Recruitment Influencer Interview Series: Matt Alder

Matt Alder is a true mastermind in employer branding and HR tech vision with a committed podcast following and an extremely successful publication “Exceptional Talent”, Matt is a true craftsman in his trade.  

We have been super excited about our discussion with Matt and to dig deep into his view of the past, today and tomorrows recruitment;

Hi Matt

Hi Matt, how are you doing?

Really well thank you, you have probably been asked more questions than most, but what is the most common question you get asked?

Interestingly, Its probably who is going to be on your podcast next.  Other than that, one, it is normally something about the future work or the future of recruitment

In your opinion what do you think the future of recruitment it is going look like in one year or ten years?

It’s really the sort of next three to five years that are sort of most interesting to me.    There is lots of talk about artificial intelligence and automation and technology is helping recruiters or in some cases potentially replacing recruiters, but the bit I am interested in is actually how recruitment and recruitment teams, agencies or internal teams actually demonstrate the values of the businesses they work for in the future. 

Over the next three to five years there is going to be a lot of opportunity and pressure on leadership teams within business to automate business processes within their organisation and recruiting isn’t always very good at explaining its value.

If recruiting teams don’t do that you know there is the risk that a lot of stuff they do could be automated which would be at the detriment of great recruiting, it could happen in less if recruiters don’t get better at articulating their value to people outside of their kind of recruiting circle.

I think that is inevitable and may be a portion of the industry will exit the industry because they don’t want to, or may be cannot develop the skill set to survive. 

If we were to talk about what the challenges were for recruiters over the next few years is absolutely going to be finding talent and finding talent with the right skills and particularly the right digital skills. 

It is a time where recruiting teams can really step up and prove their value to the business and get people to think differently about recruitment.

Lots of recruiters take it for granted that because finding talent is going to get more difficult they are going to become more important and I don’t think it is quite as simple as that.

Automation and technology tend to fail, is the data.  Are we then relying on all of the candidates to make sure that their data is 100% accurate and 100% up to date for these systems to accurately assess who is a match to the job.

And that is where the recruiter comes in, they take an outdated resume and engage with the candidate.

Data is the absolute key to this.  I had a really interesting conversation last week with a guy who leads on AI the BBC and we were talking about the level of data it takes to teach AI engines, how to work and recruiting is always interesting because we are sort of currently working off CV’s which is very sort of old school way of getting data, an old-school way of holding data.

I think if people think that AI is going to come along and get rid of recruiting in one foul sweep, they are wrong because of all those reasons.

Recruitment Influencer Interview Series: Matt Alder

The rate of change within technology is expediential and the way that people manage and hold their data is changing. 

I think the recent scandals around Facebook and social media will potentially be an educational moment for people in terms of how valuable their data is and you know what format it’s being held in and how they can take control of that. 

At the end of the day people will go down the path of whatever they must do to find the right job for them. 

I think that there could be some level of automation self-selection within that and I suppose that comes to the crux of my point because recruiters need to really be able to describe the value that they bring and really focus on that, even a persuasive element and making sure that the value of that isn’t chipped away.

What is the worst recruitment horror story you have heard and that can be from any sort of stakeholder in the process.

Oh dear, so many. We did for the book I wrote last year, we did a lot of research to on boarding.  One example was people turning up for a job to be met by the person who has that job who doesn’t know that they are being fired!

Another example was turning up on their first day to be told by the hiring manager, “sorry I thought you were the other candidate”, they were the one I wanted to hire. 

Wow, okay, they were some shockers.  In your opinion is it talent acquisition of recruiting?

I don’t think it really matters basically.  I think one of the problems, that we kind of face in the industry is that people arguing with themselves about terminology and definitions, and I think some people get really offended by calling it talent acquisition and some people think recruiting is described as one part of the process. 

I tend to favour talent acquisition because I think recruiting can be seen as just one part of that process, my background is in recruitment marketing which lots of people wouldn’t see as recruiting, but it is definitely part of talent acquisition process.   People have different views depending on where they sit in the process.

You have got to learn to be a digital marketer in recruitment and it is going to become more and more powerful. 

