Finding Connection in Remote Recruiting 

Curious how the pandemic has changed recruitment? Industry expert and “recovering recruiter” Bill Boorman has the data you need – including the shifting mindsets of applicants and what companies need to consider when it comes to employer branding, candidate engagement, and talent attraction. Plus, hear why it’s important to recreate the sparks of creativity that come from in-office encounters of happenstance amid a digital world of scheduled connections. Listen today!

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FWelcome to Subject To Talent, brought to you by Allegis Global Solutions. Similar to you, we're always trying to learn more. On this podcast, we speak to talent experts around the world, covering workforce management, market trends, technology, and our foreverevolving dynamic industry.

I'm your host, Frank Edge, and thank you for joining us on another episode of Subject To Talent. Today, we are sharing with you a very exciting conversation between industry expert, Bill Boorman, and AGS' Executive Director Global Head of Strategy, Bruce Morton. If you don't know Bill, you should check him out. He's a serial researcher and commentator on market trends, and you'll often find him speaking at the leading recruitment and HR events around the world. In this conversation, Bill and Bruce focus on the shift in recruitment over the years, and how this year especially has escalated certain areas in the industry. They dive into how the market has changed for candidates and the way people are going to start rethinking about how the job can be done after unexpectedly working through the new normal. Let's listen in.

BM: Hi, everybody. Great to be here today, and I could not be more excited about today's guest, a man that hardly needs any introduction, Bill Boorman. A true legend in our industry. Bill, great to speak with you today. Please say a quick hello and give folks a quick background and what you're up to.

BB:Yeah. So, first of all, hi Bruce. It's good to catch up with you again. Yeah. My name's Bill Boorman. I'm best described as a recovering recruiter. I've worked in and around recruiting for 35 something years. I've worked with agency, around at a few agencies. I've worked directly with corporate. I've spent the last, probably, 12 years developing, initially, social recruiting methodology. Now I work with technology companies on developing startups. I do a lot of research into what's happening in the market, in recruiting, in HR in general. And I also run #tru, which is recruiting conference. A hundred events around the world.So, lots of different pieces of work that fit together. I guess the original gig work, you might call it that.

BM: Yeah, I think it was probably a #tru London conference. So, HRO today. I think the last time you and I are together face-to-face. It was great to see you today. So, as you've been in this industry all of that time, and you obviously took a leap of faith to become the person that you are today, some years ago. How did you make that decision to say, you know what, I want to go out on my own, get out of that staffing agency persona and actually really dig in and add value through research and everything else that you do?

BBWell. I think most of what I've done in my career was without a strategy. So, there wasn't a grand master plan. I think what you have to do... The key word, nowadays, we have a term for it. We call it agile.

BM: Yeah.

BB:So, it's being very agile and aware of what's going on around you and reacting to those opportunities and finding places where you can plug in value in what you do. My fortunate thing is, I had a very long, kind of solid founding in recruiting. So, I had the mentors, I was a trainer and a board director of recruitment business. We grew to about 175 offices before it was sold. And then I was around... And that kind of naturally moved into... At the beginning of why I got into social media, I guess, which became social recruiting, which I think is now recruiting-


BB: Was, my office was in my house.But for the first time in... I had a training company that was very successful. For six years, a very unsuccessful for one of them. I've gone bust. For the first time had nothing to do. And it was around about the same time as Twitter started.

BM: Right.

BB: So, I've really developed an understanding of social media connecting. Purely because, I wanted to pretend to my wife I was busy, because she would've made me go all sorts of stuff like that. Right. The best thing to do was to sit on a screen for 18 hours. I just started working with organizations, bringing an understanding of this new world of social media into my recruiting background. That overlapped. I did some work with Hard Rock Cafe. Won some rewards... Went to Oracle, BBC, a few other places and I did some work. They got involved into working on the actual tech with startups and from the startups, that will be PE companies or larger ticket buys of what they want to buy and sell a few boards. So, it's kind of been... I think it's really, identify what the opportunity is and making sure you're well-informed, well-networked, you understand what's going on so that you can actually add some value when opportunities come up.

