SmartRecruiters Blog

When the Recruiter becomes the Recruited

What kind of sly tricks and crafty machinations are wielded to spot, engage and recruit the ultimate recruiter?  According to one of our more eagerly anticipated Hire18 speakers, turns out it’s mostly a matter of having a solid product.

As the days wend ever closer to our annual Hiring Success 18 conference – register here! – we asked our own Head of People, Sarah Wilson, about the complications that come from recruiting recruiters.

As quick as you can, Sarah, don’t think too much: How does one go from growing up in a remote series of airbase-adjacent Canadian towns to department-head in Silicon Valley?

“Slowly,” answers Sarah Wilson, bright-eyed at 8 am in an empty SmartRecruiters office. “Very slowly.”

It’s American Thanksgiving, and having celebrated the harvest-time holiday on its proper, seasonally accurate Canadian date back in October, Sarah’s taking full advantage of the silence to redact entries on a long yellow legal-pad of a to-do list.

Having come on board three months ago as Head of People, it’s a long list, but more than daunting and ominous, Sarah says after her last job at Indigo, “Canada’s Biggest Bookstore”, where she was a manager more than anything else, she was excited to get out of the boardroom and back to the sandbox.

“Yes,” she nods, “it is a bit like being a kid again, getting my hands dirty, playing in the sandbox. When I see the results of something, I know I had a part in making it, not just delegating it.”

Par for the course in a startup, you might say. And you’d be right. But in HR Tech, in 2017 – and contrary to the knee-jerk denials of those uninformed on the topic – there is a real sense of pushing up on a frontier, racing towards an inexorable horizon and having a say what the beach will look like when you get there.

“HR has traditionally been a company’s stabilizer. Very risk-averse. So anytime you are an agent for change, that is disruptive.”

These are the kinds of terms you hear thrown around in social media circles, endeavours spoken of in post-Bezos terms, tech sectors far more hip than, ugh, “HR”. But from the time CVs were stacked and sorted in filing cabinets – been there done that – to storing names in a computer and tracking applicants over an internal spreadsheet – check, check – the technology has reached a level where an entire industry is likely to have a new baseline, and having always been an early adapter, even when the tech was multicolored sticky tabs, Sarah knew the jumping ship and sailing down to the Bay Area was a move that would allow her to make a big contribution to how the next-level recruiting cards get shuffled.

“Anywhere I’ve worked,” she explains, “I’ve been a builder, starting from scratch or fixing what was already there. I’ve never worked where everything was already set. At SmartRecruiters, we are blending the physical and digital worlds, and with the speed of technology we use every day, like smartphones, the expectations people have for digital products is very high.”

Which is true, and makes a lot of sense when considering what would have led Sarah to defect from her old job to grow a company at the leading edge of a revolution. Fine, a revolution confined to HR, but those working in and watching it happen realize how momentous a time it is. Which ruins one of the more interesting enquiries one might have for Sarah Wilson, mainly, how did the master recruiter get recruited? For someone who can identify a dud candidate sometimes in a manner of seconds, a high priestess in the dark arts of gently saying no, what kind of squirly juju would have to be executed, what kind of cauldron-churning sorcery would it take to lure her in? Or, more crassly, how many sacks of money did Santa leave on your doorstep this year?

Lovely for her, disappointing for us, Sarah came into the SmartRecruiters orbit when she spoke at the Hiring Success ‘17 conference last March, as Director of Performance Management at Indigo, as, well, just another satisfied customer. Then, when they asked, she said yes, “because I have used the product and I believe there’s a huge opportunity to be a leading example of how this function can operate.”

Far from becoming the HR head for a digital HR company being a bit of a Luddite thing to do, Sarah is confident that as much time as the SmartRecruiters Talent Acquisition System will save — in fact, it may be the first product touted as s time-saving device that doesn’t end up taking up more of your time — there will always be room for the human touch. And as the dialectics of our culture-at-large continue to sway from full digital embrace back to a noble analog past, Sarah’s confident a fully AI Head of People is still a ways off.

“Pretty sure I’m safe at least until I want to retire,” she smiles.

Peter Braun