Recruitment’s Broken: When was it fixed?

Every so often, someone writes an article on LinkedIn stating recruitment’s broken. It’ll probably be the title. Everyone will collectively nod in approval at their computer screens and thank the author for a deftly written piece of prose that creatively tackles the mutual disdain for the industry.

“Recruitment’s broken” they muse. “And here’s how to fix it.”

I have an issue with this continuous pondering however. If something’s broken, it implies it once worked seamlessly and now it doesn’t.

This simply isn’t true of recruitment.

It’s never been seamless. I’m not entirely sure what people mean when they say “recruitment’s broken”. Perhaps they mean the contingent model? Which has plenty of fruitless activities for all parties. Perhaps they mean, as a client, recruiting isn’t a completely efficient exercise? They might well mean, as a candidate, you’re often left scratching your head at the progress, or lack thereof, you find inherently evident in your job search?

The issue I have with the articles is… nothing’s ever truly ‘fixed’. There’s not one industry or job that couldn’t be made better by slight tweaks or changes as technology and thinking evolves.

It may be true that recruitment could be more fruitful for all parties. But show me a job that couldn’t.

Every job in existence that has a human element will never truly be 100% productive. Things change in a recruitment process. People make decisions. People’s minds change. A lot.

And despite the furore over the impending invasion of AI and robotics, until they can do hundreds of single things to learn on the spot and make informed decisions, humans will be needed.

Kevin Kelly’s book ‘The Inevitable’ about the ‘protopia era’, discusses the theory of progress. His thinking is, progress happens every single day. It doesn’t stop and start with updates or products. “The sequence of events ensuing from technical innovation has its own momentum.”

And this fits rather nicely with recruitment.

As a collective force, we’re looking to evolve recruitment. Not fix it.

Broken window

It’s all your fault

If you’re one of the people calling for the ‘fix’ of recruitment, continuously stating the industry’s broken. It’s your fault. Let’s say you stipulate contingency out of the possible options above.

Contingency, obviously, isn’t perfect. You have multiple agencies working for nothing, with a hope of being paid. All but one of the agencies working on a role will be disappointed. Because, all but one of the candidates applying for a role will be disappointed.

Contingent recruitment’s a race to the bottom.

Recruiters are racing for a fee. Clients are racing to pay the least. They’re not racing for the best candidate. In fact, I’m convinced they don’t want the best candidate. Nine times out of ten, they can’t afford them.

In a contingent model, there’s no race for skill or difference in process. Your client doesn’t care how much of a relationship you have with your candidate. At least not in commercial terms. Whether you know their partner and kids and met them 20 years ago. Or found them on a job board five minutes before sending them. It’s not incentivised or rewarded on a contingent basis.

Therein lies the issue.

It pays to have great relationships as a Recruiter. But only because your network will be wider, and you’ll have a greater chance of winning the race. If you rely on job boards, and have a seamless search process, you’re as good as the well-networked recruiter. And you’ll will win as many races.

Contingent’s just fine thank you very much, for a large majority of those in the recruitment process. Specifically clients. Who, it seems, are normally those cheering on the pavement during the ‘recruitment’s broken’ parade.


There are businesses trying to evolve recruitment. Agencies that offer on-site solutions. Agencies that offer part-retained work. Fully retained. RPO-type models. Self-employed Recruiters, working on contract.

But this isn’t a ‘fix’ of the contingent model. It’s a ‘tear it up and start again’ approach. You’re not fixing a process if you offer a completely different way of doing it.

To be clear, it’s not recruitment that’s broken, and even contingency isn’t broken for the vast majority.

Take a car as an example. If your car’s broken, and you start riding a bike instead, you’re not fixing the car. You’re arriving at your destination, in a healthier, more eco-friendly manner. But the car’s still broken, and is just fine for the majority of other people on the road.

Differentiation drives change in recruitment.

Offering on-site solutions is delivering the ‘Kevin Kelly Protopian’ theory by gradually evolving how both recruiters and clients think about the industry. It’s a model which is, in theory, better than contingency. For candidates, the information gap is shorter. The Recruiter has a better relationship with the hiring manager. Meaning less gets lost in translation. There’s less dead time. Higher productivity.

But there’s still a gap.

We’re nowhere near 100% productivity and I can’t imagine how we’ll ever hit 100% in recruitment. What does it even look like?

Until robots hire robots, we won’t get there. On an incredibly basic level, a phone not being answered creates dead time. So does time spent in a lift. An email attachment not being sent.

On a higher level, a hiring manager having an ‘off day’ in an interview and making the wrong decision, or needing a second opinion, is also dead time.

No one will ever ‘fix’ recruitment, because most people don’t want to change. Those clients, candidates and recruiters fine with the current process can only ‘fix’ things with the help of tech. They don’t want the metaphorical bicycle, they want a Tesla.

But a Tesla is still a dramatic improvement on the Mark 4 Vauxhall Astra the industry was driving in 1992.

Cassette Tape

Tech boom

The most likely agencies to evolve first, are those with tech at the heart of their business.

Those who embrace technology are early adopters. They find tools that help recruiters to reach a higher productivity. You could work with new tech to help your process, like a CV parsing tool for example. Or you could work alongside a tech product that matches candidates to potential clients.

And this is a capability we have at Hunted.

Clients are matched to candidates through an algorithm, to highlight profiles that might be of interest. In this model, we don’t work to a fee-per-hire contingent model. Clients pay subscriptions. True differentiation. And this is the underlying message.

Hunted has technological assistance. But only to help the humans who drive our business. Which is a crucial amalgamation for clients. Offering both the human element and technology.

To ‘fix’ recruitment, you first of all have to pinpoint what exactly you’re trying to fix.

Then, differentiate. Where this isn’t possible, find tools and hacks that provide a make-weight to increasing your productivity without having to sell your car.