"May you live in interesting times" goes the ancient Chinese saying. What at first might seem like a blessing, is usually used to draw attention to the fact that the times you are living in are in reality, full of challenges and changing fast.

I think this is an accurate reflection of the recruitment landscape in 2018. With so many streams for recruiters and sourcers to stay on top of outside of what for many years has been their core job function, it can be overwhelming to find the time and resources to stay on top of everything. But, as Einstein said – “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” and, for those that are excited by the potential to innovate and see the opportunity to better their business, there is much to be explored.

New areas of opportunity in recruitment have been gaining steam in recent years, some have taken root and become best practice in agencies, others are more bleeding edge and recruiters are still putting their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing before they commit to adopting them.

Topics like recruitment marketing, talent demand generation, blockchain, automation and GDPR are vying for attention. As with most things about which hype is generated, the reality of where your efforts should settle lies somewhere in-between.

In this post, I’ll explore a few areas that are on my radar through my work with recruitment agencies.


Let’s tackle this one right out of the gate. It’s a word which in many senses has become synonymous with opportunity in improving recruitment, but there are many who are sceptical (with valid reasons) about it.

Automation is here to stay, but automation done right should not come across as automated. As a recruiter, you might instantly be put off at the idea of automating. Recruitment, after all, is very much about the human element—building a relationship with your prospect or candidate. I couldn’t agree more… so let’s automate! Automation enables you to reach more people to be able to build those quality human relationships. It isn’t about becoming robotic—you need to automate in a personal way.

Many believe that chatbots are the cat's whiskers (bee’s knees are overrated) and a natural fit for automation in recruitment. I’m not so sure. If you’re thinking about using a chatbot as a glorified FAQ, you may be over-engineering the solution. Rather, this is likely a symptom of a badly implemented FAQ page suffering from accordion-itis where people get frustrated sifting through a towering list of questions, expanding and collapsing answers in the hopes of finding what they’re looking for. Nothing a good search functionality and thoughtful UX can’t sort out.

recruitment chatbot

I haven’t enjoyed experiences where I’m clearly talking to a bot, but the company has tried to make it seem like a person. If you’re going to be using a bot, be honest and make it clear what is. Some do, many don’t.

In an interesting development to kick off the year, Smashfly have announced a partnership with Paradox, the creators of the Olivia AI assistant. Paradox recognise that if AI chat is to work in recruitment, it needs to be as human as possible. Pairing this offering with Smashfly—a Recruitment Marketing platform makes sense. It will be interesting to watch the strides made by integrating the tech and seeing how it positively affects the candidate experience.

Another use-case to consider using a chatbot could be to engage with potential candidates that want to learn more about a job beyond what is displayed in the job description (e.g. salary range, benefits), or to request access to resources that you may consider putting behind an access wall such as a video description of the job made by people that the candidate would end up working with. Allowing the candidate to express interest, and give you their contact details in return for you providing valuable information is a good way to expand your knowledge about the potential candidate pool, without them having to make the commitment to apply for the job there and then. If the chatbot is unable to fulfil their need, the request gets escalated to a flesh-and-blood recruiter, ready to assist an engaged lead.

Having an easily-accessible way for people to contact you from any area of your site through chat messaging is a nice way to lower friction for people to contact you.  I’m not sure making it a bot is the right way to go. If it’s during office hours and you have the resources, you might benefit by putting a real person there—it’s a good opportunity for the actual human touch.

The automation opportunity - Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

The real opportunity to make a difference at scale to recruitment agencies is in automating the recruitment pipeline, from the top end of the funnel to the bottom, at points where it makes sense to do so and in combination with thoughtful, valuable contributions from the people who know their industry best – recruiters themselves.

The Recruitment Funnel

Employing automation workflows to augment recruitment marketing and nurturing efforts, manage assessments, pre-screening candidates with async video and interview scheduling are all ways to find efficiencies in the hiring process.

To sum up, there’s a big discussion going on about AI in recruitment, but we are a far cry from a scenario where everyone’s doing it. There is a significant opportunity to use it as a differentiator that can bring value to your candidates and positively affect your bottom line.

