Recruitment Influencer Interview Series – Laurie Ruettimann

If you want to know anything HR related, Laurie Ruettimann is the woman to sit down and talk to. She overflows with enthusiasm for the industry while also punching fun at it, which is a delicate balance we could all do with maintaining. I sit down with her and before I’ve started my small talk, she rolls up her sleeves and dives right in to the meat and bone of recruitment, holding nothing back, and I suddenly understand why so many people wait to hear what she has to say.

Check out Laurie’s excellent blog here.

The interview:

Matt: As a HR professional, What’s the most common question you get asked?

Laurie: Why is it so hard to hire people? I get asked that by recruiters, by candidates, even by people in my own family.

Matt: Why do you think it’s so hard?

Laurie: Well part of the answer is that anything good is hard and that’s the price we pay. Obviously, there are reasons we don’t just let anyone walk into any job and give it a go, but the recruiting industry is needlessly complex because there is money in the complexity and the inefficiencies really, really, drive me crazy.

Matt: Why do you think money is causing inefficiencies?

Laurie: I think the price of change is very high and people are scared, so instead of embracing new technology, people hang onto the old ways of doing things, which might be good for them, but it isn’t good for the entire system.

Matt: Yes that’s definitely annoying.

Laurie: It drives me mad. In the year 2018, I still don’t understand how some people still manage to recruit out of their email. It’s insane. What a waste of time searching for resumes in your inbox. Also, people who have three of four recruiting systems that don’t speak to one another and they’re all over the place trying to justify all that effort. There is such an opportunity for some common sense in recruitment and if I could do it, I’d be a billionaire.

Matt: You should do it.

Laurie: Ha! That’s not really my calling in life or my skillset, but the person who can streamline and consolidate things can really help recruiters tie up what they’re doing in the value chain. That person is going to be a billionaire.

Matt: I agree. There are so many different businesses and start-ups clambering for a dollar and they just create confusion and technology fatigue.

Laurie: You know what, I think there are people out there who would say they’ve created the solution, and everybody feels like they have an answer, and there are loads of venues out there where smart people come together and talk about the future of recruitment and I haven’t seen one single person stand up and say they have and answer and still be around four years later. So really, I don’t know why they think they have an answer now. The market hasn’t even embraced three ideas, so it’s just scattered and messy and really noisy. It’s got to be incredibly frustrating if you’re a job seeker and you have to hit this over and over again. I can understand why candidates are cynical and disengaged. It makes total sense to me.

Matt: You’ve got so many people involved in the recruitment process, and it’s such a human to human business, but all with different belief systems, perspectives and way of doing things, and do you think this makes it so difficult to apply a layer of technology to fix it all?

Laurie: Yeah, and I think people run away from that human to human element because it’s hard and messy, and sometimes we disappoint people or deliver bad news. Using tech to avoid that human element has actually eroded the credibility of recruiters. I think technology, just like it’s running family relationships, is running recruitment because it’s not being used properly to enhance the human connection.

Matt: Do you have an image of what recruitment might look like in the next few years?

Laurie: I’m always hesitant to say anything because it will be wrong, and I think a lot about how the economy is leaning towards portfolio work, and with automation, I’m not exactly sure who will be working in three or five years, and what they are working at. We’re moving more towards robots and getting people out of the work environment but we don’t have universal basic incomes to support people becoming future consumers. I’m a little worried and in all honestly, I don’t know what the future of recruiting looks like when we are shrinking the employment base.

Matt: I saw an article recently that said technology professionals will be the new blue-collar workers.

Laurie: And I’m not super proud of that idea because the blue-collar workers across governments and countries have really suffered at the hands of people who have made poor decisions. I think about the shift during the industrial revolution and even as women in the workforce in America in the 1940s, who were pushed back out. You know, people’s lives are really affected by these decisions and there’s so many shifts in society that are supposed to be for the overall good, but I’m not sold. You can be an optimist and I’ll be a cynic and we’ll see how the next three to five years play out.

Matt: Deal. What’s the biggest recruitment horror story you’ve come across?

Laurie: Oh my god, my horror stories are covered by NDAs. I remember being a recruiter back in the day and walking into my first corporate in-house job and having 75 requisitions open, stacks of resumes and a fax machine. Just inundated with work. And I talk to recruiters today in 2018 and they tell me nothing has changed. They’ve got requisitions and paper everywhere. It’s not really a horror story but I’m flummoxed by it.

Matt: Who has influenced you the most in your career?

