Ten years ago, executives at Monster.com and other computerized job boards were smugly predicting the death of retained search as expensive, inefficient relics of a by-gone era.
Today, the retained search firms, particularly those in healthcare, are reporting strong growth. Monster, on the other hand, hired banking and strategic advisors to advise its parent company on a possible sale. Revenues are flat and earnings declined in the first quarter, yet again.
Monster has closed or sold business units in several emerging markets, including China. While still the global leader, the company has seen declines as candidates and employers move to specialized sites like LinkedIn. This business-focused social networking site claims 300 million users and is extremely popular with recruiters searching for passive candidates — those not actively in the job market. By contrast, in industries like healthcare, Monster proved to be an expensive waste of time, attracting hordes of unqualified candidates, many from foreign countries seeking entry to the U.S. So, to say that I am ambivalent regarding that company’s future would be a large understatement.
Meanwhile, the popular eHarmony relationship services site announced last year that it planned to bring a version of its successful dating match formula to the job market. It continues to hone its model behind closed doors, according to Michael J. O’Brien, a talent management columnist for the tabloid HR magazine, Human Resource Executive. Meanwhile, another company, Workshapes, Inc., is attempting to carve out a share of this, for lack of a better phrase, “dating for a satisfying job” market. Before you rush to grab the next silver bullet in talent acquisition, remember this: previous efforts have failed and although recruiters make jokes about the recruiting process such as “it is like getting married after four dates,” software designed to understand what workplace personalities will bring true love for job seekers, is a waste unless you get the company executives to complete their own profiles.
As a retained recruiter, I have a lot of skin in this game and a prejudice against placing too much emphasis, or trust, on computer algorithms. With that disclosure, I do not believe that retained search will ever disappear. The process of recruiting executives requires so much more due diligence and the judgment of the search consultant based on their own experience. Relying on software that is based on a lengthy questionnaire exploring personality points to guide an employment decision is beyond risky. Today, if you are not routinely conducting deep dives into a candidate’s relevant quantifiable successes and researching their values, you will be surprised. The central question then becomes how often this surprise occurs and how much it costs the organization? Computer assessments tools are just one piece of a complex evaluation. You cannot eliminate human judgment just as Roger Smith, GM’s Chairman and CEO discovered when he thought he could replace his contentious unionized assembly workers with robots. Quality plummeted and costs went through the roof.
If you think a gimmicky software program will improve your record of success in hiring, you need only look to the rise and decline of Monster.com. There is no silver bullet, a substitute for human judgment. Or as HR technology consultant Naomi Bloom likes to say, if you don’t know, or appreciate, the key factors your organization has to do to get the people you need, software won’t help you.