Technology Won't Solve Your Recruiting
Problems, So What Now?
By Marc Cenedella, CEO,
TheLadders.comLike 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 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
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.
the world of human capital, the big disruptive innovation came along in
1999 with the launch of Monster.com and HotJobs.com. 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
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
Talent Sourcing in the Digital
This was the opportunity that
gave birth to TheLadders.com. 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 TheLadders.com 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
* 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
* 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.
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
* 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
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