When it comes to technology and data, recruiting as an industry is failing

While other industries have embraced technology, the recruiting industry has fallen behind. Not in its talent mind you – recruiting as a field is filled with immeasurable talent – but rather by clinging to outmoded technologies and strategies.

Last November, the Wall Street Journal reported that the hardest job right now to recruit for is, funny enough, recruiters.

The article is packed with insights about how our current job market has made the need for great recruiters more urgent than ever before, as companies struggle to fill critical positions. And although some of the recruiters interviewed mention that the job market has made their jobs somewhat harder, overall the sentiment of the piece is a positive one:

“Recruiting is having its day.”


That may be true. 

Still, this doesn’t change the fact that right now, as an industry, recruiting is failing

While other industries have adapted to new norms and embraced technological innovations in recent decades, the recruiting industry has fallen behind. Not in its talent mind you – recruiting as a field is filled with immeasurable talent – but rather by clinging to outmoded processes, technologies and strategies.

To show you what I mean, let’s examine another industry: real estate.

Real estate and recruiting are not so different

Buying a house is intense, exciting … and very, very stressful. 

Even if you end up going through this pressure-filled, complex process more than once in your life, each time you do so, you’re making an indelible choice about your future – more specifically, you’re deciding where you (and your family, potentially) will call home. And, unlike a shirt you can return to the store when it doesn't fit quite right, making the wrong choice can be financially devastating and extremely costly to remedy. 

It’s also a process where so many things need to go right. 

There are inspections and negotiations and legal hoops to jump through and “Hey, the underwriters want to know if we can get a copy of every monthly bank statement of yours from 1996 forward to last month, thanks!”

You get the point. 

Recruiting, if you think about it, is quite similar … on both sides of the fence.

If you’re a company that has decided to expand your team, you’re likely doing so in service of a greater mission. You have a vision of something you want to build or achieve, with tangible business objectives of how you’re going to get there. And part of that big plan involves bringing new, talented people in to bring your ideas to life. 

You’re also making a choice about your future, and when you get it right with a good hire, anything is possible.

But much like a house, the cost of a bad hire can be devastating

People are also not returnable shirts. Beyond the often-cited statistic that a bad hiring decision will cost at least 30% of that person’s first-year salary (which is bad enough on its own), there are also the untold burdens it puts on your current employees. 

They were relying on their new teammates to help them move initiatives forward, and instead they’re left to pick up the workload that has now been left behind. 

If you’re a candidate, your story is somewhat different, but the theme still remains. 

You’re making a choice about your future, your career, your next step. In fact, thanks to the pandemic, more people than ever before are thinking more deeply about their work and the role it plays in their lives

Also, the hiring process itself is tricky. Every company you apply to likely has their own unique way of doing things – phone screening, video interview questions, situational activities to test on-the-job skills, references, background checks, and so on. Then there are the vagaries of compensation packages and understanding your true worth. 

Just like the companies who are seeking you out, you’re making a choice about your future. 

When you get it right, anything is possible. When you don’t, the consequences include diminished quality of life, unhappiness, and stress, as well as the hassle and cost of potentially switching jobs again. 

This is, however, where similarities between recruiting and real estate end. 

🔎 Related: Learn how can WhoCo help you advance in your career

Real estate has embraced innovation … 

These big life milestones – buying a home, moving your company forward with new people, making a choice about the next phase in your career – are somewhat timeless in their nature. Even in the face of rapid technological advancement and innovation, the spirit underpinning these very human goals has remained mostly intact for generations.

But how those goals are achieved, at least in the real estate sector, has changed. 

Although it was once very much a face-to-face, relationship-based business, technology has sent shockwaves through the real estate industry. From the online MLS listings service for realtors to direct-to-consumer platforms like Zillow, OpenDoor, Realtor.com, the entire real estate industry has embraced innovation with open arms. 

Everyone involved has not only changed how they do business because they have to, they continue to invent new ways of integrating the endless amounts of qualitative and quantitative data at their fingertips to improve every aspect of the home-buying process.

