Is Recruiting Becoming an Unhealthy Profession?

If you took a photograph of the recruiting Industry, it would look like most people you'd see on the streets every day!

Instead of making it better, technology has bloated the recruitment process.  Its a process that now lumber around in HR departments all across corporate America—where the objective of hiring the best talent has been replaced by fast, cheap & easy tactics-with tools that are designed mostly for collecting resumes-administered by recruiters who do not know the fundamentals or have the passion for the work-for organizations that no longer care about their most important asset.

This is an alarming trend and the perfect example of what was predicted back in 1954.  Well, it wasn't exactly about the recruiting Industry; it was about the food Industry-but the same thing has happened to the recruiting Industry!


An individual wrote a newspaper article which in today's standard-went viral.   He was very upset that the quality in foods was declining because production objectives had shifted from taste to saving money.   He said that "science has spoiled my supper" and predicted that this trend of eating low quality foods would eventually lead to an unhealthy American culture.


So, how does the food Industry relates to an unhealthy recruiting Industry?


Back in high school, one of our English class assignments was to read this particular story, formulate our thoughts and participate in a classroom discussion.


After what was written in 1954, discussed in high school and after 20 years of experience recruiting healthcare executives, I have the unique experience to connect our current healthcare crisis to the trend in the recruitment Industry.

Let’s first take a quick look at what was said about foods or you can read the original newspaper article here.  The author stated that food is nutritious and very tasty when prepared with fresh and natural ingredients and by someone who knows what he/she is doing.  The problems with preparing delicious meals however are higher costs; fresh and natural ingredients aren't cheap and have very limited shelf life.  He also pointed out that because humans will accept a lesser taste if it was the only choice available, science played a role in extending the shelf life of the natural ingredients. The products were very appealing to the eye; they came in neat packages with beautiful pictures, but on the inside they lacked quality and taste.   Why?  Because, they were produced with artificial ingredients & flavors, chemicals and freezing methods for easy transportation & storage and to a greater extent-generate larger profits from a longer shelf life.


Why did people buy crappy tasting food that was loaded of harmful chemicals?

Because it was cheap, easy and fast- it didn't require the knowledge of a culinary genius and meals could be prepared by anyone, in little or no time.   When food lacked quality in taste, you’d need to eat way more to satisfy your cravings, was his concern. "A slice of my mother-in-law’s apple pie will satiate you far better than a whole bakery pie" he explained. 

So here we are, after decades of eating unhealthy foods, it has taken a toll on the health of many.  As a result, our current healthcare system is in shambles and in desperate need of reform, just as he predicted in 1954.

The motivation that transformed the food Industry has also taken place within the recruitment Industry,

Recruiting is a $100 billion Industry with lots of unhappy campers.  Over the past 15 years, it too has been transformed by technology to become more efficient, but cost-of-hire has not decreased and quality-of-hire has not increased.   Why? Because most of the recruitment vendors are selling the same solutions-that doesn't deliver on quality hires-are bought for the wrong reasons-used by the wrong people-has frustrated job seekers and discouraged the best talents from engaging in the hiring process.


Also, recruitment strategies are far too often marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution.  For example, if social media was successfully used by employers such as Apple or Pepsi; then just like magic social media would become the universal best practice recruitment solution for everyone.  Vendors are well aware that no two job applicants are alike, no two companies are exactly the same or what works for a large company might not work for a small one or a nationally recognized brand is totally different from a no-name brand; yet they promote social media as the silver bullet solution.  Think about it; what would be the competitive advantage to one employer if all employers were using the same vendor/tactics/tools to steal employees away from each other?

Another reason the Industry is bloated is because the products do not satisfy the need.  The need is to recruit the best talent, but these products are marketed for hiring talent fast, cheap and easy.  Very rarely good is the result when you add fast, easy & cheap to the equation. So why would HR decision makers continue to invest corporate dollars in such products?


Self interest!  Humans make buying decisions based on emotions and are later supported by logic.  In this case the buying emotions are personal gains through internal recognition that leads to faster career advancement. The logic is buying a recognized solution from a reputable vendor that will save a bundle; specifically dollars saved by hiring internally compared to the amount it would have cost if outside agencies were utilized.


