Response overload…

As a follow up to something I mentioned in my last post I wanted to share some of my thoughts around social media strategy in recruiting ahead of the panel session on the same subject at the  Social Recruiting Conference on Thursday the 30th June 2011.  These thoughts were also inspired in part by the recent post from Matt Jeffrey on ere.net – read it if you have time.

Somewhere back in the Late 90’s as the Internet was just flourishing I was lucky enough to be working on the development of some pretty smart technology that was taking the best of what the Internet could offer at the time and using it to radically improve a recruiters ability to ‘source’ potential candidates.  Note the use of ‘potential’.  This was all about the routing out the passive candidate – the non job seeker.

Granted, it was early days.  Connectivity wasn’t brilliant, the tech was a bit crude and with the exception of the advanced few, most of the professionals on the web were in IT.  But the potential was there and we achieved some pretty smart things even back then.

Then came the sliding doors moment.  Up to this point, for most candidates, applying for a job meant physically printing your CV, stuffing it in an envelope, licking a stamp and posting it.   And of course, as candidates we actually read the job ad too.  Cue the job board phenomenon and suddenly a job application was only a click away.  As a result, rather unwittingly, we turned on the mother of all firehoses.

This represented a strategic turning point in both the direction of technology and the make up of the recruiter.  And so it came to pass – the response industry was born.  More jobs, more candidates – what is there to do but to build solutions to manage that response and filter it down in some way?   It awoke what had been a relatively sleepy recruitment software industry, and, over the intervening years, ATS’s went into mainstream and even the major ERP vendors got in on the act.  Internet penetration continued, more professionals went online, and so more job boards sprang up to cover pretty much every area of the career spectrum.  I remember many people telling me at the time that HR and Accounting professionals will NEVER look for a job online! Haha, yeah right.

This change also spawned a whole generation of recruiters who’s primary focus become response management, at times sinking under the deluge of the jobseeking masses.  As Darius Norell so aptly put it at the recent #connectinghr unconference, recruitment consultants became rejection consultants.  You may scoff, but as someone who recently did an analysis of what recruiters were actually spending their time on, in real terms, it made you weep to realise precious little of that time was spent on what the industry really needs to get back to doing – sourcing.

My point?  Well, the social dynamic, as useful as it appears, is not going to deliver its full potential in the response management play.  No sir.  The real power and potential of this automation of our social connectivity is in sourcing.  I firmly believe that.  Sure, it’s in its infancy.  But where technology needs to go, and where I believe the next generation of smart plays will emerge, is in sourcing.  Using the technology and the social fabric to mine for non job seekers – the 90% that Matt refers to in his Core Philosophy of Recruitment 3.0 – is where the industry needs to focus it’s energy and innovation.

As someone who recently stepped out of the direct recruitment market and now spends their time exploring and working on solutions that exploit community and social technologies to reach passive target audiences in other sectors, it seems to me that the recruitment technology industry really needs to step back and think again about how it got here.  More importantly, it needs to consider how it can move away from driving and managing response.

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