After attending a number of Recruiting and HR conferences this fall, I have noticed a few common themes. In particular, in both Europe and the U.S. the major focus has been on 1) “Big Data”; and 2) recruiters as marketing and sales people.These ideas are widely accepted – until I start to talk to recruiters about data privacy.
If I had a penny for every recruiter that argued with me that data privacy should not apply to common sourcing practices “because we are trying to help people get jobs”…..well, I'd have a lot of pennies.
I hate to burst the philanthropic bubble of my fellow sourcers, but guess what? The entire point of sales, and every sales pitch on the planet, revolves around helping people "get a better [insert product]." It just so happens the product we're selling is jobs. To quote Dan Pink, who keynoted last week's HR Technology Europe Conference, “Like it or not, we are ALL in sales now.”
If you still don't believe that simple fact, I want to tell you a story.
I was flying to a conference in Las Vegas to speak on legal issues for sourcers. After I drained the power on every electronic device I had with me, I started a conversation with the man sitting next to me. He happened to be a business intelligence consultant on route to an SAP event. Never one to turn down a chance to speak geek, we chatted about the normal stuff techies talk about: data systems, global privacy, the NSA, and, well, you get the picture. Which got us talking about the lawsuit in California against LinkedIn.
Although I personally doubt the merits of the case, I mentioned it will be interesting if LinkedIn’s practices of selling member information become general public knowledge.
He looked at me with a blank stare… “what do you mean?”
I explained LinkedIn’s premium product offerings.
He said, “No kidding!? Is that why I’m constantly deleting a barrage of emails from recruiters trying to sell me on some job? So many of my colleagues have gotten off LinkedIn because of it – maybe I should too.”
Let me be clear: this issue isn't about Candidate Experience, and this has nothing to do about whether or not LinkedIn is, in fact, an effective recruiting tool. The point is, for the typical professional, recruiters are on about the same level as those telemarketers who happen to know just when you're sitting down to dinner. It struck me that overwhelmingly, instead of using LinkedIn to actually recruit and empower these hard-to-find professionals, we're being intrusive and annoying.
Consumers were pretty spooked when the data mining and predictive analytics used by retail stores came to light a number of years ago. Will the reaction be any different if people realize the extent of sourcing practices and tools used by recruiters? If mainstream media ran a story about the data federation/aggregation tools used by recruiters to find candidates, would the reaction of the general public be positive? Think about today’s recruiting tools…..
“You are looking for a candidate who is highly skilled at developing widgets – we’d like to introduce you to Johnny. This is his name, phone number and address. This is his employment experience and some recommendations. We have also crawled the web for additional information about Johnny for you. This is a summary of Johnny’s entire virtual life - it includes his Facebook profile, old blog posts, personal Twitter account and a graph of how you and Johnny are connected. We also found a few snippets of code Johnny wrote over the past 5 years and evaluated it for you - here is the score. You can use this information to personalize your first communication with him about the position you are trying to fill, or use this information to decide whether he is a fit for the role he doesn’t even know you are considering him for……”
I'm not disparaging these tools; in fact, as a sourcer, I think some of them are actually pretty awesome. Although I am an attorney, I also run a staffing company. That means I get paid for placing candidates as quickly as possible. This is where the intersection of HR and recruiting becomes a bit more complex when dealing with big data. There are compliance issues and data privacy concerns that someone trying to sell toasters, timeshares or catering services will likely never need to deal with. While recruiting is sales, if your product is people, you're playing with a completely different set of rules and regulations than the guy selling appliances or ad space.
But make no mistake – as recruiters, we sell jobs to candidates and candidates to hiring managers. If the methods we use to find information to contact people about the jobs we are trying to fill are ever called into question, the quasi-altruistic response, that “I was trying to offer him a life changing opportunity in a new position with my company” probably isn’t going to be any different than “I was trying to sell him a better toaster."
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