Tools for the Job

TECHNOLOGY - Peter Linas, international managing director, Bullhorn on skill shortages and technology trends.

According to the findings of a recent survey by Bullhorn, recruitment agencies in the Asia Pacific region are enjoying a period of sustained growth. One hundred and seventy recruitment businesses were surveyed across the region representing a range of sectors including technology, business services, construction, financial, manufacturing, and healthcare. Most significantly, 84 per cent of respondents said their revenue has increased this year.

Looking ahead to 2017, repeat business will play an important role in promoting continued growth, with 78 per cent of respondents saying that at least half of their revenue comes from loyal customers. With regards to the major recruitment metrics, the total number of successful placements is ranked as the most important driver of revenue. This is followed by the average fee rate and the total number of job orders. But what other challenges and trends will shape industry growth next year?

Skills shortage problems

Despite its growth, however the Asia Pacific job market is clearly facing a shortage of talent, and agencies are increasingly strained to find skilled candidates. Eighty-eight per cent of the agencies surveyed are experiencing a shortage of skilled candidates across all of their specialist sectors. This is particularly clear within technology and finance: 86 per cent of agencies which recruit for technology roles claim they face a skills shortage, and 89 per cent of those which recruit for finance roles said the same.

Impeded by a shrinking pool of available skills, technology recruitment agencies expressed particular concern about staying abreast of rapid advancements and new trends in the sector, while finance recruitment agencies are increasingly aware of the threat posed by competition from internal recruiters.

Technology-driven solutions

Recruitment agencies can improve their talent search by adopting technology-driven solutions, but only if used correctly. Sixty-five per cent of all recruitment agencies make at least half of their total placements from their own databases. However, recruitment agencies with a specific focus on the technology sector have only a 52 per cent success rate if they rely on their internal systems. For these recruiters, job boards are their best source for finding candidates, followed by social media and, finally, their applicant tracking systems (ATS). Regardless of industry or sector focus, it’s in every agency’s best interests to regularly review their ATS to see if any skilled candidates are being overlooked.

Most recruitment agencies continue to view social media as a good source for skilled candidates. It’s also a channel with high growth potential, presenting technology, finance, and healthcare recruiters with opportunities to build better relationships with existing and prospective clients. Finance recruitment agencies demonstrated a particular affinity for LinkedIn as a business tool.

Technology in action

Most Asia Pacific recruitment agencies are using technology successfully to source candidates and drive business growth. Nonetheless, some agencies also believe that technology adoption will present one of the greatest challenges of the future, highlighting that careful implementation is required to ensure maximum efficiency.

CRM systems are used by recruitment agencies irrespective of industry or sector focus. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents have a CRM in place to help manage their candidate placements. Sixty-three per cent use their CRM system in the sales process to better manage their leads, opportunities, and pipelines. Technology recruiters use their CRM systems the most, with 81 per cent employing it for candidate management, and 68 per cent for sales management.

Careful applicant tracking is critical to successful candidate placement. Recruiters rank their CRMs as the top source for filling jobs, listing job boards as the next best option. Sixty-nine per cent of agency respondents said they can’t do their jobs effectively without their CRM systems, and this number rises to 76 per cent when focusing exclusively on technology recruiters.

Vendor management systems (VMS) are a seemingly less important business driver for many of the agencies surveyed. Significantly, 31 per cent of agencies don’t expect to see any work orders generated by their VMS in 2016. Technology recruiters are more likely to use a VMS, but this trend is decreasing: 36 per cent said that none of their work orders came from a VMS in 2015, and 42 per cent said they don’t expect to use one in 2016.

Looking ahead

As the skills shortage intensifies, technology will play an ever-evolving role in sourcing, managing, and placing candidates. Interestingly, while technology solutions and social media are believed to offer recruitment agencies the biggest opportunities for performance growth, keeping up with rapid technological advancement poses a serious challenge. Technology has the potential to assist agencies in finding the skilled candidates they need, managing successful placements, and forecasting sales pipelines, but it can also become a drain on resources if not implemented and used correctly.

The best step forward for Asia Pacific recruitment agencies, whatever their sector or industry focus, is to identify their specific business challenges and adopt the best technology solution for their needs. Only then can they start to effectively address the skills shortage.