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What now for Executive Search ?

Source | LinkedIn : By Arjay Prasad

As a recent conscript into the army of agency recruiters that roam the corporate landscape scouting for talent that will satiate the inexhaustible demand of impactful executives that companies require to drive growth, I am overwhelmed by the plethora of voices that seem to echo the opinion that executive search is losing relevance in the digital age.

At first glance, I might agree. The internet, big data, analytics, machine learning, social media and all things so wonderfully digital have indeed disrupted the erstwhile confidential rolodex to a large extent. Information about anyone and everyone, quite literally, is now at our fingertips there is an ocean of algorithms and analytical tools to help sift through the terabytes of data that are generated every almost every instant. Coupled with job descriptions that have been researched and refined to cover every imaginable skill and required experience, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario where traditional recruitment services can be easily marginalised. The general perception of an executive search firm is that of an intermediary providing value by matching employers to potential employees, or vice versa as the case may be. Indeed, a vast number of recruitment firms are not able to  add significant value ahead of being a mere filter of appropriate candidates that may fit a company’s requirements.

However, is that really where the value in a recruitment agency lies ? I beg to differ. While matching CV’s to job requirements is a process that can and is being disrupted digitally, matching people to possibilities is an inherently creative process. Creativity, in essence, is going beyond even what has worked in the past and involves a leap of faith honed by extensive experience and judgment that no algorithm is capable of accomplishing. This, in my view, is one of the key value propositions that a recruiter brings to the table.

Furthermore, algorithms and data science cannot replace the value of a human connection. There is enough research now in the academic domain that shows that the human mind works on association and that stories are an even more powerful tool than data when it comes to persuasion. While algorithms and technology might speed up the process of discovering candidates, the ability to persuade, convince and bring a passive candidate to a discussion is not machine learnable. As technology makes the discovery process easier and faster, this is the core area where recruitment firms will need to focus their energies and drive their value proposition from. In an age where light speed disruption has become a fact of life, this becomes even more important as recruitment will continue to move in favour of candidates that can learn quickly and bring value in changing business environments – and it will take much more than a sophisticated algorithm to accomplish this.

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