It will enable sourcer’s and recruiters to automate away the more mundane, repeatable tasks of their jobs and focus on the higher-value, higher-skilled areas of their competency, ultimately enabling higher-quality results and more job satisfaction as a bonus.

Will automation have a negative impact on recruitment jobs? – most likely. Will it be akin to what it’s threatening to do to the taxi and trucking industry? – I seriously doubt it. There is so much in the recruitment process that AI can’t touch as long as candidates and hiring managers value the experience and relationship that is delivered through people.

Agencies who think they differentiate themselves by focusing on the human element without investing in a defined strategy and technology to augment it are doing their candidates, their sourcer’s and their recruiters a disservice. The risk is that their differentiation will come in the form of being left behind by the industry.

GDPR & Recruitment

This is a fun topic, and something recruiters love to spend all day focusing on [insert sarcasm here]. I won’t go into the intricacies of GDPR in this post but if you think it won’t affect how you do business, you’re dead wrong.

It poses many challenges for recruiters (and any business that handles the personal information of EU citizens) and it will be the enforced law of the land from 25th May this year. You need to consider how you enable individuals’ rights and ensure that your business is accountable under the Data Protection Principles.

Assessing what information, you collect, how you process, store and secure that information as well how long you retain it are key steps in assessing your current accountability gaps. If you need help in assessing your position in relation to GDPR, I provide Data Protection expertise in this area and am happy to help.

Data Subject Rights under GDPR

Recruitment Marketing

Recruitment Marketing will continue being an important strategy for employers and recruiters looking to engage with and build a relationship with a pool of quality, engaged talent. Treating the candidate as a customer, displaying your worth and providing consistent value to people that are engaging your brand is a proven method of being a first port of call for consideration when a jobseeker is ready to make a move.

Companies with a recruitment marketing platform are three times more likely to have a quality-of-hire above competitive benchmarks in the industry. This strategy has taken root over the last decade and is employed by recruiters to varying degrees of consistency and success. It is only in recent years, however, that platforms have emerged that are enabling companies to unify this strategy across channels and give greater transparency on results and ultimately, the all-important ROI.

Examples of recruitment marketing platforms:

Social Recruitment

Social Media Recruitment

Using social networks to source potential candidates is another way recruiters and sourcers are increasingly exploring to cast their net wider when looking for talent. My take on this is that these platforms are best used to raise brand awareness through efforts like recruitment marketing and not to use them as channels to reach out to potential candidates directly. Over time, as these methods are increasingly used, there is a risk of pushback both from Data Protection Authorities and candidates themselves. Social recruiting has its place in combination with a thoughtful strategy that respects individual’s privacy.

Diversity in Recruitment

There are increasing efforts to make companies more accountable in achieving diversity hiring, in areas of race, religion, gender, disability, ethnicity, age, education and personality through standards like the British Standard for Diversity and Inclusion and regulations in the USA where companies that employ more than 50 employees and have Federal contracts above a threshold of $50K are required to submit an annual Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) report detailing their diversity efforts to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

As well as diversity in hiring having proven itself to positively impact on companies’ performance (15% more likely to outperform with a gender diverse workforce and 35% more likely to outperform with an ethnically diverse workforce), it is also an important indicator to potential hires that a company they are considering takes its social responsibility seriously.

Closing the Gender Pay Gap

gender pay gap

There is an EU average gender pay gap of 16.3%

There has been a cultural awakening in recent years of the gender pay gap that has yet to be closed. Often it has been highlighted by high-earners in the public arena (e.g. BBC, RTE, Hollywood), but affects disproportionately many more women in more common job verticals across the social divide from lower through to middle and higher-income professions. Efforts are being made to make companies more accountable and transparent in their efforts to demonstrably close the gap through introducing regulations such as the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations (GPGR), which came into force in April 2017 in the United Kingdom. It requires employers with more than 250 employees to publish an annual report showing pay gaps in their organisation.


