Is Recruitment Technology really that important?

I was asked this question about recruitment technology as we are an external technical recruiter. We deal in technical roles. Our systems are SaaS based. All communication is digital or telephonic. We utilise various other software in our processes. And so initially it seemed like an obvious yes, but then it got me thinking.

Tomorrow (at the time of writing this) is the Recruitment Expo in Olympia. It is an opportunity for every recruitment leader to see the latest advances, ideas and tech the industry has to offer. Also released recently were the top 100 lists for recruitment firms in the UK covering various categories. Furthermore, LinkedIn (tech based platform) is a wash with every recruitment leader banging on about “tech will change this” and “tech can do that” like it’s going out of fashion. If like myself, you follow Gary Vee then there is even more “Content” on the subject. There is an awful lot of noise about recruitment technology!

But how much of it do we actually need?

I thought of the tech we actually need to operate our business. Disclaimer: This is the general key stuff as in, I don’t class a calculator as tech for you anally retentive types.

  1. PC
  2. CRM system
  3. ATS system
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Web Based Job Boards
  6. Email
  7. Xray / Boolean Search systems
  8. Database
  9. VoiP phone
  10. Mobile Phone
  11. SaaS contractor payroll portal
  12. Sage
  13. Online Business Banking
  14. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  15. Internet Connection

There could be some other minor programs/applications involved, but these cover the key criteria.

What could we do without?

A PC? We need a computer as everything runs on it. CRM? You could go old school and do it from Excel I guess, but from an efficiency and practically perspective that’d be counterintuitive. An ATS system? Excel could be used again, but would be very impractical and not time efficient. LinkedIn? It really depends on the types of roles we are recruiting for. Some recruiters would claim it is critical, but being honest some of the candidates we place have never even heard of it, let alone have a profile. Job Boards? We work on a lot of motivational match type roles where Job Boards still have dominance over passive candidate searching. For our business LinkedIn and Job boards are both important but for different types of candidates.


A must. Xray & Boolean Search systems? It is important in sourcing passive candidates. Database? Again, it could done on Excel, but would be very time inefficient. VoiP phone? It allows for Hot Desking, mobile work, working from home etc so not essential, but it helps with flexibility. Mobile phone? Same answer. SaaS contractor payroll portal? It could be done by paper timesheets and scanning, but again that’d be very time consuming. Sage? Getting out Ledger books can be done, but time is the problem again with that route. Online Business Banking? With all the banks closing, including our offices local branch, to do business banking it’d mean a 20 minute drive each time. Plus, we are a cashless business anyway. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? We source people, distribute content and gain brand exposure so these have direct and indirect benefit. Internet Connection? Basically, all of the above cannot be done if we didn’t have that.

These 15 items of tech, although not all absolutely essential, are important unless you want to double the length of your working day.

The Benefit of Tech

This brings me on to the benefit of technology to recruitment. Technology for recruitment, in my mind, should fit into one or more of three categories; essential in order to trade, increases productivity, improves time efficiency. To elaborate on why I chose these three categories, technology will have a direct or indirect impact on financial returns. If it’s essential to trade it has to be used. Otherwise we don’t have the chance to make any money in the first place. That’s directly impacting our financials. Productivity and time efficiency are indirectly impacting our financials. If we are more productive, we’ll have more chances to make money. Having more time allows us to be more productive and again, this leads to having more chances to make money.

As technology generally costs money, when approaching which technology to utilise, I like to consider its cost vs value against these three criteria. And this is where I feel that the “tech is everything” ideology becomes a bit fuzzy. There is so much noise about tech in social media, television, industry events and other mediums that it gets hammered home like if you’re not engaging with the latest tech you’ll be left behind. As if you are some kind of prehistoric recruiter whose time is quickly running out.

Tech use Vs Tech Fads

I look at some technology and I am dubious as it seems more gimmicky than pragmatic. Take video interviewing software. Firstly, I like this idea. I would really like this to be a thing that we could incorporate into our business. I am therefore not at all against it, but more so the opposite.