At the end of the day, a dollar saved is a dollar earned; but the hidden cost of hiring marginal talent greatly out-weighs the savings and will ultimately deteriorate the health of that organization in the long run.

And one more thing: With more reliance on technology, most of the skilled human interactions have been replaced with automation, so the need for skilled recruiters has diminished.   As a result, the engine now behind these recruitment tools are junior recruiters-managing heavy req. loads-with very little time for the warm and fuzzy interactions (which is of very little interest to them) that job applicants demand. So basically recruiting today consists of robot-like recruiters-using robotic type tools-to process a bunch of faceless robots-to select & hire one robot.


We are included in the group that is adversely affected from the shift in food production from quality & taste to costs & profits.  That’s because our choices are limited; we must buy whatever the food manufactures are selling.  The end result is the bloating of a healthcare system and the poor health of the people who rely on the system.

The shift from quality hires to fast, easy and cheap recruitment strategies has caused the bloating of the recruiting Industry by building employers with not the strongest, fittest and the brightest employees, but with the most active job seekers who may not be the best. And with billions of dollars spent to fight this war for talent, it is unfortunate that what is considered an organizations’ most important asset is treated like a commodity-brokered at the cheapest cost.


Fast, easy & cheap is not just about food or recruiting-it has become our expectation and the culture that we live.

If this is so, the process may well begin, like most human behavior, in the home—in those homes where a good meal has been replaced by something-to-eat-in-a-hurry. By something not very good to eat, prepared by a mother without very much to do, for a family that doesn’t feel it amounts to much anyhow”  Philip Wylie, 1954


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Comment by bill josephson on May 18, 2012 at 1:17pm

@Amy--As you suggested the reasons vary from those I've spoken with/know.  But a recurring theme from many is as a respite from a challenging jobs market "at least until things improve."  So they find contract gigs instead of heading back into the TRP world often times bringing me with them opening up new companies as clients, when able to utilize me.

@Sandra--Many have left the industry.  For different reasons.  Some couldn't adapt retaining their market relevance amidst down job markets, outsourcing, and/or technology. 

You and others clearly have, to your credits, which is the benefit of a discussion. 

Comment by Bill Schultz on May 18, 2012 at 2:06pm

Or ask an internal why they went inside... the answers would probably surprise you.

Better Coffee?

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 18, 2012 at 2:23pm

@Steve - yes, we do what makes us happy, but we only get paid to do it if we're really good at it. I wanted to work for this company - there are several reasons why. Just because my clients are also my co-workers doesn't mean I don't have to sell them. If they aren't happy and I'm not delivering you can bet they'll find someone else to sit in my seat. EVERYONE'S job security comes from within.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 18, 2012 at 2:27pm

@Schultz - of course. :)

I know plenty of other internals who have convinced me that my situation (and logic behind coming here) are not the norm... but I will say this - the ones that left due to the reasons Bill J. mentioned wouldn't make it in my role.

Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on May 18, 2012 at 2:39pm

Exhausting subject! 


Bottom line is this.  Regardless if you're internal or external.  Regardless of the tools that ou use or I use.  Regardless of the access you have to candidates or that I have.  Regardless of all of it.  At the end of the day the best hires are made by the best recruiters.  End of story. 


What makes a "best" recruiter?  Attitude and mind set.  Do I listen well?  Did I "get" the values that you're looking for?  Am I passionate?  Am I direct and to the point in order to stay on track and not lose focus because you are, and because I'm focused I talked you down from the ledge and we're now back on track!   Am I relevant to your needs because I do all of the above?  These are questions to the candidate, to the hiring manager, and to whomever else you're working with at XYZ company.  If you do these right you win.  If you whine and fret and consume yourself about obstacles, you lose.  You're no longer focused.  Everyone involved in the circle of recruiting picks up on your mindset.  And if it's cranking on positive and passion and success, then the candidate loves you, the hiring manger loves you, and the company loves you...........and then you make the hire.  Tools only help you.  It doesn't matter if you're internal or TPR.  It's all the same.