In Ireland, as of 2017, the gender pay gap stood at 13.9%, with an EU average gap of 16.3%, with the needle not moving significantly in recent years. There is still clearly work to be done and for employers and agencies advertising positions, transparency in the gender pay gap within the hiring organisation could become a differentiator when attracting the right talent. 

Curious how your job description may appeal to the different genders? – check out this tool.

Enhancing the Job Application Experience

The art of writing great job descriptions

A well-written job description can make or break your application rate. As well as being important from an organic SEO point of view to pull in that all-important Google Juice, it is crucial to demonstrate enough value to a potential candidate for them to express an interest in a position.


job description hero award

There are tools out there to help us make our English teachers proud and keep the grammar-nazis at bay such as Grammarly and Hemmingway. As a recruiter, steeped for years in the industry, you have likely evolved your skills of crafting job descriptions and are able to crank them out in your sleep. But, if that’s not the case, perhaps you’re new to the industry or you may want to check if what you consider to be your finely-honed writing techniques may be reflecting internal biases that you’re not aware of, why not run your drafts through tools designed to give you recruitment-focused feedback? Job Grader and Textio are examples of recruitment-focused content enhancement tools that can help you polish your language and focus the job description on valuable applicant-focused content, helping you avoid buzzwords and tailor for cross-gender appeal.

As recruiters look to where else in the hiring process they can find optimisations to increase applications. Being laser-focused on your potential applicants and appealing to the right cross sections of skills and society is a relatively painless win to achieve. Improving the quality and consistency of job descriptions will pay dividends well into the future.

Video killed the job description star?

Not quite, but they can be the icing on the cake. Video has been taking over how stories are conveyed on the web in recent years. Four times as many consumers prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it. The same engagement rates are being seen for those who are pioneering video job descriptions; with application rates increasing by as much as over 30% for advertisers that provide video supplements to their job pages. It’s not necessarily a new concept, but I think it’s one who’s time has come in terms of user expectations. Companies and recruiters who put the extra effort in to giving a window on the world of where an applicant would end up working, and who they would be working with, are setting themselves apart from the pack. It doesn’t have to be a cinematically breath-taking production – just a decently shot, short video made by real people who care about getting the right candidate. Obviously – a proactive Hiring Manager and Recruitment Agencies having a great relationship with them are key to success here.

Add value - it’s the little things

Enhancing the job description with information relative to the jobseeker can be a great way to add value. Big job boards like Indeed.com and Monster have search by location functionality built into them. This allows the user to select a radius around their preferred area to display job results from. Providing this functionality on your careers site is a great way to improve the user experience (UX), particularly for those who are using mobile to discover jobs (which is most jobseekers). Few recruiters enhance their UX using this approach beyond being able to choose specific cities to filter by. It provides a unique opportunity to providing additional information for each job relative to the individual (such as commute times). I expect to see more agencies making use of this opportunity.


Establishing trust is important. Reviews have become a crucial step for people when making decisions about what to buy. Over 70% of American consumers look at product reviews before making a decision. Social Proof is powerful. In recruitment it offers a great opportunity for companies who can leverage the power of their employees to be ambassadors for their them. To leverage their network, find people with the skillsets that they know the company needs and be rewarded for it. Employee referrals have a very high applicant-to-hire conversion rate. Only 7% apply but this accounts for 40% of all hires and the time to hire is significantly less (29 days vs 39 days). Referral hires also tend to be happier hires, with a higher job satisfaction and retention rate.

recruitment referrals

There is a danger, however, that recruiting in this way can introduce bias into the hiring process as employees are likely to be recommending people within similar socio-demographics to themselves. This is less of a hurdle if your workforce is already diverse, but if not, you risk amplifying the issue.

Provide alternative Job Application CTA's

Provide alternative Job Application CTA's

For recruitment agencies who implement a successful referral program this is less of a concern and in that sense a good opportunity to use their network of contacts to recommend a friend or colleague for a position that they think may be a good fit. Providing a call to action other than “APPLY” can cast your net much wider to bring in more qualified candidates.

Having the systems in place to accurately track referrals from initial contact through to placement and enabling the rewarding of the original referrer are critical to the success of such a program. Companies worth looking at in this space are:

Read on below to explore how referrals and the blockchain could be a great combination to take referral programs to the next level in coming years.

