Candidates are not an online commodity

Technology is changing our industry, on all fronts. And of course, we are seeing the arrival of a myriad of online recruiting offerings, each claiming to be the beginning of the end for traditional recruitment.

But, lets get real.

Candidates are not an online commodity. Some people would have you believe they are. LinkedIn for one. and their ilk too.

Oh yes, you can identify talent via digital. But actually recruiting someone you have ‘found’ is a whole different matter. It’s a romance. A seduction. And that is where the magic happens.

Technology will never replace recruitment. It will drastically change the talent identification and sourcing function, the screening and even the interviewing function. Technology changes the mode of service delivery for third party recruiters, that is for sure.


Securing the best candidate is not the same as buying a movie ticket on the Internet. And so, in recruitment, we are not like Amazon or iTunes or any of the sales channels you find online.

You can buy a dress online because a dress does not say, “no I don’t want to go with this new buyer”. But a candidate does.

Candidates have opinions and options and alternatives. Candidates can be unpredictable and emotional, and unlike a book you bought on Amazon, will not want to discuss with its’ wife whether it should go to the new buyer.

Recruitment is always a human endeavor, and it relies on uniquely human skills. Well, the type of recruitment professional, consultative recruiters want anyway.

In fact, I believe that candidate search technologies will become so sophisticated, so pervasive and so cheap, that everyone will have them. Tracking and finding candidates on the web will become easier, not harder.

It’s happening right now. Companies like TalentBin, Dice OpenWeb and Entelo, and others, have been building very clever sourcing engines, to meet the sourcing demand for hard to get skills. Far more sophisticated tools than anything the average agency recruiter has access to.

So we actually have what looks like a paradox, but in fact it is just where the process breaks into two very separate functions

Candidate identification will get easier and easier. Candidate recruiting and hiring will get harder and harder.

So building relationships and managing the process via highly developed skills in the craft of recruitment, becomes the differentiator.

The very best technology is critical to recruiting success. But I also believe that the craft of recruitment will make the difference. Craft? Yes. I am talking about the nuanced skills. Persuading, prepping, negotiating, finessing, listening, negotiating, understanding, and managing both the client and the candidate. This will still have a value. Increasingly so, in fact. As much as the technology. More so, eventually.

Lets take ‘counter-offers’ just as an example. I predict that as the economy improves, and the inevitable skill-shortages really bite, top talent will know their value. So will their employers, and so every offer you get will be subject to a counter offer. That is my prediction. Every offer. Or at least 9 out of 10. Most recruiters I know have no idea how to predict, prevent, and manage a counter-offer situation. It’s a subtle skill that only a great recruiter can finesse.

That is where, for the agency recruiter, the sweet spot lies. Where you can give your clients something your clients cannot get themselves. And do you for one moment think LinkedIn or Seek or or any other technology platform will provide these subtle human skills, wrapped up in the craft of recruitment?

I think not.

And so, the future of recruiting is where technology meets the craft of rec...

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What has actually happened is that technology has disconnected the recruiter from the client and the candidate.

Often the recruiter hides behind technology. The recruiter has become more remote from where the recruiter can actually have an impact! We are being pushed aside, being made less relevant every day, and we are allowing it to happen by dumbing down the process. We use technology when we should use personal interaction.

Allowing clients to send us job specifications electronically, which we then start to work on. Emailing a shortlist to the client with no verbal commentary or insights added. Long emails to candidates about the job and why they should take it. Where is the ability to have an impact? To create outcomes?

The work many recruiters do amounts to little more than key word matching. They are not sophisticated in technology use, in social media, in talent acquisition or even in the old school skills of the craft of recruitment.

These recruiters are stuck in no-mans land. Not technologically strong, and not strong on true consulting skills. That is why so many recruiters are in so much pain.

It’s a commercial imperative to build a business model that uses technology and human skills to connect recruiters to both clients and candidate

So I would build my business model to operate in complete opposition to transactional recruiting. Leave that to the big scale, low margin players, or the online solutions that add zero value.

In fact, the smarter direction is to build a model that works on exclusivity, retainers, commitment and partnership.

This is not new. In fact it’s as old as recruitment itself. But we have lost the ability to sell it. We have been taken in by the fact that what I am suggesting is difficult. But the reality is the ‘easy road” of multi-listed, contingent, resume racing, ambulance-chasing, transactional, dog-eat-dog, trench warfare recruitment, is in fact going to be more than ‘difficult’. It’s going to be terminal.

I repeat. The future of recruitment is where highly sophisticated technology meets highly tailored and influential human interaction.

Where art marries science, if you like

That is where we turn work into money.

Views: 382

Comment by Keith Halperin on June 3, 2014 at 10:32pm

Thanks, Greg. While "technology will never replace recruitment", it will replace lots of low-touch, low value-add- recruiters who aren't able to latch onto clients too lazy or ignorant to know that what they they're paying for ( job board-scraped candidates sold by dialing-for-dollars (or pounds) newbies for 15-20% fees (in the U.S.)) is much more expensive and less effective than other alterrnatives (sourcers, off-shore  RPOs, etc.).


Comment by sheila Greco on June 4, 2014 at 10:23pm

Greg thank you for sharing a lot of good information. I agree with many of your points. The human touch of recruiting will never go away. Just saying……….

Comment by Terence Verma on June 5, 2014 at 6:17am

Thanks Greg. There being no emotion in Technology, the life blood of any Organisation is its Human Resource that determines the all important culture and values. That needs to be reflected by the recruiter and, matched with the candidate.



Comment by Randall Scasny on June 10, 2014 at 9:36am


Excellent! The problem with technology is that it doesn't taken into account the human factor. Case in point: I recently had a candidate who wanted to do something else. We went back and forth for a month or so. Then, she got an interview at an ed tech startup -- exactly what she wanted, she said. Well, she was excited. Unfortunately, the interview was distant and unfriendly. Then the candidate was asked, "What won't you do?" The candidate was dumbfounded. (I won't rob a bank!) So, literally over night she gave up on the idea of doing something else. She was turned off like b.o. Two months of wasted work because of the human, gut factor that told her "this ain't for me."


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