BM: Right? Yeah. It's... But I think the overarching plan is, putting it out to the universe and just being open to opportunities. People obviously often talk about, wow, you've had some luck or there's been a lot of great coincidences, but I don't think coincidences are necessarily luck. Right?

BB: Yeah. Well, 80% of what you do is unpaid, but you do it with the same passion and that generates the 20%. I think this is what it is in the agile world. And connecting without purpose was a very new thing. That was something I discovered quite early on, that you just connect with interesting people. You see an interesting conversation. In those days, it was Twitter, Facebook, wherever it is, at a conference, at an event. There's an interesting conversation, go and join it and try and add some... And you know, join in. Learn from the people around you and try and have a very broad collection of people. Don't look on. And this was coming from the agency world. Well, this was very alien that you weren't networking for directly a financial opportunity, right? It wasn't about who are the candidates, who are the clients. It's very interesting.HR people talking about things I didn't know about, interesting technology. People who have jobs. That's what we did with #tru, was bring those people together. So, anyone who's doing anything interesting, or had an opinion, or if you really just connected with those people and acquiring that knowledge. I think you make the decision right in the beginning of, do I want to make money from my network or because of my network? And my approach has always been because of my network. Because of the people I know, the connections I make, the knowledge I could acquire, the work that I could research, work I could do it. That that creates opportunity.

BM: Yeah. That's a great piece of advice right there. You mentioned social recruiting that now has just become recruiting. I'm assuming you mean by that, because all recruiting is social. So, can you just expand on that?

BB: It's not social recruiting, it's recruiting. This is the way which we hire. This is the way which people connect. This is the way which we will do HR. I think it goes much deeper than the technology or the channels. It's the way of work. And increasingly, we've found that over the last period, over the last call it super interesting year, a lot of what we've been talking about for folks like you and myself and lots of other people, we've been talking about for five or 10 years. This is going to be the work of the future. It suddenly is. 

BM: That's right.

BB: It was a pandemic. People had to work remotely. I think we've been forced five years ahead of where maybe we would have been, by what's going on.

BM: Yeah. And I think we're living through this phenomenal social experiment and you're right. I think that us, awful term, but futurists, well as folks that like to look around the corner and see what's coming, I think we've never predicted the pandemic, but we have been predicting the changing world of work. And it's now upon us.

BB:It's interesting and challenging at the same time, as we have no point of reference.

BM: Right.

BB: You know, you and I, we gray-haired enough. We've been through four or five recessions. Economic ones, traditional ones.

BM: Yeah.

BB: We have points of reference. We know roughly what they look like. We never know exactly what they look like, but we have data points which will give us an indicator of what's recovery and where it's going and so on.So, we have experience, we could call up, but we've never had a medically-induced recession. So, and we're right at the beginning of this, let's be honest. We right at the beginning of this, we might be, hopefully in some places that are a bit further ahead on the medical piece, which is all we're focused on at the minute. Which is, how does everyone stay alive in the most healthy way? Where they're going to have with the economic impact of that when this is a bit more steady. Maybe that will come with a vaccine. Maybe it'll be something else. Maybe it will just disappear one day. Who knows?I think somebody else said that sometime, but whatever would happen, we don't have a point of reference. We weren't around for Spanish flu in the 18th century to say, Oh, it looked a bit like this, and the world's a very different place now anyway. So, we don't really know what it's going to do, but we can see patterns in work, which I think are becoming really clear.

BM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BB: It's never been more important that we closer to the data. But, if we look purely from a talent acquisition, recruiting viewpoint, what are certain things I'm saying? One is, I sat on the board of VONQ, if you know VONQ.

BM: Yeah.

BB: And so, part of what I do is, has been throughout this whole period. There's two things I do. I have 200 companies that I talk to every week. And see folks about what they're doing and where they're going and what they see.

