Does AI herald the end for external recruitment agencies? 

David Bernard, CEO & Founder of AssessFirst gives us his opinion…

For years, recruitment agencies had the good life! They were a crucial partner to anyone willing to attract and sign the better candidates. They were the magic weapon for each and every company who wanted to stay at the top of their game.

Contracting with a recruitment agency – if you wanted to get the best candidates – was just a no brainer, plain and simple!

And in just a few years, the HR Tech Scene kind of signaled the end of the party ! #OopsTheyDidItAgain #DigitalKilledMyVibe #GameOver

Here is what happened…  

First the Job boards…

Before them, you had to post pricey ads in the press without being sure of the result… With the rise of the job boards, anyone can now post a job and instantly touch thousands of ultra qualified candidates.

…then Linkedin

What most recruitment agencies sold at the time was the length, breadth and depth of their address book. But what is it worth now when almost anybody (with a premium account) can access a 400+ Millions users pool, more up-to-date than any other proprietary database?

and the assessment science!  

Initially reserved to psychologists and professional recruiters, assessment solutions have become progressively open to anybody (HR or not…) willing to know (much) more concerning the capacities, drivers and even personality of their candidates.

What’s the use of a recruiting consultants super power to conduct a hyper structured interview – in the most professional manner – when an AI can deliver more than 60 pages of analysis about 200 candidates, in a matter of seconds? Or when it is capable, with 2 additional seconds to create a shortlist of the bests of them? Did I notice those systems can also predict the professional affinity between each and everyone of your prospective candidates and his/her future manager? Hmmm ?

What’s next for traditional recruitment agencies? 

I think where we are living now is far from being just a little adjustment or a tiny market correction. No, we really are at the very epicenter of the greatest Hiring (R)evolution of all the time!

And here is – in my humble opinion – what the recruitment agencies have to do now if they want to stay in the game and continue to deliver distinctive value to their clients.

#1 – First, differentiate yourself from the crowd!

THIS is 101 Marketing. But it is generally not done by recruitment agencies. Indeed 95% of the agencies I meet on a day to day basis continue to claim things like :

⁃ We are « human centered »

⁃ We really take the time to know our clients better and uncover their needs

⁃ We look beyond the appearances, far beyond the CV

⁃ We are different, our consultants are market experts

⁃ We practice REAL head hunting

⁃ We use social networks


The problem is that all recruitment agencies are making the same claims. Of course some of them walk the talk… But the problem is that this kind of message is now just perceived as being Marketing BS.

Communicating around themes like #Human #Ethic #SocialResponsability #BlahBlahBlah, I think that if your company doesn’t sweat all those notions – in each and every move you make – you really have to forget about claiming it.

Instead of that, you should differentiate from the competition based on the kind of market you address, the technology you use, the attitude of your consultants, the way you bill your services… Whatever! The only thing is that you must be absolutely consistent between what you say and what you do. This is a matter of Trust.

BONUS : And, sincerely… when we look at the websites of most of the recruitment agencies, it gives the impression of being stuck in the 00’s. Illustrations of people talking in a 3210 Nokia, the team jumping in the air to high five, the pop-up which prompts you to install Flash to see outdated animations… Arghhh !!!! This is just impossible. #TimeToWakeUp

#2 – Take the time to really understand the context of your clients

Most of the companies are fooling themselves when they say who they (really) are, what makes them attractive and what kind of value they can really add to their employees life.

As an external partner, you should be the one who can bring more clarity. But for that, you have to spend time – I mean REALLY spend time – with your clients and with the future manager you are hiring for.

What strikes me the most is that too few recruitment agencies consider assessing the future manager with the same rigour they demonstrate when they assess candidates. Why? What can possibly justify the fact that we skip this essential part of the process? And the team? Don’t we need to assess the future team? The candidate you’re about to recruit is just gonna work with them every single second of his next professional life! #JustDoIt

#3 – Become expert on the questions revolving around data and predictive technologies

Today predictive solutions exist and they are largely affordable. I think not adopting it – for a recruitment agency – is just crazy! #ProfessionalMistake

It’s like if your doctor refused to adopt connected objects (which allow to monitor their patients health) just because they don’t understand the revolution that is happening in their field or because they feel threatened by the technology… #NoItWillNotReplaceYou

#4 – (Really) take care of your candidates

I think that recruitment consultants should really be on the side of the candidates. And don’t tell me this is happening. It is not. By the way, « Recruiter » is certainly one of the most hated jobs just after « Tax Inspector »! And I don’t think this is pure coincidence…

What « positioning on the side of the candidate » really means is that every single person in the agency should treat them with respect, at every single step of the hiring process : From greeting them to giving them useful feedback (you can also automatise that), to informing them in real time about the process of their application…

We are in 2017. How is it possible that you can track your burger or your sushi on Foodora or Deliveroo and that you can’t know at what stage of the hiring process your application is? #WhatHappenedToTheWorld

#5 – Focus on who your candidates really are!

We spend on average 80000 hours at work. People and especially younger generation s don’t want to work anymore with a split between « a person » and « a professional ». If you want to place your candidates in jobs in which they can deliver maximum value for your clients and thrive, you really have to focus on who they really are, far beyond what they say in their CV or in their Linkedin profile.

For that, you must be able to uncover what they are capable of, what excites and drive them on a daily basis and what kind of natural behaviors they can tap into to create real differences in the workplace.

With this behaviour – and only this – recruitment agencies will continue to be the privileged partner of companies. Because for all the rest, the technology that your clients already acquired will help them tackle the job, in an unprecedented efficient way.

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