The TruFiles New Role of the Recruiter

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Source: KellyOCG | Published: March 12, 2015

In a world where professionals and hiring managers are just three degrees of separation from hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people, what exactly is the role of a recruiter? Here's a look at three new recruiting roles.

In the 1970s the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar posited that as members of social groups, people are able to manage approximately 150 relationships.

His groundbreaking work began with the study of monkeys and apes, but Dunbar extrapolated his findings to apply to humans in business and the military. Beyond 150 individuals in your tribe, Dunbar explained, and you exceed your cognitive limits.1 The theorem came to be known among social scientists as Dunbar’s Number.

And of course it makes intuitive sense. Pre-Facebook and LinkedIn, a single individual could only claim to know well a modest number of colleagues. Reaching beyond your immediate network required significant effort (e.g. attending social events, making cold calls, asking for introductions). In such a world, the role of the recruiter was tremendously powerful. The recruiter’s black book was a network multiplier, reaching across companies and geographies to identify and recruit talent for critical professional roles.

Dunbar’s Number still holds sway today. Look at your 500+ connections on LinkedIn, and it’s likely you don’t really know but a small fraction of the whole very well. But what’s changed is that job seekers no longer depend on the recruiter’s black book to reach beyond their immediate network.

Through dozens of massive social networks and tens of thousands of niche networks, candidates can identify jobs, and how members of their own network are connected to those jobs. (LinkedIn alone hosted a staggering 5.7 billion professional searches in 2012.2) Job seekers can also access what it’s like to work at a particular company, salary information, corporate benefits and culture … all the information a recruiter once controlled. And the reverse is also true: Companies seeking talent are no longer wholly dependent on recruiters—at least not for 80 percent of the jobs they need to fill.

And keep in mind social media isn’t the only technology reshaping recruiters’ roles. Recruiters used to screen the initial applicant pool and make recommendations for first- and second-round interviews; however, more and more the initial screening and assessment function is handled by an applicant tracking system (ATS). Applicant tracking systems have become more robust and now include more refined capabilities—such as sourcing, assessing skills and fit based on data gleaned from social networks, and hosting on-demand video interviews.

In a world in which professionals and hiring managers are just three degrees of separation from hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people, what exactly is the role of a recruiter? And if applicant tracking systems continue to grow in scope and accuracy—essentially automating many aspects of the recruiter’s job—what responsibilities will recruiters own in the future?