BM: Yep.

BB: And my big question at the beginning was, when all the jobs disappeared, do you think they're coming or do you think this is actually a shift? What we're seeing is jobs are live for periods of time. About 55% of the organizations I track continued to hire during the lockdown period. What happened was, face-to-face meetings disappear. For me, that was... I spent six months of the year on a plane going somewhere and I didn't any anymore.

BM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BB: I haven't done that. The furthest I've been was down to Canterbury. I've been out and back out once. So, very different. Well, but what happened in recruiting terms was, we've had the digital transformation that we were coveting, which I think is quite exciting. You know, suddenly hiring managers would accept videos instead of face-to-face interview, they would accept doing things digitally. They would look at digital tools for scheduling and understanding, and organizing the workflow for sourcing. We've had to look at things like talent pools to deal with the volumes, because we get an unprecedented volumes of qualified people in some places. I think the other big train that I'm really interested in, how it's impacting is, if we look back over the last 10, 15 years of data that's available, about 90% of candidates stayed in their sector. They stayed in the same lane because that's where the money was.You you've got some experience. You went to work for another firm, another company that was similar. Hopefully went to a different level where you've got some more cash, but you stated your sector. People didn't really move out of sector. What we've seen is, where some sectors have collapsed, some sectors have boomed, some sectors right now look really sexy. They look really - 12 months ago. With a bit of security andorganization might have looked quite boring, 12 months ago, and now is really exciting. So, we see lots of candidates switching sectors. And we're not really geared for that. Even the technology we've built, algorithms are built on building taxonomies based on data from things like CVs or resumes, which were sector specific. So, I think we go through this phase where candidates are doing interesting things. I think companies are, because of the uncertainty and not looking to make long-term commitments to people.

BB: It's a lot more short term and looking for long-term commitment, becauseYou have a whole mash of stuff going on. What's clear is the time to hire has been cut by at least 50%.

BM: Right. Interesting.

BB:Generally, organizations are one-interview-hire, because all of the pre-interview stuff that was four or five interviews in a pipeline is now being done digitally and a lot more efficiently,and a lot quicker. So, we've got very different types. I think the other interesting thing, jobs will stay live for no longer than a week.

BM: Right.

BB: A big trend I'm seeing with organizations is, because of volume, they are setting a cap of the volume of applications that they receive. So, instead of saying, we're going to let this job run, lot of it driven by programmatic, but say right, okay. Once we got to 50, close it off, take it down. Once it goes to 50, we don't look at anymore. Which from a candidate point of view, turns that into more of a footrace.

BM: Yeah.

BB: We were already seeing candidates having zero interest in employer brand. This was pre-COVID. Zero interest in employer brand pre-apply. Lots of interest in employer brand post-apply. So, very different candidate behaviors to the ones that maybe some of the experts were talking about.

BM: Is that still the case? Now in the books I've seen you speak about that. And I remember it vividly because it was really enlightening that, the message won't do complete justice, but was stop spending your employer branding money at the top of the funnel. People don't care. When they really, really care is when they're actually thinking about applying or they have applied. Right? So, it's not an attraction. It's more of a closing brand.

BB: Yeah. So, I think that's actually accelerated, you know. At the time... So, the talk that I did last year was called, Who moved my brand. Which was really looking at the fact that candidates were looking at job brand, not employer brand. You know, which upset a lot of employer branding gurus by the way, some of whom know very well. 

BM: You've got strong shoulders.

BB: I would start to go, yeah employer brand is really not important for attraction. People aren't following brands in the way that you perceive they are. And the reasons for that are pretty simple. When we looked at research. So, I did some research through an ATS. Where we tracked the journeys of 7 million candidates, 7 million applications to see what they did. In order to put a white paper together. The big things that came out of that, first of all, was of those 7 million people who applied for a job. It was 0.5% that went into the top of the funnel.So, just do the math, 99.5% of the people we attracted were for whatever reason, not qualified, that was not able to go to the funnel. So, we thought we were doing a really bad job of attraction for a start. You know, we were attracting all the people who were never going to work for us and none of the people who were. That was the main... Either way we did it. And the other thing, so then when we looked at the candidate behaviors, the candidates were applying for eight times more jobs pre-COVID. It's now running on about 24, you know? So, that's been the COVID impact.

