Here’s Why Recruiting Is About to Crack Wide Open

I figured things would become more simple for the fields of Talent Acquisition and Recruiting over time. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, everything is getting more complex – and much more interesting.

At the “macro” level, here’s some of what’s up ahead…


We now have silos full of data but many companies don’t know how to find the right data and translate that data correctly. We’re going to see a whole lot more activity around “HR-related Data”. This means more tools and options, much more data, and confusion. The opportunity and risk will be considerable. If you haven’t already, you should start to get on board with data.

At some point soon, having good data insights will be a differentiator and a competitive advantage.


Recruiting is looking more and more like Marketing, but too many recruiters keep pushing like it’s “Sales”. The best companies understand this and are using employer branding, native advertising and storytelling to get their point across and find common ground with prospective candidates. Strategic sourcing and social media is starting to look like Marketing too. In fact, much of what we consider to be “talent attraction” or “candidate engagement” is Marketing. Does this mean the whole effort will eventually be handed over to the CMO in Marketing? Probably not. But the companies that have figured out how to market AND sell will win the war for mindshare. And owning mindshare – and the candidate relationship – can give a company the head start they need to stay ahead of the competition.

We’ve all read the articles about how employer branding is key to survival in the future. It helps to differentiate our company and brands from others. It helps us speak directly to the right audiences.

A strong employer brand and true value propositions will be necessary to attract more of the right people to the business over time. It will become a distinct business advantage.

Competition is fierce and many of our youth expect a culture that makes sense and speaks to them. How does a company react to this? This will move branding up a notch in importance, and it might be enough to move employer branding up from “nice-to-have to business advantage and a real “need”.


The applicant tracking systems from the last decade were used to streamline the candidate submittal process, but we lost something in the process. We pushed everyone into a system that is void of character. Most of our ATS databases have become one deep, dark pool of 100,000+ profiles we will never see again.

Additionally, studies show that as we filter out those who are unqualified, the best and most qualified often don’t apply either. We haven’t figured out how to have our cake and eat it too.

Technology claims to solve these problems, but it can also add unnecessary friction and risk. Hundreds of new recruiting tools claim to provide a “disruptive” solution, but most companies will still need to cobble together many technology and tools to create a full and real solution. This will get more complex before it gets more simple. But fear not, things are looking up and opportunity is everywhere.


Years ago, a recruiter provided quality-of-hire, time-to-hire – and going through them was one of the few ways to access great talent. Many companies were happy to pay a high fee for that combination of value.

But something has changed. Recruiters can no longer say that only they have access to the “best” talent because the database is no longer only in the hands of the recruiter. This is a meaningful change.

It’s fair to say a good recruiter still offers the ability to help a firm improve quality-of-hire, speed up time-to-hire, and help convince the right people to come work for the client company. But they no longer control “access” in the same way they did before.

And because most recruiters still promote their value as “having access to the best talent”, they are losing the high ground on this leg of the stool.

Companies see agency recruiters using the same tools, including: LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Dice, Monster, Job Boards, Twitter, and more. They see recruiters posting and praying. Go to any job board and you will probably see more agency recruiter posts than company posts.

Perception has shifted, and the real value of a recruiter is shifting, – and these subtle changes are impacting how companies relate to fees.

What is the real value of an outside agency recruiter? It can’t be only about access.

Most agency recruiters serve an important “need”, but even the good ones haven’t figured out how to articulate their real value in today’s market. Because of this, the market complains about “agency recruiters and their high-fees”. But what if everyone is too busy looking at the symptom that they can’t see the root cause?


I believe the real issue is a growing disconnect between perceived recruiter value and price. As I said above, the recruiter of old provided quality, speed, and access. Now, only the best can really own that they provide quality and speed.

Everyone in the business knows that a good recruiter still provides access, but the conversation has shifted. Yes, a good recruiter has many years of relationships build up and can usually find the right people. But the market believes everyone now has access. Most recruiters no longer have the lock on access. And because there are so many recruiters using the same tools as companies, the perception is that recruiters will (in the end) find the same people as the company can. Perception matters – and that is having a huge impact on fees.

Today’s recruiters need to move the conversation from access over to quality and speed – and their ability to convince people to want to be in the company. They need to get back to hard recruiting – the kind of recruiting worthy of a high fee. Or, they need figure out who to deal with being on the wrong side of the conversation about fees.

But I don’t believe the fee is the real problem. I believe value is.

Companies say they want to cut back on high agency fees, but they continue to use recruiting agencies. Why? Are they hooked on real recruiter value, or are they trying to compensate for a real weakness inside the firm? Some are happy to pay high fees because their agency recruiter is that awesome. Most of the rest have started to question value.

The answer is to right-size value and price. But too many agencies have build their business models around high-fees. Most don’t want to drop fees because it undermines their model. Companies on the other hand, want lower fees, mostly because they don’t see the same value as before. There might be some truth to it. But like I said, perception matters.

So, whats an agency to do? Do they continue to fight against lower fees, or work to improve value to match the fee?

One approach is to right-size the fee to the lower perceived value. This will create new opportunities for some by providing something different for less.

Unfortunately, that’s not what will work for most agencies. A different answer is for agencies to figure out how to get back to providing the right high value for the higher fee. This means getting back to recruiting basics; always delivering the right high-quality talent in the fastest way possible.

Most healthy companies shouldn’t need an agency recruiter for every position – but they will need them for some. Agencies should refocus their efforts on delivering high value on specific job openings where the high fee can match high value.

The entire market is currently priced poorly. And we are in the early stages of a very big correction. As we begin to right-value and right-price the (contingency) recruiting market, the perception / results gap will start to diminish, and we will have solved the problem of fees.

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