We talk glowingly of “disruption” and “innovation,” but maybe that constant, fawning chatter is a way of distracting ourselves from the reality that technology makes us anxious.

Last year, NPR asked “Will a Computer Decide Whether You Get Your Next Job?” before going on to explain exactly why that might happen — to no one’s surprise, the writer suggests we can blame (or thank, depending on our boats and what floats them) HR’s love affair with data.

Meanwhile, University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osbourne released a paper that explored the “probability of computerization” for 702 different jobs and found some wide-ranging results: human resources managers have a slim, 0.55 percent chance of being replaced by computers; human resources, training, and labor relations specialists are in a little more danger, with a 31 percent chance; HR assistants face a staggering 90 percent chance of computerization.

Not that we should get too comfortable with even this potentially unsettling data: writing about the Frey/Osbourne paper for Fistful of Talent, Steve Boese points out that “[t]he more data-driven and analytical any job becomes, the easier it will be for it to be reduced into a set of calculations and algorithms.” Certainly, HR is becoming more and more data-driven and analytical everyday. It may just be a matter of time before technology is sophisticated enough to replace even the HR managers.

Some people read this kind of news and run with it, as Lior Shamir did when he proclaimed that recruiters were a dying breed. Others fight back: a post on Recruiting Blogs credited to Enigma People Solutions declares that “technology can never build recruitment robots.”

A TechCrunch article from last year perhaps best demonstrates the cultural conflicts that technology causes: according to Gartner Research, 60 percent of CEOs believe that “smart machines capable of absorbing millions of middle-class jobs within 15 years is a ‘futurist fantasy.’” In contrast, Kenneth Brant, research director at Gartner, says that “the pace of ‘job destruction’ will happen faster than the ability to create new ones.”

But what if, instead of worrying about whether or not the machines were coming for our paychecks, we joined forces with them? What if it wasn’t a matter of us vs. them, but instead a matter of changing the way we (recruiters, hiring managers, HR departments: the whole lot of us) do business?

For a vision of what that might look like, I turned to Brin McCagg, founder of RecruitFi,  which calls itself “the next generation in recruiting.”

Catching Seven Fish, Eating One

It all started with an Uber car.

For those who don’t know: Uber is an app that lets people book drivers directly, without having to deal with taxi companies, chauffeur services, or other intermediaries. In this way, it helps drivers avoid unbooked time and idle vehicles, which are wastes of their resources.

While catching a ride in an Uber car one day, McCagg realized he could apply the same idea to recruiting. “I was taking one of those [Uber] cars and realized that there’s a tremendous amount of excess inventory — or work — that goes to waste in the recruiting process,” he says.

In almost every search, recruiters end up with great candidates who remain unplaced, because the recruiter had more qualified talent than they needed, or the search got cancelled, or another firm won the position. Generally, recruiters can’t do much of anything with these leftover candidates, aside from sit around and hope a new position comes along for which the candidate is a fit.

“It’s like fishing and throwing away half a dozen fish and only eating one,” McCagg says. “It’s a lot of wasted work.”

At the same time, McCagg, who previously co-founded the financial talent-sourcing solution OneWire, was also frustrated by the way the modern business landscape treats recruiters. “A lot of expert agency recruiters have been sort of beaten up in the last half dozen years, as companies have insourced their recruiting processes and increasingly used LinkedIn and other technologies to lessen their need for agency recruiters,” he says. “So the industry has been negatively impacted over the last couple of years. But [recruiters] are still great at what they do.”

McCagg envisioned RecruitiFi as a “supplemental channel,” one that helps organizations fill vacancies while also enabling recruiters to place candidates who may otherwise go to waste. The goal was to use technology to empower recruiters — not push them out of their jobs.

“Companies have spent a lot of time and money on technology, and technology has spent a lot of time and effort on trying to mechanize what humans do,” McCagg says. “At the end of the day … those agency recruiters are experts. We think there’s a lot of value in bringing them back into the equation in an efficient model.”

Using Technology to Get Recruiters “Back in the Game”

McCagg describes RecruitiFi as “a crowdsourcing platform that enables companies to leverage the power and reach and talent of a large pool of expert agency third-party recruiters.” Pay attention to how McCagg routinely focuses not on the technology behind the RecruitiFi platform, but on the skills of the recruiters whom organizations can reach via RecruitiFi. This is because RecruitiFi is the rare recruitment technology with the goal of amplifying the role of human recruiters, rather than diminishing it.

