Recruiting is going digital – impact on the future of recruiters

Table of contents

The digitalization of the recruiting

What impact will it have on the future of recruiters?

Digitalization is advancing in leaps and bounds. We already know today that many professions will no longer exist in a few years’ time. Employees are worried about their professional future – but what about the people who hire the employees, the recruiters? How will your professional field, recruiting, change as a result of digitalization? There is now software that can accurately select the most suitable candidates for a position from thousands of applicants.

  • But where will the recruiter be if his job is done by a machine in the future?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of recruiting tools and how do they expand the field of human resources?
  • What can a Human Resources employee do specifically in dealing with digitalization?
  • How can they positively influence and help shape changes in their profession?
  • The profession of recruiter is changing – The emotional side of change. How can I adapt to change?

We explore these questions in our article.

With this post, we are taking part in the blog parade of our esteemed blogger colleagues from Zukunft Personal HRM Expo Blog.


The situation of the recruiter

Digitalization, recruiting tools and the future of the recruiter

The recruiting of yesterday

If you had asked a recruiter to make a typical hand gesture in the past, he would certainly have made a scrolling motion, because the recruiter’s daily routine used to consist mainly of one thing: leafing through piles of application folders.
Before there were recruiting tools, things were done the analog way: The HR employee placed a job ad with the requirements of the job in various newspapers. Some time later there were large envelopes with application folders in the mailbox, even several hundred depending on the popularity of the vacancy. The recruiter opened every single one of these envelopes, leafed through the application folders and tried to get a cursory impression of each applicant based on various criteria. Many applications were sorted out and rejection letters were sent to applicants by post. After a number of pre-selection rounds, applicants were selected – usually together with the management – to be invited for an interview. After meeting many applicants, at some point the choice fell on one of the candidates. The process from the advertisement to the employment contract took months.

Recruiting in transition

At the beginning of the noughties, Human Resources departments began to gain their first experience with online applications, as people started to apply by email. These two processes – the digital application by email and the analog application by post – ran in parallel, which didn’t necessarily make recruiting any easier at first. In addition to newspaper advertisements, larger companies began to set up websites for job vacancies and the first online job exchanges began to operate. This was joined a few years later by social media, which are still used today to draw attention to vacancies.

The situation of the recruiter today

The role and tasks of the recruiter have changed considerably in the meantime: In the past, recruiters acted according to the motto “post and pray”, i.e. they published a job advertisement and prayed that an ideal employee would get wind of it and get in touch. Today, HR professionals are actively sourcing, i.e. they are actively looking for suitable employees before the competition in view of the increasing shortage of skilled workers. In order to be successful, the recruiter spends a lot of time on personnel marketing and employer branding. In the past, candidates had to convince recruiters that they were the best people for the vacant position, but today recruiters have to look for applicants and show them that their company is an attractive employer.
As we can see, the job of a recruiter has expanded – there is more to do than just managing and responding to applications.
However, the screening and pre-selection of applications is still a major time waster. On the one hand, administration systems or applicant management tools make the recruiter’s work easier, but on the other hand, the recruiter must first learn these new, innovative technologies. And not only that – he has to work to stay up to date and constantly adapt to advances in technology. There is also a jungle of different tools on the market, each of which performs a different part of the process. The question arises as to which tools can actually relieve recruiters in a sustainable and comprehensive manner. And what advantages and disadvantages this entails for the recruiter.

Recruiting tools – how do they help the recruiter?

As a management consultancy, we have tested many recruiting tools for and with our clients, found a few acceptable tools and one very good solution. This research was so extensive that we have dedicated a separate article to it. In it you can read how to find the right recruiting tool and what requirements you should place on recruiting tools.
Briefly summarized: There are

  1. Administration tools that support the application process. However, the recruiter is still responsible for working through the applications.
  2. Diagnostic tools that deal with the suitability of applicants. There are also major differences here, which you can read about here: Personnel diagnostics – how to find the right tool.
  3. Platform tools that come with extensive functions and costs
  4. Tools that automatically combine administration and diagnostics – our recommendation.

The result of our tests:

Some tools scored well in individual areas, but it makes sense to use a tool that supports the recruiter in almost all areas. There are tools that support the communication of the job advertisement, accept, sort and evaluate applications online, guide promising applicants through a separate diagnostic process, rank the most suitable candidates, send rejections to less suitable applicants and finally provide the recruiter with an interview guide for the interview.
Such tools take over a large part of the application process. – And in just a few weeks.

