Keeping Recruitment Simple

Published: 30 Aug 2017 By James Dunne

I’m speaking at one of those “unconferences” soon. I’m a “track” leader, responsible for setting the direction and tone of the discussion. The rest of the other tracks are all on worthy and very on-topic recruitment subjects (is your ATS fit for purpose, etc.), but mine is under the well-known acronym, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid, in case it’s not well-known in your business).  To illustrate why I am using this title, consider the following…

On LinkedIn recently, someone I know had changed his job title. For many years, he had been “Head of Recruitment” at a major university. Now, he’s “Director of Talent Acquisition and Recruitment Strategy.”

Similarly, an in-house recruitment team in London I know has been having an anguished debate about what to call themselves.  They have, after a bit of bickering, decided that they will be “Talent Acquisition and Recruitment.”  That seems a bit of unnecessary to me: talent acquisition IS recruitment, and vice versa.  Or do they mean that some people are not talented, so they simply have to be “recruited?”

This also brings to mind, a huge rec-ad agency I worked for back in the day. We had decided we wanted to cash in on the money to be made from Internal Comms, so we hired the requisite experts, who promptly spent an entire afternoon debating whether their team should be called “Communication” or “Communications.”  I can’t remember which they elected to go with, but I do know that it did not make a blind bit of difference to the amount of money they generated or, equally importantly, what was their perceived value to the clients.

While there is often little point at railing against the way language changes (cf. the use of “hiring” to describe “recruitment”, despite hiring usually implying only a temporary transfer), it is my view that, despite what its “modern” practitioners say, there is actually very little in the way of new ideas (outside the use of technology) in recruitment. The vast majority of “new” things are actually just the application of tech to what has been done previously.

Take my acquaintance at the university.  Has his job changed?  No. He is still responsible for recruiting (or hiring if you must), people of differing abilities to lots of different positions at that institution. Part of that responsibility always included being aware that the recruitment market changes and adapting accordingly. To that end, he was responsible for “strategy” yet it was not previously felt necessary to come up with an extravagant job title to reflect that. Why is it now?

Then there is the paper I saw recently which claimed that “the employer brand is dead – it’s now the talent brand!”  I am old enough to remember when the employer brand was “invented,” but also even older enough to recall that before this “invention” students doing the “MilkRound” were well aware which potential employers had a good reputation and which were to be avoided (unless you got a worse degree than expected). Calling the ‘employer brand’ the ‘talent brand’ is just an exercise in semantics and self-aggrandisement.  The latter is not in itself a bad thing (it’s how people get on in business!) but that doesn’t mean that the twisting of perfectly good concepts should be encouraged.  Just because something is “new”, doesn’t mean it’s better.  

Similarly, claims that something actually is “new” often neglect the fact that someone, almost certainly, came up with the idea some time earlier.  For example, the basic concepts I learned last century about recruitment marketing still hold true, even if the medium of delivery has changed from paper to digital.  I’ve even read one of the new wave of recruitment “gurus” claim that recruitment marketing was invented in 2010.  That will be news to anyone who worked for Barkers, not that long ago one of the biggest recruitment ad agencies in the country and founded by Charles Barker (1791–1859) in the nineteenth century!

Of course, the cynics (i.e. older people like me) will say that this creation of new job titles and recruitment concepts is simply a means of making it seem someone is doing a better, more grandiose job, with all that implies for salary and rewards.  I rather suspect that, as with Parkinson’s Law (“work expands to fill the time available for its completion”), there ought to be a law for job titles in recruitment.  Perhaps something along the lines of, “the grander the job title the less real work is done.”?

None of this is to say that technology and ideas about recruitment haven’t changed: they have and will continue to do so, but recruitment is, in essence, quite simple. It’s about bringing new people with new skills and experiences into your organisation.  Sometimes, those skills are not at a high level, sometimes they require a PhD; sometimes there are shortages of skilled staff, sometimes a surfeit.  There are a lot of very good recruitment consultants who can do the work for you, or you can do it yourself. Some jobs require large-scale campaigns, using social and other media as well as imaginative thinking and organised events.  That was always the case, even in the days when print ruled.  However, as is frequently the case, if all is required is to place an advert on a job-board (like this one), then handle the response professionally and politely, it’s not rocket science, is it?

James Dunne, exec-appointments

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