Maxwell Stephens

The future of recruitment - the age of data

I’ve been in recruitment since leaving University in 2000. Specifically, facilities management recruitment.


In those 17 years, the world has changed beyond recognition. This month, it’s the ten-year anniversary of the launch of the iPhone, the smartphone that has been (probably correctly) credited with getting people to carry around a powerful, touchscreen computer with them when they’re on the move.


This type of thing wasn’t predicted to come along for much later. Here’s the proof. Look, there’s Jean-Luc Picard holding a tablet in the 23rd century! And it looks clunkier than my iPad!

In this article, we’re going to look at the future of recruitment with the caveat that, no matter how alien-sounding these ideas might be to us now, the idea of posting all our pictures, private information, and career history on a publicly accessible platform for all to see would have sounded just as daft back in 2000.




And it’s with those social network platforms that we start. In previous articles, we’ve covered the positive and negative impacts that what you put online can have for your career prospects (here and here and here).


Recruiters already approach potential candidates via Indeed and LinkedIn. We always look for those tell-tale signs that a candidate’s profile or CV has recently been changed as an indication that someone might be open to an approach for a job we’re hiring for.


Could Facebook offer recruiters an “in”? Many users segment themselves according to the jobs they do and by industry-related discussion groups they join. Is one face of the future of recruitment approaching great candidates with private messages in this “personal” space? Or could it be that Facebook takes over these groups and gets recruiting firms to sponsor discussions? It may well be that people feel more inclined to engage with a recruiter about a position on Facebook because it’s seen as personal whereas, with LinkedIn, your boss might be watching.




According to the government, 600,000 UK businesses open every year. The vast majority of them never employ anyone. They work in the gig economy.


According to BBC News, the gig economy is “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs. And – taking opposing partisan viewpoints – it is either a working environment that offers flexibility with regard to employment hours, or… it is a form of exploitation with very little workplace protection?”

On sites like Freelancer and People Per Hour, thousands of clients put out tenders for work that tens of thousands of “giggers” then bid on in an attempt to win the work. This is a worldwide platform so giggers, based in expensive Britain, will be competing against giggers in countries like India or Bangladesh where the cost of living is much lower. In many different areas of work offered on gigging platforms, there is severe and ongoing downward pressure on price.

Let’s follow this thought process through a few steps.


As the type of freelancing work expands on these platforms, recruiters may find that selecting the right talent from gigging sites offers some quick wins. After all, most freelancers have a range of work available for potential customers to view online. They aren’t many CVs that come with portfolios now.


The gigger could be the next big target market for recruitment companies looking for the ideal candidate for their client. And, with freelancing wages much lower than salaried wages (2), the gigger might welcome the approach.


But what if we took that idea to the next logical step? Giggers engaging in Dutch auctions (where the price goes down) for full-time staff. Giggers, keen to move back into the salaried world and who passed the necessary quality and experience criteria set by a recruiter, might offer either free work trials or ask for lower wages to land that job.


That sounds like the type of thing that would never happen. I’m not convinced at all that this would be a positive development but I can see the attractions for both client and candidate in an economic downturn where both are looking for security.


Watson and talent pools


We’ve seen Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant come into our lives over the last few years. They’re interactive, speech-driven virtual helpers who, like a search engine, answer the questions we have, mainly accurately, without the need to interact with another human.


In recent years, IBM have taken this to another level with a service called Watson. But Watson is much more than speech recognition and answering back verbally.


According to Wikipedia, “Watson is a question answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language…The computer system was specifically developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! and, in 2011, the Watson computer system competed on Jeopardy! against former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings winning the first-place prize of $1 million”.


To do this, Watson had access to “200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage including the full text of Wikipedia. Watson consistently outperformed its human opponents on the game’s signalling device”.


A medical version of Watson was then developed. Wikipedia continues, “”Watson’s natural language, hypothesis generation, and evidence-based learning capabilities are being investigated to see how it may contribute to clinical decision support systems for use by medical professionals.


To aid physicians in the treatment of their patients, once a physician has posed a query to the system describing symptoms and other related factors, Watson first parses the input to identify the most important pieces of information; then mines patient data to find facts relevant to the patient’s medical and hereditary history; then examines available data sources to form and test hypotheses; and finally provides a list of individualized, confidence-scored recommendations” (3)

In an article published in Wired in 2013, it was claimed that, in tests, “Watson’s successful diagnosis rate for lung cancer is 90 percent, compared to 50 percent for human doctors.” (4)


Will technology become better at matching candidates to clients than humans? In the future, will we insist that all CVs and career histories follow the same structure and linguistic pattern so that a Watson-type device can parse through thousands at any one time and find a match?


Let’s say Jobs Watson produces a shortlist. Will the recruiter ask questions of the candidate based on the shortlist or will the computer? Over time, who will get the most matches that stay with an employer doing a great job for the longest time?


Is there so much information about candidates now (from CVs, job boards, social media, gigging sites, and so on) that recruiters (either direct or consultants) have too much data that causes either paralysis by analysis or the number of placements where the wrong candidate is shortlisted and hired will go up?


This is a fascinating, interesting, and slightly scary topic that, no doubt, we’ll be returning to soon.

If you’d like to tell us how soon it will be before you think your life will totally be in the hands of machines, we’d love to hear from you. Our number is 0207 118 48 48 or please email us at









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