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[This is a guest blog by recruiter Nina Merklina Morrison]

Over the past dozen years I have heard proclamations that my job as an external recruiter is on the verge of extinction.

Recruiter Nina Merklina Morrison and Robert Morrison, Sales & Marketing Director of CloudBudget

Guest Blogger/Recruiter Nina Merklina Morrison (on right) with husband Robert Morrison of CloudBudget.

Meanwhile, despite the oversights and calls of vocational doom, the job of recruiter persists and the recruitment industry continues to generate billions of dollars annually, albeit largely doing so in the shadows.

Why is this?

No one would deny that the most fundamental building block of success is people.

A great idea with the wrong people behind it will go nowhere.  This basic truth ensures that recruitment as an essential business service and industry is going nowhere.

Recruiting is difficult and it is hard to find someone who wouldn’t agree that the recruitment process is typically inefficient, frustrating, and tedious for both sides — despite all the progress in technology.

How Does Technology Influence Recruiting?

The values based on which hiring decisions or career choices are made don’t change much with time. The process is very human…very personal. Whether it is a stack of paper resumes or well filtered online profiles – the largest part of the process is human communication and subjective evaluation. How can you automate evaluation of candidate’s attitude?

Yet each time a new technology appears, recruiters endure another round of:

“NOW is surely the end of the middle man in recruitment.”

The end was near at the birth of the Internet, again when the first online job boards appeared, and again at the advent of social media, and the death knell continues to sound now as social media loudly reaches puberty.

Nonetheless, the demand for fundamental change in recruitment is in the air.

The technological boom of the 20th century profoundly changed how we live and work.  Entire industries were wiped out while others were dynamically created almost overnight.  Yet while technological upheaval raged all around, recruitment somehow remained…virtually unchanged.

“Sticks & Stones” Technologies (Resume Databases, Boring Job Ads, Etc.)

Even today, in an era of ubiquitous social networks and amazing communication tools like video-telephony, the majority of recruiters — outside of those doing business in places like Silicon Valley –continue to do their jobs with “sticks and stones” technologies.

Those techniques include resume databases and boring job ads.

Meanwhile, those on the cutting edge, the recruitment industry’s “early adopters” have just gotten around to employing applicant tracking software and social networks.

The buzz around how each technological breakthrough is going to be a game changer for recruitment rises, then falls, inflicting nary a scratch on the backside of recruitment’s technological cavemen.

This is not to say recruiters completely ignore technology, they don’t, because they can’t get away with it. It would be like an executive assistant clinging to a typewriter.

Impossible.

So recruiters have adopted technology and the new tools it puts at their disposal just enough to allow them to continue doing business as usual.

Social Media & Online Networking: The One-Two Knockout Of Recruiters?

Are social media and online networking the technological one-two knockout that finally forces the recruitment industry to change its ways?

Are the latest technological salvos being lobbed out of the social media revolution enough to finally bring fundamental change to the recruitment process?

It would seem so.  This time the threat is real enough that any recruitment professional wanting to continue plying his/her trade had better evolve with and leverage the social media technology and tools that are now socializing business.

In short the socializing of business spells the end of business as usual for recruiters.

So what will now change?

In the dark ages of the early of 90’s, KNOWING people was a big deal and capitalizing on your personal telephone book was the name of the game.

Back then just identifying the name of a CEO or a field sales manager involved lots of digging, breaking through triple-level secretary barricades, and employing techniques best described as espionage.

Employers To Recruiters: “Sorry, But That Candidate Is Already In Our Database”

Nowadays, being a source of contacts does not mean much, and hasn’t for some time.  No longer can one hide behind their Rolodex, no matter how fat.

Once the Rolodex hit the cloud with LinkedIn and many other sources and social networks penetrated the business sphere, transparency increased exponentially and finding and reaching almost anyone became readily possible.

Though reaching someone does not mean communicating with him or her.  Getting a live person in real-time remains a real challenge – nowadays – perhaps even more so than before.

Previously the recruiter’s most fundamental tasks were identifying candidates (the more the better) and presenting them (the sooner the better).  Countless recruitment agencies were built around pushing large numbers of resumes to their clients in hopes that a few will stick.

Today the process has become a bit more tricky.  Recruiters don’t sell candidates anymore; personal contacts are no longer a commodity and no longer exclusive.

Social networks allow everyone, not just recruiters, to know who is who in any industry.

Though, knowing of someone is a lot different from identifying, contacting, and selling them on an opportunity.

More than once I have presented a great candidate to a client to hear this response,

“We already know of this person.”

Which translates to:

“We won’t pay you for bringing this highly qualified candidate because he or she is already somewhere in our contact database graveyard or has been previously bumped into by someone in their team on LinkedIn.”

OK, why is it then that this candidate was not approached internally for the opening?  Why has this person not been either dismissed as a candidate or hired yet?

You Might Know Eric Schmidt, But Did You Know He Codes In Python?

These days recruiters rarely bring a wonderful candidate that no one in a client organization has ever heard of.

Demanding that recruiters find hidden gems is simply unrealistic and even self-defeating in a world where online resources put the names and histories of nearly everyone at anyone’s fingertips.

Want a candidate database? Want one with millions of records?  Not a problem, just copy millions of names from LinkedIn or Facebook and knock yourself out.  Knowing a lot of people personally can only get you so far.

Know Eric Schmidt? Great. Can you sell him on a new opportunity?

Recruiters no longer sell contacts, but rather use a combination of their contacts with social networks and online tools to identify relevant candidates and sell opportunities.

Technology has finally advanced to the point where the role of the recruitment agent has evolved into its purest form, that of Negotiator – a role that is impossible to automate.

The Days Of “Spray & Pray” Resume-Pushing Are Numbered

And one more thing:

In todays abundance of information and overload of contacts – relevance of the contact became a key.

It was in the 1990’s when employers were willing to interview 10 people to select one most relevant.

Now they want to see three relevant candidates to select the best one. This approach, traditionally employed by headhunters – now concerns everyone. No one wants long lists any more.

Change is clearly here, but change is also slow to spread from top to bottom.  Quite a few corporations among the Fortune 100 still use a “number of candidates interviewed per position” KPI.

It is to these corporations that resume-pushing agencies are still able to sell their services,

Although many have been compelled to lower their price due to the increased ease of obtaining resumes.

Truth is the clock is ticking on this approach, sooner or later they will be forced to offer more targeted services – the days of Spray and Pray resume-pushing are numbered.

With the role of the recruiter moving away from resume-pusher towards that of negotiator it is clear that the recruitment process is indeed undergoing profound change.

However, the need for skilled recruiters who are able to evolve with technology to help organizations hire the right people ensures once again that the role of recruiter is here to stay.

Check out more about guest-blogger Nina Merlina-Morrison at her LinkedIn profile.

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  • This is a great blog, Nina. Well written too, which is rare.

    The problems you mention are, I think, compounded by the fact that many recruitment agencies are burden down with recruiters that are ‘old stock’. By old stock, what I mean is recruiters who learned their trade in the days when LinkedIn hadn’t taken root and spray and pray did work.

    They evolved into glorified administrators who never learned about sales and assessment – mostly because they didn’t need to.

    Personally, I think that for perm white-collar recruiters, the days of contingency being a viable business model may be coming to an end.