If you could call “bull shit” on one myth related to recruitment, what would it be?

This may prove controversial, I think there is a myth that only people who are actively working in a recruiting role right now are allowed to have a valid opinion of the industry.

I see this a lot particularly in social media where people are sort of pushing back on opinions and things they don’t like and say, well you are not actually recruiting now or you didn’t spend twenty years in the trenches, talking to candidates therefore you are not allowed an opinion or you haven’t recruited anyone for twenty years therefore you don’t have an opinion.

Firstly it is very perspective and I think it is also a real sign of immaturity in the industry.  

I think if you look at other industries, you know there is a desire to look externally to learn from different approaches and different ways of doing things and not just dismiss them as you don’t understand recruitment. 

Now having said that, you know lot of people come into the industry thinking it is easy and thinking that they could disrupt it; they don’t really understand how it works. 

I do find this industry quite introspective and I think that is not a good thing. 

This bad stigma towards recruitment is it because no one really lifts the lid on the whole process or no one really truly understands the challenges that recruiters go through?

I think it is part of a two way communication piece there, recruiters get very comfortable talking to other recruiters, staring these little clubs about their own challenges rather that talking to the hiring managers and end users. I just don’t think that is a particularly healthy way of moving the industry forward.

If LinkedIn turned off the lights where do you think recruiters would find candidates?

There have always been lots of ways of finding candidates and finding talent and the medium for doing that has obviously changed over the years and for the last sort of ten/fifteen years, LinkedIn has been the dominant part of that.

We have to remember that while it is still incredibly important, there are lots of people who are not on LinkedIn, there are lots of people who are actively hiding themselves from LinkedIn because they don’t want to be constantly approached by people and the best recruiters are the people who are able to find those people and find alternative sources of talent.

There are lots of people who 100% rely on that channel for all for their flow of talent into their pipeline and if they then have the skills to think about it in a different way those people will get on with it.

For modern day recruiter what are the two key skills must they have to survive and prosper in the industry?

It is definitely knowledge of digital marketing.  If it’s not using it hands on, it is understanding how it can be used to connect and influence people. 

One of the things that I think is a challenge is you know good recruiters you know being very good at persuasion, being very good at that human element of getting people over the line and I think the challenge for recruiters is, how do they take that skill and make it work at scale using digital technology.

We are seeing a huge amount of really interesting products coming onto the market, email automation and candidate pipeline generation.  But if you don’t have the skill to understand how they really resonate with their audiences, they just turn into turbo powered recruitment spam basically. 

Do you see job boards as having a good life in recruitment businesses and hiring companies, is their day coming to an end?

People have been predicting the demise of the job board for quite some time and I think it tends to be wishful thinking on the behalf of someone who has invented a product they think disrupts the industry. 

The days of job boards being the only source of people to use to advertise and reach candidates is well and truly over.  For a decade they held a very privileged position, they were the go to channel for most people, and I think that’s finished. 

On a recent Podcast I interviewed a number of analysts who are monitoring investment and start-ups in this base globally and the biggest sort of tech category of start-ups and investments that is going on is still job boards… so I would suggest they have some way left to run. 

What I think is interesting is that they absolutely have to evolve their modem and I think if you look at the ones who are almost kind of creating communities of talent where they can look into the data of what is going on, people like Ziprecruiter for example, I think there is a really interesting model there and there is a huge amount of value in the data that they have that really explains how people look for jobs. 

Final one; what book are you reading right now, if any?

I can think of two actually, I listen to lots of audio books, currently Eddie Izzard’s autobiography, which is very good.

I think the best way to get to a good book is through a personal recommendation, so I’m taking note!

The other one I read recently which I think is brilliant, its Hit Makers by a guy called Derek Thompson, how things become popular – really interesting.

Let me seek that one out for sure and I’ll come and hunt you down if I don’t enjoy it, but it sounds like a book that I probably will, so I appreciate that.   

I really appreciate your time, thank you!

No worries, talk to you soon.  Bye.


You can follow Matt Alder in multiple channels, and we recommend doing so.  Check out his book  “Exceptional Talent” and his awesome podcast Recruiting Future or you can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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