Here we present our test winner and report on how comprehensive support works in recruiting: Lean Recruiting: How to find the perfect employee in just 3 weeks.

The recruiter’s worries: What will happen to my job?

That sounds great at first: companies save time and money with powerful recruiting tools, recruiters are supported in their work and, on top of that, the quality of applicant selection is increased. This makes it much easier for recruiters to find new applicants. This clearly speaks for the use of such a tool. And yet recruiters are often rather closed to such tools. Why is that?
Digital recruiting takes over many tasks that were previously performed by recruiters. Naturally, the recruiter asks himself “What else do I do then?”. – If his tasks are carried out by a machine, he sees his job threatened. Even recruiters who are convinced of the quality of the tool and think it makes sense to introduce such a tool will initially look at this process with uncertainty, as it will turn their job upside down.

Digitalization: Either you move with the times or you move with the times

It is only too understandable that people are worried about an uncertain future. We all know that. Because everyone becomes at least thoughtful and no longer feels as comfortable as before when they are exposed to change. Emotion and reason are often at odds: Even if the recruiter thinks “This is the right tool – it’s actually efficient.” – they may well be unsure and worried on an emotional level. The question is: how do you deal with it? Because the times are unstoppable. The speed of change based on computer-based technologies has been increasing rapidly for decades.
Later in our article, we provide recruiters with practical strategies on how they can actively shape and even improve their job in times of digitalization. First, however, let’s take a look at digitization.

Studies on the impact of digitalization on jobs

It’s not just the job of a recruiter that will change completely – digitalization and automation will have an impact on almost all professional fields:
The Center for European Economic Research (ZEW) has applied an American study to Germany. The study states that 47% of the workforce in the USA will be replaced by machines in the next 20 years. According to the ZEW, 42% of jobs in Germany will be affected. This does not mean that jobs will be replaced as a whole, but that some activities within an occupation can be replaced by automation. However, according to the ZEW, 12% of jobs are at risk overall.
Details and background information on the studies can be found in the following article: Will your profession still exist in the future?


A look into the future: Industry 4.0, digitalization and the future

Our article series:

  1. The future of work – Part 1/3: The trends
  2. The future of work – Part 2/3: How we will work
  3. The future of work – Part 3/3: The labor market of the future


Recruiting of the future

According to a study by the Centre of Human Resources Information Systems (CHRIS)1 at the University of Bamberg, 90% of the top 1000 companies in Germany already have an application management tool, but only 6% of them can use this tool for automated pre-selection of applications. This means that although some tools now offer very comprehensive options for making the recruiting process more effective, most companies only use recruiting tools for applicant management.
It won’t stay that way. The “recruiter of tomorrow” is a machine that automatically makes a pre-selection. This tool can not only measure the professional competence of an applicant, but also predict whether the applicant has the social skills to fit in with the culture of the company. The recruiting tool makes its selection demonstrably independent of prejudices about gender, ethnicity, religion, etc. The final decision is ultimately made by the recruiter. The data that the tool collects in addition to the usual data such as CVs will help him and secure his decision.
Digital recruiting is also desired by applicants: potential employees already expect the application process to be completely online and secure. The younger generation of digital natives in particular is used to being able to apply online quickly and on the go. The fact that the recruiting process is becoming increasingly digitalized is unstoppable.

What does the recruiter gain – what does he lose?

If recruiting tools take over so many of the previous tasks of a recruiter – what tasks will still have to be carried out by people in the future? What does the recruiter gain – what does he lose?
First of all, the recruiter will be happy to get rid of a rather unloved task: reading hundreds of application letters and CVs.
And making a pre-selection on the basis of meaningless references and doctored applications is something that the recruiter will certainly not miss. The fact that such time-consuming, laborious tasks are no longer necessary, that a pre-selection has already been made and rejections are sent automatically means that HR staff can now concentrate on the essentials.

For example, contact with suitable candidates. On the one hand, they can invest more time in a telephone call or job interview, and on the other hand, they can use an interview guide and the time gained to prepare much more intensively for such interviews. He can go through all the documents on relevant candidates at his leisure instead of quickly skimming through countless application folders in the same time.

