Shut Up, Startups: Why Recruiting Technology Can’t Fix What’s Really Broken

What follows is an account of a successful early careerist having a career discussion with an influential mentor:

After I graduated from Harvard and took my first job as an investment banker earning $150K, upon returning home for Thanksgiving my Mom cornered me in the kitchen and in an exasperating tone asked (or rather, demanded):

“You’re 26 years old – [raising her voice] WHY AREN’T YOU A CEO ALREADY LIKE YOUR FRIEND JIMMY? I AM SO FREAKING TIRED OF LISTENING TO HIS MOM LINDA BRAG ABOUT, ‘JIMMY’S A CEO, HE HAS ANGEL INVESTORS, HE’S GOING TO BE A BILLIONAIRE’ – WHEN THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO PAY ME BACK FOR ALL THE YEARS I BATHED YOU, FED YOU, CHANGED YOUR GOD-DAMNED DIAPERS? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO START YOUR OWN COMPANY AND BE A CEO? WHEN, WHEN, WHEN?!?!”

[In a calm soothing voice] “But Mom…”

[Mom’s really pissed off now] “SCREW ‘BUT MOM!’ WILL YOU JUST START UP A DAMN COMPANY THAT FIXES RECRUITING?!?!”

Oh, if it only were this easy.

And yes, it is the reason why “new” recruiting technology is exploding globally – because entrepreneurs truly believe that technology, any technology, will cure the ills of recruiting.

recruiting_technology_brokenRecruiting Technology: Entrepreneurs vs. End Users

In The Future of Recruiting and Hiring Technology, Sharlyn Lauby of HR Bartender fame says, “When you automate the right tasks, then it frees up time to do the in-person ones better.”


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The problem here is in how the entrepreneur (a) comes to their conclusion that recruiting is broken; and, (b) comes up and develops a solution that will undoubtedly make them an angel investor or venture capitalist’s pet. In other words, Sharlyn would be spot-on if the underlying recruiting processes were optimal and the recruiters tasked with implementing the processes were optimal as well. Neither is.

Automating the “right” tasks is what stumps most recruiting technology entrepreneurs; are they automating the right task or a part of a process that is broken, aging, or downright useless?

Here’s a typical comment about a better way to recruit (this one is pasted from the above article – all I’ve done is turn on italics):

The fundamental assumption that recruiters need to do more outreach, be it automated is wrong.

Recruiting should and will become more inbound. Should companies always reach out to potential talent (be it on the form of automatic mails)? Shouldn’t technology actually make engagement and data driven hiring more efficient. The problem with many technologies being developed today is that recruiting is still seen upon as a filling up a job and not in terms of making a career. Take the very successful companies like Google, Netflix. Apart from posting jobs (if they post i.e.), do they do direct selling of their position.

The future of recruiting is in inbound marketing. If one tries to understand the relationship between marketing, sales and recruiting you would see a pattern. Marketers are early adoptors, Sales adopt technologies and practices if they seem to be successful in marketing. Recruiters are generally late adopters.

The likes of Amazon, Apple etc (I consider them as Sales and Marketing Companies, these companies buy and sell stuff and keep a margin) etc are focussing on more inbound tactics. They do marketing and not sales. These companies don’t buy email databases and send mass mails. They put the right ad in front of the right customer and gets their sales done.

I see recruiting too moving in that direction. If a company is able to post the right job in front of the right candidate, the sale is going to happen. How can this happen?

1. Replace job description with tasks : Job Description are dead, no candidate has the time to read them. Just like a recruiter looks at keywords in resumes, the talent looks for keywords. Product companies are already doing task based sourcing and hiring
2. Focus on inbound : The really successful companies focus on inbound recruiting. This is about a.identifying those right nodes and playing them in front of the candidate b.keeping your employees happy who in turn will lead you to more talent.
3. Push careers : Imagine you are a highly talented candidate. One company offers you a job and a really good package. There is another company which is offering you a job, a well defined career progression cycle (Things like google’s OKR based promotion cycles) and a decent salary. Which one would you chose?

The future of recruitment technology is not about outbound tools, it is about creating tools that would lead to inbound recruiting.

PS : This is a sales pitch. if you believe in what we do, check out HuntShire.

A sales pitch. Ah, I hadn’t noticed. Anyone want to guess how many years of recruiting experience the team of three co-founders has between them?

Is there anything in this fellow’s sales pitch that makes you confident that he understands the ins and outs of recruiting – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? What I do see is a rehashing of the same phrases we’ve been hearing for decades – like “Job descriptions are dead, no candidate has the time to read them” – and a pitch for a “better way.” Ho-hum, wake me up before you go-go…

If it’s not replacement for job descriptions, it’s gamification; if it’s not gamification, it’s mobile; if it’s not mobile, it’s how to recruit software developers. It’s a new ATS, a new assessment tool based upon the teachings of Carl Jung (yes, I’m being sarcastic), a new social job board that no one has thought of before.

What Recruiting Technology Is Missing

My point here is not to denigrate entrepreneurism or recruiting technology but do you see what’s missing from all this new recruiting technology?

  • Recruiters
  • Company leaders and how they view the importance of recruiting…
  • Hiring managers (notice how much recruiting technology takes recruiting away from recruiters and places it back into the hands of the hiring managers)…
  • Jobseekers

How often do recruiting technology entrepreneurs with a better way conduct focus meetings with not just someone from each category but with someone from each category who is good, bad and even ugly? How often do these focus meetings result in a re-engineering of a “flawed” process? Or is this new recruiting technology designed to make easier a flawed process?

I’m asked to review more recruiting technology than I’d like, but as part of my personal belief in stewarding the recruiting profession, I rarely decline the chance to see if the reality meets the hype. I listen to the person’s background, where they went to school. I breathe in all the words of the pitch, the reason why recruiting is broken.

Finally, I’m given a business card with a phone number and email to call later to discuss.

And the title reads, “CEO”…

steve levyAbout the Author: Steve Levy is well respected as one of the best sourcers in the business, combining old school and new cool technologies to identify and engage exceptional talent – and actually knows those mythical “purple squirrels.”

Levy, a member of the RecruitingBlogs Editorial Advisory Committee who has been referred to as “the recruiting industry’s answer to Tom Peters” has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts on Twitter;

The 10 to Follow in Social Media RecruitingTop 25 Twitter Accounts for Job Seekers to FollowTop 100 Twitter Accounts Job Seekers MUST Follow: 2012Top 50 Twitter Accounts Job Seekers MUST Follow: 2011101 Career Experts all Job Hunters Should Follow on Twitter; and Top 100 HR & Recruiting Pros to Follow on Twitter.

Follow Steve On Twitter @LevyRecruits or Connect With Him on LinkedIn.

Steve Levy


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