– By Charlie Reeve | Part of the Fickle World series of blog posts

Charlie Reeve - Graduate RecruiterThere I was, scoffing a bag of Salt ‘n’ Shake crisps watching Thundercats after school one evening, when my Dad bursts through the front door all giddy with excitement.

He was an academic, so the most excitement he used to show was for a well written article (properly referenced, of course). His behaviour that evening was rather unusual.

He was jabbering on about a guest lecturer he had just heard by Ray Kurzweil. He was getting all hot under the collar about an ‘information super highway’. An information revolution like we had never seen before. By the end of listening to my Dad’s explanation, I was as giddy with excitement as him.

The year was 1990.

Some moments in your life are etched into your memory. You can recall them like it was yesterday. This was one of them. This was the day I first heard of the internet.

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the impact it would make on our lives. So let’s take a look at how technology has impacted graduate recruitment.

More stuff is online

I know. Steady yourself. I’m sure you’re reeling from the sheer ingenuity of my subtitle.

Ok, so it is bland at best, but it is a fact.

We are more online than ever in advertising. This has been an about-face in terms of money spent. Everyone knows this but it is the things that have failed that are really interesting.

The fickle world of technology calls up a Hall of Shame including SecondLife and a myriad of virtual careers fairs. They litter the road called “Innovation in Graduate Recruitment”. I shudder about the thousands spent for little return but applaud our industry’s insatiable appetite for something new.

QR codeI still don’t really get the QR code. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look at the box of pixels and say to themselves, “ah yes, I should get my phone out, open a QR reader app and scan the code and then see what happens”. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone do it.

But I may be wrong. There is probably some kind of clandestine-flashmob-popup-QR-code movement that has escaped my tech-savvy radar.

Print still holds power

So where were we? Ah yes, online stuff…adverts…ahhh, printed documents *breathes audible sigh of relief*

If you are ever at a bar with a gaggle of ancient graduate recruiters (I will be there), after a few shandies we will be shouting talking about the “good ‘ole days”, how we managed to get a colour advert in the paper last minute. Technology has made cost per square cm mostly irrelevant.

I don’t think the physical stuff will ever disappear altogether and my Gen Xer tendencies hope it doesn’t. There is something comforting and safe about a printed document. It’s easier to read and because you view it in 3D, makes more of an impression. Candidates remember it better because it engages more of your senses.

Social media snooping to ‘must-have’ digital footprint

Another seminal moment for me was the first time I heard about Twitter. I was at the 2006 AGR summer conference when someone mentioned it as something to look out for. At the same conference I partook in heated arguments about snooping on candidates’ Facebook profiles. I still can’t quite believe some employers used to ask candidates to sign into their FB account during an interview.

That’s wrong. Even if it is a job for the secret service, it’s wrong.

But now it is the norm to Google someone’s digital footprint before an interview, whereas in the past it did seem a bit of an intrusion. Luckily for today’s generation of graduates there have been plenty of people before them to set out the dos and don’ts of social media.

The handwritten cover letter is now a USP

Hand writing a letterIt is a sign of just how much stuff we do online now when a candidate who stood out to me recently was one who posted me a CV (a first class stamp and everything!) with a hand written cover letter. I will never forget her because of that. Dial back 20 years and this was the norm.

The irony is that more companies than ever use online application forms. It’s ironic because I think online applications have become harder not easier, in some cases it takes hours and hours for candidates to complete and actually drives down the likelihood of employers finding the ‘right’ candidate.

What we are starting to see now is the emergence of agile ATS providers who are really adding value to the candidate experience by reducing the need to duplicate effort. If a person has spent 4 hours doing their LinkedIn profile why should they need to do that all again for an online application form?

Video interviewing

This relatively old technology has reached a tipping point.

It has been around for a long time but is now being adopted as a normal thing to do. There’s lot of reasons, but mainly because now we have decent connection speeds and most people have a webcam in their pocket (aka smartphone).

Most importantly we now have some really slick bits of software that are easy to use and produce a quality of video playback that doesn’t adversely affect bias in the recruiter (see Sonru). It’s not the right option for every business but is for those who want to recruit from a wide geographical area and reduce spend on telephone interviews whilst improving assessment centre conversion rates.

Personally, I think we should adopt more of the Monty Python-style interviewing:

What’s coming next?

Some people are predicting the internet of things. A vague title that belittles the impact it will have on our lives. The Mayans predicted it first though – they predicted a sixth age called a “global transformation of consciousness”, way before anyone else. Think global transformation of consciousness, think social media.

Hand holding mobile and laptopThe fact is we are becoming more connected and the things we use are becoming more connected. Soon we will have light bulbs telling you when it needs changing (before it is about to go pop) and your houseplant will send you an email that it needs watering.

Talking about watering, my mouth salivates at the thought of how virtual reality hardware is now reaching a point of commercial viability. Occulus Rift combined with artificial intelligence and ultra-sonics is a movement in the right direction for those who really want to immerse themselves in another reality – perhaps we will see a reboot of SecondLife after all?

If you really want a glimpse into the future, see Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror Series. Seriously good stuff, if not a bit too easy to see how this future could become reality.

The next headline will be wearable tech. This is the holy grail of having access to someone through what they wear (a watch, a bracelet, a piece of clothing).

And finally…

Bowl of applesI think the future of technology in graduate recruitment is exciting. The future’s bright…the future’s, errm, Apple.

Sometimes technology can have the opposite effect, it makes the processes less appealing. Just because something is made easier to apply, it is then applied en masse (see psychometric tests) with little regard to efficacy. Graduate recruiters become button pushers on their WMRs (weapons of mass rejection as quoted by Dr Paul Redmond).

I just hope that technology enables graduate recruiters and the candidates to have a bit more freedom in how they engage with each other. Because it is this engagement that is the consistent thing regardless of technology.

It is this interaction, a highly charged emotional event that means we all have to do our best to get it right: with or without technology.

Charlie Reeve is a Graduate Recruitment and Development professional.  You can follow Charlie @creeve76 or visit his blog.

Find out more:

Read Part I of Charlie Reeve’s Fickle World series

Meet our undergraduate placement student, Dan

Discover why graduates should launch their career with an SME

Find out how recruitment software can engage your candidates


About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.