In 2020 and beyond the world of recruitment faces some specific challenges – and increasingly these are similar across the globe.
Technology and talent attraction, the widening skills gap in specific sectors and workplaces having to be more flexible and inclusive are just a few to mention.
Not many can claim to be at the front line of helping recruiters from across the world come together to solve these challenges, but Hung Lee, creator and curator of highly-respected industry newsletter Recruiting Brainfood is one such person.
As we look back at the decade just gone and the one ahead, we caught up with him to get his thoughts on the world of recruitment now and in the future.
TIMESTWO (X2): First of all, thanks for being a part of this Q&A, it’s great to have an opportunity to speak with you. Tell us a bit about you – what made you create Recruiting Brainfood?
Hung Lee (HL): Recruiting Brainfood solves a pretty simple problem: there is too much crap recruiting content on the Internet. I felt this myself when I was reading online and only once in a while coming across a valuable article, but only having waded through a dozen more than were a waste of time. So, started to archive the great posts that I did come across and before long I had an amazing resource I could dip into whenever I need it. Then the thought occurred to me: ‘why don’t I share the resource?’ If I had the problem, then surely others must have too. And that’s the original story of Recruiting Brainfood.
X2: Looking back at the past decade, what do you think has been the main issues recruiters have had to deal with and why?
HL: In the past 10 years we’ve seen tremendous change to how recruitment is practiced, most of the changes directly the result of the widespread adoption of game changing technologies at the society level. For example, 3G and the smartphone really accelerated the adoption of social networks, which in term meant an exponential increase in the user generated data which smart recruiters learned how to mine and convert into usable information for finding candidates.
This transformed candidate acquisition, especially for the ‘highly skilled, in demand’ hires. Less focus on ‘post and pray’ and more focus on ‘active sourcing’. The main issue then has been how quickly recruiters were able to adapt to these new opportunities – how quickly they could build new skills in order to stay ahead of the competition for the most highly sought after candidates.
X2: And ahead of us stretches a whole new decade. What are the opportunities and potential pitfalls to look out for?
HL: We can – and should – look again at technology adoption at society level and scenario plan what that looks like for us in recruiting. The arrival of 4G has really triggered remote working – a trend that will become a revolution in the workplace. With the roll out 5G offering ‘remote anywhere’, we can anticipate a seismic shift in how organisations are built, how work is performed, and with whom. All this is gold for recruiters who can anticipate what that future looks like.
X2: How has the political landscape shaped recruitment and what do you think the biggest impact has been in the UK?
HL: Brexit and the Brexit aftermath – will continue to dominate the economic landscape for a generation. It will have huge impact on different segments of the economy. There are certain sectors that are heavily dependent on access to the single market – from professional sectors like technology, science, healthcare to practical sectors like agriculture and construction. We can expect labour shortages in all of these sectors – potentially a boon for recruiters who might find renewed respect and demand for their skills. The risk, however, is that some of jobs might simply migrate, if end employers see that it might be easier to relocate the job to where the labour rather than work super hard to relocate the labour. ‘Jobs flight’ of this type is genuine risk, especially for the professional sector.
X2: What have you learned from the global network you have created through RB? Are people dealing with the same problems across the world?
HL: Yes. The most remarkable thing I’ve learned is that there are universal challenges in recruitment – candidate discovery, candidate engagement being uppermost in mind for recruiters. That said, there are always local conditions which can influence which methods are applicable to solving these problems. For instance, in Western Australia, the main problem is finding candidates who are prepared to ‘FIFO’ – fly in/fly out – as most of the jobs are in the mining sector and are located in mining towns – something you would never even think about if you weren’t a recruiter local to the area.
X2: You specialise in recruiting for start-up businesses, so what advice do you have for starting your own recruitment business?
HL: Focus on a vertical. The technology trends I mentioned earlier have had the effect of enabling experienced recruiters to set up solo much more easily than was the case 10 years ago. However, this also means that many more people are doing it – new recruiter company formation is at record highs – so it pays to be player in a niche rather than a generalist who attempts to deliver against too wide a requisition load.
X2: If you could pick three things that a recruitment entrepreneur will need to be successful in the next decade what would they be?
HL: I think the three ‘A’s are necessary:
Anticipation: a great deal of success in any industry is understanding the direction of travel in society. It’s like swimming with the tide – you don’t have to be the best swimmer, but you will beat the best swimmer if you know how to use the currents and environment around you as opposed to someone who is thrashing against them.
Audience: the next generation of recruitment entrepreneur will be skilled at building an audience or community that listens to what she might say. We are retreating into closed spaces online because we are becoming disenchanted and fearful of the open web. That means we will pay less attention to most sources of information, reserving our attention to those with whom we are in trust network. If you’re a recruiter who can command a decent trust network, you’ll be a success.
Adaptability: we can forecast the future but cannot predict it. What we can be sure of is that the pace of change will only accelerate and in those conditions the ones that succeed will be those who have excellent learning agility and – typically – a rich network of collaborators and confederates to draw upon.
Hung Lee is the Editor of leading industry newsletter Recruiting Brainfood. He is an industry professional with over 15 years experience as an agency recruiter, Recruitment manager, Internal Head of Talent, recruitment trainer, founder of award winning online recruiting platform WorkShape.io, and now Editor and Community builder at Recruiting Brainfood – the best weekly newsletter in recruitment. Hung lives and works in London,