Are Recruiters Redundant in the World of the Tinder Generation?

We’ve all heard the terrifying statistics around workforce automation: a net loss of five million jobs in 15 major economies by 2020 , 2.6 million robots in work by 2019, and 47% of jobs at risk of being taken over, including almost half of UK jobs in the next twenty years. We see it happening every day – with ATMs, self-checkout counters and personal assistants. The robots are coming.

We’ve all heard the terrifying statistics around workforce automation: a net loss of five million jobs in 15 major economies by 2020 , 2.6 million robots in work by 2019, and 47% of jobs at risk of being taken over, including almost half of UK jobs in the next twenty years. We see it happening every day – with ATMs, self-checkout counters and personal assistants. The robots are coming. 

But what does all this have to do with Tinder? Well, Tinder has revolutionised the world of dating by removing the middle man: the mutual friend, the socially acceptable situation, our parents and that boy they’ve been pushing us at for the past decade. In the same breath, Uber has replaced hailing black cabs, mobile banking threatens cashiers and apps like Deliveroo and Just Eat have reduced the need to pick up the phone or walk down to the local chippie. Thanks to applications, all of this can be managed by one device in your back pocket – from online shopping to making a reservation or booking a class at the gym – we have never been more independent. The immediacy and accessibility promised by technology means that the middle man has been stripped back time and time again. 

It makes sense therefore to consider the iconic middle man – the recruiter – in this context. That recruitment will follow suit seems somewhat inevitable, and why not? Why not bypass the recruitment consultant with a list of ‘tickbox’ questions read out from an outdated job spec, and allow candidates to speak directly to the hirer, tech-to-tech? If we employed a Tinder approach, there would need to be a mutual match in order for conversation to start, so a two-way agreement would already be in place. There would arguably be reduced cost, greater efficiency and you wouldn’t even need to pick up a phone, let alone host the obligatory two-step interview process. If it doesn’t work out, no hard feelings, there’s always another person waiting. 

This scenario is actually already being dabbled with by recruitment agencies and developers.  Reed launched its first ever mobile app in February 2015 that provides improved access to job opportunities for on-the-move candidates, including a feature which enables users to ‘swipe’ recommended jobs (sound familiar?)  Meanwhile, TheLadders has created a mobile app that enables recruiters to swipe left or right against candidates’ profiles, using an algorithm that shortlists candidates from the database according to criteria input by the recruiter (e.g. salary expectations, area of expertise etc.).  

Interestingly though, mobile recruitment platforms  still target recruiters, with some of the most popular including LinkedIn Recruiter, Talent Xray, Hirevue and cloud-based vendor and applicant management systems such as Bullhorn.  This suggests that even with improved technical capability, many developers still consider the role of recruiter as fundamental to the hiring process. We believe that there’s a number of reasons behind this. 

Firstly, if you’ve ever used Tinder, you’ll understand the expression ‘trying to find a needle in a haystack’. Sure, it’s quicker than many traditional forms of dating but, realistically, if you had the choice between a shortlist of five perfectly matched suitors or the chance to find it yourself through Tinder, you’re likely to go for the former. Even more enhanced dating sites like Match still require an element of manual trawling and trial-and-error dating. Here is where the well-connected recruiter adds value. 

A good recruiter understands two things: their market and their customer. Strong networks, an established reputation and cutting-edge sourcing techniques mean that recruiters can get to grips with the external market very quickly and hunt out the elite candidates and talent communities that might elude even the most high touch algorithm. Recruiters are engaged for their specialist knowledge and little black book of contacts; this expertise results in increased efficiency and reduced time-to-hire, not to mention avoiding the costly mistake of hiring the wrong person. How many apps can provide reassurance of that?

A recruiter should also work in partnership with their client; that means understanding business strategy, need and culture and knowing how to leverage this information when engaging elusive passive candidates. An application will only tell you about a role’s availability – never sell it – and that means your talent pool is severely limited to the estimated 21% of active candidates in the market.  Unlike with online dating, there aren’t necessarily plenty more fish in the sea, and attracting, finding and engaging superstar candidates still poses challenges to businesses all over the world. Browsing candidates, even formulaically, doesn’t seem to be the answer when trying to wow high calibre candidates.

Now let’s talk about screening, or rather, ‘catfishing’. The internet can hide a multitude of sins and nowadays it’s easy to set up a profile pretending to be just about anyone. Imagine trying to find a candidate and having to swipe through 356 fake Bill Gates profiles. Recruiters, particularly candidate-centric recruiters, get to know their candidates at a very granular level to ensure that placements are ideally matched and mitigate the risk of a dropout later on in the process. This can even extend to meeting people face-to-face or pre-screening ahead of interview. Recruiters weed out the catfishes so hiring managers don’t have to.

Lastly, you can’t underestimate the importance of human touch. In 2013, Oxford university economists conducted an in-depth study analysing the potential impact of computerisation on 702 occupations. Of those occupations, roles that required perception and manipulation, creative intelligence or social intelligence were pegged as the least at risk. Whilst it’s certainly true that advances in user interface design are making robots more human than ever (consider Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Nadine, the world’s most human-like robot ), the reality that a robot will ever replace human understanding, problem solving and relationship management is actually pretty low. The recruiter’s ability to think critically and creatively to find unique solutions for client requirements and their natural capability to build relationships and bridge gaps means that the middle man is very central to the process. 

So, maybe apps will take over most aspects of our life, and maybe half the population will be out of a job in thirty years, or forty or fifty, but for the foreseeable future at least, the role of recruiter seems pretty safe from the Tinder revolution.