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Recruiters Have Always Had to Sell

I read this recruiting article, “ Your Future As A Recruiter: You Better Know How to Sell, Because Most of What You Do Today Will Be Done By Technology” by Dr. John Sullivan a while ago and the title bothered me from the start. The article is mostly written for the corporate recruiter and not a third party agency, like Clark Executive Search. But, one would think, a good deal of the content would hold for all recruiters. But I disagree with many of the premises.

First of all, I have been recruiting for over 20 years, (all in the life science area) and I heard fear stories about our jobs ending soon all the time. We used to fax a CV, so when email came along people thought that would be the end of recruiting, as we knew it. And Email would eliminate the need to call people and automated emails would make the recruiter unnecessary. Next the job boards would kill recruiters. Then LinkedIN. But 20 years later, here I am, still recruiting scientists and doctors for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

The main thrust of the article is that recruiters will not need to source, review resumes, match candidates to jobs etc.- all this will be done by algorithms in software. Recruiters will have to sell. But there is nothing new here. From day one in Recruiter 101 we were taught recruiters are salespeople and if you don’t like selling, get out of the business quickly. Recruiters have to sell themselves to get new clients, then we have to sell the job to a candidate and lastly we have to sell the candidate to buy and actually accept a new job. We have always been selling.

As for all the new ways for sourcing being a problem for recruiters, I think this only increases the need for recruiters. Easy sourcing means hundreds, if not thousands, applying for a position. Someone has to sift through all the resumes and CVs and sort the wheat from the chaff. Matching software? Perhaps for some positions, but not in my highly specific scientific recruiting niche.

And candidate assessment being done online is a joke. Anyone can write down favorable answers to questions. They can game the system. What a good recruiter does is listen, really listen, to responses and judge whether the candidate is truly interested or a good fit. In all my years of recruiting I only lost one candidate who hoodwinked me into thinking he would move overseas for a job. Basically he wanted to go to Asia, all expenses paid, to interview. Even got the wife to go. What a deal, free vacation. Have I had other candidates back out over the recruiting process? I have for sure, as this is the nature of the game. Clients have to sell the position and themselves all along the process and if they don’t they risk losing a candidate.

The article goes on to mention that new technology will make it unnecessary for recruiters to be involved with an interview. Why wouldn’t any company want as many experienced eyes and ears evaluating a candidate during an interview? Each interviewer sees something different and a good discussion, post interview, involving all who interviewed the candidate, will lead to the best overall candidate being chosen and not just a favorite by one hiring manager. It opens the path to diversity and new blood in a company.

Next the author lists the various ways new recruiters will have to sell: “So if you expect to be a recruiter for a long time, the time is now to place your learning emphasis on how to sell.” But I already mentioned we have been doing this for years.

One last point: Many of the biotechnology companies I recruit for are tiny. They don’t have the budget for big HR departments, much less fancy software that will source, screen, interview, and access candidates. A much wiser course of action is to outsource to an experienced recruiter who will quickly and painlessly find the right candidates for the company.