Yes, undoubtedly the industry experienced some growing pains (as everyone did) as they worked tirelessly to reinvent how the real estate market operates. That said, it’s easy to see they are looking to innovation with excitement to make systems and strategies smarter.

… recruiting, on the other hand, has not

In this moment, across the entire recruiting spectrum – companies with open seats, recruiters tirelessly trying to fill positions, candidates making choices about their future – there is a lot of pain and dysfunction. 

While the pandemic has certainly influenced this significantly by upending our ideas of how we work and the job market, I’d argue it is an unprecedented global event that has brought to light the flaws in our space that already existed. Now, we are simply at an inflection point where the cracks in our recruiting industry foundation (so to speak) can no longer be ignored. 

If we look to our cousins in real estate, their success and innovation is where we can find our greatest weakness. 

Recruiting is failing because we have abstained from embracing technology and data in a meaningful way to make recruiting smarter and less of the inefficient, painful, messy process that it is today.

Of course, some individual companies have figured out how to do this. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook – which, by the very nature of their business models, already live and die by data – have proprietary systems and processes in place to leverage data to make their own recruiting smarter at scale. 

But those systems are behind their walls, not available to the rest of us. 

We also can’t look to most of the recruiting automation platforms on the market to address the innovative shortcomings of our space.

For the most part, all they do is “address inefficiencies” enabling companies to run through (bad) recruiting practices faster, so companies are able to hire (poorly) at scale. They do nothing to empower smarter decision-making at a strategic level, and very few have begun to scratch the surface of what AI and machine-learning can do to augment the invaluable expertise of the human recruiter.

Recruiting can only survive (and thrive) through innovation

Throughout my career, I’ve made hundreds of hiring decisions, but I was never taught how to do it well. So, of course, I’ve made mistakes. And, as anyone in a leadership or recruiting role can tell you, making those types of mistakes hurts.

On top of that, as someone who has spent my life in the tech industry, I’ve never felt as if we were using tech or data in a way to make hiring decisions and processes smarter. 

This realization is what ultimately became the impetus for founding WhoCo. 

Our mission is to help companies build teams that move the world forward. And the way we do that runs deep, leveraging data across every step of our recruiting platform.

🔎 Related: Learn how can WhoCo help you build teams that move the world forward

For example, right now, the vast majority of recruiters spend countless hours on LinkedIn. Hours that could be spent on much higher-value tasks. We’ve developed sourcing technology that allows you to plug in key parameters you’re looking for and leverage machine learning to identify high-potential candidates significantly faster. 

We’re also using the data-driven approach of our platform to empower candidates to thoroughly vet potential career opportunities. 

This is accomplished through job profiles packed with data around compensation, skills, growth opportunities, team profiles, manager profiles, and more. (Like how Zillow empowers you to evaluate a house more deeply as a first step, before engaging with anyone.)

But my ultimate point in sharing this isn’t about our platform. 

We have to bring innovation into the recruiting industry together

Our industry has become more complex, global, and competitive than ever before. But, like we’ve talked about already, we are not unique in that regard. Much in the way the real estate industry has entirely reimagined how it functions through the lens of technology and data science, so can we. 

Innovation is how companies will find the right people to help them move the world forward. Innovation is how recruiters will scale their strategic expertise and better keep the promises they make to the leaders who rely on them. Innovation is how job seekers will make smarter decisions around how they will write the next chapter in the story of their careers. 

🔎 Related: Technical recruiting for modern companies and candidates

Already, I see so much potential for the recruiting industry. At WhoCo, our companies and recruiters are already experiencing what’s possible when they approach their hiring practices with a data scientist mindset and the right technology at their fingertips. 

We are not a panacea, however. This level of innovation required at this moment is one that no single organization can achieve on their own. As much as I think we are capable of great things, the problems I’ve laid out here cannot be solved by us alone. 

The only way recruiting can step forward into the future is if we all do so together.