Recruitment is dead. Redefining the search for talent

As a digital strategist, I live and breathe technology. I have been brought up to believe in the impossible. 30 years ago, The world wide web was impossible. Just 11 years ago it was impossible to imagine that everyone would be carrying a personal computer that is small enough to fit in their pocket and run their lives.

Impossible is something that just hasn’t happened yet. When a complex problem like recruitment exists, there is always a first and someone has to believe that it can be solved. As a digital strategist, I live and breathe technology. I have been brought up to believe in the impossible. 30 years ago, The World Wide Web was impossible. Just 11 years ago it was impossible to imagine that everyone would be carrying a personal computer that is small enough to fit in their pocket.

Social Media as a Recruitment Model 

Recruitment Blog post
Recruitment is Dead

I have been on LinkedIn for just over 6 months.

The engagement has been beyond my wildest dreams. I have networked with great people, far and wide from all lines work. However, one thing has really stood out for me on my journey through social media so far – the amount of posts related to the state of recruitment and how bad it is. And I would have to agree.

In the age of digital transformation, you would have thought that a writer and practitioner in this space would be in high demand. I have had many conversations with my network and unearthed some great opportunities. However, what is telling – in that time I have received very few approaches from a hiring managers or HR departments of established companies. I can only assume that the agency model is doing it’s job in keeping the candidates away from the client and that hiring managers and HR people have no time at all to engage on LinkedIn.

I have had approaches from recruiters but frustratingly, the roles are never quite right. The rates are either too low, the location too far or it’s a job that I’m not qualified for. I find this a bit perplexing and it is probably down to a lack of due care and rigour in the candidate researching process. My full CV is publicly available here in LinkedIn. It’s pretty obvious what I stand for on my profile. I have recommendations from respected peers people verifying my work. I have samples of my work on here too. I communicate daily with all types of people on social media. If it’s all on here then why do we still have to use antiquated Word CVs and job boards? Why is there still widespread frustration and misery when it comes to finding a job?

Old habits die hard

From a candidate point of view, recruitment is indeed dead. It’s like talking to a brick wall or a rock at times. The industry seems to have had the life strangled out of it primarily by short termist leadership on the client and recruitment sides. There are also the multitude of job boards and concepts such as applicant tracking systems, preferred supplier lists and contingency recruitment options, which contribute to problems. Surely, something as simple as hiring an employee can’t get that complex – but it has. Unfortunately, the way i see it – this is being driven by the client and HR. Their needs are more often than not short term and aimed at satisfying shareholders for the next quarterly reporting period. With traditional organisations facing increased competition and waning bottom line figures, It is likely that HR have been told by C Levels to cut costs to preserve the growth targets. Recruitment is an easy target as the figures are large. It is this race to the bottom in many industries that is promoting mediocrity and allowing it to thrive. Given the much publicised war for talent in Tech, this focus on cost will also turn out to be a false economy.

Scouting for talent

If I was recruiting my own team of superstars, I would have found my team already.


Well the method it is not exactly groundbreaking because it is already being used by sports teams.

It’s called scouting for talent. In sports, a scout is payed to spot talent. This involves going to local clubs, watching games, doing research. Scouts are also experts in their chosen field. They know the game better than anyone and they know talent when they see it. The initial criteria for defining talent normally comes in a checklist format but then after that it is about spotting patterns of human and social behaviour which meet the needs.

In this day and age, Social Media is your playing field. Since I have been on LinkedIn I have quickly become not only “connected to”  but well acquainted with some amazing talent. The future Richard Bransons, Marissa Mayers, creative CMOs, technically minded CDOs, digital marketers, transformation gurus they are all here. You can see them at work on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

With the latest advancements in technology, these methods for predicting top talent can also be programmed into a machine and together with data mining and analytics techniques, this could be the game changer for recruitment. Surely this is something that a recruiter would be interested in?

So why aren’t recruiters doing it?

