I recently approached my 12th year working as an agency headhunter. Throughout that time, I’ve seen recruiters come and go. Every couple of years without fail, I meet someone who tells me that there’s no future in agency-side recruitment. Apparently if you hear something frequently enough, you start to believe it… 

Fortunately, I’m a little more stubborn than that.

In 2009 I remember the skeptics say that we were going to be replaced by internal talent acquisition teams. When LinkedIn blossomed a few years later, it was apparently doomsday all over again… and now that it’s 2019, we’re a dying breed yet again and this time Artificial Intelligence is the culprit.

A) I don’t buy it;

B) It’s 12 years since I started in the industry and I’ve just had one of my most successful years in recruitment.

Similarly, over the last 2 years at Salt, I’ve seen both our local Malaysia business and our global business go from strength to strength. We’ve opened new offices, grown teams in existing locations and expanded into new geographies… and there’s plenty more on the horizon.

Recruitment has evolved from when I first started as many industries have. Successful recruiters and successful recruitment firms evolve with it. Candidate identification has become easier. Candidates are now more visible than ever. Eventually, AI may well replace the human element in identification altogether.

The bad news is that if candidates have become easier for you to identify, they’ve also become easier for everyone else to identify. If you thought the war for talent was already treacherous, give it another 5 years. Scratch that, give it another 2 years. I even have conversations now with clients that feel it couldn’t possibly get any more challenging.

And that folks, is exactly why good recruiters and good recruitment agencies are here to stay.

A true specialist recruiter operates on economies of scale. Narrow but deep. You develop an intimate knowledge of a niche area and build strong relationships with the candidates within that niche. Humans like dealing with humans.

What we’re seeing in recruitment is a paradigm shift. It used to be all about identification. In 2019, you certainly need access to the right candidates but now it’s all about the relationship you have with a candidate, the candidate experience and how you manage that experience. The best candidates have the luxury of choice. The best digital candidates unequivocally do – and it’s nothing new.

My first CTO level placement for Salt in 2017 had accumulated a staggering 7 offers – only 1 was mine. Just this week, we had a candidate with 5 offers. In both scenarios, the candidate took the offer that Salt presented because we’d worked hard to ensure the best candidate experiences, alignment and the best offers.

A good specialist agency-side recruiter manages multiple processes each week, numerous per month and countless over the course of the year. We’ve witnessed and distinguished between the good, the bad and the ugly processes so as a client, you don’t have to. There are very few lulls and no hiring freezes because we work across multiple clients. 

If we follow Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule to becoming expert in a field and assume 50% of the week is spent actively involved in process management, that’s 20 hours of work per week for 10 years.

I amended my original title since I'd referred to ‘Closing’, which sometimes comes with negative connotations. We’re simply constant in seeking alignment between our candidates and clients to ensure win-win situations. Disparity certainly arises within processes, but we immediately seek to address it. That might mean we nix a process part-way through, saving everybody valuable time or if it’s a point of flexibility we re-align both parties.

Our goal and expertise isn’t identification, that’s simply Step 1. Our goal and expertise is ensuring that if two parties have invested substantial time in taking an interview process through to offer stage, it’s been time well spent and we end up with two happy customers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Artificial Intelligence at work and it’s impressive. I’m looking forward to it being incorporated more and more into our daily lives as recruiters. 

However, I’m also not worried about it taking my job any time soon. Are you?