I have had some really interesting conversations on Twitter recently, many on the future of recruitment. One particular conversation with fellow twitterers @mervyndinnen and @billboorman was followed up by a post from Bill on his Recruitingunblog entitled R.I.P Recruitment, encouraging recruiters not to give up on their industry and insisting its not dead.
Of course it’s not dead! It never will be. People will always join and leave organisations. That will never change. But HOW they find and join organisations – the recruitment supply chain if you like – will change. Bill, I think, advocates a return to traditional recruitment and a rational, rather than alarmist, approach to the impact of social media on the recruitment industry. And in this respect he is absolutely right. Social media will not kill recruitment but it will, without doubt, materially effect the supply chain, changing it’s dynamics permanently. And a fundamental part of that supply chain is currently the recruitment industry.
As a result, the chances that we will see a wholesale return to ‘traditional’ values of recruitment are unfortunately unlikely. Don’t get me wrong, these values – building long term relationships, deep understanding of clients and candidates and exclusive relationships – are the bedrock for a successful recruiting partnership. As both a client and candidate that’s how it was for me, and continued to be so in my first search role. But by the time I entered the world of executive search in the late 90’s the seeds of change had already been sown.
Fast forward 10 years and the landscape, particularly at the lower and mid market levels up to say £100k base salaries, has changed significantly. Out has gone the deep, exclusive relationship and those lovely retainers, in has come procurement, preferred supplier lists, faceless portals, non exclusive deals and success only fees. Competition is fierce and its dog eat dog out there.
My point, in all of my comments and rantings on twitter though, is that what most recruiters don’t seem to understand is that one of the root causes of this seismic shift for the worst is the recruitment industry itself. It is perhaps one of the best examples of being a victim of its own success. You see back in the 90’s, the recruiting industry got greedy. It changed the model. It focussed on hard sales, drove the consultants ruthlessly through KPI’s, lowered basic salaries and cranked up the commission and recruited consultants with less and less experience – with devastating results for the industry and its customers.
As a client I got fed up with calls from ignorant, pushy consultants trying to convince me to see a candidate (despite not having a vacancy!) and refusing to send me the CV beforehand, or threatening to target my people if I didn’t use them as my main supplier. I could go on. The worst thing is, this still goes on and those responsible are currently poo pooing the impact of social media, predicting a return to the glory days of growth in the ‘next quarter’.
Well, I’m afraid that’s unlikely to happen. Things have changed for the recruitment industry dramatically in the last 10 years and it has nothing to do with the internet or social media, and everything to do with the industry’s ignorance, apathy and sharp practice. Granted, there are many still in it who, like Bill, Mervyn and me to name a few, who have always maintained standards. But unfortunately, despite our efforts, the others took us over the tipping point, forcing clients to embark on a long term strategy to wipe us out of the process.
And what of the future? Well things will definitely change and the impact of social media will be significant, but probably not realised, until it has passed into the natural order of doing things, to a time when its no longer extraordinary and when we no longer attend conferences to talk about it.
R.I.P Recrutiment? No.
R.I.P Current Recruitment Business Model? Inevitable.
I could write more, but my posts are too long already so I think I’ll save it for the Recruiting Unconference!