And if the recruiter is well prepared, he gives the potential employee a feeling of interest and welcome instead of signaling between the lines: You are one of 1000.
Of course, this time saving also has a positive impact on other important tasks of the recruiter, such as in the area of recruitment: employer branding and the active search for potential candidates with a lot of potential.

Good prospects for the recruiter

Yes, the recruiting profession will change and it can gain from this change. The question cannot be “Do I go along with this or not?”, “Do I stick with my old boots or do I embrace the new?” The question can only be: “How do I embrace the new?” It is important for the recruiter to recognize and seize their opportunities and possibilities as early as possible in order to be able to shape their own career.

Digitalization and change, graphic Davenport/Kirby

5 strategies for dealing with digitalization

What can a human resources employee do specifically in dealing with digitalization?

In their publication Beyond Automation, Thomas H. Davenport, Professor of Management and Information Technology at Babson College, and Julia Kirby, Senior Editor at Harvard University Press, set out five strategies to help deal with digitalization. We have transferred these strategies to the recruiting profession.

Here is an overview of the five strategies for dealing with the digital world:

1st Step Up

Move up a level; expand your knowledge and skills!
Take a broader view of your job than before and become an expert in the entire field. Keep the overview. So be the one who interprets, analyzes, explains and presents the results from the machine; be the one who is in demand as an advisor to the board and management. Integrate digital recruiting into human resources strategies, for example: Where will I place whom? Use digital recruiting as job enrichment.

2nd Step Aside

Move to the side; also move on parallel planes!
There are simply things that even the best machine cannot do. These include, for example, interpersonal relationships, empathy and emotional issues, as well as taste, because machines do not possess multiple intelligence or creativity. When dealing with applicants, it is still crucial whether the chemistry is right: Is the applicant likeable? What are his values and does he fit into the company? All of this has to be assessed by a human being, because a tool – how could it be otherwise – lacks the necessary gut feeling.
Humanity is required in many areas: For example, when it comes to employer attractiveness and employer branding, it is essential to understand the wishes and needs of potential employees. We also need empathy when communicating the job offer in order to create peer-to-peer communication.

3. step in

Get in – understand the machine and complete it!
Understand how the machine thinks and makes decisions so that you can change data or factors.
Go deeper, have more knowledge than the computer and improve the process. In good recruiting tools, criteria and rankings can be changed and evaluations can be added manually, such as special features in the CV. The pre-selection questions can also be adapted to the respective position.

4th Step Narrow

Pay attention to detail – occupy niches!
There are some things that are not worth automating. These are things that are rare, very specialized or very complicated. In recruiting, for example, it is the telephone calls with applicants, especially when it comes to individual coordination, that are not automated. However, this alone would not be enough to secure the job. As a recruiter, you should also concentrate on other strategies.

5th Step Forward

Move forward – be innovative and develop the system further!
Identify where and how digital recruiting can be improved; guide the programmer to automate processes or optimize functions. This can be, for example, the programming of application examples, the insertion of videos, the design of the reinforcement request displays. Become a sought-after expert in this field for the project management of such automation projects. Of course, this requires more IT/system knowledge and will therefore not be an option for everyone.

The emotional side of change: how can I adapt to change?

Dealing with change:

Digitization brings with it some significant changes for recruiters, employees, entrepreneurs – in short: for all of us. dealing with change is not something we are born with. Humans are made for stability, for predictable situations; they tend to dislike change. Of course, there are also people who can see the positive side of change, but on average everyone has a more or less long adjustment phase to overcome. That need not frighten us. Here is a description of the individual phases and then a few tips on how we can deal with the different phases of change.

Phase 1: Premonition, worry

Long before we notice concrete changes, we may suspect something and be gripped by a creeping feeling of anxiety.

Phase 2: Irritation/shock

When something is different from what we are used to, it is initially a shock or at least an irritation. The usual flow of thought is interrupted and confused. This phase is only very short.

Phase 3: Defense/denial

This phase can include all forms of denial of the change. For example: “The change doesn’t affect me, it’s only relevant for other companies” or “Yes, the change is there, but the impact on my job won’t be that bad.” All the way to: “I’ll just carry on with the old, ignore the new – and simply not use the new tool.”

