Why Recruitment is broken – A solution?

I wanted to write this article for quite some time. I had a lot of things in my mind but a hard time organizing them, so people would understand as I wanted to describe them. So this is my trial of doing so.


Recruitment has evolved over several decades and stages. There are many definitions of the stages.

Here I would like to describe my point of view how I see them.



Recruitment 1.0

Many would describe this era as the time of traditional fax applications (At least in the US), print media job advertisement and applications by postal mail.


My view of this goes a little more back to 1950. When people lived in small towns mostly and have known each other since many years. Not many people ever moved away and everybody knew each other. If you were looking for a new job back at that time, which rarely happened anyway, you had about 2 options. Either to sort through printed job ads in the newspaper, however, there were not many, or to talk to people.


You asked at the butcher shop, the local restaurant, the local grocery store or any other place you would feel comfortable working at. You chose your future employer based on their values and if you liked each other. Of course, skills were important but it was much more fundamental to know that you and your boss are on the same page because you were looking to work there for the next 20-40 years.



Recruitment 2.0

Most of the time this is described as the era when everything went online. Print adverts transformed into online job ads and the processing of the CVs and applications moved onto the internet. Most of the processes stayed the same, but technology evolved and made things much faster. Jobs were published in an instant and CVs were received by companies in the form of email from anywhere.



Recruitment 3.0

This stage of the evolution is largely described as the introduction of the possibility to approach and manage “passive candidates”. These are candidates that are currently not looking for a job but are open for change. One of the big keywords of this era is talent management.


Through Monster, LinkedIn and many other services it is now possible to search for, approach and connect with talents and keep in touch with them. It also induces employer branding, marketing and public relations that focusses on selling the company to the market of candidates as a precious gem and therefore, attract the best talents.



Recruitment 4.0?

This would be the obvious next step. Ideas about what it should look like are very diverse. It starts with the name. For example, I would not call it just 4.0 but rather something like Recruitment X. Why X? Well, you can also call it Recruitment P but I think X looks cooler. I would call it X and not a following number because I believe, to sustain the recruitment industry, it must be revolutionized.



Why revolution and not evolution?

Well, evolution is something made a little better than the previous version. Humans evolve, animals evolve. A revolution creates massive change. For example the french revolution from 1789 turned everything upside down and I believe this is what will and must happen with recruitment to be able to sustain as an industry.


Many people I have talked to, since I started out in recruitment 7 years ago, are unhappy with most of their recruiters. Especially the candidates are. They tell me, recruitment is the industry where it is the hardest to find a reliable agency. It’s almost impossible to find a recruiter who cares they say. But why is it so difficult and why do so few recruiters care about the candidates and just about the companies?


Well, if you look purely on where the money comes from it seems clear. The candidate receives all services completely for free and the companies pay the bills. The problem is, that without a candidate, there is no fee to be paid by the company and the recruitment agency does not earn anything. So on the second thought, the candidate seems much more important to be able to receive a payment from a client. 

In short: If there is no candidate, no agency is getting paid.



The broken process

One thing that is broken in recruitment is the process. The average chain looks like this:

1. Candidate

2. Recruitment Agency

3. Internal Recruitment or Human Resources

4. Decision makers


If all the parties involved would bring value to the chain, the problem would never be that severe. But because many recruitment agencies and internal recruitment/HR do not bring much value or even slow down the process, it is a disaster.


Said that, there are of course recruitment agencies and HR departments that bring much value to the process but they are rare.

But not just the count of the parties involved make recruitment so inefficient.



Count of applicants

Besides the parties involved, for many general jobs there is a huge amount of CVs sent in. Therefore the receiving party has to screen all the applicants and try to optimize the process to be able to handle the work load. But does it help to just optimize the process?



How to evaluate a match

Since the dawn of Recruitment 1.0, there has only been one document, the so called CV, Resume or Curriculum Vitae, to assess the fit of a candidate for a position in the first place. Has anybody ever asked if this is appropriate? It doesn’t look like.



