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Jamie Lawrence

Wagestream

Insights Director

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Interview: Alistair Rennie, Managing Director of Foosle.com

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Is recruitment going through a crisis and if so, why?

There is a crisis but it’s nothing new. For a long time, the recruitment industry has failed to evolve in line with the on-going challenges faced by employers and candidates.  The industry has been sluggish about dealing with the frustrations employers have had for years: irrelevant CVs, recruitment agencies that fail to add value and a general lack of transparency about the recruitment process.  The arrival of LinkedIn has made this even more obvious by giving employers direct access to a vast database of potential candidates, putting recruiters under more pressure to demonstrate the value of what they do.

The old fashioned CV is a great example of what’s wrong.  When I started out in the recruitment industry 15 years ago, the typical process was to identify potential candidates by screening a pile of CVs, interviewing candidates and presenting a client with a selection of those CVs.  Many recruiters are still doing this in exactly the same way. CVs have their place, but they aren’t infallible. They rarely show the real person behind the CV and candidates also stretch the truth. The only way to really know what someone is like is to meet them face to face, but that takes time. Before launching Foosle we spoke to employers and almost all of them said they made up their mind about someone within ten minutes of an interview starting. To then have to waste time, going through the motions by carrying on an interview despite knowing the person isn’t right for the role, is very frustrating. It’s no wonder employers are questioning the value they get from recruitment agencies. It’s time for a change. 

If we’re redefining the recruitment process are we also saying there’s an issue with how we identify talent?

Recruiters know talent when they see it.  The hard part is identifying that talent in the first place.  With the emergence of social platforms, people initially believed this would benefit hirers by creating greater visibility of talent in the marketplace.  This is not the case.  If you consider these platforms to simply be an enormous ‘database’ imagine the challenges that exist in screening potentially millions of candidates through a simple written profile that is often, at best, no more than the equivalent of an old fashioned CV.  This means finding better, more efficient ways to use new technology to identify, shortlist and then engage with talent.  Leaving it to the first interview and spending an hour each with four or five people – when you know four of them are unsuitable in the first 10 minutes – is a disappointing experience all round. It also takes up a huge chunk of the time it takes to fill each vacancy.

Do companies just not really know who the right people are for their business?

They may know, however the way that organisations identify their talent needs varies considerably.  Business is about more than just skills, experience and achievements; it’s also about personality, social interactions, confidence and other such more human qualities.  Companies need to place more emphasis on this and ensure they understand the correct balance of all the attributes an individual must have to add greatest value to their organisation.  A very simple example is where an organisation may require a specific technical person.  Emphasis may be placed on the use of their expert knowledge, but whilst this is important, if that person is working as part of a team,  then it should be of equal importance that they have the personal skills to work effectively as a part of that team.

In an ideal world, to find the right people we’d have each candidate come in to the business for a trial period to see how they fair, but this isn’t realistic.  So the next best option is to look at how technology can help.  Online video interviews are one such example – they’re quick, easy to use and straight to the point, so there’s no need to waste time on unsuitable candidates.  Having this as part of the process will allow employers to see more of the individual’s attributes and determine whether they’re aligned with the qualities that are considered to be important for the role.

Recruitment is increasingly being moved in-house, why is this? Is it a matter of guarding and maintaining the brand?

People regularly assume that insourcing is just about the cost of recruiting and employers wanting better value for money.  Whilst this can be a key driver often there are other reasons.  For example, employers are increasingly looking to take greater control of their brand and EVP.  In the past if they engage with 3rd parties to deliver recruitment they would have limited control over this.  One way to regain that control is by developing their own internal resourcing function.  I’ve seen a significant increase in employers who deploy that strategy for this reason as opposed to the more traditional cost saving initiative and of course sometimes for both.

What are job-seekers looking for from employers nowadays? Who do they want to work for?

The days of using a simple job spec and relying on the advice of a third party to attract the best talent are long gone.  Job-seekers want more opportunities to engage directly with a wider range of employers and to be allowed to form their own opinions about whether an employer is trustworthy and fits their personal criteria. Whilst candidates can research a wealth of information on the internet, two-way communication via social media has proven an invaluable tool for job-seekers and employers alike to get a closer insight into each other. And whilst the reputation, image and identity of a company may be fundamental to helping job-seekers decide on the type of company they’d like to work for, the truth is, the once distanced connection between people and prospective employers is shrinking. 

Nowadays, job-seekers can ‘like’, ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ an employer online, engage in conversations and contribute opinions to an employers topic of discussion, making the connection between candidate and employer mimic more human-like interactions.  For job-seekers, deciding on the right employer therefore becomes like choosing a life partner.  Whilst the role and pay remain important, closer attention is being paid to assessing the suitability of an employer based on their business, culture and values, in the same way that we may determine whether someone we’re dating is worth getting into a relationship with by looking at their friends and family (employees, management team), ambitions (career progression, professional development), security/commitment offered (working hours, type of contract, annual leave entitlement, benefits package) and whether there’s any prospect of a future together (promotion, pay rise).  Ultimately, job-seekers want to work with an employer that they feel they can know and trust, and more direct and personal communication is the way to achieve this.

Are you afraid that Foosle will give internet-savvy/media-savvy job-seekers – often but not always from Generation Y – an unfair advantage?

No, in fact Foosle presents a great opportunity for everyone and, if anything, it levels the playing field.  We are all more connected now than we’ve ever been, with the majority of us owning smartphones, tablets and laptops that can connect to the internet any time, any place, thanks to innovations in mobile networks and the widespread use of wifi.  This means that by clicking on Foosle, candidates no longer have to rely on just a CV, which may not showcase those ‘softer’ qualities like eloquence and people skills.

Also, we’ve designed the site to be completely user-friendly, providing training, guidance and support all freely available to use at any time.  There’s even a wizard to help guide people through how to get started using tools such as CV Sync to help instantly merge their CV into their new profile.   So whether someone is completely au fait with the internet and technology or not, using Foosle is quick, simple and easy, with help on hand should they need it.

What will the recruitment space look like in 20 years?

Change is inevitable and the recruitment industry will need to evolve faster to keep up.  We already live in a world where people are comfortable with using the power of digital tools to communicate with others. By 2033 employers and candidates can expect to engage more directly and this will lead to greater transparency but also more scrutiny, with nowhere for poor recruitment practices to hide. 

Even in the next five years, I expect to see a bigger shift towards treating candidates more like consumers.  And an ever more transient workforce will mean there is a far wider group of better networked potential candidates, willing and able to share their experiences across a range of social media and online channels – all the more reason for employers to ensure the recruitment process is as positive and efficient as it can be.

Unconscious biases can affect recruitment and these become more acute when the decision-maker has greater interaction with the candidate. This means depersonalisation can actually be important to help recruiters make the ‘right’ decisions. But recruitment is becoming MORE personal and more interactive. Is this a problem?

I’m afraid unconscious bias will always exist.  By de-personalising the recruitment process we will not reduce this. For example if a traditional CV is used as a screening method, this probably provides information that unfortunately would trigger that bias anyway.  For example, the number of years employment may be an indicator of a person’s age, an individual’s name may reveal their gender or ethnicity etc.  Making the process more personal can only enhance and improve the decisions made by both parties.  The higher the level of engagement between an employer and a jobseeker the greater insight both will have as to whether the match is a good one – this is a fact. Remember, recruitment is about people.  Technology can be used to support the basic principles of good recruitment and using any ‘personalisation’ tools that directly connect employers and jobseekers, will make the process of finding very best people for the job, more efficient and robust.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence
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