I use TPR's when I have a position that is "tough" and I don't have time to source all day long to find that rare breed candidate.  I call you because I know you live in that world all day long, every day and I don't.  But if you don't have what I mentioned above, you'll lose.  It also doesn't mean I give up looking on my own, because I don't.  However if you're really good at what you do, you should beat me to the hire.  I don't really care what tools and resources you use to find the candidate.  I could give a crap about that and your recruiting strategy.  Just find me the right candidate and be straight up about how long it might take you.  I'll wait for the perfect candidate and so will my hiring manager.  But if I win, it's because I got lucky one day and found the perfect candidate.  There is no skill to being lucky.  It's just that.  Luck!  But the end of the day, it's all in your mindset.  The best TPR's I work with, work like me and have my attitude and we click.  So I call them again and again.  And I don't care if the candidate is already in my database.  You find them and bring them forward and they are what we're looking get paid.  If you're dealing with snarky companies that don't abide by that rule, then don't work with them.  They'll never be happy with anything you do.


Lastly.  I love Sandra McCartt.  Always on point my dear.  Always!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 18, 2012 at 2:50pm

So again it's a challenging job market, outsourcing and technology.  Bill you have lived through at least four recessions in this industry.  How about looking at the many who have not left the industry and what they have done to not only remain in the industry but have made money and a lot of it during the worst recession in the past 20 years.  Trust me when i tell you that this has been nothing compared to what happened in my part of the world when the oil and gas industry went down like the titanic and my firm was specialized in oil and gas.  If you weren't in bankruptcy court or sitting around AA with everybody else in the industry or anything related to it you weren't in the "incrowd".  I didn't like either of those options.  There was a year that i made 25K instead of 500K.  I didn't much enjoy it but the lights stayed on and the phone was working.  Everybody in the industry could say that there were no jobs, and there were not.  Entire shopping centers were boarded up.  And it happened in a matter of weeks not over a period of months or a year.


We changed directions, industries, approach, skill sets and pulled it out we became generalists.  If there was any job anyplace we went after it and we filled it because we made the choice to (trite but true) make lemonade out of lemons.  I will never forget during that time period talking to a recruiter in New Mexico who had made a ton of money in the O & G industry and was frozen because of the crash.  I asked him what he was doing differently.  His response was, "I only turn on my computer and check email twice a day because i am watching every penny and don't want to run the electricity bill up."  (Jesus H. Christ) He then went into a long litany about how bad things were how many recruiters were going under ,the end was near, the whole TPR segment was a dying breed, all his clients were gone blah, blah and blah.  I decided i didn't need to talk to him anymore.  He called me a year later and said he had checked it in.  I don't remember what he was doing to make a living.  He asked me what i had done to stay alive and rebuild and was making more money than i had before the crash.  I told him:


"I turned on my computer". 

An oversimplification perhaps but i didn't give a rip how many people had fallen by the wayside, left the industry, the market was bad, there weren't many jobs.  All i decided was that somebody someplace was hiring people because millions of people were still working just as they have through this last crash.  Somebody was hiring someplace so i would find it.  The path of least resistance is to roll over and die from lack of feeding.  My take is that the path of success is to find what will work and get on board.  I turned on the computer 24/7 and didn't worry about the cost of electricity.  Nice excuse of worrying about cost to turn on a computer but like every other excuse explaining failure is easy.  Explaining success is not a cookie cutter answer.  Nobody can tell you how to but they can sure comiserate with you about bad things are, were or will be.  Who has time for that crap.  Go place one, then place another one.  On any level, anywhere.  Go internal , do contract, go to work for the government.

Electricity is cheap!

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 18, 2012 at 2:54pm

Well said Peter. I think your mentality is the way most "good clients" work it. We always know that we need to work fast because the client is looking at all options to get it filled. It is as you said- I should be able to get the hire 1st because that is my market and we don't have to start a ground zero each time.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 18, 2012 at 3:13pm

I don't know that anyone can say it any better than what Peter and Sandra have said. Absolutely spot on.

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 18, 2012 at 3:31pm

@ Sandra - Oil and gas was one of the areas we specialized in until about 1985 or so when it crashed. You were smart enough to realize that recruiting is recruiting and therefore transferable skills and you forged ahead into new markets. Some of my folks did too but some couldn't make the transition. You have staying power girl.

Comment by Ken Forrester on May 18, 2012 at 4:03pm

Sandra, I’ve always paid close attention to whatever you had to say on any subject about recruiting.  But on this particular subject, I’ve never see you so passionate about getting some common sense across.  Four recessions and an Industry crash-that’s a lot of experience for one recruiter.  


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