Did Technology Kill The Executive Search Pipeline?

70% of large and midsize companies surveyed found recruiting passives had become less effective”

Given the option between contingency and retained search firms, employers seeking to fill a very specialized position tend to turn to the latter. Maybe that is because the retained search firm contracts to keep going until the right person is found, but there is also a perception that the retained pros know where to look.

In the years BLI – Before LinkedIn – one of the most powerful weapons a search firm could have was its pipeline. Savvy recruiters invested hours and dollars to build networks of successful executives, often in specialized jobs, who just might, one day, entertain an offer to go somewhere else.

These were termed passive candidates, as opposed to those actively out looking for a job.

A healthy pipeline of passives was magic, especially in terms of knowing in advance who might fit a specific need that had just arisen. Then came digital.

Executive search has become a new world. As career loyalty crumbles before a more mobile workforce, everyone is now a passive candidate: LinkedIn has 300 million users, most continually testing the water, saying “Talk to me. I could be available”.

Everyone’s a recruiter

On the other side of the table, headhunting has gone mainstream and everyone has become a recruiter. You can check out a candidate and know his or her record, testimonials, experience, special skills and availability with a few mouse clicks. You can even interview a new CTO in your pyjamas, thanks to video.

But there is a downside. As it often does, technology will whack you where you were not expecting it. Far from making it easier to manage a pipeline, this speed-search approach to recruiting calls its effectiveness into question. A recent survey in the U.S. indicates that 70% of large and midsize companies found recruiting passives had become less effective at turning up highly qualified candidates in the previous 12 months.

Participation has dropped because the cachet has gone. To be contacted by a search professional was once a badge of recognition. Today, that same survey stated 47% of hiring managers found potential candidates less responsive to email contact. The candidate is running the show.

Steve Roop, GM of Glassdoor, the company which commissioned the survey, believes the burden is on recruiters to come up with new answers.

“The old methods of recruitment and job search just aren’t working well enough,” he says. “Potential candidates are researching opportunities through new, interactive channels, and hiring decision-makers must invest more in these channels to attract more qualified candidates.”

Next: Where Next for Search

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