Technical skills of recruiters

In many industries like IT and Science, there are many recruiters who have little knowledge about any of the technical matter. I am not saying a recruiter has to be able to administrate a database or program in C++ or Java but it is essential to understand what Java is and that is has nothing to do with the island in Indonesia.


There are trainers available who can teach recruiters the basics they need to know about their industry and it does not take more than a week of intensive training. It is done very rarely and recruiters are expected to bring the knowledge with them when they start. For seasoned recruiters this is acceptable but if a recruitment agency decides to employ recent graduates to do the work, they must be trained properly.

You did not want your surgeon to be a greenhorn, why should your recruiter be one?


This does not only apply to recruitment agencies but also to internal recruitment. How is an HR person who has not much knowledge about IT or Science, supposed to evaluate if a candidate is a fit for the position?


This is the part when the CTRL+F function comes into play and the thinking “If he does not have Eclipse RCP in the CV, he has never worked with it” and “If his last 3 job titles have not been Business Analyst, he can’t do the job”.

I believe HR and recruitment should clearly be separated as the skill set for both roles are very distinct.


Why can’t we do the screening and processing with software

Well, unfortunately some companies already implemented software to screen the CVs in terms of technical skills and sort out the 80% that do not fully match. There was a test this year where a senior executive applied for his own job at the company and got rejected. 



The solution?

So what should recruitment look like? Services such as LinkedIn have made it much easier to search for candidates and connect with each other. However, I do not believe that it brings people closer together. Maybe LinkedIn will eventually get there but for the moment it is not.


I am sure many of you get job requests on a regular basis on LinkedIn or maybe apply for jobs directly. How much do you know about the company, their values, your boss and your future colleagues before you sign that next job contract? How sure about if you are on the same page as your colleagues are you when you have that 2nd interview?


If you take on a new job, how long would you like to remain at the company? 1 or maybe 2 years, or are you more interested in 5-10 years? If the case is the latter, how important are the values of your department, the interests of your boss and colleagues and the company culture? I bet very important.


I know there are some corporations that offer a trial day where they let you work for free for one day. This is a good way to see some bits and pieces of what is going on within that company, but how much does is show you really?


I believe that in a perfect world, when people start a new job, they know the values of the company and their employees. I mean the real ones, not the ones that marketing has rewritten so much that it complies with the corporate identity but does not match reality any more.

In a perfect world, the candidate would have the possibility to get to know the people in his desired firm even before he is looking for a job.


I am aware that there are some attempts to do that with career fairs and other events. However I believe that this is only the first step. The next step should make it easier to connect with each other based on values, passions and interests.



Working and living

Because the gap between working a living – the so called work-life balance – diminishes more and more, I believe it is crucial that what we do at our work place is something that we not just like but something we love. Many times it is not the issue of the profession that people chose that makes them unhappy, but the work environment. Most people who work i.e. IT or Science are happy with that choice and like what they are doing.


It is the work environment, the company culture, the values of the people around you that shape your happiness. How great would it be if all the people in your department would walk in the same direction and believe in the same things? How much more fun would work be? How much more efficient would you be? And how much more profitable would that department and maybe company be?


If people work in an environment that they believe in – in terms of values, passions and interests – working stops to feel like working. Ask people who have reached the highest level of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, how they manage their work-life balance. They don’t, because whatever they do is what they love the most.



Final thoughts

I don’t have the answer on how to fix recruitment – yet. I believe however, that such a change in a massive industry like recruitment can only happen if everybody changes they way they think and act. 


So I encourage you, the next time when you are looking for a job or hiring for that “perfect candidate”, find a way to get to know your future colleagues. Get to know them personally. 


Many of the hiring managers who read this might think “I’m ways to busy to do that” and you might be right.

However, from experience with people I hired, if you hire the “right” people not just for the job, but for you as a Manager and for the team and department, everything becomes much easier. Suddenly people start to propose solutions to you instead of bothering you with problems.

They also invest much more into what they do – not just time, but they put their heart and soul into it.



What do you think the future of recruitment will hold? Please leave a comment below!


If you are interested in approaching your job search from a different perspective, have a look at the Job Search Academy.