I seem to find myself frequently riffing on the topic of innovation, or lack thereof, in our recruitment industry this year. It’s an important topic for us currently, particularly in agency land. After years of hearing about how technology will replace us – from robots performing our physical duties, to algorithms subverting our mental agility, and more recently Artificial Intelligence parodying our unique recruiter personalities and EQ – we sail on regardless, doing things the same old way and billing the same old fees.

We used to be sceptical of the clamour for tech being the death of recruitment. That scepticism has changed to a resolute implacability in more recent times, as more and more sexy HR tech start-ups fail to gain traction.

But therein lies the threat. It’s the ambivalence, the shrug of the shoulders, the smirk as another start-up tries, and fails, and you glance up at your whiteboard to see the numbers ticking upwards the same as ever. What people are realising is that the future of recruitment does in fact have technology in its’ make-up, but it is how that is blended with the necessary peculiarities and energies of the human heart and mind to power and steer it that counts.

This is what recruitment agencies must be aware of, and harness for themselves, to remain relevant in the years ahead.

Last week provided the perfect example of how innovation can be as much a simple mindset, a new approach to a process, a bolder way of overcoming a problem, rather than some clever algorithm-driven software. By being more audacious, you can be more innovative. That is certainly the case for global talent attraction agency Work Here who recently partnered up with Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) to combat the acute shortage of tech talent in our capital.

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They launched the “LookSee” project by building a relatively simple piece of technology to manage a recruitment campaign: a portal to receive CV’s, build candidate profiles, provide video presentation uploads, and a platform for Wellington tech clients to view and vote for their favourites. The real rub, though, was the offer to fly the 100 most-voted-for candidates to Wellington, provide a week’s accommodation, and arrange their interviews for them.

Cue global PR heaven, with many media outlets gushing over the story, and the New York Times saying:

“For all sorts of reasons, New Zealand suddenly makes sense. The cost of living is less than in San Francisco. Commuting is less wearying. And American politics… are on the other side of the world.”

The levels of interest exploded, so much so that some of our own v.RPO recruiters had to join in with Work Here to battle through the sheer volumes of applications (see the blend of tech and human?):

  • 1.8m visits to the LookSee Wellington website
  • 110,000 candidate registrations
  • 48,000 submissions (basically a CV upload and a questionnaire filled out)
  • 9,000 video introductions
  • 1,100 candidate profiles published (made viewable to the employers)

All of this culminated in 97 attendees to the LookSee Wellington week, who flew in last week and are here interviewing for tech roles in Wellington as we speak. Hats off to WREDA and the guys at Work Here. This, in my opinion, is real life, actual recruitment innovation, and the shift in mindset, the audacity of the solution was as much the innovation as the presence of the tech platform.

Here in New Zealand we live in a culture striving for innovation. We’ve been members of co-working space Generator for over six years, entering their chic-distressed environs as their third tenant. This week they announced they would be taking over GridAKL in Auckland’s innovation precinct, trebling the space available to innovative companies of all sizes.

We at Rice Consulting have been part of their quest to drive innovation since early 2011. We’d love to also witness more innovation in our recruitment sector too. Remember, it is sometimes just a simple shift in mindset away.

Jonathan Rice

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.

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