When I first came to the world of recruiting back in 1996, the internet had only been publicly available for around five years.  The world then was only beginning to understand its potential.  I recognized it as game-changer.  And I was right. It was the death of recruiting as it was and the birth of how it would be.  Leveraging this realization enabled me to achieve my first great success in this business.  I went from a hapless rookie to an industry leader by doing one simple thing: connecting with people online.  No one had recruited like that before.  This taught me a valuable lesson about the business of hiring people: you have to adapt and innovate to succeed.

Since that time, I’ve strived to adapt and innovate to remain at the forefront of an ever-changing landscape of technology and corporate culture.  From my determination between 2004 and 2006 to convince LinkedIn that their product would have massive appeal among recruiters if only they let us have it (resulting in LinkedIn Recruiter), to my influence over the creation of hundreds of products that make it easier to do our job, I’ve come to believe that technology is a great enabler but it is not the sole answer to the quest for talent.  It is our human spark, our creativity, the innate human desire to explore and discover that makes it possible to find the unfindable.  And this spark is the soul of adaptation and innovation.

As I look back on 21 years in this business I’ve seen many seismic changes.  I’ve seen “Sourcing,” as I conceived it in 1996, evolve from an arcane skillset to a widely adopted and mature specialization employing almost half a million people worldwide. And through all these years, I can say only one thing has remained constant: the exponential growth of the information available to us all. 

And because of this information overload, what was once a simple proposition of matching keywords in a pile of text now produces so many results that we suffer from analysis paralysis.  No longer is our task to find a needle in a haystack but rather to find the needle in stack of needles.  And in our confusion, we are tempted with the wrong-minded compulsion to turn blindly to technology for answers. But the answers we seek are those that computers are least equipped to provide. These answers can only be arrived at through the application of human intuition, by taking leaps in logic and identifying patterns and through understanding both context and subtext.  This is the only way to identify the hidden gem, the perfect candidate, the purple squirrel.

Looking forward, I see the barriers around walled information gardens falling. I see more and more people becoming more and more visible.  And I see the candidates we seek becoming more and more obscured by the crowd. You may think that with all the search technology out there it has become easier to find people, but the truth is the opposite. The technology is being developed precisely because it is that much harder to find people because there are simply more people to sort through. 

In Europe, the challenge recruiters face is even more complex simply because of the variety of languages.  For instance, search techniques that may work in English may not work in French or Dutch. But natural language search works in any database, structured or unstructured, in any language, and is far more scalable than any Boolean based search ever was. So the unique solutions needed to succeed in the recruiting of the future will require that human spark of creativity which will be called upon evermore to find them!

At this point I will digress and say that I look forward to meeting many of you and that I very much look forward to exploring these topics and others with you in depth soon at SOSU Europe!