Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Why The Internet Can Never Replace Recruiters

There is no question that to save companies money, many have eschewed their recruiting relationships in favor of electronic recruiting.  It is a trend which will last for a while, but will ultimately decline.

Nothing can replace the personal relationships companies and executives have with their recruiters. Recruiters who know companies intimately and know the people and issues within the company cannot be replaced by a job board.  Personal knowledge makes recruiting faster and far more efficient.

I have yet to see an electronic recruiting board that deals accurately with real job specs.  Many job specifications actually should not be published publically no matter what level the job (these kinds of things may include the reason the job is open, the problems with other employees, clients or suppliers, as well as the business situation).  Nor have I seen a job board which can deal accurately with candidates’ accomplishments, strengths (and weaknesses) that are totally relevant to the listed job; these are things which can only be determined through a thorough interview – whether in person, via phone, Skype or Face Time.  The essential elements of personality can only be determined through interface and observation. Impersonal job boards can only select applicants based on what the applicants have submitted to them, which rarely approaches the essence of a job.  

Nothing can replace eye contact when it comes to hiring.  And while 99% of people hired will eventually be interviewed in person, those interviews come after candidates have been identified and preliminary interviews have taken place, mostly on the telephone.  The trick is to identify the right candidates in the first place so that the people being interviewed and going through the process are all “right” candidates.

A president of a major company recently told me that his turnover, particularly among juniors, was very high and he couldn’t understand why.  I told him it was largely due to the quality of the candidates his company received through the internet.  They are not using recruiters.  There is anecdotal evidence, although I have not seen a study, that people placed by a recruiter have greater retention in their jobs than those recruited online.

I firmly believe that the best candidates do not use the internet.  Every recruiter has a stockpile of successful executives who will only deal with trusted recruiters; these executives, even when actively looking for new employment, simply do not use public job boards.

The price that companies are paying for their penny wise strategy is very high.  At some point, the CFO’s who control acquisition costs by forbidding the use of outside recruiters (except in extreme cases), will realize that their savings are actually not savings at all.  The cost of excess turnover is extremely high – lost time, time spent recruiting and screening, client dissatisfaction, retraining – and cannot be compensated for by continuously making the same mistake.

Personal relationships count for a lot.  There are many companies that every recruiter works with where those companies trust and rely on their recruiters to send them only appropriate candidates. Those recruiters and companies understand each other – the culture, the work environment, and the kinds of people who succeed.  The internet cannot make up for that kind of personal knowledge relationship.

The efficiency that comes with that knowledge cannot be duplicated by impersonal web-recruiting. 
That is why this trend will not continue.  Many “job boards” have already disappeared or diminished and more will go away soon.


  1. Hot Diggity Dog Paul! Mind if I ride your coat tails here? You've also made an excellent pitch for the "human" component of our AgencyFinder process. No point and click Internet agency search offering can address many of the critical "bits" you've mentioned as well. Thanks! And here's to great matches.
    Best, Chuck Meyst

  2. Just a few additional points, if I might … 1) It’s true. Most senior and C-level execs don’t use job boards. But that’s mainly because most “senior jobs” or positions aren’t posted on job boards. After word-of-mouth and professional referrals, they go to selected specialty recruiters and search firms like Heidrick & Struggles, Spencer Stuart, Boyden, et al, and most top execs know that. 2) Middle-managers (the sweet spot for most recruiters or headhunters) will ALWAYS use a COMBINATION of recruiters AND job boards, because that’s where most of the jobs are. 3) “Juniors” and entry-level candidates will ALWAYS use job boards – now and forever – because a.) most recruiters don’t want to handle them and the candidates know it, and b.) they’re just playing the online “posting” percentages and hoping to get lucky in any case. As for company/client employers, they are usually looking for “round pegs to fit round holes”, rendering things like personality, eye contact, and “essence of the job” moot. Of course I could be wrong about all this, but I doubt it. And if anyone thinks Indeed.com is going away anytime soon, think again.


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