3 Hot Recruiting Topics We Should All Shut Up About, Already

I read a ton of blogs, participate in a lot of Twitter chats (or as I call them, “pithy parties”) and listen in on a lot of presentations about trends in talent acquisition and HR technology.  But what’s trendy among the industry “influencers” who need your company’s cash to keep the lights on don’t necessarily jibe with the stuff that really matters to candidates and employers.

Here are three hot topics that drive a ton of talk but very little value unless you’re a consultant with a specific agenda in mind: 

Boolean Strings

There are a ton of tools out there for building Boolean Strings, not to mention a cottage industry of consultants and thought leaders.  But investing time or energy into becoming a master at Boolean is a lot like learning the fine art of calligraphy or opening a Delorean dealership.  Your time has passed.

Boolean is the sourcing version of Steampunk; it’s indulging nostalgia for a bygone area through anachronistic technology.  But it’s a dying art, and the average sourcer (or hiring manager, for that matter) no longer needs to build complex 28 modifier strings to find stuff on search engines.  Boolean is as relevant to search as Lycos or Dogpile – really, just Ask Jeeves.

Google, obviously, has predictive search capabilities and advanced functionalities which, while not as highly targeted as a complex Boolean string, takes a whole lot less time than setting up a bunch of parenthetical prepositions.  Even major job boards like Monster, largely perceived by the sourcing intelligencia as technological backwaters, incorporate natural language & semantic search capabilities into their core sourcing products, and the results tend to be far more accurate and relevant than the traditional keyword searches upon which Boolean logic relies.

Facebook’s Open Graph, which is so easy a caveman (or HR Generalist) can do it, is the kind of game changing technology that showcases, in the most mainstream of ways, that natural language and semantic matching are the future of search.  For those still reliant on Boolean, you’re really just being strung along.

There’s no modifier necessary for NOT knowing Boolean AND “sourcing results” – unless you’re a professional sourcer who’s trying to preserve your job by adding unnecessary complexity to the relatively simple task of getting relevant search results for almost any research project.


 Mobile is obviously a huge part of recruiting, because, well, recruiting is online marketing, and most online activity now happens from a mobile device.  Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile optimized, meaning a majority of Fortune 500 career sites, which makes it hard for candidates to find your company and opportunities.  Furthermore, most passive talent (which is to say, people with jobs) is loathe to look for jobs on their work computers and within their corporate firewall, but do a majority of their job search due diligence at work – on their own phones.  BYOD policies have only increased this trend.

All that is to say there’s no understating the importance of mobile in talent acquisition, but this might be the only industry who’s still talking about this like it’s some sort of new concept.  A lot of companies pay big bucks to agencies and point solution vendors to develop branded apps, but this is, for almost every employer, a huge waste of money.  The average person has 25 apps, and unfortunately, the kinds of targeted talent most companies are looking for probably isn’t going to take the time to download yours – they just want to apply for jobs.  Build a responsive website in HTML 5 and you’ve at least entered this decade on the backend – building a device specific experience is also cheap, easy and effective.

But seriously, mobile, like social, needs to be seen as a platform for distributing jobs and disseminating employer brand as part of a holistic recruiting strategy, not as this crazy, futuristic independent entity.  The fact that we’re still having to build a business case for mobile in this business is kind of sad, because the rest of the world is too busy staring at their smart phones to really care.

If you want to talk about improving candidate engagement with mobile, which actually can be achieved through SMS campaigns (but again, that’s like 10 years ahead for most employers), here’s a tip: try using that mobile device to actually call a candidate.  Turns out those devices work for that, too – and phone calls are still an effective way to “engage candidates in a careers conversation” and be social. That much is unlikely to change anytime soon when it comes to the hiring process.

