The Future of Agency Recruiting Is Going to Be Very Different

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Aug 4, 2017

Note: This is the second part a two-part article on what the future holds for external recruiters and executive search, and for the clients they serve. It is developed by the author from a seminar presentation he did in Budapest on “The Future Of Recruitment.” Part one is here.


Yogi Berra said, “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Here is my educated guess what the future might look like, once more with the input from my colleagues, peers and network in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Monaco, The Netherlands, the UK and USA:

Mid-level recruitment firms will disappear

No company should pay a fee anymore for routine staff functions, such as in accounts payable or junior sales. This kind of recruitment – the traditional niche of smaller recruitment firms – can and should be done in-house, via LinkedIn or an advertisement.

The situation is different at the top of the pyramid, where executive search comes in for these strategic positions. These are often direct searches, sometimes confidential ones. Here, a consultative approach comes in. I have one client who actively involves me in her strategy formulation. She asks me what I see and hear in the market; what her competitors are doing, where they succeed and where they fail. This kind of service will prevail.

On the lower end, temp staffing should stay: if you have a construction site and need 5 workers tomorrow at 5 a.m., you need a staffing company. But the firms in the mid-level, the transactional firms, will have a hard time.

The word “customer” must be redefined

I have been educating recruitment consultants all over Europe for the last 10 years, “Stop thinking in the candidate and customer box!” The only difference between these two is that a) one is currently looking for a new job and b) one is currently NOT looking for a new job.

The best example of this not being understood is the legendary, “I will call you on Friday.” (I call it the biggest mistake a recruiter can make.) Guess what happens on Friday? When you are a customer, your phone will ring. When you are a candidate, the calls come… maybe never.

Everything is a huge network. Treating candidates and clients alike sounds like a small step for a recruiter. But it would be a huge step for the industry. Clients and candidates will no longer tolerate this behavior.


Talent shortage is knocking on our doors, and most industrial nations have too low a birth rate for all the jobs. Do you find it difficult to find the right talent today? Are you planning for the middle management jobs you will need in 5 years? And senior leadership? Ideally these people are on board today. How do you develop and keep them? How do you build a talent pipeline?

As I said in the previous article, employer branding is key. If you want to attract “the best talent,” make sure you are “the best employer.” Treat your employees like customers or they will go to your competition. Like customers.

You need to be easy to contact

I just deactivated my American Express credit card because I am not willing to call a number, listen to a robot and choose among 1, 2, 3 or 4 and then hold the line for another 3 minutes. Neither do I stand in the line in front of a shop to spend my money. I am the customer and want to be treated as such. Same for candidates.

If you still have a registration form on your homepage, switch it off. If you have job advertisements out, make sure to include a name and direct email address (not Candidates can choose today. Do your homework to be chosen. Be complimentary. Show you are an attractive employer.

A more dynamic labor market

Regular changes are an essential part of a competitive and dynamic career path today. The life duration of a job is three years (year 1 to learn it, year 2 to get results, year 3 to confirm them). Then something should happen, internally or externally. This is good news for executive search; our services will be much needed in the future. Yesterday, a client might have been angry if we found a candidate who left in three years. Tomorrow, it is likely we will be recruiting for the same function for the same client regularly.

Focus on service, quality and transparency

We are being challenged by clients and candidates daily. Like for any other service or products, comparing our offer, checking feedback on us or verifying our profitability is only a mouse click away. We must be more transparent, report better and in more detail and adapt more to our clients if we want to stay in business. Our industry has often been accused of being an arrogant one. The times where candidates and clients were willing to accept this are over. Recruiters who are arrogant or non-responsive won’t last long.


The world is changing faster than it used to. Either we adapt to the change or we create it ourselves. In this industry, much can be improved. And much MUST be improved. As always, the fittest, most serious and best companies will stay.

Recruitment is the most ethical job in the world: we help candidates make a career step forward and companies to find that very talent they need to achieve their goals and make economies turn. The future looks bright – at least, when you do the right things and when you do them right!

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Kennedy Executive website.