BM: Right.

BB: From what I'm tracking. Were applying for eight times more jobs than they ever done before. And the reason... They were doing that on a very basic criteria. Location, salary, job title was very important really in terms of, should I apply for this job or not? The process is going to be paid for, I know it is. When I hit this part and I'm going to be made to do stuff I don't what to do.

BM: Yeah.

BB:The other thing is the candidates would say to me, and I really can't argue with it, was, they would say otherwise, definitely not going to hear back.

BM :Yeah.

BB:So, I'm not going to invest a lot of emotional time and physical time into a job when I'm probably not going to hear back. But the moment you reach out and go, yeah, actually I'm interested. Then the amount of time they spend looking at your employer brand was greater than they would have done, had they done the research. Because, once you go, I'm interested, then right now I'll get anengaged through that process.

BM: Got it. Yeah.

BB:That's happening even more now because of COVID. What you see is, the volume significantly increase, your job application becoming a foot reach. Less and less time to be successful, which means less and less time researching companies. But once I've hit that apply button...

BM: Right.

BB:Your challenge is how do I become the employer of choice.

BM :Right.

BB:Because, I've applied for eight jobs. Now, if I'm a good candidate and I go into the funnel of five, two of you are coming out of that very quickly.

BB:You'll start getting ghosted or-

BM:Yeah. So, now you've chosen me and I'm going to choose you, right?

BB: Now I'm going to choose you. So, now I'm going to do my research.

BM: Yeah.

BB:So, that means delivering lots of content and messaging through the lens of the job rather than the lens of the company. So, isn't look at us. What we're going to see is... What attracts people to organizations is actually learning and development content, not employed brand content. Places where people can learn things.

BM: Yeah.

BB: Because when you're moving companies every couple of years, you're not on that learning path of, every couple of years you get set on a course. So, our traditional learning has disappeared. So, people staying connected for learning content, not for employer brand.

BM: Right.

BB: And that gives you an opportunity to understand what they're interested in, to assess them. And so, what I think we're going to see is L&D and talent acquisition becoming a single function.

BB: And I think that's going to happen sooner rather than later. We might not even call it either of those things, we might call it people or wherever the marketing gurus come up with. But, I think you will see internal mobility increasingly going into talent acquisition. Where we're at right now is, as internal mobility goes into talent acquisition, in talent acquisition, we're still dealing with it in a transactional way.So, we're still looking at, if we get a job to fill, we look at our internal candidate base, we're still matching it on, who could do the job today.

Bruce :Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BB: And we're measuring people in that way. You go from being a candidate to be an applicant. That's a very different thing. When you become an applicant, you'll be measured against a specific job or specific requirement.

BM: Right.

BB: We're still dealing internal mobility like that. Whereas I think, as we combine with L&D we will be looking at, not just where can you go to today, but where could you go in a year's time? Or what do we have to do to fill that up? What are the development activities? What's the match?

BM: Yeah. Yeah. And we see a lot of, you know, the smarter organizations let's say globally, actually finding the... You know, sending the work out to the people as opposed to the other way. And what I mean by that is creating an in-house gig economy to use that phrase of, what work do you need to get done? Well, promote that to your employee base and give them an opportunity to reach out and grab that work as a stretch assignment or elsewhere.

BB: Yeah. You know, I think there's work marketplaces as work rather than jobs, looking at things as assignments, learning opportunities, understanding that each career has a finite length of time, which suites both sides, by the way. It's both sides. But the main barrier we have to all of this, at the minute, when it comes to internal mobility is politics in organizations.

BM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BB: So, the biggest barrier that I see is when people say to me, Oh, I'm really into internal mobility, as long as it's done on my approval.

