mind-boggling.

New generation recruiters are tapping a much larger market

Old-school recruitment methods are akin to looking for a needle in a haystack with your eyes closed and your arms tied.  And their high-cost, low-effort methods are only focused on active job-seekers’, which is something like 5-10 per cent of the workforce. The real talent they want, but can’t find, already have jobs. According to IBM research, around 50 per cent of employees are looking for new opportunities in a ‘non-active way’. goes even further, claiming that ’75 per cent of professionals describe themselves as passive [recruitment] candidates’. So, to say it again, good talent is already working!

New Generation recruiters understand this, and they know where to find the entire jobseeker market – on their smartphones and on social media.

As The Glassdoor blog points out ‘over 89% of job seekers [say] their mobile device will be an important tool and resource for their job search’. Over at Career Arc, its research points out that ‘94 per cent of jobseekers use their smartphone to search for opportunities’. In the US, the mobile device is of greater use than a desktop.
The talent that the recruitment sector is looking has embraced the mobile world to such an extent that not only are they ‘always on’, but they can found ‘always on’ at Facebook, What’sApp, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram (feel free to insert your preferred social site). HR departments know this, which is why around 84 per cent of companies now use social media to recruit passive job candidates, according to The Society for HR Management.