Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Changing World of Headhunting and How It Will Impact You.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates

A New Year and time for a new series. For the next few weeks (perhaps months), I will be writing about how “headhunting” is changing and what that means to employers, candidates and recruiters.

First, a little background and perspective. I’m an old guy who started his career in the transportation industry back in the day when the fax machine was high tech. Computers did exist (I’m not that old), but many small and mid-sized companies did not use them or used them very little and/or very badly. But in the years that followed, I witnessed, first-hand, the explosion of technology in our business and professional lives. It is THE GAMECHANGER of our times. I am old enough to remember life before cell phones. Standing in line at airports waiting to get to a pay phone to call in and check messages or return phone calls. I’m even old enough to remember when you had to wait for news. 24 hour cable news was a giant leap forward. Now it’s way too slow. And the print media? They might as well be using stone tablets.

In headhunting everything is different today as well. When I got into it in 2000, the search business was at a crossroads. Some firms were embracing technology and others were dismissing it. Technology offered some good tools, especially systems for tracking candidate/client information, recording contacts or storing documents. But the best technology was still the telephone. And the “old rules” still applied. Stay on the phone, recruit and market, market and recruit. Qualify candidates and qualify searches. Don’t waste your time on active candidates (those who are aggressively responding to ads or working with multiple search firms, or God forbid, are unemployed.) Don’t waste your time with employers who are advertising the jobs, using multiple search firms or have their own in-house recruiters working the search.

These old rules-of-thumb don’t work these days. Now a search firm has to be open to working on searches and with candidates they would not have touched in the past. Most candidates are active to some degree. They either have a resume posted on some job board or their professional profile (the virtual resume) out on LinkedIn. Most employers have their jobs posted, at least on their company website and often on job boards. Many allow consolidators such as Indeed to post their jobs as well. Professional groups have a “career center’ tab on their websites. Social networks broadcast opportunities. All but the most confidential searches show up somewhere and once they show up, they often go viral. Large employers now have in-house recruiters, either employees or contractors who “headhunt” for them. There are a lot of big nets in the water. Some are fishing for jobs, some for candidates and some for both. Job searches and candidate recruiting have gone digital and become very transparent.

The “search and hiring process” itself has to a large degree been unbundled. There are firms that specialize in “data mining” and “sourcing”. They do work for companies as well as search firms. Some of these specialty firms take the sourcing function to the point of actually recruiting and qualifying candidates. And more than a few of these specialty firms are working from places like India or the Philippines providing “virtual” recruiting assistants who are degreed, speak perfect English (or Spanish or whatever you wish for them to speak) and do a fairly good job for what amounts to minimum wage. Background and reference checking is now outsourced to specialty firms who can do it better, faster and cheaper while at the same time limiting the potential liability for employers. There are testing services and consultants who specialize in interviewing and evaluating candidates for specific opportunities. For all but the most senior positions, there is little room for negotiation on compensation, benefits or relocation allowance. It is whatever company policy says it is. Welcome to “The Machine”. And if the employer so chooses they can just hand all or most of these activities over to a third-party RPO (recruitment process outsourcing). And the RPO, in turn, will likely sub out parts of the process to these various specialists as well.

These are just a few highlights of what is changing in the world of job search and candidate recruiting. If you’ve looked for a job in recent years or sought to hire someone, you know that it’s changed. If you are a full-time recruiter, you absolutely know that it’s changed. And, if you’re still making a living as a full-time recruiter, you’ve changed. Next time, we’ll look at what these changes mean for candidates and how they are likely to impact the candidate-headhunter relationship.

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