Technology killed recruiting

How Technology Killed Recruiting

How Technology Killed Recruiting

At most organizations, the idea of daily deliverables murdered strategy. I also often think that the sheer concept of “head count” murdered innovation. You can add another one to the “X-Thing In Business” murdered “Y-Thing In Business” column: technology damn near slashed recruiting’s effectiveness tires.

Look, I’ll be honest here: I went to grad school for HR/Organizational Development because I was interested in this kind of stuff. That ended up being mostly a mistake. I was 32 when I went, and grad school was all 22-23 year-olds for the most part. The program was mostly useless — we need two professors who basically never showed up, and now I have thousands in debt — and it was really hard to get a job, in part because the people who recruited from that program mostly wanted 22 to 25 year-olds, and not people with experience (certainly not people with experience in a different area than OD, which is what I had at the time).

My rejections were swift, fierce, and often pointless; here’s a story about one specific example. I was doing a lot of reading on recruiting and headhunting at the time, and came to a lot of different conclusions. One of them was that recruiting shouldn’t even go through HR — HR is viewed as transactional by most people at an org, so to run recruiting through it implies that recruiting is transactional, which is why no one really cares about “talent strategy” — and one was that LinkedIn, for all its promise, hasn’t really made recruiting any better. 

That goes into this point about technology and recruiting. It seems that, back in the 1970s/1980s, companies saw a fundamental recruiting problem in terms of effectively managing their pipeline of candidates down to the best possible hire. So, what did they do? They did what everyone always does: they slapped a piece of technology and a process on it, in this case the “ATS,” or applicant tracking system. You’re seeing the same thing right now with employee engagement. We’re trying to solve those issues with software, and we can’t — because they’re people issues.

Here’s what technology did to recruiting: it made it a process less about people and their skills and their ability to interact and more about a process where you need to game the system and/or beat the algorithm of the specific ATS. It essentially made recruiting a black hole; for some jobs, even low-level jobs that would end up under a terrible manager, there might be 220 applications daily. How can you “win” that?

You have a couple of options: you can work with some consultant who will tell you about “The Rule of 3” (total bullshit) or you can just try to network better (harder, but really the best path). My own job search ended because of mostly luck.

Here’s a good article from Liz Ryan at Forbes that explains this a little better:

Get a consulting business card and decide what sorts of consulting services to offer alongside your job search or in place of it. It’s a new day, and old-school traditional recruiting is not keeping pace. You are a brilliant value creator, and no Black Hole recruiting site will let your talents through to reach the people who could use your help.

You have to do your own heavy lifting now, because misguided leaders a generation ago took recruiting out of the human realm and into a soulless abyss through the worst use of technology  ever conceived. It will take a while for employers to realize that Black Hole recruiting isn’t doing them any favors. You don’t have to wait for your future boss to get the memo; you can deliver the memo yourself!

Basically, here’s what we did — we took a process (recruiting) that should be based on people and interactions and we somehow made it based on process and technology. In a way, this is what business always does, But in this specific arena, it’s so, so sad.


Ted Bauer


  1. I can’t think of an industry that has been, or is being digitally disrupted by technology, that didn’t fundamentally deserve it. However, history is riddled with massive disruption or even entire industry extinctions, (think textiles, steel, etc). due to corrupt political and market policies. Those are the people I have sympathy for.

  2. What a great article! My wife was in the job market for two years and I can’t believe how they have taken the human/relationship out of the hiring process!

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