Recruiters have to embrace technology but can’t get distracted by it

Don’t let the medium overtake the message.

Use technology. Don’t be distracted by it.

By Paul Mizen, Managing Director of The Recruit Venture Group.

In reviewing Jamie Susskind’s new book, ‘Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech’, Nick Cohen makes the dual point that the great debate of the 20th century was how much of our collective life should be controlled by the market; the great debate of the 21st century will be how much should be directed and controlled by digital systems.

This is ‘big picture’ stuff. And, in a world where algorithms control the sentencing of prisoners in the USA, and determine your suitability to rent a place from Airbnb, it’s appropriate to question where we’re all going.

Let me bring this into sharper focus. In the recruitment we’re already in a place where some CVs are never read by a human. And if you get the job another algorithm will monitor your performance. Scary, right?

Now, I am not a luddite, and the place for technology in the recruitment sector is something I’m very clear about. And I will return to it.

Paul Mizen The Recruit Venture Group 2

But firstly, let’s think about it in a really objective way. No matter how sophisticated, interactive and ‘intelligent’ the IT becomes it is still only a medium. A means through which we communicate. Our problem, I would suggest, is that for much of the time we allow the medium to overtake the message.

Ask yourself, how many meetings and conversations have you had recently in which you spent most of the time talking about the system, the interface, the online process, the ridiculous way the office asks you to update your password every week and why that really urgent email you sent sat in your outbox overnight causing a massive problem the next day? And how little of the time did you spend discussing the actual sale, deal, client requirement or staff issue?

If I were to boil that down to an admittedly simplified viewpoint I’d say that the technology is in danger of becoming a distraction.

Technology is a wonderful enabler. So use it to enable, convey and communicate your ideas and requirements. Don’t make it the subject of the discussion.

Let me put it another way. Even the most enthusiastic petrol head drives to a meeting without spending the travel time, or the meeting itself, discussing the details of the car’s engine. So why spend time debating code and the relative merits of a software upgrade when you should be crafting your message, getting your facts in order and refining your communication into well honed and unambiguous sentences that enthuse and satisfy their recipient?

There is absolutely no doubt that Artificial Intelligence will play an increasing role in commerce, and life in general. There’s also not much doubt that even the guy from IT will solve your meltdown problem by switching it off and on again. Between those two parameters lies the real world of work today.

It doesn’t take much computing power to work out that if we all spend more time talking tech, and less time getting on with the job, productivity will fall.

I said I’d return to the specific point about technology in the recruitment sector. So here I am. It’s essential. No recruitment consultancy can hope to compete and succeed without relevant, efficient and reliable systems. Processing client data and matching it to candidate CVs needs to be done swiftly and effectively. Invoicing needs to be timely and accurate. And let’s face it, some of the most powerful media available for the announcement of new roles are digital. The Job Boards are vital.

Two things emerge from my argument.

One is that, in general terms, the unashamedly ‘old school’ ethic of getting on with the job is what makes for success. Use the technology but don’t let it rule you. Better to let the technology enable the swifter transmission of data – including invoices!- while you get on with the work. Work such as talking to clients and listening to their needs. Things like identifying prospective customers and framing a great pitch to make them see why they should place their business with you. Stuff like taking time to actually engage with staff, face to face, so that you get a feel for what drives them. And what doesn’t.

The other thing is really specific. It’s directly connected to what I do. At The Recruit Venture Group we specialise in helping recruitment professionals start up their own consultancies. We provide risk free funding and a package of support and mentoring that allows them to take the leap into starting up with real confidence. But here’s a really important thing. We provide them with the technology and systems. We give them access to our gold standard back office meaning they’re up and running with top notch tech from the moment they open their doors for business.

We’ve launched 46 successful joint ventures so far. Every one of them puts at the top of their feedback to us the fact that having the technology in place for them, without them having to worry about it, was vital. It allowed them to focus on what they do best – which is recruitment. It means they can get on with the job.

Using the technology makes them competitive and efficient. Not being distracted by technology makes them more productive.

Which kind of proves my point really.

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