As the founder of an executive search software company, one question I often get asked is, “Will advancing tech, like AI, eventually replace executive recruiters?”
The answer, pretty simply, is no.
There are certain aspects of the executive search process that technology just can’t replace. Namely, tech won’t be able to replicate the consultative component, which happens to be the most important aspect of executive search.
But even though technology won’t replace executive recruiters, new technology will impact the profession. In fact, our evolving tech will one day fundamentally alter the way executive recruiters do their jobs.
What Technology Can Achieve Within A Retained Search Firm
Technology will improve the research and outreach aspects of search. More specifically, the chief benefit of advanced technology in the world of executive search is automation. In practice, this automation could look like AI—informed by certain parameters—both finding qualified candidates and conducting initial phases of outreach with them.
It makes sense that executive recruiting firms would use tech in this way since many executive firms already outsource a good portion of their research and outreach processes. And because the most important aspect of search continues to be the consultative and strategy-setting piece—which means working personally with a client to determine the best means of finding their key hire—it’s beneficial to invest in technology that expedites the more tedious and menial requirements of the process. It allows recruiters to devote their focus on what truly matters.
Yet, just because that kind of technology exists doesn’t mean it will automatically prove effective.
What Technology Cannot Achieve Within A Retained Search Firm
For everything that technology can achieve, there is just as much that technology cannot achieve.
For example, when robocalling first emerged, it was viewed as the latest, greatest communication tool. Yet as time went on, all industries—including executive search—found that blindly using robocallers to contact prospective candidates would likely just annoy them. Those candidates would be more likely to mark that number as spam than follow up with the recruiting firm to learn more about the role.
Technology itself will never solve search projects. You have to know how to use it. A bulldozer is a great piece of tech, but only in the right hands and not for sweeping a floor.
At best, technology is a means of working faster and more effectively. It will supplement the work you do—not replace it. The use of automation technology must itself be strategic and purposeful. For reasons like this one, setting a purposeful and intelligent strategy at the beginning of the search will remain critical.
A Good Retained Search Strategy And Technology Go Hand In Hand
Technology is only as good as a firm's strategy. The strategy-setting stage of a search is, ultimately, a matter of creating a roadmap for success alongside the client. This roadmap must then account for any new changes that a firm might foresee, including how to designate and use new technology.
In fact, kicking off every new project with an intense focus on strategy—including how to use technology for research and outreach—is what all great firms should be doing now. This strategizing will continue to be what separates successful firms from average ones. It’s a matter of encouraging client buy-in and working smart as opposed to just hard.
In other words, incorporating the use of technology into the strategic plan for a retained search project has always and will continue to be a key to its success.
How To Take Advantage Of Technology In Your Retained Search Process
So what can you do to ensure that you successfully take advantage of technology in your search strategy?
To efficiently adopt and adapt to technology, you must first acknowledge your role in executive search. That means truly understanding your business, the value you provide, and how you can use technology to augment that value.
The work we’re doing at Clockwork is a great example of a tool that one can use to augment the value they provide in a firm. Clockwork is, at its core, a tool executive recruiters can use to collaborate both internally and with clients on searches. It’s a place where information can be stored, shared, and leveraged quickly. It’s designed to streamline research and outreach processes, as well as the more continual collaboration required of effectively completing searches—sharing status updates with a client and cross-checking those against their initial role requirements, for example.
However, similar to AI designed to automate research processes, software like Clockwork will only prove truly valuable if firms are purposeful and strategic in their use of it.
As the world of executive recruiting evolves and becomes more technical, it’s that sort of purpose which will set firms apart.