Is executive recruitment being questioned? Will there be an uberization of recruitment? A lot has been written about the potential demise of third-party recruitment. Is there any clear evidence for these far-reaching stipulations? If so, is this the end of the industry or just the beginning of a new stage of executive recruitment?

We already see the first signs that not everything is going well in our industry. Although sourcing and identification techniques steadily improve, we see that attracting and winning them becomes more and more difficult.

With competition for talent rising to levels never seen before – sparking the so-called “War for Talent” – candidates are being approached on an almost daily basis. However, this is not actually the problem. The real issue is that many firms are providing a poor-quality service. As a result, more and more candidates are turning away from third party recruitment, leaving response rates falling to lower levels. 

Many executive recruitment firms are beginning to feel the first precursors to a significant disruption of our industry: the experience economy.

The looming disruption of recruitment industry is not a general fact, but rather a consequence of the development of our industry itself.

As you will have noticed, I used the term candidate. Just using this language mirrors the old-fashioned mindset of many search firms, where persons are primarily seen as resources.

However, we must realize that the persons we label as potential candidates are not easily attracted to our mandates. There is no natural law. Quite the contrary; they all have jobs and are actively approached by us, and it is our job and duty to find out what is it, that catches their interest and attracts them. 

The whole recruitment process strongly mirrors an underlying principle of perceiving the candidate as a pure resource, as a small cog in a large wheel, whereby the candidate should be center stage and the focal point of all our doings. Digitization, as well as technological automation, further facilitate that state-of-the-art approach. 

Exactly due to that traditional mindset, everything is in quantity and standardization. This must change. Personalization and quality must become our primary concern. Otherwise, severe and systematic damages to our industry loom. 

Let’s be frank. What is the today’s average recruitment process like? The reality is dull and dire. People with jobs, the so-called passive candidates, are approached with boring job-offers (often completely unsuitable), subsequent communication with them is kept to a minimum, and no feedback is provided. Once a project is done, all candidates are gone and forgotten as well and unfortunately this nonprofessional approach is current and already impacts our industry. As a result, the majority of candidates involved in such detracting processes are turning their backs on the quantity search firm approach and are much more receptive to executive search firms whose major focus is in their career development and not just filling a position quickly.  An executive search firm which values bringing the candidates on a mission like journey and who understand that candidates become a true partners on an equal footing.

If we want to play a vital role in the future, we need to adapt our mindset. We need to provide higher standards than in-house talent acquisition divisions. We need to be better than matching algorithm techniques. 

If you want to provide the best and most admired executive search services in the future, just step into the new world: the experience economy.

In the experience economy, it all starts with marketing and branding.

Recruitment agency marketing and branding are central to generating awareness among potential prospects. However, at the very heart of each search firm’s brand sits the candidate as well as client experience. It will not be aggressive marketing, but the very experience itself that will constitute the hard core of a search firm brand. 

Candidates that feel that they are taken on a successful and individual journey, who feel quality, not quantity, will turn to fans and promoters of our search firms. They will share content, spread and recommend the brand and will be open to be approached again. As candidates mostly have only few reference points when they are approached the first time, they will be increasingly partnering with a small set of search firms they had good experiences with. 

Consequently, successful recruitment firms increasingly will build up their exclusive talent communities. This process will be underpinned and exaggerate by technological and digital tools. Therefore, if you are contacting a prospective candidate for the first time, the art of attraction (be it via phone, mail or social text message) will be key to win a candidate’s interest. You will only have one shot, so do not mess up. 

Additionally, the way you keep your partner informed and engaged will impact the likelihood of transforming a candidate into a placement. The combination of recruiters with a strong candidate orientation and tech stack that facilitates candidate experience will be a crucial ingredient for top search firms with pole-position experience. These firms will dominate the market.

We already see very successful start-ups leveraging the looming trend of candidate experience. It is just a matter of time until more and more search firms realize that experience is key to future success.

Not only will candidate experience be the key to success, but also the client experience as well.

There is a new formula to follow: Candidate Experience + Client Experience = Success Or as Jerry Gregoire, the former Dell CIO put it: 

“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” 

Being cognizant of this, search firms successful in the experience economy understand how to keep clients permanently informed and up-to-date with intriguing insights, which go far beyond the placement of a candidate. 

For clients, the search for a new employee will be a thrilling live journey through the market and beyond. They will learn where they stand, will be surprised with fascinating insights and better understand how outsiders perceive them. The hunt for the one talent increasingly will transform to the quest for talent related market insights in general. Making our black-box knowledge visible and accessible and transforming it into intriguing live insights for clients will be a major add-on to our services.

There is also a point where the candidate and client experience cross over. Only firms who can guarantee an outstanding candidate experience to clients, who can ensure that they market and praise the clients’ company in a fashion that is outstanding, will be mandated in the first place. Thus, a reinforcing market mechanism, which pushes the relevance of journey-like experience to ever greater importance, will emerge.

Paradoxically, in a world full of technology and automation, it will possibly be the very human ingredient and the art of mastering the H2H (Human to Human) game that can help prosper those parts of our industry, which understand how to apply H2H correctly.

It is neither the immense competition and emergence of technological substitutes nor a general natural law that threaten our industry. It is the mindset of large parts of the industry itself. Only if we understand that we need to adapt our thinking and actions can we strengthen our industry from the inside. 

Will there be an uberization of executive recruitment? It will depend on the strategic action of our industry. Also, it will be about transforming the noisy words and bold predictions about candidate and client experience into something more than just lip service. We need to establish common and credible KPIs for measuring candidate and client experience, measuring the H2H abilities of search firms. 

Only by doing so, will it be systematically possible to follow the “Candidate Experience + Client Experience = Success” formula for success with hard facts and numbers.

This article was originally written by Christian Schulze of Glasford Germany. You can read the original article and contact Christian here.

About Glasford International

Glasford International is a global (retained) executive search firm with offices throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North and South Americas. Established in 1998, we support clients in executive search and selection, leadership and personality assessments at an international, cross-border and local level.