Laurie: Well there’s three individuals I look to to tell me about the world of recruitment. William Tincup who is a genius who makes me think about not just recruitment, but the future of work. Secondly is Laurence Schmitt. He’s so well versed on the practitioner side and has worked with Elon Musk and done his own consulting work. And thirdly Stacy Donovan Zapar. She’s amazing. She really influences me and if I want to get down in the trenches, Stacey is someone I talk to. They’re my daily must read, I check their Twitter, I work with them on LinkedIn. They can do no wrong in my opinion.

Matt: Talent acquisition or recruiting?

Laurie: That’s just a question boring people like. It’s like the difference between HR and personnel, who really cares. It’s like that old argument about where recruiting should report to, whether it’s HR or marketing. Nobody cares, just get your job done.

Matt: If you could call bullshit on one myth related to recruiting, what would it be?

Laurie: I don’t want to go on about it, but there is an idea that technology will just fix recruiting and make life easier and natural language programming will sweep in and help us find that magical resume and frankly, that’s a lot of garbage. I think recruiters are at their best when they’re involved in the community and are meeting face-to-face. I did my best recruiting when I wasn’t in my office but at events. Technology will be great, but don’t rely on it.

Matt: Absolutely. The ones who will survive in the next few years are the recruiters who get out there.

Laurie: Exactly. If you’re a recruiter and not attending the events you’re a fool. Get out there, take some colleagues with you. It makes you more likable and if there’s anything I know, is that people don’t like the recruiting departments. Get some friends at work, get some allies that make your job easier, and get out and have fun and enjoy it all.

Matt: I think many recruiters have lost their ability to get a bit uncomfortable.

Laurie: Too many of us work from home and never see our colleagues. I’m a fan of actual human connections.

Matt: If LinkedIn turned off the lights, what do you think would happen?

Laurie: Oh God we’d all be so much happier. We’d stop getting spammy messages and it would be great. I pick on LinkedIn a lot, mainly because I’m jealous I didn’t create it. But if it didn’t exist tomorrow, we would still be contacted in lots of different ways by candidates who want to come and work for us. People are out there, I think it’s just a myth that it’s easier to find them on LinkedIn.

Matt: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Laurie: In life?

Matt: Yeah

Laurie: I was told at a very early age that the past isn’t dead, it’s not even the past. It’s so true. You think you’ve closed a door only to turn around and its open again. My father shared that advice with me and it was always like, don’t burn bridges because you never know what’s going to happen. I started my blog fourteen years ago when I was still at Pfizer and then I started making money from writing and speaking, and I thought I’d leave Pfizer and never see those people again and just move on. But I keep hearing from people at Pfizer. They follow me everywhere I go and they’re always proud and happy for me, even when I make fun of them and talk about some of my bad experiences there. So you know, we think we close a door and move on, but we never really do. Things change, but it’s amazing how the past keeps re-emerging. It’s fascinating.

Matt: Why do you think recruitment has such a bad perception?

Laurie: Well anyone can pick up the phone, to a candidate or client, and say they’re working roles, but who are they really? And who do they work for? There are so many questions that aren’t answered and that’s a problem. Here in America we have the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals who are fighting back and have a code of ethics and are working to help the PR aspect of recruitment and that’s long overdue. There is no time like the present to start working on the reputation of recruiting and talent acquisition.

Matt: You said you wanted to make fun of job boards so here’s your chance. What do you think of them?

Laurie: I only want to make fun because I don’t know a single person that loves a job board. I’ve done a fair bit of consulting with owners of job boards and know how shitty the experience is. They know it too. Running job board isn’t easy. Generally, they’re just garbage.

Matt: What book are you reading right now?

Laurie: Oh my god, I’m so glad you asked this. I started a book club because I really feel like all books are recruiting and HR books, especially when they talk about passion, vocation, identity etc. So once a month, I’m going to get together online with a group of people and talk HR books which I’m currently building and launching on February 1st. I’m so excited I’m going to make money on this, but I really believe the way we make the world great again is to have the world start to think again, and people who are readers are amazing thinkers and leaders.

Our book club this month just read Rene Brown, Braving the Wilderness, and I suggested Meditation for Fidgety Sceptics. Both are really good, quick reads, really interesting and on January 31st we’re going to go online and talk about these books. I also just finished reading this great book called The Power by Naomi Alderman, and it’s all about young girls who suddenly have the power to inflict pain on men and how the world changes. It’s a British best seller and one of the top books in 2017. It’s so exciting.

For more information or to read more of Laurie Ruettimann, click here to view her blog.

You can also follow Laurie on Twitter and LinkedIn, which we recommend!

Laurie has also recently kicked off a brilliant book club #HRBookClub, so if you love your books – follow this link to subscribe to the newsletter.


Our influencer interviews have been slightly edited to suit the blog format. We’ll be releasing full podcasts and transcripts soon. 

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