Employer Branding

Employer branding, like mobile, is really important, but, to quote my friend Bill Boorman, almost all of it today is designed with the goal of “employer blanding” – making your company as generic as possible.  All those shots of your employees in action, collaborating in open work environments with the same accouterments as a day care center aren’t going to convince a candidate that yours is the career destination of their dreams.  Nor are those slick, professionally produced videos which have a lot of close-ups of employees in stage makeup and great lighting talking about their awesome experience – the average candidate doesn’t really care to take the time to watch the career version of “Triumph of the Will.”  They just want to apply for a damn job, or see what kinds of jobs you’re actually hiring for.

That’s why a well written, engaging and easy to understand job description, really, is the most important – and most ignored – employer branding mechanism.  It’s cool to make a company look sexy, but taking a generic but hard to fill job like a Senior Accountant or an Operations Manager and making that position look appealing?  That’s the real challenge – and, if you succeed, the cheapest and most effective employer branding vehicle out there.

Or, you know, you could spend a lot of money into building a great looking careers site that completely detracts from the entire point of a careers site: finding and applying for open jobs.  That’s way more important than making sure you slap a generic value statement and some employee headshots up there any day of the week.

But since I don’t make any money consulting on any of these three topics, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about – and the vendors charging for these services likely have the white papers full of biased research to prove I’m wrong.  Alternatively, you can call me out by leaving a comment below – engagement is everything, you know.

Views: 1400

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on November 21, 2013 at 1:19pm

this might be your best post yet Charney :)

Comment by Jeremy Roberts, SPHR on November 21, 2013 at 4:00pm

Great post. I can't wait to see the comments on this one. 

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on November 21, 2013 at 5:38pm

I think the only time I've ever viewed an employer's video was to see what other companies were doing in that regard. As an applicant, you are so right - just show the open jobs and make it simple to apply. 

Why is it that most companies neglect the obvious? Like: an easily understood job posting that explains why the job exists, where it fits into the org, what the person is expected to know how to do (and actually accomplish) and how that impacts the company. Instead most postings rattle off lists of "required" experience and education as if that somehow magically translates to effective OTJ performance. 

Anywhooo, nice post, yo! 

Comment by Matt Charney on November 21, 2013 at 5:41pm

Kelly - thanks for weighing in...nice comment, yo ;) Most companies neglect the obvious because they have consultants and pretty product marketing materials telling them otherwise. Which is a better business than recruiting these days, but not really sure it's doing anyone any good other than shifting focus away from the stuff that really matters - like finding good jobs for good people.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 21, 2013 at 6:07pm

Here are a few more:

Candidate Experience/Candidate Care

Talent Communities

Social Network Recruiting

The War for Talent

Which Kind of Recruiter is Best


Hire Quality


Anything which uses the words ”passion” or “passionate” in a business context

Comment by Matt Charney on November 21, 2013 at 6:12pm

Keith: Agree with you about most of these; ATS, Quality of Hire & Retention, however, are real issues with real implications - it's just those are the hardest to productize or write a keyword optimized blog post around, so most "influencers" and B2B marketers choose to ignore those, unless of course they're selling an ATS, in which case, they hide their deficiencies by talking about stuff like social recruiting and talent communities, both of which are really just lead generation tools anyway.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 21, 2013 at 6:44pm

Thanks, Matt. I think Q of H and Retention ARE important things- they're just beyond the scope of what recruiters can deal with. We don't hire ANYBODY- and having a recruiter concern himself with how good somebody is when they're hired, and how long they stay is like having the meat delivery guy have to concern himself with whether or not the chef at the restaurant properly cooks the steak. That's the problem with many of the things on my list" they're pretty goods things, but we're not paid to deal with them, and if we ARE dealing with them, then we're neglecting our REAL job- putting quality butts in chairs on time and within budget.



Comment by Matt Charney on November 21, 2013 at 6:46pm

Keith - that is a really, really good comment that, you know, could probably be a really good blog post. #clearsthroat Love any metaphor that deals with meat, and this one is particularly apropos.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 21, 2013 at 8:41pm

Damn! Now I'll have to try and write something constructive....



Comment by Eleanor Hammond on November 22, 2013 at 4:53am

If only more blog writers were as refreshing! Thanks for the frankness. Look forward to the next one...


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