Third Republic recently had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel McEvoy, who drew on his experience at one of the fastest-growing businesses and best companies to work for in the UK – ClearScore – to discuss how the digital skills gap is causing recruitment professionals to adapt how, and where, they source top talent.
Third Republic (TR): How have you seen talent acquisition change in your time in the industry? What do you think has driven these changes?
Daniel McEvoy (DM): Everything that has happened in the industry has definitely been driven by the huge skills gap, and more specifically the gap in technology. There is an increased demand from more and more companies wanting to be digital first, and tech skills have become key to this. However, as demand as increased there is a definite drop in the supply of talent; when I first started in an agency about four in five candidates, I dealt with were skilled individuals from outside of the UK and that movement has really died down now. So, the gap has gotten bigger and bigger.
That’s resulted in a shift for recruiters towards a more marketing mind set; for instance, looking at what channels you use, what your candidate personas are, and your general strategy when it comes to talent acquisition. It’s now almost synonymous to acting as a brand manager because, given the amount of time that you spend trying to engage candidates, it’s important that your message resonates and sticks. From this, recruitment has also developed into an education and project management piece, as companies try to educate their employees and especially their hiring managers on their message and how they should conduct themselves in interviews etc. Recruitment and marketing are becoming very much more aligned, and individual recruiters are having to become outspoken advocates of their brand and best practices.
TR: Do you think the rise in digital and technology will continue to influence and alter the industry?
DM: It definitely will, but I do think there’s a lot of over dramatisation about how big that impact is going to be. I personally don’t view the main value of recruitment as a CV matching exercise; what recruiters do and where they earn the money is through relationship building and understanding their candidates in order to make compatible matches. I don’t think there’s going to be machines that are able to replicate this, but I think the value of technology is going to be in things like machine learning and artificial intelligence automating the mundane and less people-focused side of the job. More and more of the administrative workload is being taken away and that’s increasing the amount of time recruiters have for the meaningful conversations.
TR: What emerging talent acquisition trends do you think we will see as a result of this ever-changing technology?
DM: Until the next piece of technology lands, it’s impossible to guess what it will be. One thing that I do like, as an in-house recruiter, is that you used to have a lot of different tools to do different things, and if you combined them right you had a pretty good toolkit. Now, though, there’s single products that can do everything. For instance, the ATS at ClearScore was much more than that – it had a lot of integrated features that made it really efficient and made recruitment less executional and more strategic.
TR: Where do you see social media fitting into this strategic way of recruiting?
DM: I think it’s trendy to use social media at the moment, and I think it comes back to the fact that recruitment and marketing are becoming more and more similar. I think it takes investing in a social media professional and not just giving your recruiters a log in and leaving them to it; for instance, LinkedIn can generate traffic, but to do it strategically you need someone who is immersed in that world.
TR: How have you witnessed candidate behaviour changing in this digital age?
DM: I think it’s interesting, and I might also be imagining, but when I was growing up it felt like companies held the cards when it came to job applications, but now I think that it’s flipped. Because of the skills shortage, candidates know they are in-demand, and are generally much more informed about opportunities and much pickier when it comes to who they will talk to. I don’t think this is a bad thing, because all of us are job-seekers from time to time, and it means that recruiters are having to up their game and be better and quicker because they know that candidates get a huge amount of attention and they have to beat this competition. On top of this, candidates being more informed does help companies to make better hires because they’re less likely to hire someone who is ‘desperate’ and chooses you even when it’s not right!
TR: So, if candidates are more selective over who they engage with, do you think it’s also harder to source them?
DM: I think the perception that they’re harder to source comes from issues with more traditional channels, such as LinkedIn, because they’re so saturated. However, there are now a lot of platforms that make it easier for both sides to be selective because they’re good at portraying what is being offer or looked for. In that sense, it’s getting easier to make a match through certain platforms. We have to remember that a lot of recruiters have seen things come in and out of fashion, and we have to adapt so whilst the older channels might be over-saturated, new ones are always coming in.
TR: ClearScore grew notoriously quickly; what were some of the challenges with bringing in talent quickly enough to support this?
DM: What makes ClearScore very successful, and a great company to work for, is the quality of people there. Hiring at scale is one thing but maintaining the level of the bar we have is even more difficult. Another thing is the burden on other members of the business, such as line managers, who are going to have to give up a lot of their time to interview potential candidates. It can be tempting to relieve the strain and make a hire as soon as possible, but that’s not going to help anybody and making a bad hire only makes it worse down the line. So, you have to balance being selective and protective over your hiring managers and their time, and that’s key to making sure you scale effectively.
TR: You have worked both in-house and, in an agency, how do you think the two differ in the value they can add in today’s digital world?
DM: When I moved from agency to in-house, I expected the two to be very different and the biggest mistake I made was overestimating this difference. What I realised, however, is that it’s nowhere near as different as you think; everything you learn agency side is useful in-house and vice versa. Agency gives you good insight into lots of clients and employer branding and processes, but when you’re in-house you’re a bit more isolated so you have to be careful not to lose that strategic view on it.
The way I see it, and the approach I took with agencies at Clearscore, is that agencies are like chopsticks; your fingers are the best things for picking things up with, but chopsticks let you reach further. We reduced agencies and started to invest in tools and our internal team because I think they can add things like the employer branding and project management pieces, but I do think that good agencies can enable more strategic recruitment to be carried out and that’s important to bear in mind.