BM: Yeah. That's right. You don't give them the opportunity.

BB:You know, for all grayhead recruiters like us, you call it the top drawer, it's not new thing. This isn't new. This isn't a new thing.

BM: Just a private private database now. So, I have to ask you this Bill. So, with all of that talk of employer branding, so there's not a day goes by. I'm sure it's the same in the UK, but here in the US where typically large tech companies are announcing, you don't need to ever come back or we want you back, but not till next June. This is a big value add. And then we see research, some people want to get back to the office, others don't. What's... I know the answer is sort of both, but do you see that as being part of a value prop going forward, companies saying, Hey, we're going to let you work from home full time, or it's your choice, or...

BB:It's as soon as they make it value prop, it won't be a value prop.

BM: Right.

BB: Because, it's just my experience, right? So, companies are super tight because they take a long time to change. It's been a bit forced by COVID. I've said that there's some things going on, which might have taken three or four years, but companies are super tight. If you want to change, you have to go through eight levels of permission, finishing at the board before you can make a decision that finishes in your C-Suite. People change what they want very, very quickly. People are agile. Organizations are not. So, what I've learned is, as soon as we, and I just gave you the example of employer brand. Companies have only just now startedgetting their employer branding strategy right, in terms of how they present themselves. And it's not what the candidates want anymore. Right?So, it's always this race of, the people are ahead of the way the organizations are. So, do I think it’s  going to become part of the value proposition of where people want to work, no more so than other locations. I think you will... What it comes down to is much more understanding about the individual. And the biggest mistake I've seen over this period of time is that people have gone remote. And all they've tried to do is, move the office to your front room.

BM: Right.

BB: Maybe that's all they've done. Either their expectation, their method of working method, your method of measuring you and managing you. The other... I'll tell you the thing that I see really missing from remote working that I think is a piece we need to think around, is, everything has become planned when it's digital. So, every phone call that you have, every interaction, every Zoom meeting you go on, is very structured, very planned.

BB: This is why it is, this is what time it is. If we agree, we need to have a conversation. You send me an appointment for a week's time when we're going to have that conversation.

BM: Yep.

BB:And the thing I think we're missing and I'm missing this two accounts. One is working, and the other one is life, life in general. I happen to think those two things are the same thing, but what's missing is the creativity of accidental engagement.

BM: Right.

BB: All engagement is deliberate when you're digital.

BM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BB: It’s digitaland when you're remote, all engagement is deliberate. Everything has a purpose. Everything has a conversation. And you can say, Oh, well, when we were HRO today, or at #tru, I could guarantee you, we learned more from that conversation in the pub-

BM: Totally.

BB:For an hour that we probably did the conference for the whole day.

BM :Yep.

BB:All right. And that's gone and that's also not in work. People on... There isn't accidental gathering. So, isn't that creativity. And I think that's the bit that's really missing that we've got... And I laughed, by how many people tried to create a Zoom happy hour or hang out in order to look busy. There we go, you know. I was getting invited to all the... I did a whole lot of stuff with the homeless during lockdown. So, I was really busy during that period. I was out and about doing stuff and I was getting invited 20 times a day to come and hang out with someone. I'm too busy to come and-

BM: And sometimes that's when the magic happens, right? And that's when the creativity happens.

BB:And if you try... It's kind of like having a networking session. When you make it a digital networking session, it becomes forced networking.

BM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BB:Right? And I think that's like being at the beginning of a training course and somebody says, Oh, tell us three lines. Tell us three facts about yourself, Bruce. And one of them is true and all this kind of stuff. And you always think. Yeah. That's really funny, but I'm probably not going to use that. We're not... Go and talk to 10 people in this room, but you're like, yeah, I really don't want to go and speak to nine of them. So, I'll go do it, because that's what we do, right?

BM: You're right.

BB: I think we got to really rethink that piece. How do we get accidental engagement and conversation and socializing again? When only six of us could sit around a table.

