Google Hire: Implications for Talent Acquisition

May 10th, 2017

Jon-Mark Sabel

Recruiting Teams


For years there's been a debate surrounding the recruiter's core competency in the digital age. The rise of employer branding as a recruitment strategy has many observers drawing parallels between recruiting and marketing. On the other hand, the increasing number of tools that automate the "marketing" aspects of recruiting have others arguing that recruiters should embrace their role as "salespeople." So are recruiters marketers or salespeople? Up to this point, the debate has shown no sign of stopping. But with Google Hire potentially launching its own job board, the conversation might be changed entirely. If you’re unfamiliar with how the arguments traditionally go, here’s a brief summary in premise-conclusion form:

Recruiters are Marketers:

  1. Most job candidates perform their own online research.
  2. This online research is a primary driver of the candidate’s final choice.
  3. Recruiters need to improve the brand of their employer to remain competitive (“employer brand”).
  4. Marketing provides methods and metrics to improve brand and source candidates.
  5. Recruiters need to be more like marketers.

Now the case for the sales-side:

Recruiters are Salespeople:

  1. Marketing initiatives can achieved through automation (generally speaking).
  2. To stand apart from the crowd in a talent shortage, recruiters need to form real relationships with high quality candidates.
  3. The relationship and exchange of information between recruiter and candidate is a primary driver of the candidate’s final choice.
  4. Sales strategy provides methods and metrics to build relationships and “sell” candidates on open positions.
  5. Recruiters need to be more like salespeople.

These arguments have been circling for years, so the brief overviews above are by no means representative of every unique viewpoint - but the essence of each is there. All of this changes with Google Hire. From the small glimpses we’ve seen thus far (it’s currently invite-only), Google Hire appears to be a job board and ATS rolled into one. A couple weeks ago we saw a fairly plain job description hosted on its service, reminiscent of jobs posted on Indeed: google hire pt1 This week, things got interesting: google hire pt2As you can see, the online job board has been more or less Google-fied, with job openings displayed directly in the Google Search interface. Considering that many job seekers find openings on Indeed, Monster, and others through Google Search, traditional online job boards should be relatively terrified. For the recruiter, this means something entirely different. If Google does enter the job search space, it is poised to steamroll its competitors. There’s a reason the tech giant tends to dominate anything search-related: with a user’s entire search history at its fingertips, Google Hire could customize search results to an unprecedented extent. Either way, it’s doubtful Google would be content with the Hire platform becoming “just another job board.”

Search Engine Optimization: A (Very) Brief Introduction

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the art of ranking webpages in Google, Bing, or any other search engine. Since Google is the hands-down leader in the space, most SEO practitioners direct their focus to ranking high in Google Search.

The Complexities of Search: An Overly Simplistic Overview

Google’s search algorithm pulls from a wide range of data when it makes its ranking decisions. While it prioritizes webpages that load quickly and are optimized for mobile, the most significant component of page ranking is the presence of backlinks. Backlinks are Google’s way of gauging each page’s reputation and trustworthiness. They act as a sort of “social proof” that the contents of the page are valuable to readers. For example, if you run a site that sells oil lanterns, links from prominent lantern bloggers and “high reputation” sites like the New York Times will have a greater effect on your ranking than links from poetry blogs and “low reputation” spam sites. That's not all: the way other sites link to yours also plays a role in Google’s decision-making. It is important that the anchor text of the backlink contains the keyword you want to rank for: in the case above, this means the link should be placed the words “oil lantern”... ...But only sometimes. You shouldn’t anchor every link to the same word or phrase: if every link back to your site is attached to the same keywords, Google will think you’re spamming and penalize your site. What's more, Google is incredibly secretive about what data it pulls from when making ranking decisions, and its algorithm is constantly updating. There are probably hundreds of other ranking factors it takes into consideration. In other words, there’s a reason most organizations and marketing teams have a dedicated SEO team (or at least a partnership with an SEO consultant): it really can't be automated. Now what happens if Google Hire (which will likely use a similar search algorithm) gains a majority of the online job board market share? If recruiters aren’t marketers now, they might need to be if they want anyone looking at their job postings in the future.

Big Assumptions, Big Implications

Of course, this is all assuming:

  1. Google Hire functions like a job board.
  2. Google Hire will use a similar algorithm to its Search program when deciding what results it displays.
  3. Google Hire dominates the online job board space.

But if the above assumptions turn out to be true (and if history is any guide, I don't think it's much of a stretch), the value of recruiters who can get their jobs top billing would be huge.  There's tremendous value in gaining a high position in Google Search - think of the free publicity that would come with a consistently top-ranking job application.

Google Hire isn't the only development of 2017 that's promising to change the recruiting landscape.

Stay ahead of the talent acquisition curve with our SlideShare synopsis of Deloitte's 2017 Human Capital Trends Report.