What does the future of the recruitment consultant hold and are recruiters ready for it?

This article originally appeared on The Global Recruiter and was written by Simon Kent.

There is little doubt the the recruitment industry has changed and adapted over the years in response to alterations in the workplace, the nature of business and the skills required by those businesses. As industry demands certain talent which can deliver faster and more effectively, the recruitment industry has had to up its game. To some extent, the evolution of the recruitment ‘consultant’ rather than the plain old ‘recruiter’ is an indication of the extended context in which recruitment now exists and the professionalism and knowledge a person fulfilling that function must now bring to their everyday work.

Looking to the future, however, it seems the recruiter’s role will be less impacted by the type of work required, and more by the way in which that work is delivered. It is clear that the main impact on the workplace is technology, but this isn’t just technology in order to work in the first place, it is also the impact technology is having on people’s lifestyle in general – the way they interact, share, and access knowledge. The way they manage their work and social life. It is the way technology is shaping the future generation who are about to enter the workplace and from whom employers are seeking their leading talent.

Enter iGen

“The future of work looks drastically different to today,” says Karen Evans, managing director, Asia Pacific at Acendre. “By the time iGen join the workforce, they won’t just want, they’ll expect a new operating model and way of treating staff.”

This means flexible work environments where the work/life balance is entirely controllable and where the ‘anywhere workplace’ is achievable for all employees. “Employees will expect to work when and where they want, in a manner that suits their lifestyle,” she says.

Evans notes that as result of the forthcoming generations’ communication preferences social recruiting will become a core skill of every recruiter. To some extent this is already the case. A recruiter who is not well versed in Twitter, LinkedIn, or perhaps more important, the particular social media channels used by their desired talent, will already be missing out on impressive talent. However, this trend will increase over time, says Evans: “The way people interact with brands and companies will increasingly rely on how they communicate and portray themselves over social media,” she says. “Furthermore, there is a growing importance being placed on employer branding, which is pushing recruiters to play a pivotal role in advising businesses on how they should be positioning themselves as employers in the market, and how this positioning can help them attract the best talent.”

While iGen, the employees who have grown up with technology perfectly integrated into their lives, may require technology options to suit them wherever they go, they also have clear priorities in the roles they take on. “Organisations are challenging recruiters for scale, efficiency and profitability,” notes Ben Hutt, CEO of The Search Party, “while candidates increasingly switch from one job to another and look to work for brands that are in line with their personal values. As more Millennials enter the workforce, this trend is very much likely to expand, impacting the way recruiters need to do business.”

What emerges, then is a highly consultative role that isn’t just about finding and nurturing talent, but about advising the employer on how to be an attractive and ‘good’ employer as well. An employer that keeps its employees. The transition towards this type of recruitment practice is already underway, however there is still work to be done in convincing organisations that they need this kind of information and support from the recruitment industry, and in ensuring recruiters see the value in making that transition and press ahead to realise the goal rather than assuming putting bodies in vacancies will continue to bring home the dollars.

“In 10 years’ time the traditional recruitment industry will be smaller, more effective and even more essential than it is today,” says Rob Davidson, founder and director of growth at Davidson. “Many of the transactional recruiters will have been replaced by platforms. Those that remain will be genuine professionals who act as trusted advisors to clients and candidates alike.”

“It will become a role that will be a blend of modern day management consulting and HR consulting and will probably be billed out on a time and materials basis like most other professional services,” argues Jonathan Rice, managing director of Rice XXXX. Noting how recruiters will have to become deeply networked within their industry sectors, Rice believes recruiters will take on more of a ‘talent agent’ role, representing the careers of a number of highly specialised workers. The ‘inch wide mile deep’ formula for recruiters will become event more important.

“This role will likely continue the current model of billing clients on a commission basis whether taking one of the talent agent’s “clients” on a contract or permanent basis,” Rice continues. “With the rise of big data both types of consultant or agent will become stronger analysts too, collating and presenting meaningful data to whichever side of the recruitment coin they represent.”

Rice believes there will always be some talk of how technology and artificial intelligence will replace recruiters, but he believe the best in the business will take this technology on board in order to do their jobs better. “Recruiters will always have a key role to play in bringing two humans together into a professional relationship,” he says.

Technology as part of the picture

Rice isn’t alone in this view. Ben Hutt argues recruiters need to build closer relationships with candidates, developing personalised interactions, ultimately becoming “talent agents” or “career curators” for candidates. “Since this sort of consultative approach is time consuming, the only way they will be able to do this is if they don’t have to do as much business development,” he notes. “Beyond removing the need for sales, the shift towards ‘consultant recruiters’ will only happen when recruiters are empowered with technology to help them do their job better. Technology will allow them to spend their time using their skills more appropriately, like getting to know their candidate pool better, learning the ins and outs of employer work cultures and relationship building rather than sales.”

By embracing the technology, Hutt argues, recruiters can search, record and follow candidates more easily and manage communications between their stakeholders more effectively. All this will free them up to deliver the added value their future clients require.

Your choice

Today’s recruiters are faced with some serious questions. They need to recognised what their options are for the future and determine how they are going to operate in the interests of both their clients and candidates. That requires thinking on the macro scale – what kind of business am I? – as well as more detailed considerations: what technology do I use, how do I present myself?

“We’ll see two kinds of recruiters emerge,” says Karen Evans. “One will hold the traditional sales skills of today’s recruiters, combined with more consultative capabilities to help businesses with their people challenges. The second will be a specialist group of millennial recruiters, who will be tasked with the focus of understanding, hiring, and strategising for millennial recruitment.”

However, perhaps underlying these questions and options in an even more challenging question. Does the recruiter of today want to be the recruiter of tomorrow and are they up to the job? “A genuine recruitment consultant masters both the consulting and the sales components of the role,” says Rob Davidson. “With this in mind, a successful recruiter of the future will be part management consultant, part HR consultant, part career coach and counsellor, part sales people, part business advisers and strategist. It’s a complex mix of skills to find in one person.”

However the future plays out, it is unlikely that the recruitment industry will remain one in which employees just ‘fall into’ but one where professionals see, understand and exploit the potential it offers, making a positive decision to be part of the sector in the future.

Magda Walczak

Magda Walczak is the Chief Customer Officer at Search Party, the world's first marketplace that connects employers, recruiters and job seekers. She's a passionate supporter of animal rights and author of Saylor's Tale, a children's book promoting responsible pet ownership.

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