Ultimately it boils down to money and probably cognitive bias. While they are still getting paid a handsome amount by corporations for their current services there is no need to change. From the many comments I have heard, many are doing their job badly without doubt but unfortunately, they are not being held to account by HR departments who also seem to be asleep at the wheel. In many cases, lead conversion and retention per agency are not measured. There are no league tables and no barriers to entry in recruitment. This makes continuous improvement a management challenge. This lack of transparency and low barriers, allows mediocrity to enter and prevail.

The ugly truth is there are just too many agents in between the hiring manager and the candidate (HR and recruiters) and corporate race to the bottom is making this situation worse. Many of these new recruiters and HR people have absolutely no understanding of the areas they are recruiting for, I would liken the situation to “hiring Mickey Mouse to scout for Manchester United.” Now Mickey is a great children’s entertainer but I’m pretty sure he has no idea how to spot the next David Beckham or Wayne Rooney.

This is leading to the following fixed mindset cognitive biases which go against every talent management and coaching manual written:

  • Employed people are better than the unemployed
  • Vertical experience is mandatory. Anyone in a another vertical should be filtered out automatically
  • If you have been out of work for more than 12 months, there must be something wrong
  • Only hire people who have experience of the public sector eg. Government Digital Service,
  • Only hire people under the age of 50

All these biases assume that people don’t have the capacity to learn and grow into new areas which is ridiculously flawed thinking. This sort of filtering is just plain lazy, quick fix stuff which is symptomatic of a lack of knowledge about human resources, the job role, the industry and the whole system in general.

In the age of digital transformation, there will be consequences to these policies because they are playing right into the hands of the startups and disruptors who are doing their homework.

If you are reading this as a C-Level of an established firm and you are not happy with your recruitment policies, I would order an audit of HR immediately to review the current situations. Quality metrics such as: interview rate per recruiter, conversion rate per recruiter and average retention period per recruiter can be easily tracked with current technology.

What does the future hold? 

Recruitment is an area ripe for digital disruption. Although the killer Uber app hasn’t arrived just yet, it is only a matter of time. There are however, some very good ideas out there already which should give us a steer on how the next 5 years might play out in the recruitment space:

Review sites

There are a number of sites which allow candidates and clients to review and rate recruiters.


Platforms made famous by eBay, Uber and AirBnb, connect clients directly with either agencies or candidates

  • – UK based platform matching clients to recruiters
  • – UK based platform matching clients to candidates
  • – UK based platform matching clients to contractors (under construction)
  • – US based platform matching clients to candidates
  • Indeed Prime – UK based platform matching clients to candidates backed by Indeed
  • – UK based platform matching clients to candidates
  • – marketplace for IT professionals available in the US, Australia and New Zealand

Social media

As a source of data, social media has it all. You can find your talent on here if you know what you are looking for. So what are the main sites to look out for?

  • – the social networking site for professionals
  • – An alternative to LinkedIn with focus on personal branding and communities
  • – A new site geared towards young people with the aim of 2 million opportunities for young people by 2020 (ETA June)
  •– great example of a niche talent/social site aimed at serving a very specialised group of people. allows budding sports stars in the US to market themselves to a much wider audience

High Quality recruitment 

  • Headhunters – Headhunters do a great job of scouting for talent but their service is expensive and tends to be restricted to executive positions which provide a high margin
  • Candidate focused agency – Find a book of the best talent you can identify, find out what they want and put them in touch with an employer that fits?

Technological Innovation

  • – An innovative agency which operates in Africa and uses the most up to date technology to identify the right candidates.
  • TBC – My friend Charles Wigelsworth also believes he has a great solution in mind, which he believes will revolutionise recruitment

Good luck to all those looking for jobs. Believe in yourself, keep going and never give up. This situation will evolve and market forces will sort things out eventually. If you could help share this article to get the message out there in social media, hopefully this will inspire more out-of-the box thinking in this area. I will conclude with a well known cliche which sums up the current situation:

“Remember, It’s not you, it’s the system, stupid!”

Happy job hunting