Alder and Sumser on the future of recruiting

Matt Alder Top 100 Influencers In the midst of announcing the launch of my new business on Friday I heard (via Twitter of course) that John Sumser had included me in his Top 100 Influencers in HR / Recruiting. For those in the UK not familiar with the great work that John does, I would recommend checking out his own site as well as the Top 100 Influencers site where you can find out more about the project. It's such an honour to be included in a list with so many great people and I'm glad John decided that being British didn't disqualify me! Probably the most interesting part of all of this though was the discussion we had via Google Wave about the future of recruiting......

Sumser – So, Matt. What is the most important thing in the future of Recruiting?

Alder – Difficult to name just one thing so I’ll indulge myself and talk about two!

The first is the change in behavior social technologies are starting to drive. The interesting thing is that it isn’t actually a change at all it’s actually a return to more natural ways of human interaction. Mass market advertising and large anonymous corporations have only been with us for a relative short time in the context of human history. It is a much older and more natural behavior for people to find jobs via recommendations from people they know. The emerging dynamics of the social web are combining this “old” behavior with “new” technology and I believe the effects will be revolutionary in our space

The second leads on from this and is the end of recruiting as a siloed activity. I believe that developments in technology, culture and the economy are rapidly advancing the pace of organisational change and in order to recruit and retain top talent companies will need to see recruiting (however it does eventually evolve) as a key holistic part of their organisational DNA

Sumser – When you talk about ‘recommendations from other people’, you don’t mean an expansion of the referral system, do you? It seems to me that smart organizations will be able to harness their member’s social networks to do a more targeted form of recommendation. Many of the current referral programs are seriously plagued by the fact that there is no quality control or requirements expression process. Do you think organizations will evolve toolsets to harness networks? How? What will they look like?

Alder – Yes exactly. I’m fascinated by tools I’ve seen that map people’s social graphs. Sociology and the theories of networks and influence were never things I’ve looked into as deeply in the past. The more I learn and the more I look at the power of social graphs the more I realise just how important this will be to the recruiting industry. The point you make about the current state of referral schemes is an interesting and valid one, I really don’t think that there are very many set up to fully exploit (or even partially exploit) the true potential that is now out there.

A lot of companies that I’ve worked with struggle to get their existing technology to track measure and reward the referrals they do get so I think there is a very long way to go! I’m certain that we will see an explosion of tools, technologies and methodologies in this space over the coming months / years. Difficult to say what they will look like in detail as the needs they will fulfil will vary a lot across industries and geographies

Sumser – I’m starting to see a number of initiatives to bring a new order to HR and Recruiting. Is that just happening in the states and Australia or are you feeling the rumblings in the UK as well? What do you suppose it takes to change the institutional structure? Does it really matter?

Alder – I’ve not seen much evidence in the UK to be honest and the past tells me that those kind of initiatives end up being somewhat limited in their reach and effectiveness over here. The way things seem to truly change is for particular individuals and companies to set bench marks that others follow because they work and deliver the value companies are looking for

That said it’s interesting to see more informal collaborations becoming effective. There is a group in the UK called the Forum for In House Recruitment Managers (The Firm) which started as a LinkedIn group. It now has over 500 members and they hold regular face to face meetings and workshops. I would envisage self organised groups like this having huge amounts of influence in the future Is there anything similar in the US?

Sumser – I don’t really see much in the way of physical organization like that here. Partly, I think that’s because Recruiting is really a regional thing. I’m very tempted to suggest that the regional nature of recruiting and HR (regional being the combination of industry and neighborhood) will be one of the forces that reshapes the profession in years to come. You’re experimenting with an array of social media as recruiting tools. What are you seeing? What’s working? What looks promising?

Alder – What I’m seeing and hearing is a lot of talk and a lot of theorising and a lot of people using social media to talk about social media. While I’m convinced this will change quickly there isn’t a huge amount of recruitment activity that fully utilises all the new methods available. That said there are some interesting things going on, I have clients who are experimenting with Twitter both on a feed and conversational basis and the early results look interesting. Ironically, although it sounds like missing the point, using advertising within social media seems to work very well for certain types of campaign and we’ve seen a lot of success with highly targeted campaigns on LinkedIn and Facebook. I also think there are some pretty good technologies being created specifically for our space. Although they aren’t quite in the UK yet I think companies like Jobs2Web will do really well over here. It’s a shame that there isn’t a huge amount of similar recruitment / HR innovation currently with UK based technologies. Perhaps thought the exception that proves this rule is the London based TwitterJobSearch….their proposition has a long way to go but the concept behind it could turn out to be a very interesting one

Sumser – I’m starting to hear serious rumblings about the integration of software silos through social media. I think that means figuring out that the universe of stakeholders includes lots of people who wear multiple hats. Employees become contractors and vice versa. Contractors are customers, potential employees can be investors, customers, channel partners. Customers roles stretch across the same lines. The tendency to organize our operations based on internal organization is under serious pressure that will only get more intense. Places like Dell, Microsoft and Google are starting to show signs of awareness but they’re the vanguard. How do you suppose that recruiters operate in a world of seamless community? How do messages get coordinated internally?

Alder - I think it is inevitable but there is a huge amount of catching up to do. I always thought it was crazy that existing customers of a company would have to re-introduce themselves by re registering with the recruitment system if they wanted to find a job there. I also think it’s crazy that many companies end up in bidding wars with themselves on Ad Word campaigns because of a lack of co-ordination between departments. I think the future will be about aligning communication systems, software systems and culture to offer an integrated authentic view. Until companies can catch up with themselves the pace of change will driven by the consumer / job seeker. Recruiters and Recruitment department that can work ahead of the game and proactively de-silo themselves will be the most successful in the future Reply Edit

Sumser – So, if you were going to give some advice to an ambitious young person who wanted to make a difference (and have a successful career in the industry), what would you tell them? Reply Edit Oct 20

Alder - Two things…keep an open mind and network well. The pace of change in this industry is only going to increase and while it’s important to take learnings from the past, holding on to outmoded ideas and institutions isn’t going to get you very far. Social technologies have quickly made industry networking real time and global. Each new connection is another potential set of opportunities, go for it!

Sumser – Thanks, Matt.