“We really see recruiters as an enormous resource in this country,” McCagg explains. This is because recruiters can more thoroughly vet candidates in ways that machines can’t, often identifying and surfacing qualified candidates that more data-driven and analytical approaches might overlook. And while we tend to think of computers as infallible, it’s good to remember that they mess up just like we do.

RecruitiFi is not a candidate database. Instead, it is a way to put companies in touch with recruiters. Here’s how it works:

  • 1.) A company comes in, sets up a profile, and adds the jobs it needs to fill. The company then sorts through RecruitiFi’s directory of recruiters, selecting the recruiters who can match them to the candidates they need, according to criteria like location, expertise, and level of focus. Then, companies send out what RecruitiFi calls a “JobCast.”
  • 2.) Recruiters receive the JobCast, review it, and respond with up to four candidates. Often these are candidates the recruiter already has on hand from previous searches — the fish who would otherwise just get thrown out, so to speak.
  • 3.) Candidates get a chance to decide whether or not they want to be considered for the job before their information is sent to the company.
  • 4.) The company gets to choose from a wealth of recruiter-vetted candidates; recruiters get to place their leftover candidates; candidates land jobs. Everyone wins.

“Our platform is really designed to help [recruiters] place more of their candidates, more quickly and efficiently, to bring them new clients and new revenue,” says McCagg. “We want to get the recruiters back in the game and have them become a much bigger part of the recruiting process again.”

RecruitiFi is also looking to develop tools and features that encourage companies to directly retain search firms from the platform’s recruiter directory. “We want to promote recruiters,” McCagg says. “We don’t want to do anything to get in the way of traditional retained agency work.”

However, McCagg also realizes that advances in technology have somewhat damaged the concept of the retained search firm. Many organizations simply are not looking to retain third-party recruiters anymore. “There’s no substitute, ultimately, for a full, retained search, but a lot of companies don’t want to do that, and a lot of companies want to do things quicker or more efficiently or want to have one contact with one company but leverage lots of recruiters,” he says.

Strangely enough, RecruitiFi uses technology as a way to help recruiters meet the demands of these companies who would rather do away with recruiting firms. It’s a platform that transforms the way recruiting is done without changing who does the recruiting.

Gamified Recruiting?

Another way in which RecruitiFi is using technology to change recruiting without eliminating recruiters is through gamification. “One of the frustrating things for agency recruiters, is that it’s a winner-take-all situation,” McCagg explains. “You might have five recruiters competing for one position that do a lot of work, so it’s very frustrating when one person wins, and those two or three great candidates that were submitted, they get nothing.”

To address this issue, RecruitiFi introduced a gamified fee structure last week. Here’s how it breaks down:

RecruitiFi charges a flat 14 percent fee upon hire. Organizations pay that fee directly to RecruitiFi, which then distributes the money according to the following schema: the winning recruiter gets 10 points of that 14 percent; one point is distributed evenly among the runner-up recruiters, meaning the recruiters who put in candidates that the company liked but did not hire; and RecruitiFi gets 2.5 points. The candidate gets the remaining half point after they confirm the offer and salary.

For a more concrete example, here’s how it would play out with a position that carried a $100,000 salary: RecruitiFi collects $14,000. The winning recruiter gets $10,000. If there are 10 runner-up recruiters, they split $1000, ultimately receiving $100 each. The candidate receives $500 after confirming, and RecruitiFi takes the remaining $2,500.

“By paying [recruiters] a little more money, we’re rewarding them, and we’re keeping them incentivized to stay in the game and to participate,” McCagg explains.

RecruitiFi also utilizes a point system that ranks recruiters. “We have algorithms that measure how successful recruiters are in the process. A recruiter that puts a lot of candidates in that go nowhere and never get opened and reviewed and put into a ‘yes folder’ gets a low score,” McCagg says. “Recruiters that submit a lot of great candidates that get hired or even get put into the ‘yes folder,’ those recruiters get a better and better score.”

In addition to raising their rankings, the points that recruiters accrue will soon be redeemable for rewards that RecruitiFi is currently developing.

McCagg sees the ranking system and the gamified fee structures as ways to ensure that recruiters are compensated for their time, regardless of the outcome of the search. RecruitiFi doesn’t want to see effort go to waste, in the same way that it wants to help recruiters place all of their leftover candidates.

RecruitiFi is one model of how technology and people can coexist in the same industry — that is, teamwork-style, with technology making life easier while highlighting the human workers’ skills and expertise. McCagg and company believe this is the wave of the future, and you’ve got to admit: it’s much sunnier than the “hail our robot overlords” version.



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