Technology and Headhunting
To understand the role of technology in driving disruptive threats, let’s consider head-hunting. Twenty years back, if you were looking for a job, you went to a headhunter. The headhunter would have had a mandate from a client. He played a pivotal role in assessing your fit with the role in question. Only after screening by a headhunter did you meet with the hiring manager. But today, there are platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed.com that match talent with opportunities.
Technology has allowed talent and jobs to come together without the need of a headhunter. I wrote about the equalizing power of the Internet in my book A Sixty-Minute Guide to Disruption. In the world of recruitment, the Internet has been doing that for quite some time now. At junior and mid levels, organizations and candidates now use automated solutions.
How Technology Changed Headhunting?
Automated platforms are not only connecting talent with hiring managers but are also helping recruiting organizations take on the next step in the hiring process. They are enabling internal HR managers to perform screening of applicants. In short, technology has eliminated the need for headhunters in many situations. That’s called being disrupted – being needed no more!
Antidote to Disruption
It seems like a dire situation but is there an antidote here? In The Dark Side of Innovation, I developed a framework to avoid disruption. Let’s borrow some lessons from there to figure out what the head-hunting industry can do.
A key lesson from the book is that when you’re facing disruptive threats, you often find yourself choosing between two undesirable options. Option one is often to embrace the new or the emerging technology. Option two is often to avoid, ignore, or eliminate the emerging technology. The book also shows that the businesses and business leaders who avoided disruption did not make a choice between A and B. They created an option C.
Understanding Option C
If option C is the antidote to disruption what is that option for the headhunting industry? The Swiss watchmakers faced a choice between embracing quartz technology and avoiding it. Most decided to ignore the technology. More than 50% of Swiss watch companies died in the process.
But there was one company that went beyond the options A and B to create a third option. Hayek created the Option C in the Swiss watch industry by building Swatch. Swatch changed the definition of a wristwatch from being a timekeeping device to a fashion accessory. It was a fitting response.
Option C for Headhunting
How can you create an option C for headhunting? It has to be something that is valued by the customers but cannot be replicated by technology. What is it?
In my humble opinion, it boils down to a single word “creativity.” Creativity is one task that machines cannot do but headhunters can. Creativity can allow a headhunter to connect the skills needed for a job with potential talent. That creativity can arise from deep industry knowledge and from years of understanding and working with people.
The Key Challenge for A Headhunter
The sad truth is that most headhunters rarely use creativity. Most rely on low-risk solutions. A low-risk solution involves selecting somebody who fits the role perfectly. So if you’re looking to fill a position of a brand manager in the retail business, most headhunters would look for other retail companies and candidates coming from such businesses. The closer the match, the easier the job of the headhunter. Thinking out of the box, looking for nontraditional candidates, looking at future needs rather than the current requirements, and other similar considerations do not usually enter the mind of a headhunter.
The Jobs, They Are a Changin’
But let me reiterate that we are living in the age of disruption. The skills needed for any role are changing faster than ever before. As a result, you need to look beyond what a job needs today. And that requires far more than a mechanical matching between a candidate and a job. And that is where the solution for a headhunter lies.
A Case in Point
I just finished a massive research project for which I interviewed over hundred senior managers across dozens of industries. One of my subjects was a very successful headhunter in Zürich. I was very curious as to what made him so successful, and I probed into his mind with my usual questions.
He gave me a fascinating response. He said, “I connect people with people and not jobs with people.” In his mind, when he connected the right people, they would click, and the right job would automatically appear.
Now that is not an easy thing to do. It requires a deep insight into human nature and into what makes people tick. Since it is not easy and requires immense creativity, he is one of the more successful headhunters.
So what can headhunters do to avoid getting disrupted? They can leverage the age of disruption to their advantage. By understanding how shifting tectonic plates of an industry creates a need for new skill sets, they can begin to see the needs of the future. It will help them fill the roles of tomorrow rather than the needs of yesterday.
The antidote for disruption in the headhunting industry is creativity. Every headhunter can surpass an online recruiting platform by using innate creativity. That is the path to creating value and remaining relevant.
How are you using your creativity as an antidote to disruption in the headhunting industry?