BMYeah. Right. So, we're coming up to time here and you and I could chat all day of course, but hopefully people are enjoying the back-to-back here, but I'm learning a ton. And I want to finish on, I guess... And I know that you're so passionate and you just mentioned it. And it was really inspiring following you as I do, with the amount of work that you were doing for the homeless there in Northampton. I mean, literally hats off to you, phenomenal. Really inspiring. But as you think about that side of your personality, about the caring side, the empathy and giving back and everything else, do you see any examples of enterprises, organizations really actioning real work and effort and energy to try and reduce the opportunity divide? Or are you still... I know everybody's talking about it, but are you seeing it happen yet?

BB: And an enterprise has to move with the will of the people, at the end of the day. Not necessarily that in a unionized way, but when we talk about, you know... Organizations trying to be the good guys eventually by accidental they become the good guys. Kind of with like, Oh, we better go do something because we want people to apply for a job for us. So, when you go and do that, that changes some people they accidentally do it. You know, what's I think changed me, from a personal aspect, is I got two things I've never had. One is, I would never have done this stuff that I've done in normal life, because I just wouldn't have had time. And we had the privilege of time and we had an opportunity to go do something with that. So, I could go and do... And I think what we've got to do is turn our... What I did is turn from angry Facebook, to say, I personally need to do something about this problem.

BM: Right.

BB: And I never dreamt it was going to be on my doorstep. It was going to be in my local area. That I was going to get in my car. I'd go out and cook for people to my kitchen and go out and feed people. Right. Although, I would never have time. I was always going to be the guy who was on a committee or raising money, or raising awareness.

BM: Right.

BB: I mean, that kind of stuff. So, we've had the opportunity to do that. And that's what I'm seeing with people, is, we've had a period, lockdown, all that kind of thing, where there's been more good done for other people and people bothering about their neighbor. I'll get you a real simple example of that. I was on a path to this, but it was a challenge. The guys was from Age Concern. And he said, the thing lockdown brought self-isolation of being locked away. This is actually how our customer group lives their life. They're isolated, they're alone. This is the first time ever neighbors have bothered to see whether they need some food

BM: Yeah.

BB: So, I think some of their good of your fellow man and mobility and maybe, what's important in life. I think what's going to have a bigger impact actually, on work and what kinds of things, which will be a result of lockdown, is, the lockdown experience of people being at home and being with their family as a family for a period of time.

BM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

BB: I think that's going to have a bigger impact than anything on our attitude to what work you do. How I talk about myself and say, you know, how often am I going to get on a plane again, when I can? Necessarily, I've traveled six months a year. You know?

BM: Yep.

BB: So, when I talk to people, there's obviously lots of certain things about this period of time. And I think we'll actually... What we've learned is, our content and our formal part of conferences is actually much better to be with digitally. If I look at half the conferences that I've spoken at are loaded. I think the digital experience for the learning and the content, the opportunity to rewatch and speak and do what you want has been much better digitally. I don't think we'll ever go back from that. We will never be able to get away from is, the excuse for you, me and a bunch of other people wanting to be in London and having a few beers and actually really learning, expanding, fixing, recruiting for one evening.

BYeah. On that note, Bill, I think it's a good point to wrap up. Hopefully the next time I see you, it will be-

BB:I just want to say one thing. I just want to tell everyone to buy your book. It very good read.

BM: Oh, thanks Bill.

BB: So, there you go.

BM: I appreciate it. Thank you so much. Thank you for your time today as always.

BB:My pleasure.

BM :A great pleasure. 

BM :Thanks Bill.

FThank you to Bill and Bruce for a brilliant conversation. If you would like to learn more about Bill, please visit him at And if you'd like to learn more about AGS, please check us out at . If you have any questions for Bill or Bruce, feel free to tweet us @AllegisGlobal, with the hashtag #SubjectToTalent. Also, you can email us And if you enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe, rate us and leave a review until next timeCheers.