These Are The Recruiting Trends You Can’t Afford To Ignore (And What to Do for Each)

It’s critical that leaders realize the world of recruiting is now changing at the fastest pace in its history.

I estimate that in the past, a corporate recruiting function could go for nearly five years without a major transformation. Today, your corporate recruiting function could become obsolete within as few as 18 months. In addition, if you don’t continually jump on emerging trends, your competitors may be ahead of you before you have time to react.Not only is the rate of change blistering, but much of the change is coming to completely new areas. As a result, if you don’t want to get blindsided, you need to constantly monitor new industry movements, emerging trends, and their associated (and rapidly developing) “next practices.”

So what’s ahead? To help navigate, I’ve split these trends into three categories – ‘pie in the sky’ ideas that are now becoming reality, trends coming from other parts of the business, and big picture trends to look out for.




Although many in talent acquisition have ignored these “pie in the sky” technologies because they thought they were years off, they are now becoming a reality.

Artificial intelligence – Like many new recruiting trends, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) first came to prominence in other business areas. But AI is already in use in recruiting, and specifically in candidate assessment. Right now, firms can videotape their interviews and use AI and machine learning to accurately determine which candidates should make the final interview slate. This AI assessment is not only based on what the candidates say during their interview, but also on how they say it. Technology can analyze the interview content and phrasing, language level, voice, tone, physical gestures, heat variations across their face and even their pupil dilation. By correlating these scientific assessment factors with quality of hire data, firms like HireVue have demonstrated that it is now possible to use AI to more accurately select finalists and to even determine that some hiring managers have as low as a 20% candidate selection accuracy rate.

Virtual Reality – Virtual Reality / 360° video is another “only in your dreams” technology that isalready seeping into recruiting. Firms like General Mills have begun to use this technology in recruitment marketing and employer branding to excite potential applicants. The video images that VR/360° can produce are stunning and they provide a WOW factor that lets the excitement, energy and passion at your firm come through. You can anticipate emerging usage of these technologies in specific areas including college recruiting, company tours, employee profiles, job previews and even simulations for candidate assessment.

Algorithms vs. human judgment – Human judgment has been used in applicant and candidate assessment for a century, but don’t be surprised when algorithms that correlate with quality of hire replace a great deal of that human decision making. It’s important to note that Major League Baseball has successfully used algorithms for decades in its sabermetrics for more accurately assessing and projecting the future of its talent. Firms like Google have found that unstructured interviews can be “a complete random mess”and that humans make significant errors when screening resumes. In fact, research by the National Bureau of Economic Research recently found that data-rich computer algorithms “do a better job evaluating a job applicant’s technical skills, personality, cognitive skills and overall fit for a job than a recruiting professional.” Algorithms covering “person-to-job matching” are also evolving to the point where they will soon become extremely accurate, and subsequently mainstream.

Humans vs. robots – Recruiting and HR have always had a bias towards “hiring people.” On the business side, technology is always considered an option. Now that robots, hardware and software can do many of the things that humans can do, the people side of the business must begin considering these options before they automatically hire humans. The trend is likely to impact recruiting first at the requisition process, where recruiting will add a “hire people vs. use technology” decision point before approval.

Chatbots provide live recruiting answers -Question Answering (QA) is an artificial intelligence application designed to hold verbal and text conversations with potential recruits using what is known as a chatbot. It is a cheaper and faster way to provide “live answers” to potential applicants, and to ease the burden on recruiters. The U.S. Army demonstrated this technology with Sgt. Star in 2014, and Facebook has just announced amassive effort to increase bots on its Messenger platform, as a new way for brands to automate interaction.

“Only On The Business Side” Practices Now Becoming A Reality

One of the most obvious trend areas in recruiting is to “borrow” already established practices from other business functions and adapt them to recruiting. Six of these “formerly only in the business” trends already seeping into recruiting include:

Data-based decision making – Since its inception, corporate recruiting has been more of an art than a science. And even though corporate recruiting has been flirting with “results metrics” for nearly a decade, intuition and the continued use of “established best practices” have been the standard mode of operation. But suddenly and unexpectedly there has been a shift to data-based decision making in recruiting. Although other business functions shifted to that model years ago, the success of Google and the emergence of numerous vendors that employ data scientists have made a “data science” approach essential for major corporations.

This trend involves using quality of hire data to precisely identify and use the most effective job selection factors, the most effective sources and the best assessment and interview methods.  Firms like Footlocker have adopted data-based online assessment systems, resulting in hires with double-digit improvement in both on the job performance and retention. Deloitte has used a data-driven ‘consumer research’ type approach to better understand potential applicant expectations, and precisely how and where they look for a new job.

Predictive analytics – At most firms, 100% of the metrics that are used in recruiting are historical or backward looking. Obviously, if hiring managers and recruiters had a choice, they would prefer to see predictive analytics which are forward-looking so that hiring managers can be alerted about upcoming talent problems and opportunities.  This would result in sufficient time to plan ahead. Big players like Google now have these in place, and can project the career trajectory of new hires, and predict which promotions will succeed and which employees are most likely to quit. Although workforce planning has failed to live up to its expectations, you can expect further development of predictive analytics and trend lines in predicting future talent needs/capabilities and “the right time” to recruit, when the competition is low.

