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What Recruiting Firms Can Learn From Tony Blair

tony blair

The Right Honorable Tony Blair, Former UK Prime Minister from 1997-2007.

Similar to many of my peers who work in the recruitment industry, my personal life has been starting to resemble the movie “Groundhog Day”. If you haven’t seen this classic film, it is the one where the main character, played by the inimitable Bill Murray, repeats his day over and over again. To elaborate, here is a sample of an average weekday evening;

  • Leave work, rush to the car, and perform ninja-like maneuvers to avoid other drivers while attempting to get home from work,
  • Inhale dinner and shuttle the kids around to their myriad of programs and activities,
  • Return to home-base, and complete mind-numbing household responsibilities while assisting kids with homework (usually while grumbling over the notion that I never had this much homework!),
  • Finally start to unwind and spend 15 to 20 minutes of high-quality time with the family before passing-out and remaining unconscious for 5 to 6 hours prior to starting everything over the next day.

However, an event recently occurred that allowed me to break this pattern, at least temporarily, causing me to contemplate how closely global concepts can relate to almost any business.

A friend invited my wife and I to a formal dinner/fundraiser on a Thursday night. Yes… a weeknight! There were a number of high-profile speakers in attendance, including the keynote speaker; Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007.

The only expectations that I had prior to the evening was that I would potentially get a break from the mundane daily grind, and also enjoy some quality time with my wife while perhaps meeting some interesting people.  Luckily, the food was impeccable, the people were interesting, and the event was extremely well organized, raising an impressive amount of money for a very worthy cause. Near the end of the evening, the Right Honorable Tony Blair took the stage and captivated the audience with interesting anecdotes of his life in politics and his more recent endeavors.

Mr Blair went on to say that for governments to become more effective and relevant, they should mirror the actions of successful businesses. They should embrace change and realize that since technology is moving forward at a rapid pace, governments and other organizations must keep up, or they will be left behind.

In summary: If organizations do not keep up with technology, they will be left behind.

This concept is definitely not new and has been said many times before, but it still baffles me that so many companies are not following this simple mantra.

For example, in the retail space in the 1990’s, forward-thinking “brick and mortar” retailers realized that offering online, e-commerce options may be costly and risky. However, those early adopters rode the wave and gained market-share from their more cautious competitors. Those retailers who were slow to change felt the hit to their bottom-line and some never recovered.

A similar, well-known example can be found in the entertainment industry, where the one-time goliath “Blockbuster Video” was reluctant to change when the industry was quickly moving from DVDs and Blu-rays to digital downloads, which led to their ultimate demise.

A current-day example may be repeating itself in the generally sloth-like North American staffing industry. Staffing companies  generate over $150 billion annually, yet most recruitment firms have been offering the same service that was offered back in the 1950’s; they charge high fees for low quality service by simply delivering 3 or 4 resumes to the employers who are looking to hire the best candidate for the open position. Some of these agencies do not even meet the candidates and are simply (very well-paid) resume-peddlers.

Within the past 5 to 10 years, some intuitive recruitment agencies have started to realize that they can gain significant market share, and higher placement ratios, by using available technology to their benefit. These forward-thinking agencies understand that by presenting video-clips of their candidates to employers, in addition to resumes and personal profiles, they can greatly shorten an employer’s interview cycle for key positions, saving their clients valuable time and money. Other agencies are also proactively having candidates complete personality profile assessments and skills-testing for more technical jobs. These steps increase the likelihood of customer loyalty and repeat business, further adding to their bottom-line.

Some traditional agencies may refer to video-clips, assessments and other value-add services as gimmicks, or fads. However, one can only assume that these were similar to the comments that are now echoing through the empty halls of other companies who took too long to embrace technology. These agencies will unfortunately embrace the past and repeat their same outdated processes over and over again (similar to Groundhog Day), until change is inevitable and will have to be adopted.

Resumes will likely always have their place in the recruitment process, but they are only one aspect of the hiring process since the majority of employers indicate that the most important aspect of a new hire is the “fit” within their organization. Professional recruitment agencies who are not offering their clients additional value-add services may soon find themselves going the way of the dodo bird, or Blockbuster Video.

As Tony Blair so eloquently said; if organizations do not keep up with technology, they will be left behind.


Sean Kogan is Co-Founder of Recruiting in Motion, a multi-office professional services recruitment firm. Their exclusive process combines in-depth candidate interviews, videocapture technology, and secure web-based profiles that makes the hiring process easier, faster, less expensive and more effective than conventional employment agency techniques.

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