How disruptive is technology when it comes to executive search?

One of the trends that intrigues me most is the increased use of technology in the recruitment process. Curious by nature, I have been closely following new developments in recruitment tech.

For expert positions, the use of technology has already been integrated in the selection process. I love the idea of talent marketplaces to attract freelance specialists. Through the use of chatbots and an automated initial selection process, interim agencies and specialist recruitment agencies are able to quickly screen a large number of candidates and check if their skillset matches the position requirements. For candidates it is even possible to ‘date’ potential employers in a tinder style.

However, the recruitment of middle and senior management is a different game. It is hard to imagine that the time will come where a senior manager will find his or her next challenge by swiping to the right.

But what is the added value that technology can bring to executive search?

First of all, it can significantly speed up the selection process.

I have implemented quite a few of these technologies over the last few years. It works like a charm. Automated scheduling avoids endless e-mails on what would be a good time to talk. Video interviewing makes it easy to talk to candidates in the evening, allowing them to engage in a discussion about a job opportunity with limited efforts. It even lets me share with clients an initial impression of a candidate. My on-line assessment tool allows quick personality testing and even a comparison with the style and personality of the hiring manager.

But this is old school, these solutions have been on the market for several years and have proven their use.

The trending HR tech companies advocate that their solution can eliminate bias from the process, identify a larger pool of potential candidates and discover those hidden gems that no one else can find and target candidates in such a way that it will appeal to their personality.

I have tested several of these solutions over the past few months.

Truth be told, although I find most of them cool and utterly intriguing, none of them, up to now, were able to show true added value to the selection of the right candidate for the job.

AI-driven search engines have not yet revealed candidates that I was not able to identify myself, on the contrary the list of possible target candidates was longer and contained mostly the obvious suspects. Cristal, the app that reveals someone’s personality based their on-line profile, is cool as a source of information but it still has not changed my communication style towards candidates that drastically. And there were many more, from gamification to cv screening …. All of them had their merits but none could replace the human aspect that is so crucial in executive search.

And then there is another thing: although the recruitment industry might be eager to start using new technologies, that does not mean that candidates or hiring managers are ready to start applying them.

Spontaneous applicants receive an invite to record an automated interview that will give me a broader insight in who they are but reality is that only 5% actually embrace that opportunity and record the interview (needless to say that the ones who do, make a very positive impression and stand out from the crowd). Job descriptions via video are also high on my wish list as way of attracting candidates but I still have to find the first hiring manager who is willing to record the job description instead of writing it down.

I think that when it comes to the use of technology in executive search, it remains an interesting playing field, but it is key to determine which tools truly add value. I will keep a close eye on the developments in the months and years to come but the ability to connect with others and to assess the right match between candidate and company will, for the time being, remain primarily human.

So, we aren’t swiping to the right just quite yet :-)

I look forward to hearing from you,


How disruptive is technology when it comes to executive search? was originally published in Secrets of a headhunter on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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