Blockchain & Recruitment

If you’ve been able to avoid the media coverage of bitcoin and its meteoric rise over the last year then you’ve probably also managed to avoid hearing about a bunch of other things that happened in our world and you are likely a happier, healthier and more stable soul for it. Good for you— ignorance can indeed be bliss.

Already up to speed on bitcoin?—skip ahead! In case you’re curious about this phenomenon however, let me fill you in. It’s a digital currency often referred to as a cryptocurrency (and it’s not the only one). It does away with the need for a third party (like a central bank) for people to have trust in their financial transactions. It achieves this using the underlying blockchain technology which is, in effect, a distributed register (or ledger) of transactions that occur on the blockchain. If I send money from my digital wallet to yours, this transaction is validated and recorded on the blockchain which consists of a network of millions of computers around the world (which can include your own) that act as the record of fact for that transaction having occurred. There is no single-source of truth, no authority controlling it.

Currently, it’s more of a speculative virtual asset than a currency that you would run to the store and buy your bread and milk with. People are excited about its potential and if you consider that there are more than two billion unbanked people in the world you can see just a slice of the capacity for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to enable people to access a global financial system that many are shut out of due to cost of access, cost of use and distrust among other reasons.

Why is blockchain important for recruitment?

Bitcoin is underpinned by the distributed ledger that is the blockchain. It’s the source of truth for everything that occurs on it. There are companies that are using that blockchain technology and its core function of proving that an event occurred for other applications. In Recruiting and HR, many of the functions that are carried out in the process of hiring a candidate such as the verification of credentials, educational history, work references etc. all lend themselves to being verified using this technology. It has the potential to increase efficiencies in both time and ultimately cost for agencies that have to constantly do this for new candidates. I don’t think it’s going to change the face of recruitment this year but watch this space.

blockchain in recruitment


Jobeum are an example of a company looking to build on the opportunity that the blockchain offers—to bring trust and efficiency to the recruiting process and turn how the monetary model works slightly on its head.

They are positioning themselves to become LinkedIn backed up by the blockchain. They have the concept of an ‘Educational Passport’, whereby educational institutions will be able to digitally sign an individual’s credentials on to the blockchain so that they can be verified (with the permission of the individual) as needed. This could be particularly useful for new graduates who don’t have a work history, whereby a recruiter verifying their educational qualifications is the first hurdle to job consideration. The same concept can be applied to references and work histories that companies can place on the blockchain associated with their workers.

Everyone gets a piece

The Jobeum platform will be backed by its cryptocurrency coin called JobToken (JBT). Jobeum plans  to incentivise potential candidates to share their information with recruiters using JobTokens to allow deeper access to their profiles, share qualifications for verification, take assessments and be rewarded through JBT’s, including the candidate getting a reward if they end up being placed for a job.

Know the perfect person? - Refer and reward!

Know someone better suited to a role? Refer them and receive a cut of the placement through JBT’s. Maybe the person you refer knows someone more suitable for the role than themselves, everyone in the referral chain can be rewarded for the final placement. All of this is executed seamlessly using Smart Contracts that are set up to trigger when certain events (such as a placement) take place.

Candidates being put forward for a position because of being referred by a person who knows them, their skills and their capabilities through their professional relationships with them, saves the recruiter a significant amount of time and investment in having to gain these insights and build this candidate picture themselves. Incentivising personal recommendations through rewards seems like a natural way to encourage the growth of this form of recruitment.

These are interesting times

There is much happening in the recruitment space in 2018, and it’s exciting for opportunities to improve across the spectrum in areas including automation, compliance, social responsibility, candidate experience, quality hiring, recruitment marketing and branding and if you’re really adventurous…. recruitment on the blockchain! I’m looking forward to seeing how these play out in the year to come.

topics mentioned in this article


Alan Mac Kenna

Alan Mac Kenna

Web Development & Data Protection Specialist

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About Alan Mac Kenna

I write about various topics including Content Management Systems, Data Protection, Software Development and Recruitment & HR Tech.


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