A catch up with an acquaintance (let’s call her Doris) recently had me thinking about industry change. In particular, what does it take to change an industry.  Specifically, the recruitment industry. We hear a lot about the importance of customer-centricity, and clearly candidates are not considered customers. Which is kind of short sighted…particularly a hyper connected business arena.

Doris has been looking for a new job, and is keen for something that is a balance of corporate and creative; something along the lines of marketing or brand management. I’ve seen her work. She’s pretty fab. She is also has a delightful temperament, only one head, and is the least offensive / obnoxious person I know. In fact I would say she is pretty hot talent. Here’s what she has told me has gone on…

  • A mutual friend put me in touch with the Australiasian HR director of a big name multinational. I met with the guy who was exceptionally positive, encouraged me to send him my CV, said he would look over it and give me feedback before passing it on to one of his senior recruiters. After sending it through and following it up multiple times, I have not received any further communication from him.
  • Contacted Recruitment Company 1 via email – got told to email my CV through and it would be allocated to the appropriate person. Sent said CV and never received any further contact. Followed up with another email and a phone call and 2 months later, I still haven’t received any correspondence.
  • Contacted the marketing recruiter for Recruitment Company 2 through LinkedIn email and didn’t receive a response.
  • Contacted Recruitment Company 3 only to have them tell me they didn’t keep CV’s on file and that I should keep an eye on the company’s website for any roles that might appeal to me and apply specifically for them. They also preferred not to meet me prior to this.
  • Contacted Recruitment Company 4. Told them I was not able to speak on the phone during business hours and received multiple calls at 2 or 3pm. Finally tried to set up a meeting (via email) only to be told they would only be able to meet with me during the hours of 8.30 and 5pm. I asked if this would be an issue for having interviews and was told yes, it would be; “Most clients won’t be flexible to work around talents diaries and often give me very random times for interviews (e.g. 10am, 2pm. 4pm etc.)”.
  • Met with a contact at Recruitment Company 5 to have the recruiter leave me waiting for 15 minutes, told to completely redo my CV and meet with a different recruiter within that company who specialises in my industry. I was out the door in 20 minutes.
  • Submitted an application to a relatively new Aussie based company, only for them to send an ‘auto-reply’ to myself and 25 other candidates disclosing all of our email addresses to each other. Emailed the CEO with a crisis/brand management plan only to receive an unsympathetic, disingenuous apology email blaming the sender and advising that his “staff” would follow up.

Radical change

A 2004 HBR article “How Industries Change” by Anita McGahan provides some interesting insights into the potential for the recruitment industry. McGahan argues  that “industries evolve along four distinct trajectories—radical, progressive, creative, and intermediating”

But perhaps more interesting in relation to Doris’s comments is that they identify two threats to obsolescence.

The first is a threat to the industry’s core activities:

“the activities that have historically generated profits for the industry. These are threatened when they become less relevant to suppliers and customers because of some new, outside alternative.”

In this case, social business is the obvious threat.  With recruiters not prepared to put in the work to identify, qualify, and sell hot talent, said hot talent turns to social channels such as facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and blogs and cut out the “middle man”. Staff members are offered incentives that are less cost that recruiting fees to identify candidates within their own social sphere.

The second is a threat to the industry’s core assets:

“the resources, knowledge, and brand capital that have historically made the organization unique”

I would argue that all of the examples here are teetering dangerously close to be being bankrupt in terms of core assets as described above. You can’t seriously be doing your brand capital any good with the experience that Doris is sharing with her peers who both recruit and look for recruiters? If recruiting firms are reluctant to spend the time on candidates then do they really have much knowledge? If Doris’s experience is typical of other candidates, it would appear that the Recruitment Industry is very close to obsolescence. And needs to change

Based on McGahan’s model, a threat to assets and a threat to activities means radical change. Radical change is bold, disruptive and requires courageous leaders. I wonder if the recruitment industry is ready for this? Or have I got the wrong end of the stick? Should Doris be doing something differently? Your thoughts…


Want more resources on handling radical change and disruption? You may find my book Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change useful!

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