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Bots, Big Data and Chicken Little: Why Fundamentals Always Win in Recruiting

It seems we recruiters lately are suffering from “Chicken Little” syndrome. The constant kvetching I hear includes: “There are too many tools- I can’t keep up!”, “Big Data is making my job so much harder!”, and my personal favorite, “AI will take our jobs!”.  Deep breaths everybody. Inhale. Exhale. There, there, fellow recruiters. Now that we’ve all calmed down a bit, here’s the deal: no matter how many new shiny tools become available or bots pop up on your radar, the fact is that you DO need to adapt — but not in the way you’re thinking.  

Recruiting has been and always will be about your ability to sell to, market to and deal with people. Yes, some of these recruiting software tools will help you source better. Some might help you market better.  Some will even help you schedule interviews. But what they cannot, nor should they EVER do, is what you are being paid to do: recruit.

Recruiting has been segmented to death over recent years in what now amounts to an industry of specialists. Phone sourcers, technical sourcers,  in-house, agency, candidate experience, employer brand, TA coordinators, TA ops, diversity recruiters, recruiters of veterans, Industry-specific recruiters, skill-specific recruiters – I could keep going with this list if I had the desire to (but I don’t). Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but wait – I am. Bad thing.  

This segmentation and specialization has slowly but surely been eroding the fundamentals of our profession. The result is a major cluster%$&# of Chicken Littledom whenever times, technologies or trends change. On top of that, when we as industry become insular and specialized, we focus so narrowly that we forget the broader aspects of what we do. Great – you mastered using tool X. What happens when that tool is gone or a new and better one comes along? Put it this way – I remember a time when VAX/VMS was the “Java” of its day. I used to say, “Recruiters recruit,” and when hiring recruiters for my teams I could look past any specializations. Now – not so much. I have seen too much evidence to the contrary.  

I remember a time when (old man rant coming) talking to, meeting with, and listening to people were the core skills of being a recruiter. I still believe that is what makes a good recruiter today. I know some people who are not the most technically savvy, nor are they using the shiniest new tools – but they happen to be some of the best recruiters I have ever known. Why? Because they understand the fundamentals of what it means to be a great recruiter. They know how to do things from the foundation up – not the other way around. Tools come and go, but those who enjoy a long and prosperous career in recruiting are the ones who know how to recruit without becoming bogged down or dependent on tools to succeed.  

Virtually none of us studied to be a recruiter in college. I am also 99% certain that when entering the workforce, none of us set out to be a recruiter either. One way or another, we ended up here.  Now that we are in this profession and have grown to love it is to understand that fundamentals always win in the long run. Always. Get to know the nooks and crannies of your work (Pepperidge Farm remembers),-learn the skills and fundamentals, and you will survive the trend du jour and all the ones to follow.  Yes, even AI.  

Want to learn more about sharpening your skills and fundamentals? Check out RecruitHUB –  where recruiters go for elite-level courses, coaching, and community. Also, be sure to check out Ed’s latest, 1980’s themed webinar with Lever on how recruiting always drives company culture. It’s a must-listen.

Ed Nathanson helps companies come to the good side of the force and join the rebel alliance. He has over 20 years of experience as a Global Talent Acquisition, Employment Branding and Human Resources Leader. Ed is also the founder of Red Pill Talent, LLC.