It seems pretty clear that the recruitment industry has reached a major tipping point. The battles we face in the coming years are quite different from those we have toiled with to date.
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Reflect on this for just a moment. For decades, we have battled with how to reach the right candidates with our recruiting messages. Newspaper advertising, job boards, resume databases, Google AdWords – all were part of an ongoing struggle to have our recruitment messages seen by the right people.
Except that's no longer the challenge, is it? Candidate sourcing and targeted social advertising have evolved to such a degree that reaching the right people is no longer our main challenge. With the right licenses and training, recruitment teams worldwide can reach candidate audiences that they could only have dreamt of just a few years ago.
The battle today is all about candidate conversion. If everyone can reach the right candidates, the winners and losers in the war for talent will be determined by which recruiting teams become most effective at converting potential candidates into actual applicants (and ultimately hires).
Against this backdrop, I was interested to learn from Steve Walker, founder of recruitment marketing platform idibu, about the main themes he heard experts talking about at 2016's HR Tech conference in Chicago. It's no coincidence that all the experts he spoke to were forecasting a rise in technologies and partnerships that would further recruiters' efforts to interact with candidates and convert possible interest into applications.
So, what were some of the hot topics at HR Tech 2016? Here's what I learned from Steve:
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Of course, being more smartphone-friendly has been a theme for a number of years now, but Steve's conversation with Aaron Charbonnet uncovered some really interesting data. Aaron's company has shown that it takes people two days to respond to an email, but it takes people less than 20 minutes to respond to a text. This holds out the intriguing promise that if you can increasingly communicate via mobile messaging, you can really drive down time-to-hire figures.
Recruiters have been slow to embrace mobile messaging to date, perhaps because they perceive it to be too intrusive. The reality is that this is an increasingly acceptable form of interaction with candidates, owing in part to the growing influence of millennials. Whether your company innovates here could have a dramatic impact on your hiring effectiveness over the coming decade.
Matt Alder's observation was that the prominence of recruitment marketing has really shot up, with lots of new entrants trying to get into the market – and indeed marketing themselves aggressively at the event. While stressing that recruitment and marketing are very different beasts, there's an increasing realization that a lot of the approaches that marketers use can be leveraged by teams of recruiters. The challenge is building recruitment marketing platforms that recruiters are able to deploy and that have translated what's working well in the broader marketing world into recruitment-specific offerings. The more effectively we can engage with candidates and retarget our messages to them (both before and during the hiring process), the more we can expect to drive up our candidate conversion rates.
Collaboration in HR Tech
Ward Christman of HRTechAdvisor pointed to the trend of HR tech companies collaborating much more with each other. This is a fascinating development. Historically speaking, providers have pitted their offerings against one another rather than collaborated. However, Christman is seeing tech providers increasingly accept that no one vendor is going to be able to do everything for everyone, so they're looking for better ways to combine their solutions. Their combined offerings are more powerful than the sum of the parts. Expect your various recruitment technologies to talk to each other more intelligently in the future, thereby bolstering the results that each is able to bring to your business.
According to Angie Brooks and Dannielle Sayre of Beyond.com, it seems the big question is whether the current trend of companies prioritizing candidate engagement marks a permanent shift toward treating candidates better. Or will we revert to our old ways as soon as the economy turns and there's no candidate shortage forcing us to go the extra mile?
There's certainly an argument that tight talent markets create the environment in which companies are forced to engage more willingly with candidates. Conversely, the impetus to do so could be lost during a downturn.
However, once technologies have been adopted that allow recruitment teams to engage with candidates more openly and effectively, it seems unlikely that they will turn back the clock. The momentum to improve candidate engagement further may ebb and flow with the buoyancy of the market, but the absolute level of candidate engagement will, I suspect, be driven up irrevocably by the technologies we are now embracing.
Building Talent Pools
Last but not least, Martin Bramall, managing director of idibu, is a firm proponent of bringing all these ideas together to build talent pools and to revitalize zombie resumes with which companies may have done nothing for the last few years. In his talk on building talent pools, I've heard Martin assert that technology is your friend. Using the right tech will help you to segment your talent and to engage with them at the right time – and in the right way.
Different segments of your talent pool and different individuals will need a tailored approach for engagement. Some candidates will be happy to be engaged via email, while others might prefer face-to-face or SMS-based communication. Some will need to be nurtured step by step via the delivery of content like white papers or industry announcements, and some will want a more direct approach. New recruitment marketing platforms are making this a reality, and investors are putting significant investments into these technologies.
Overall, it's an exciting time to be in recruitment. Just don't get left behind by the pace of change!