Embracing TV ads for employer branding TV ads are common on the business side, but until recently they have not been used in recruiting. If you’ve seen the GE “Owen ad” that is now everywhere on TV, you can see how GE is trying to modernize its employer brand image. Although TV ads are still expensive, they have a high impact (GE noted that the ads contributed to an 8x increase in applications).

Personalization / segmentation You can’t expect to attract and hire top performers, innovators and individuals from different diversity groups if you use a “one size fits all” approach to attracting talent. By adapting personalization approaches used by your marketing teams, recruiting can identify the factors that successfully attract certain individuals or segments of your target audience to your firm. The same marketing research approach can also be used to identify the specific criteria that will make a highly desirable candidate accept a job. Firms can then tailor or customize the information that they provide through personalized messaging, landing pages, social presences and videos. The content of the role can even be personalized in order to convince truly exceptional individuals to accept.

Heat maps – Heat maps are widely used in other business functions because they make it easy to visualize the areas where problems and opportunities are occurring. Expect heat maps to be frequently used in recruiting to identify the best sources, the employee teams generating the most referrals and the geographic areas where recruiting is highly competitive. Heat maps are easy to generate from data in Excel spreadsheets.

Position prioritization – Everything from customers to product lines are prioritized on the business side, while in recruiting we tend to treat everything as equal. The trend is now towards prioritizing high-impact and revenue generating jobs, and assigning the most resources and the highest quality recruiters to those priorities. Individual candidates that are “in high demand” should also be prioritized and expedited, because they may only be in the job market for as little as 10 days.



Finally, recruiting leaders need to be aware of what I call “big picture trends”. Because of their workload, many involved in day-to-day recruiting are likely to miss these. Here are the top five “big picture” trends:

A focus on selling – For the last century, the most difficult aspect of recruiting was “finding talent” or sourcing.  However, with the expansion of social media sourcing and crawling, finding people (along with their profile, and examples of their work) has never been easier. Thus, the strategic trend is for recruiting functions to shift the primary focus to “selling” (currently our weakest area). This emphasis on selling includes convincing identified targets to apply, to stay engaged throughout the entire interview process and to ultimately accept the job.

Quantifying business impacts becomes essential – Executives now expect every function, including overhead functions, to directly impact corporate strategic goals. To corporate recruiting leaders, that means that they must drop the phrase “aligned with strategic goals” and instead to show a direct and measurable impact on them. An essential part of demonstrating that impact is working with the CFO’s office to quantify in dollars the impact that recruiting has on corporate revenue and other strategic goals. Instead of simply saying “we hired 12 people”, you need to be saying “we hired 12 people that performed 10% higher than last year’s hires, resulting in a $1.2 million increase in revenue”.

Data vs. relationships for influencing hiring managers – For the last century, recruiters relied on “building relationships” to get hiring managers to act. The emerging trend is instead to rely on data, quantified business impacts, and expert knowledge to influence hiring managers to make the right decisions. As Google found, “The best thing about using data to influence managers… is that it’s hard for them to contest it.” The days of ordering hiring managers to do things are fading, in the New World of recruiting, you must “nudge” or influence them to act. Google even found that a simple “nudge email” to managers the day before a new hire starts can improve their “time to productivity” by 25%.

Keeping an eye on the competition – For decades many recruiting functions have been 100% inwardly focused on their own operations. With the trend for recruiting to become more businesslike, a new addition will be to also provide the firm with a competitive advantage. This “us against them” eye on the competition requires periodic “competitive analysis” and a focus on countering the talent management actions of your competitors. In the same vein, expect a new focus on the giveaway/takeaway ratio, which compares the number of quality employees that we poach from individual competitor firms during a year… to the number that they recruit away from us.

A new breed of recruiting professionals – Because of the quantum shift to be more businesslike in recruiting, over the last two years there has been a major shift in what leading-edge corporate recruiting leaders look for when they hire into their recruiting function. There is a clear shift towards becoming “recruiting consultants”, resulting in a focus on hiring individuals that have worked in the business side. Add to that a desire for the rare combination of business acumen and skills in finance, data, technology, social media, consulting and sales/marketing.



The key lesson to be learned by recruiting leaders is that current practices can and will now become obsolete in as few as 18 months. Recruiting trends, rather than growing slowly over a five-year period, can now go from nonexistent to absolute requirements in an equally short period of time. Taken together, this means that as a recruiting leader, if you expect your function to remain competitive you must begin to think and act differently.

Start by assuming obsolescence in each of your current programs and then go the next step and begin tracking next practices, to reduce the chances that you will be surprised when you find that your competitors have already adopted them. The last thing you want is to find yourself a year behind them by the time you can get things together and catch up.


As seen in 1Page blog April 18, 2016

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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