The recruitment industry fascinates me. It's an industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars a year by providing a service that is intended to save time and yet it's an industry that's universally hated by everyone outside the industry. Something is obviously wrong with that picture.
Hang around any popular tech forum and you'll inevitably come across an anti-recruiter rant yet one thing you will rarely find is people legitimately attempting to solve the problem. There was an interesting rant in the London Ruby User Group (LRUG) mailing list yesterday which sparked a significant debate on Hacker News.
I've been frequenting Hacker News for quite some time and I've always been a big fan of the community, so much so that I've become one of the co-organisers of the Hacker News London meet-up group yet I am a bit disappointed that the tech community as a whole has failed to even try and disrupt the industry. Don't get me wrong, there are some really interesting companies popping up that are tackling smaller, individual problems such as Developer Auction, BetaCave and Elevate Direct however I have yet to see a single concept that has the potential to put a significant dent in what is blatantly and immensely profitable market that is being monopolized by a model most people loathe.
Despite the massive revenue generated by recruitment companies, their tactics for securing new business are tired and their attempts at innovation appear to be almost exclusively limited to cheesy marketing techniques. In the last few weeks, some of the unsolicited recruiter marketing material I've received include giant branded erasers, branded frisbee's, branded beach balls and the strangest one yet, branded balloons intended to be used for creating balloon animals (seriously). All of these novelty gifts/bribes/trash are intended to make that company stand out and memorable yet the only effect they have had so far is make me wonder why they are investing sizable chunks of money into ridiculous marketing campaigns and not into training their staff appropriately or creating innovative services to make their clients lives easier.
I don't expect much from the recruitment industry. If it ain't broke, don't fix it right? The CEO's & top exec's running these companies don't see a problem. Sure their profits are down due to the global recession but the fact is, they are still making a huge profit. Their solution is to take a more sales driven approach. So what's the real solution?
If I had the answer I'd be incredibly wealthy however I think the first steps are obvious. Ignore the fact that the recruitment industry exists and instead, start looking at the reason it exists. Companies world wide have significant difficulty hiring the right people. Sure there is a talent shortage but that's not the problem the recruitment industry solves. Recruiters do not have access to a magic database that a regular company can't get access to. Granted they have their own 'internal databases' but these are simply created by scraping CV's from job sites, a resource every other company has access to if they are willing to pay for it.
Recruiters have one benefit only: Reducing the time it takes to hire people. That's it.
So, tech innovators, there's your problem. The hiring process takes too long.
Hacker Jobs UK is playing a small role in helping to solve the problem. We provide companies with a platform that allows them to advertise their jobs to a niche market without being drowned out by generic recruiter vacancies. We have larger, grander plans for the platform that drives Hacker Jobs which will ultimately have a more sizable dent in the market but we can't do it alone. The current recruitment model is a terrible solution to a very real, and profitable problem. The first few companies to provide a realistic and effective alternative are going to become extremely rich in an extremely short amount of time and eventually the recruitment industry won't be left with any choice other than to innovate and change the way the world perceives them. I for one, can't see that last part happening though.