Phase 4: Rational acceptance / emotional resistance

At some point, we will probably realize that we cannot avoid accepting the new – and applying it. If, for example, the initiation of a recruiting tool comes via the management or if the competition uses it to fish the best people from the market, then we have to recognize that the time for change has come. But we often feel anger, rage and resistance at this point. We find 1000 reasons why the new tool is a totally lousy thing: Quite clearly – it is of course completely badly programmed, is of no use at all, only brings trouble anyway and is simply stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Phase 5: Valley of tears

Once this resistance has faded, there comes a phase in which we admit to ourselves that we may even be worried and afraid – afraid for our job. We realize that we are insecure because we don’t really know what to do next. We fear that we will no longer be able to use our expertise, that we will no longer be as important, that we will not be able to cope with the change.
This is a really uncomfortable state of mind, but it is very important. Because until we have also understood emotionally that something is really changing – and that should ideally be the case at this stage – we will simply carry on as before. Worry and fear are signs of emotional realization, which is why this phase is also called the valley of tears.

Phase 6: Exploration, openness, curiosity

The moment we have allowed ourselves to think realistically that our own job description will change because the world is no longer the same as it was before; that other things will be important and that we will have to go along with them – for better or worse, the freedom to think about the new arises in our heads. We start trying things out. In the beginning, there are tentative steps: we dare to take a different approach, present ourselves differently. We are slowly entering the testing phase.
And how could it be otherwise – there will be relapses, we will fall back into old ways of thinking or behaving. Or we will still negotiate at some points: “Can’t I do this part personally and not let the machine do it? Personal assessment is much more important!”. However, we will gradually realize that the new has its advantages. So we shift our focus from the disadvantages to the advantages.

Phase 7: Integration

At some point it suddenly becomes easy and it works. We can see how much fun it is to have accepted the challenge and learned something new. In a new way, we can dedicate ourselves to much more demanding activities and achieve much more, bring about much better results.
We have accepted the new one!

Me and the change

How can I support this process in myself?
The most important thing is to know that these phases exist and that nothing in the world can prevent us from going through them.

In the first three phases of premonition, shock and denial

it only helps if I observe myself and am open to all indications that I am in denial. It’s normal to be in denial, but it’s not the reality: just because I myself believe that change won’t come doesn’t mean that it will. It is simply a completely normal phase of the change process.
So recognize the realities! Get as much information as you need to face the truth.

In the phase of anger and resistance

it is important that I also articulate my resistance and vent my anger. At the same time, it is important to know that this anger is also a natural reaction to change, because we humans do not want to deal with change. In other words, anger is not an indication that the new thing is negative – it is simply a normal reaction. And that means:
Try to distinguish between real, well-founded objections that can be overcome with the introduction of change and objections that are an expression of a natural fear or reluctance to change!

What to do in the fear phase?

We like to say to someone who is feeling anxious: “Everything will be fine.” Unfortunately, this usually doesn’t help. But what can help me in a situation like this is to talk, get ideas on how to deal with the upcoming change, read a lot and check my options.
And here again I need acceptance – “Yes, I’m worried – this fear is normal and it’s okay”. Admitting this fear shows that I am human. But it is certainly not a sign that everything is going to be terrible. It is simply a necessary emotion in the change process.
Accept your worries and find out about your options!

Exploration, openness and curiosity

The sooner I manage to try out what I can do with the new, the faster I will have gone through this process of change.
That means: just try it! Take time to try out the new thing, play around with it, have it explained to you, talk to people who have already had the experience and find ways of integrating the new thing into your everyday life. The faster you manage to do this – and the less you let setbacks set you back – the faster you will reach the acceptance phase and ultimately the state of functioning and better performance.

Have fun with it!

Are you interested in recruiting tools and lean recruiting? Then contact us – we look forward to hearing from you!
The Lean Recruiter:


Here is a video of what recruiting can look like with a good tool:

Caught in the net:

Here we have provided you with some articles on the topics discussed above:

  • Here is the above-mentioned study by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs: Brief expert report BMAS ZEW2015.
  • Pdf of the study by the Centre of Human Resources Information Systems (CHRIS)1 of the University of Bamberg Technological leap in recruitment – Selected results of the Recruiting Trends 2016, an empirical study of the top 1,000 companies in Germany and the top 300 companies in the automotive, retail and IT sectors, and Application Practice 2016, an empirical study of over 4,800 jobseekers and career seekers on the internet.

The authors

Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian Grätsch
Matthias Beikert
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
Anna Isabell Arendt
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga Kühn
Kassandra Knebel
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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