Seth Godin wrote an interesting post a few days ago, called Beyond Geography. It is applicable to many industries, but it definitely struck me when it comes to recruiting.
So, here are the 3 stages of recruiting.
Stage 1: Geography
I wasn’t around to witness it, but I’m assuming most recruiting agencies started this way. “I know all the direct marketers in Boston” and boom, you have a small firm ready to go. Information was scarce, and so procuring it provided an incredible amount of value. Your “direct marketers in Boston” directory was probably the best around, so you could easily take advantage of that. A bit ho-hum, but hey – its a business.
The candidates themselves were probably content but not ecstatic about the service, but then again – they didn’t really have much of a choice. Basically you were the equivalent of the local laundromat. No offense.
Enter the Internet….
We are currently at the later stage of what I call the Commodity Period of recruiting. This tumultuous stage is defined by extremely low barriers to entry, pissed off candidates, and more emails than a Sakawa operation.
Now anybody could type in “direct marketers” and geo target “Boston”, and voila – all that hard phone work that you tirelessly put in throughout most of the 1980s is gone. You can throw it out with your shoulder pads and hairspray. Your “directory” is no match for the ultimate directory, LinkedIn.
Suddenly everybody is a recruiter. Show me somebody with a pulse and sign me up to a LI Pro account, and I’ll show you a fresh recruiter!
In tandem with this information access, email basically drove the cost of reaching out to somebody to zero. InMails and mail merging especially ensured that candidates were getting hounded multiple times a day.
Suddenly our direct marketers from Boston were getting emails from people in India advertising a job in Kansas doing part time work. Again and again and again. And they become jaded, guarded, and cynical. “All recruiters are horrible” they say.
The Great Shakedown
As Godin says, “a commodity business always lives on the knife edge of cheaper”. And we are beginning to witness it now. An internal recruiter using tools like TalentBin, Greenhouse, and Linked In Recruiter, is consistently getting the job done at for less. More and more companies “don’t work with recruiters”. Like the switch from bows and arrows to guns, it may take a bit – but it will happen.
Stage 3: Community
Nowadays, the real value is not in the access to the candidate or having a huge database, but in earning the talent’s attention and trust. And that leads us to the final phase in our recruiting trilogy: the community. The agency of the future will create a group of like minded people who trust them – a tight knit talent pool that will time after time return to them whenever they plan on changing jobs. It will be narrow but go deep. It will be the Shake Shack to the other firms’ McDonalds.
The Geography based recruiter makes placements by just being there. The Commodity recruiter makes placements because he’s sent the most emails. The Community recruiter makes placements because the candidates trust him.