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Everything That Goes Around

I recall that in the sixties a comedy sketch that went something like:

Nixon: We have a new and even more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile able to reach all of the Soviet Union.

Kruschev: So? We have a new antimissile missile, which can shoot down your new ones.

Nixon: yes but we have a new antimissile, antimissile missile, which can stop yours on launch

Kruschev: Ah ha but ... and so on.

A couple of mail shots have reached me this last week that brought this ancient humour to mind. One company is now offering a vacancy service, which assures us that on payment of a regular subscription we will be in receipt of almost ? if not all- of all jobs advertised on any UK web site. Another company, not a recruitment agency, has sold its services to a group of employers on the basis that it will operate a filtration process for CVs so that no CVs can reach line mangers unless they match the requirement and are complete. Neither is being offered by a recruitment Agency.

So, the question is are these things going to make recruitment any better for employers, for applicants and for agencies? On the face of it these are marvelous and facilities which could change the face of recruitment. But is that, I wonder, really what will happen in the real world? Do we have things here that are a part of the broader issue ? because everything becomes possible we try use it but does it help? Personally when I am King Emperor I will pass legislation allowing, if not enforcing, public executions for whosoever invented the options menus for PABX's.

My point is in what precise circumstances will these new aids to recruitment actually aid recruitment? How well do these technology based services fit in with the psychology of recruitment where it matters ? between agencies and clients and between employers and applicants.

In its marketing the business with the 'filtration service' assures us that it has nearly 400 agencies are now using the service to submit CV's to the employers who are registered with the site. In theory every agencies in the world could use the service. The question I would ask an agencies is as most applicants now register with as many agencies as they can the odds of my getting a billable success in using your system must be, by definition, very small indeed. In that case does your client understand - or care ? that I can afford only to do as little work as is possible against each vacancy Moreover, as I get no commitment from your client does your client appreciate that I cannot afford to give him any more than the minimum your service asks for? In fact, will send the CV's under my care to as many clients as I can in as short a time as I can do it and the service you offer to your client can never be more than one of many avenues down which my recruitment must, in these circumstances, go?

Were I a client I would, I think, be asking of this approach. I am happy that this approach will eliminate the worst excesses of traditional recruitment. However, the logic of the arrangement tells me that whilst I will see only CVs that meet the minimum spec, no-one will actually be in there fighting to get me the people I want or giving me any commitment?.

With the vacancy service ? I would be looking at the same thing. The better the software and the more support behind it, the more complete and comprehensive the vacancy list. Great from the agencies point of view to be begin with but what happens when the service provider sells it to a thousand agencies.

The point being that in both cases its is easier to extend, maintain and operate the software - clever and developed by first class people as I am sure it is in both cases ? than it is to prove the business case in actual operation; indeed it is likely that the greater the success in selling these services the less will be the benefits for the users.

It seems to me that Recruitment is stuck ? on the one hand the reputation of the recruitment agency in general languishes in the publics esteem amongst those of politicians, estate agencies, statisticians and journalists. On the other hand development and moving forward will require mutual confidence, a desire for change and the adoption of technology which can be seen by some as dis-empowering their traditional roles. Perhaps that is deserved but the question surely is ?how do we fix it and where do we go from here??

If I am an employer - lets say I am a Recruitment Manager providing a service to a line manager wanting people to join his or her team. As the Recruitment Manager my job is to get the right people i.e. applicants who could do the job and who would be ready to accept an offer, in the location, at the salary and who would be available when wanted. As a line manager I want to spend only such time as I must spend and to spend it on issues with people who are worth my time ? only those people. That's rarely what happens but, let us face it, it is a pretty obviously desirable.

If the obvious is not achieved in most cases, it is perhaps worthwhile to speculate why. Lets put it in context. If as a line manager the people about whom I am getting good, reliable and up to date information are the people I want and need, then I want someone at that point working in my best interest and just for me so that I have the best chance of recruiting them. Do I achieve that by, in effect, diving into a huge pond along and fishing around in competition with other possible employers or do I, at that point, want a professional relationship on which I can count to dedicatedly look after my needs and my needs only?

It would seem to me that the best answer to that conundrum is why choose and, anyway, why is a choice necessary at that point?

It is undoubtedly true that the use of technology ? particularly web technology ? enables us to generate huge amounts of data quickly. From their technology helps us also to sift quantities of data for accuracy and relevance. If this is done in a structured way allowing data to move through a carefully considered process, a process, which actually mirrors the needs of the parties, one can create a situation in which the various parties are presented with tasks and judgements appropriate to their needs. The ultimate expression of this would be Recruitment Consultants working with Recruitment Managers and line managers to review and process only those people who could do the job and who would be inclined to accept an offer if made.

Of the elements which are required for this approach most are already available ? it systems, networks, the web etc, etc. What has been missing is affordable support staff of the right quality ? HR, technical, recruiters, researchers and data teams. Well we know that with the global labour market call centres and similar have been moved to India and other locations where good quality staff are available from which one can recruit and train stable and well motivated teams. However, India is not an easy place in which to do business which factor, coupled with set up costs and associated risks has been an inhibiting factor save for the biggest and riches corporations. However, one of the blessings of the modern world is that the web promotes and improves the basis for collaboration and joint ventures in which quick witted and innovative parties can combine to punch above their weight and compete with the biggest most traditional blue chip operations. How? Well later we can look at some examples.