The end of recruitment agencies. The end of the job. The end of full employment and what it means to you. The end of traditional job postings. The end of sourcing. The end of the office as we know it. The end of the résumé. The end of the cold call.
You don't have to travel too deeply into the blogosphere to find big, bold, doom-and-gloom prophecies such as these. The staffing industry has already foreshadowed its own death several times over. What’s interesting, however, is that this pattern stretches much further than the labor market. Pronouncing “the end of” almost any traditional practice is now en vogue.
The phenomenon was recently examined by one of The Washington Post’s opinion editors, Carlos Lozada. He cites dozens of published examples of “the end of” everything from sex and illness to power and faith. Heck, the concept is so ubiquitous, it could be its own genre. Of course, drama sells, and termination is dramatic. But Lozada is able to contextualize the trend, saying it’s about more than marketing.
‘The end of’ is… the perfect headline for our age. It fits a moment that fetishizes disruption over stability. It grabs an audience enamored of what is next, not what is here… All we know is that what we have — old jobs, old ideologies, old phones — is boring, dated, over. Ended.
Certainly the rush of technology – from the perennial rumors surrounding Apple’s secretive products to marketing slogans such as Samsung’s “the next big thing" – teaches us that being up-to-date is of utmost importance. Otherwise, we feel that our blogs, our industries, and our livelihoods are increasingly irrelevant. But while dethroning a tradition and crowning a new one may be exciting, it also creates a false sense of reality. If recruitment agencies were solely informed by the media, they might believe that job postings don’t exist anymore, that temp-to-perm is dead, and that phones are obsolete. My concern is that maybe the future isn't already here in every regard, and that we are actually accelerating and hyping up processes that should unfold at a more appropriate pace. Staffing firms may feel pressure to use tools like resumé parsers because that’s what it seems their competitors are doing – not because it’s actually smarter for them to do so. At the very least, we could wait until the technology actually works.
But I also see another kind of stance, one that takes a look in the mirror and talks about what’s going on right now, not six years from now. There are articles defending the use of the cold call, in-person interviews, and offices where people convene daily. Both of these types of positions – the “Let’s recklessly scrap every tradition” approach and the “But, wait! These practices are the bedrock of our industry!” are emotion-fueled to a certain degree. The first is bold and “innovative” in a self-satisfied sort of way. The second is pure defense, aimed at legitimizing time-worn practices.
And yet we know the world just isn't that black and white. In fact, many “end of” articles aren’t actually as apocalyptic as they sound. Lozada catalogs five different protective techniques that “end of” authors commonly employ, four of which I have seen play out in staffing circles. If you read closely (and, importantly, to the end) the authors often lessen the severity of their claims. Maybe we just live in a grey area right now, where recruiters’ toolboxes are full to bursting, and that’s fine.
The Fake-Out End
Because of the question mark that usually follows this kind of title, the author’s claims simply can’t be refuted. For example, a blog post entitled The End of Recruitment Agencies? actually concludes that: “The need for agencies is still important, but... only the best will survive the squeeze from companies doing it for themselves.” So whether recruitment agencies prevail or crumble, the author will be right.
The As-We-Know-It End
In The End of Indian IT Staffing As We Know It, we learn that students are regarding IT companies as back-ups. Yet, “those who do break in and build valuable skills will remain in demand...” So the author isn’t really forecasting the end of Indian IT staffing – just fundamental changes. Thus, "as we know it."
The Concept End
The end of the résumé isn't really the end of the résumé, per se. The way we think about them, however, may be changing. Even though they're not really printed on physical sheets of paper anymore, a digital résumé is still a résumé. Likewise a LinkedIn profile is still, in essence, a résumé -- something a potential employer reads to help inform their hiring.
The If-Only-They-Listened-to-Me End
In this case, the author tends to gives advice in order to save something precious which has been threatened. The technique is employed by the authors of The End of the Job, who admit” the pendulum may eventually swing back if employers discover that a transient workforce is not as desirable as one with company-specific skills and knowledge.” They then go on to explain why a transient workforce is not as desirable as a permanent one. So if we listen, it won’t actually be the end. Phew!
Given the loopholes in these arguments (not to mention the drama!) I'm calling for the end of them. Yes, the end of "the end of."