Peter Linas, EVP of Corporate Development and International, Bullhorn discusses past progress, present challenges, and future opportunities for recruitment.

A decade of change.

Ten years ago, the recruitment industry was grappling with the worldwide recession. It was a very different and difficult period. At the same time, Bullhorn made a bold decision to expand its operations internationally and reach out to the global community of recruiters.

Since then, we have seen the recruitment industry as a whole evolve and grow significantly. Expectations of the profession have changed, as the way people work has changed – but all of this is underpinned by digital transformation and the embracement of new technologies. We will be exploring these issues in further depth at Engage London, our annual conference for the UK and Europe.

Today, businesses across all sectors face renewed insecurities thanks to perennial skills shortages, globalisation, trade wars, and political and economic uncertainty. Moreover, today’s candidate-driven market is only adding to the complexity of fulfilling client needs and, by extension, running a successful recruitment business. 

That said, opportunities for growth do exist – in fact, our latest annual survey revealed that 79 per cent of global recruitment professionals expect their firm’s revenue to increase this year. But the first step to achieving long term success is understanding what has changed already, what needs to change now, and what will change in the not too distant future.

Automation and AI – are we halfway there?

Automation has already transformed many processes within the recruitment sector. The streamlining of routine, yet essential work, like conducting initial candidate outreach, scheduling meetings, and reporting is becoming more widespread, thanks to the increased adoption of software systems such as CRM and ATS. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the natural next step, going beyond basic automation and enabling the use of intelligent chatbots and voice assistants, natural language processing, machine learning, and predictive analytics to future empower the modern recruiter – and, critically, provide insights to inform critical business decisions. 

One application of machine learning (a subset of AI) we are seeing more and more often is the analysis of large data sets to make it easier to rank and shortlist candidates for a role, based on the information that already exists about previously successful candidates. In addition to better informed decision making, recruiters also benefit because they save time on manual analysis, with AI and automation working in tandem.  

Of course, AI is a hugely diverse field – and its true potential is far from realised, especially because the majority of recruitment firms are only just starting to really reap the benefits of automation. Adopting automation successfully is an absolute prerequisite for the adoption of AI, so there’s still some way to go for most recruiters. Yet, in the meantime, the future exploration and development of AI will continue, and we’ll still be talking about it in another 10 years’ time. 

Digital talent platforms – friend or foe?

Online job boards have been active for many years, but more recently we’ve seen the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn enter the recruitment space – with the latter currently testing a feature which will allow contract and freelance workers to advertise specific services that they offer on their profiles. Search engines are also stepping into the world of work with the likes of Google offering a recruitment tool: Google for Jobs. Other digital talent platforms like Upwork, Shiftgig, and Catalant, for example, are proving popular too because they can connect employers with gig workers directly.   

The challenge for recruiters is deciding whether or not digital talent platforms are their friends or foes. Our recent research indicates that the majority of recruiters remain unsure. Ultimately, recruiters can choose or not choose to use digital talent platforms as they see fit: while they may give businesses a reason not to hire a recruitment company, they can also serve as a valued additional source of qualified talent for recruitment consultants.

Recruitment marketing – an essential skill?

Given the current global talent shortage, specifically in the IT and STEM sectors, recruiters have to widen their reach and search for candidate engagement opportunities across a range of digital channels. This is particularly true when it comes to recruiting millennial and post-millennial talent, who expect nothing less – and, if anything, much more.

Marketing technology plays a huge role in helping recruiters expand their candidate searches. Various tools and platforms can work together to deliver personalised communications that are specifically targeted to an individual candidate and channel – be that SMS, social media, search engines or email. The reality is, personalisation is not a nice-to-have: it’s an absolute requirement for today’s recruiters. To deliver it, recruiters will need to upskill in different marketing disciplines and CRM strategies to ensure their communications are delivered to the right candidates, at the right times.

Are candidates are calling the shots?

As recruiters and employers brace themselves to meet challenges such as talent shortages, globalisation, and the candidate-driven job market, there needs to be a shift in thinking. Recruiters and employers must embrace the opportunities that an increasingly connected and flexible world of work present, but concurrently work harder than ever before to attract and convince candidates to take a role in order to plug talent gaps. 

Premium candidates often receive multiple job offers at any one time. Current employers don’t want to lose them, which means the candidate is empowered to renegotiate their existing package or move on. With so much choice laid out for them, candidates are able to command better salaries, flexible working schedules, increased training support, and, in some cases, a comprehensive career development plan. If an employer can’t meet these demands, the candidate will simply sell their services to a competitor that can. 

With an increasingly mobile talent base, candidates are looking beyond their borders to seek new opportunities abroad. The same can be said for businesses that are expanding their operations in new countries. The impact of globalisation is sometimes perceived as negative, but for recruitment firms that want to grow, it can offer truly dynamic opportunities. Recruiters need to identify untapped global talent pools and start to engage with them. 

Is it time to reassess recruitment?

In interesting, uncertain, and ever changing times, we need to reassess what it means to work in recruitment. It’s no longer enough to simply source and place candidates. Growing businesses and large enterprises alike need workforce solutions and employment strategies that are designed to adapt to and mitigate current economic, social, and political changes.

To prepare for increased competition and upcoming market challenges, recruiters need to get more involved in activities such as long-term planning and hiring strategies, upskilling and reskilling programmes, advising on organisational structures, and developing new job roles that don’t yet – but will soon – exist. A diverse and innovative approach to recruitment is key to staying successful in a changing world of work.

Shifts in the job market are unavoidable realities – nothing stays the same forever. As new ways of working increasingly set the tone for the future, recruitment firms need to stay agile, adapt to change, embrace digital innovation, and add more value to their clients. 

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