From Selling to Storytelling: LinkedIn’s ’Future of Recruiting’ Report Predicts Transformational Change for the Industry
“The perception is that it’s harder to find people. The reality is that it’s easier than ever to find people. It’s just harder to engage them — especially when that talent has 100 other companies coming after them.”
So says Recruiting Toolbox Managing Director John Vlastelica in LinkedIn’s “Future of Recruiting” report. Such a pronouncement seems to fly in the face of recruitment orthodoxy. We’ve all heard the repeated cry that employers can’t fill roles because of unparalleled talent shortages.
But consider the rise of social media, of digital candidate databases and artificially intelligent tools that do the sourcing for you. You can basically hop on LinkedIn, type in a job title, and find a list of hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who fit the open role you’re tasked with filling.
Perhaps the “talent shortage” framing doesn’t quite capture the real basis of the problem. It’s not that there are no candidates — it’s that recruiters have to clear a higher bar to convince the candidates who do exist that their jobs are worth taking.
“The world of work is changing fast: We’re simply not operating under the same rules that were in place just five or 10 years ago,” says LinkedIn’s Director, Talent Acquisition – Product, Amy Schultz. “Employees and job seekers are more informed about opportunities than ever before, making them more agile, and nearly half the workforce will be millennials. For younger generations, it’s not just about getting a job — it’s about who they want to work for, and what does that company stand for?”
Breaking Old Habits
Along with the shifting priorities of talent, the nature of work itself is transforming. More and more of the economy is getting automated, which means jobs across all industries and fields are becoming less transactional and repetitive, more creative and strategic.
In the past, recruiters could often fill roles by simply matching a candidate’s technical skill set to a role’s primary responsibilities. Today, good matches are more complex. Success in a creative role demands more than a set of specific skills — it also requires the right attitude, a good culture fit, strong soft skills, and more.
In light of this new paradigm, recruiters must reimagine their roles. It used to be that everyone agreed recruiting was, essentially, a kind of sales job: You sold a position to a candidate and/or a candidate to a company. Done. Now, candidates want more, and employers need more from their talent. To meet the demands of both sides, recruiters will need to become “less like salespeople and more like businesspeople,” according to LinkedIn.
In practice, that means a couple of things. For one, recruiters will no longer be “order-takers” who simply execute a search, according to the report. Instead, they will have to become strategic partners to hiring managers and business leaders. LinkedIn notes, “Recruiting leaders and recruiters themselves will be expected to bring a perspective, push back, and lead the way forward. That means not only aligning with business goals, but advising leaders on the best way to achieve them.”
“To be effective, recruiters will need to align with business leaders often and be agile to adjust to evolving needs quickly,” Schultz says. “They can no longer be creatures of habit— they need to think of themselves as advisors.”
Recruiters will also have to change how they interact with talent. They’ll need to bring the same sort of strategic perspectives to their sourcing and candidate engagement efforts.
“Whether you’re in house or at a third-party agency, the profession is moving from selling to storytelling,” Schultz says. “In a tight talent market, a recruiter’s ability to truly understand a candidate’s motivators and what matters to them most in their career allows them to craft a compelling story about their company to convey why someone should work there. This is especially important as candidates search for purpose in what they do and the companies they work for.”
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The New Face of Recruiting
Moving from salespeople to business partners will mean more than just a reframing of the recruiter’s role. The very fabric of recruiting teams will be altered. Modern talent acquisition asks for new skills and new approaches, many of which are based on domains with which traditional recruiters may have no experience.
“As more jobs require specific skill sets that not every professional has, recruiters will be called on to recruit talent in ways they haven’t necessarily needed to in the past,”
Schultz says. “Teams will need to engage passive candidates inundated by offers, analyze talent data to advise leaders, forecast hiring needs that map back to business results, and master new technologies.”
Recruiting will become more cross-functional than it has ever been. Any recruiting team angling to make the transition to strategic-business-partner status will need a thorough understanding of technology, analytics, and marketing acumen — but it’s not exactly feasible to turn busy recruiters into multidisciplinary experts. That’s why many companies are now bringing non-recruiters onto their recruiting teams.
“Rather than only relying on recruiters, who can dedicate 20 percent of their time to people analytics or recruitment marketing, it will make more sense to hire a specialist who can spend 80 percent of their time on these areas,” Schultz says. “These specialists — like data scientists, seasoned marketers, and IT consultants — also bring a higher level of expertise than any recruiter could. As they integrate into your team, they can share their knowledge, train recruiters, and oversee operations in their area of mastery.”
But recruiters won’t simply be partnering with non-recruiters — they’ll also be led by non-recruiters. According to LinkedIn’s report, more than a third of current recruiting heads came from roles outside of HR or talent acquisition, usually from sales, operations, or business development.
As Schultz notes, “Leadership roles are valued less for functional expertise and more for business acumen.” In this light, it makes as much sense to bring in non-recruiter leaders to oversee strategic recruiting teams as it does to bring in data scientists to oversee recruitment metrics.
While the integration of non-recruiters onto recruiting teams makes perfect business sense, it’s not hard to imagine the potential for culture clashes between traditional talent acquisition pros and their new partners from the outside. Those clashes can be soothed — or forestalled altogether — by communicating the necessity of the changes.
“Leaders need to focus on creating an insights-driven culture within our recruiting teams,” Schultz says. “We need to be storytellers and highlight the ‘so what’ of our recommendations. To get ahead, recruitment teams should be prepared with new skills to meet these new demands.”
Schultz also recommends using small test project to help prove the value of new additions to the team to any recruiters or business leaders who may be skeptical: “Consider a pilot program with a member of your team executing a scaled down version of an initiative you want to put in place as proof of concept to show the impact a full-time team member would have, and outlining a firm, but flexible role for your new hires to set them up for success.”
Recruiters Are in High Demand — So Why Aren’t We Retaining Them?
“As jobs become more creative, recruiting will become a defining differentiator — and business leaders will take notice,” LinkedIn predicts. This helps explain why demand for recruiters has skyrocketed, up 63 percent since 2016.
But oddly enough, retention of these in-demand professionals doesn’t seem like a major concern. LinkedIn notes that only 34 percent of recruiting professionals say retaining top recruiters is a major priority over the next five years.
“Internal recruiting should be a primary talent source, but companies still have strides to make in that area,” Schultz says. “As important as investing in new talent is, there needs to be an increased emphasis on what motivates teams to do their best work — what makes them engaged and happy in the workplace. Increasingly, employees want opportunities to invest in themselves and mobilize towards roles that give them a sense of purpose. We need to listen to those needs and empower them to make a change within their organization.”
Schultz urges recruiting leaders to ask for the resources they need to keep recruiters engaged and performing well. Whether it’s tech, headcount, or something else, your people won’t stick around unless they feel supported.
Finally, “embrace tools that allow you to actionably track employee engagement and gauge how you can play to employees’ strengths, even if it means a lateral move or taking on something completely different,” Schultz adds.