Man Meets Machine: The Future of Tech Recruitment

on 06 | 18 | 2024

By Michael A. Morell, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Riviera Partners


In the world of tech, the company with the best data–and the greatest ability to leverage it–wins. The world of tech recruitment is no different.


I’ve watched the tech recruitment industry digitally transform from fax machines and hard-wired phone lines to matching companies and candidates using sophisticated algorithms, hundreds of data signals, predictive analytics, and AI-powered recommendations. But while we’re constantly discussing the role that data should play in the tech talent recruitment process, our strategic advantage remains our ability to build personal relationships.


As technology becomes increasingly intertwined with our process, I wanted to share our journey and discuss the role AI will play in augmenting the balance of man and machine in the recruitment process.


The evolution of tech recruitment

Over the past two decades, tech has evolved from a key sector to the overwhelming driver of our economy. The process of tech recruitment has evolved right along with it.


When my co-founder Ali and I started looking at the space in 2002, we saw few recruiters with our tech background; I’m an engineer by education, and Ali was a programmer and enterprise startup founder. By contrast, a lot of tech recruiters were salespeople who lacked the technical background to understand the unique nuances of the roles. Our background gave us a lot of credibility with technology leaders and the companies looking to hire them.


Similarly, there was no LinkedIn, no smartphones, and no social media when we first started. Email was prevalent, but people still sent letters and faxes. Tech recruitment was, and still is, based on understanding org charts and relationships. The difference is that this information used to be part of a proprietary Rolodex, but is now democratized through the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.


But all this information created a lot of noise. Because it’s so easy to reach out to a company or a candidate without any prior relationship, everyone has put up walls to filter the noise out. Today, our work is focused on nurturing insight into companies and gaining access to talent so we can help both clients and candidates break through the clutter.


Maintaining the human touch in tech recruitment

For the specialized tech leadership roles we focus on, it’s not a question of man versus machine, but man and machine. For the past 10 years, we’ve been building out Sutro as our key data platform to surface insights for both candidates and our clients so we can create better outcomes for all involved. It allows us to do things like modeling, predictions, and tagging to make our recruiters more efficient and help them get to the right answer faster.


With so much data at our fingertips, the ability to interpret the data and leverage our personal relationships is our secret sauce. We’ve developed a proprietary system of candidate scoring that lets us dive deeper into an individual’s career trajectory, ensuring we place the right person with the right employer and role.


But powerful as it is, this data isn’t enough. Our platform serves as the starting point, not the final say. Our recruiters will always play a primary role thanks to their personal insights and ability to cultivate relationships over years or even decades.


While the platform reveals a treasure trove of unique insights, it’s the recruiters who bring them to life. Our data can conjure a promising array of potential opportunities that the recruiter can use to augment their intuition as they navigate the nuanced motivations of each candidate.


The impact of AI on tech leadership recruitment

AI is helping us navigate the next exciting chapter of tech recruitment, which centers around AI-based roles themselves. We’re still in the early innings as many of our clients are making their first AI hires. Not only that, but AI roles mean different things to different clients and candidates; a head of AI at one organization may need to be a deep-in-the-weeds technical expert, while another might require someone who is more strategic or with strong managerial skills.


For this recruitment process, AI is helping us tease out these nuances, sift through more data, and answer more insightful questions. This will help us ensure that our clients find the best fit for their unique AI leadership needs, while helping the next generation of tech leaders find the right AI-based roles they need to accelerate their careers.


The bottom line: AI won’t replace or even discount the value of a handshake or a cup of coffee. While the data can craft signals around factors like compensation, culture, and career advancement, it still takes a human touch to grasp the essence of an individual—their personality, their ambitions, their dreams—elements that no data can ever fully capture.