Technology Won't Solve Your Recruiting Problems, So What Now?

By Marc Cenedella, CEO,

The Internet has created a real Catch-22 for executive recruiters. Those of us with six-figure jobs to fill know better than to post them online and start a stampede of marginally qualified job seekers. But we also know that the Web is the easiest way to find applicants. So what's a 21st century recruiter to do? Should we abandon all technology advances, throw out our computers and do things the old-fashioned way?

Like it or not, the digital approach to recruiting isn't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it is estimated that the online employment category will generate $1.9 billion in revenues this year alone, up from $1.6 billion last year. The answer, then, is not to buck the trend, but to build a better filter.

The Innovator's Dilemma

There is a management theory authored by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, which holds that the status quo in any market is destined to be overturned by disruptive innovations. A simple example of a disruptive innovation is the digital camera, which has relegated traditional film photography to an entry in the history books. Another would be digital music, which has put CDs into the same bin as LPs and 8-tracks.

In the world of human capital, the big disruptive innovation came along in 1999 with the launch of and Suddenly, the game changed. Newspaper advertising was out; industry association breakfasts were replaced by online social networks. When the first job search websites were introduced, they ushered in a revolution in career mobility. In minutes, job-seekers could find dozens of great job openings and recruiters could very cost-effectively tap into a worldwide pool of qualified candidates.

There was only one problem. It was too easy.

The big job boards quickly got abused. This was particularly true in the $100,000+ market, where jobs that promised high salaries were met with floods of applicants, from both qualified and unqualified job seekers. As a result, recruiters were buried under piles of resumes and many highly qualified job seekers got lost in the shuffle.

Talent Sourcing in the Digital Age

This was the opportunity that gave birth to We had front row seats to see the shortcomings of the big boards and we realized that while the Internet is great for finding mid-market jobs, it does not work for high-end careers. There needed to be a system that separated the serious, highly qualified job seekers from those who were simply clicking "send" to every job post on the Internet.

Thus, our paid search model was born. By charging a subscription fee to job seekers, we've created just enough of a barrier to entry to keep out anyone who isn't serious about finding an executive-level job and, as a result, we've been able to maintain a highly qualified pool of applicants that recruiters love. The logic becomes simple: job-seekers find more opportunities than any other resource because recruiters know that continually puts them in touch with top talent. And the cycle continues.

Of course, there are several tools in the modern-day recruiter's digital arsenal, and though we'd like to think that we're the best one, we're not quite so vain as to think we're the only one. In the course of sourcing thousands of high-end job searches over the last four years - and building a network of over 31,000 recruiters - we've learned a thing or two about how to separate the wheat from the chaff when your job opening is posted on the Internet for all the world to see.

Some of the most effective steps are the following:

* Fix your website: For many companies, the recruiting sections of their corporate websites are an afterthought. We hear back from job seekers almost daily about the frustrating state of affairs at many corporate sites; and not just at small companies. Some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies who are always on the lookout for top talent have corporate websites that scream "go away" to job seekers. The corporate site is an invaluable recruiting tool and it can be a vital filter to weed out the riff raff and send the qualified candidates to the top. Some of the best include detailed job descriptions along with brief questionnaires that will automatically sort candidates based on pre-determined criteria. It is critical to remember that the first impression your company makes on every prospective employee is going to be your website; it should send the right message.

* Take off the veil: Veiled job listings that do include the company name and omit details in the job description are simply not as effective when recruiting senior-level talent. It's fine if you're posting a job for wait staff at a "fine dining restaurant" or counter help at a "fast casual eatery," but if you're recruiting a Senior VP of Sales, the most qualified individuals are going to want to know whose products they'll be selling before they blindly apply for a job. By veiling the company name on a high-end job listing, you virtually assure yourself that you'll only get mediocre talent in response.

* Use words that work: Word choice is extremely important when crafting a 100 word job post. Somewhere between the overly promotional copy of those work-from-home ads that promise "Amazing Opportunities!" and the cryptic, acronym-laden ads common among tech and financial companies (anyone know of a good VP of XBRL development?), there is a language sweet spot where clarity is king. In our experience, organized, qualified candidates tend to respond best to organized, clear-cut and informative job descriptions.

* Say thank you: One unfortunate side-effect of the Internet revolution in recruiting has been the abandonment of common courtesy among many recruiting professionals. And who can blame them? Because they get so many more applications for job postings, many recruiters simply can't communicate with job-seekers unless they plan to interview them. But don't forget: today's slightly under-qualified account executive may be the super-star VP you're trying to recruit five years from now. Or worse, he or she could be your competitor's star. With automated programs and a little organization, it is still possible to respond to every applicant. It's the mark of a truly professional organization.

The Innovator's Solution

The flip-side to the innovator's dilemma, of course, is the innovator's solution, which suggests that industries must continue to evolve to stay one step ahead of the competition. In our case, as shepherds of human capital, that means embracing new technology with a healthy respect for efficiency. There are only so many hours in a day. We still need to be able to source top talent despite the flood of resumes from not-so-top talent. Technology can help us, but we can't use it as a crutch. We are only able to leverage technology to its fullest by infusing it with our own, distinctly human expertise.