Yet, when I ignore the “tech is everything” noise and look at this pragmatically, I have question marks. If you are the employer or an Internal Recruiter, I think it works well. Especially if a candidate does not live locally. But for an external recruiter I’m not so confident.


Put yourself in the shoes of a candidate first. If you are going to have a video interview, you’d need to schedule it into your day. It’s not like a phone call where you could take it on Bluetooth in the car, walking down the street or slipping into a side office at work. You’d need to look your best and be in a quiet place where it is practical to do it. That place would probably be at home and the time would probably be after you finish work in the evening.

Recruiters Perspective

Now consider the recruiters perspective. Our initial conversations with candidates tend to only be a few minutes long. Sure, we will have further chats with them, but practically speaking you can’t justify spending 30 minutes talking to every candidate. You have to be concise with your time. This is simply because you’ll need to speak to so many candidates each day.

But if you incorporate video interviews in to things, most of those conversations will be after hours. And what information are you really going to gain from a video interview that’s five or ten minutes long that you can’t gain from a telephone chat? Unless they have a swastika tattoo on their forehead or similar, are you really going to gain much benefit from it? Maybe some, but does it warrant the cost of the software, the time inconvenience and the lack of benefit to productivity? I am somewhat dubious.

Future Thinking Tech

AI Algorithms to predict human behavior. Sounds cool right? There is talk of systems that drag a candidates information from their entire history of social media engagements, posts, updates and timelines. It’ll drag all of their work history info online and any other related indirect data concerning them. With this information it will then make predictions on their behavior, wants, desires, fears etc and produce a succinct sparking cocktail of whether they are a cultural and motivational fit for your business.

The only problem is that a few tech firms in the US are exploring this, but it has a few impracticalities. Firstly, we have GDPR here and the US will follow suit with their own similar data protection laws in future. Therefore, being able to source all of that information to make an accurate assessment is unlikely, but you could request permission from a candidate during their application process. You then also have to consider that studies have shown that an individual’s psychological behavior online differs from their natural behavior in order to court social favour. This warrants much of the information irrelevant or unusable and, what’s even harder, is that it’s not clear what info is therefore useful and which is not.

Suffice to say that the technology has flaws because even if you could get it working to judge someone’s genuine behavior, you are sourcing that information from deceptive behavioral data. Oh the lies!

Tech Vs People

What I find ironic about how important tech is spoken about when it comes to recruitment, is that if it’s so important why is it that every recruitment firm out there is hiring people? I don’t mean tech isn’t important, but that people are the critical element here.

The mistake I think that people make regarding tech is that terms like AI and Machine Learning lead people to think that computers are going to replace people. Maybe in future, but not at anytime soon. AI and Machine Learning basically refer to their ability to improve upon the specific task that they are programmed to do in the first place independently. Think of AI like a specialist in a particular discipline that proportions some of its own time to self-improvement.

The technologies in recruitment that work from a pragmatic perspective are those that aid your ability to trade, improve your productivity and/or save you time. And this is my concern regarding the “tech is everything” crowd. It isn’t everything.

Technologies impact on business improvements

Historically, technology has never seen as many jumps in rapid succession as we are seeing today. Our period in history is seeing the biggest leap in technology since the industrial revolution. It could go on to have an even greater impact on our world.

But there is a line between useful technology and technology for technologies sake. Automation in manufacturing is a game changer. Self-driving cars to the taxi industry will be revolutionary. But bear in mind that what they both have in common is that they allow the industry to trade, they improve productivity and/or they save time. They have pragmatic benefits.

Pragmatic benefits to the recruitment industry

Only the technology that has pragmatic benefits to the recruitment sector, just like any sector, will catch on. Utilising the latest technology to impress people without any actual benefit is not cost effective. It’s gimmicky. How many tech shows have gimmicky gadgets? All of them. As they are fun. But how many catch on? None bar the odd fad.

To conclude, technology is important to our industry. Most firms are built on using it. However, there is practical, necessary, cost effective, productivity improving and time saving tech that we need. But a lot of gimmicky fads that when you really think about it, we just don’t. Can we all just stop jumping on the “tech is everything” bandwagon?

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