It’s hard to believe the HR Technology Conference is being held for the 20th time.
Time moves quickly, but so does technology.
In light of the milestone, it’s a good time to discuss how recruiting technologies have changed, and to examine where they might be going. We posed several questions on this topic to ENGAGE Talent CEO Joseph Hanna, with a particular focus on passive candidate recruiting, as it has taken on increased importance due to the skills shortage. According to LinkedIn’s Talent Trends study, passive candidates—those not actively looking for jobs but open to exploring or hearing about opportunities—make up 73 percent of the employed workforce.
Q: While reaching the 20th edition of the HR Technology Conference gives us reason to look back, the event is about the future of HR and recruiting. With that in mind, get out your crystal ball. What will recruiting technology look like five years from now?
A: I actually don’t even need a crystal ball, literally or figuratively, to know the future of recruiting technology. Because recruiting has long followed about five years behind sales and lead generation, not only with technology, but also with technique, standards, even lingo. So what will we be doing five years from now? What sales is doing today.
A few quick examples of the relationship between sales and recruiting might be helpful. Social selling became a big thing about 10 years ago. Then few years later we started thinking about social recruiting. Similarly, candidate relationship management tools follow in the footsteps of customer relationship management tools. Lastly, big data and predictive analytics became important sales tools for lead generation several years before predictive models were incorporated in some recruiting technologies, with ENGAGE being one of the newer ones doing so.
What is sales doing today? People in sales are focused on account-based selling (ABS) and account-based marketing (ABM). It’s about targeting specific companies, knowing exactly what’s happening in each company—the organizational structure, the influencers who are going to buy from you, etc. All of this helps you sell smarter and better.
Few years from now, it’ll work essentially the same way in recruiting. We are already seeing Account Based Sourcing (ABS) and Account Based Recruiting (ABR) trends. A recruiter for Company X will go after Company Y that has talent that they’re interested in. They’ll know everything about the company and its people, including the tools being used, the average compensation, average bonuses, how the stock is doing, any notable events happening, etc. Technology will be what tells them all of this information. The recruiter will then use the information, with significant assistance from the technology, to send the right candidates the right message at the right time.
Q: Now let’s compare today to the time of the first HR Tech Conference. How has technology changed passive candidate recruiting during that time? How have the changes impacted recruiters and candidates, respectively?
A: Technology has changed passive candidate recruiting tremendously.
Twenty years ago, recruiters relied on either a rolodex—one they took from one firm to the next or an internal rolodex—or a candidate database of some sort. The other source of talent was referrals, which were usually word of mouth.
The rolodex quickly became obsolete with the popularization of LinkedIn and other social networks, while referral technologies optimized the very manual referral process. Other developments included employer branding, recruitment marketing and related technologies; new communication methods; and candidate relationship management tools, which allow recruiters to nurture candidates through a funnel that is very similar to the sales funnel.
Where are we today? We’re trying to make all of those more efficient. We’re trying to target candidates who are more likely to respond. We’re trying to get referrals from not just employees but also from people outside the organization. We’re trying to distribute job postings to places where not seen before, such as Facebook.
For recruiters, this all means that your candidate list is no longer your differentiator. What differentiates you is how you message candidates, your employer brand, and the kind of job you’re recruiting for. The key to passive candidate recruiting is no longer having data about passive candidates. It’s about what you do with the data.
For passive candidates, the past 20 years have brought good news and bad news. The good news is if I’m a good candidate in a hot industry, I don’t need to actively look for a job. Most opportunities are coming straight to my doorstep, straight to my LinkedIn or email inbox. The bad news is I’m being contacted constantly—and because of how some recruiters and recruiting firms operate, I’m getting all sorts of emails about jobs that aren’t relevant to me. Most emails won’t be customized at all, making it clear that I’m just another person bcc’d. So I’m going to ignore most of them. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. When a candidate got a call from a recruiter then, it was usually for a good reason, as the recruiter typically researched them. So candidates 20 years ago took those calls more seriously.
Q: Has technology changed passive candidate recruiting more or less than it has other areas of recruiting/HR over the last 20 years? Why?
Some processes—benefits administration, payroll administration and onboarding, for example—have gone from a lot of manual work to being fully or largely automated. Learning and learning management systems have matured and are a lot smarter than before, as are testing and assessments. Performance management has also changed, going from annual performance reviews to relevant ongoing feedback that is managed using technology.
Employee engagement, meanwhile, has a whole branch of HR technology around it, and it didn’t even exist 20 years ago!
What’s most interesting about recruiting technology compared to other HR technologies is that it’s the one that’s changing the most as we speak. This is because we’ve solved some of the other challenges, and for the remainder we have made major progress and are just refining the solutions.
Talent acquisition and recruiting are much more difficult to crack because they are impacted by external forces. I can control my onboarding. I can control my payroll. I can control my performance management. I can control my learning program. Recruiting, on the other hand, is competitive and not within my control. Recruiting is based on what other employers are doing, based on how my industry is doing, how the economy is doing in general. And the current skill shortage is making it even more challenging. People are being as creative as they can be in talent acquisition to get the people they need, but it’s a struggle. It’s why acquiring enough quality talent is among CEOs’ top overall business concerns.
Q: What stage are we in the recruiting technology journey?
As it relates to engaging passive candidates, we’re in the toddler years. New AI technologies like ENGAGE are getting more effective at helping recruiters send the right candidates the right messages at the right time. And chatbots are getting smarter and able to communicate in a more human-like fashion, so they’ll be more and more important parts of the solution. What’s exciting about the toddler years is improvements can come quickly and dramatically.
When will we know when technologies have started to mature? I’d say when instead of sending cold emails, most recruiters are sending targeted, meaningful, relevant messages that are more likely to be responded to. That’s when we’ll be in the teenage years, so to speak.
When technologies are fully mature, technology will completely take over major pieces of the recruiting process. The employer will tell the technology what they want—here is the job description or here is someone I like—and the technology will do most of the upfront work (sourcing, communication in a human-like dialog, etc.) all the way to putting an interview on my calendar, we’ll have reached the adult ages.
This will happen within the next three years, and it will be amazing to see. Of course, when it becomes mainstream in a decade or so, we’re all going to be moving on to our next challenge which is likely to be how to vet, recruit, and assess the culture fit of different forms of AI entities.