8 Reasons Why Recruitment is like Coffee

Robin Cooper talks about his views on why Recruitment is like Coffee

This February, Google honoured Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge with his very own Doodle on the 225th anniversary of his birthday. Why should we care and what does this have to do with recruitment and technology? It all comes down to coffee.

Runge was the first scientist to analyse the chemical composition of coffee which led to the discovery of caffeine. This little molecule has fundamentally changed the way most human societies function and it’s been in use for so long that coffee has developed its own nuances in various cultures. His Google Doodle didn’t inspire this blog post, but it did get me thinking about my favourite beverage and my favourite job – and what they have in common.

1)      There’s so much choice

I really like coffee. As I now live in Sri Lanka I drink cold brew coffee. When I lived in the UK I used to think this was a load of mumbo-jumbo however I found that if I drink a hot cup of coffee in a hot country, it makes me feel too hot. Somehow cold brew gives me the taste that I like, the right caffeine buzz (Runge’s magic module) and the enjoyment of the coffee experience.

When it comes to recruitment, people may not realise it – but they have a huge amount of choice, too.

When you go into a coffee shop you might just have ‘the usual’ – be that a flat white, a macchiato or an espresso. For some people one career, or one type of coffee, is the way they prefer to go. For others, having only one type of coffee is no longer the only choice. Today people’s careers can go from being a single espresso one day to a tall whipped decaf hazelnut cappuccino in a few months. The point is that they don’t have to stick with the espresso forever if they don’t want to – and recruiters help them make that bold move.

When it comes to career choice it’s not just the job that can change any more. We can also choose our locations, how much (or little) to work or take on, and how to optimise our work/life balance. Technology allows us to work remotely, part-time, or on a contract basis. Sometimes this means choosing to have more time and perhaps less money.

I can be an espresso fan one month, then decide to become a flat white sort of guy. And that’s okay.

2)      Both coffee and recruitment satisfy a need

Before people tried this addictive brew, they didn’t know what they were missing. The same goes for recruitment. The fact is that coffee improves concentration, focus and gives a satisfying feeling of ‘ahh!’ when you’re drinking the right brew. Recruitment can be like that, too, when it’s done right.

Sure, sometimes people drink an awful coffee purely for the caffeine hit – but they usually pull a face, and probably regret it a few seconds after taking a sip. I don’t believe that recruitment should be like that. At collective-i we don’t believe in instant coffee or instant recruitment. For us it’s about having a conversation, raising awareness, positioning an opportunity and seeing if it’s right, rather than squeezing someone into something just to get a fee.

I don’t know about you but, in my opinion, life’s too short to drink bad coffee.

3)      People do coffee and recruitment in different ways all over the world

An espresso is different depending on where it’s grown. There’s a reason why some people like Ethiopian, Indonesian or Kenyan beans. Coffee varies enormously depending on the culture and context that surrounds it.

Maybe it’s partly because I’m working with different cultures all over the world at the moment: from China to Singapore to the West Coast of the USA to Sri Lanka. I find it fascinating because all these cultures are different. They may all be americano fans, or espresso fans, and in some cultures they’re very specific about the way they do it (in Italy – don’t bugger up an espresso by putting hot water in it, for example), but their choice of coffee varies. Their choice is based on the local business needs, the relevant cultures, and their perception of work. Similarly, their perception of working times varies based on the context: in some places working long hours is the norm. In others, once you’ve left for the day that’s it.

But, like coffee, work is about finding the right balance for you – but it’s all down to individual choice. Getting the balance right isn’t just about the time and effort that goes into finding the right job, it’s about using the right tools to enable your preferred taste.

4)      Both coffee and recruitment tools enable (but are no substitute for) social interaction\

Recruitment has come a long way since the first days of putting your CV online.  So has the way we are able to work and deliver value. The technology that has allowed us to become faster, better, more efficient workers doesn’t mean we can just sit on a beach and earn loads of money: we still have to work, be professional, and conduct ourselves in the right way – but technology lets us try something different, and then carry on working that way.

The online tools available to every employee these days has changed our ability to work, forever: everything from automated meeting bookings to video-conferencing to social media scheduling, advanced search functionality and social networking is totally different from how life was 5-10 years ago, however we should not forget the human element.

In this crazy world where social media is so prevalent, there’s nothing wrong with going to a coffee shop and having a real conversation with your mate. We don’t need to be social sellers if we can engage in a genuinely human conversation. Let’s not forget to have real-world conversations rather than electronic ones every now and then.

Yes, coffee on your own is great. But it’s sweeter when it’s shared with a friends.

5)      Coffee and recruitment technology have changed, fundamentally

The world has come a long way since hot water was first dribbled over baked, crushed coffee beans. Thanks to advanced coffee technology you can roast your own beans, make your own lattes, or even have espressos at the touch of a button. No longer is ‘cold-brew’ coffee just some fancy-arse thing in a coffee shop. Today, you can make it at home.

Likewise, the technology that connects the right candidate with the right employer has come on in leaps and bounds. But how far is too far? Unilever controversially whittled down a lot of candidates using AI for graduate recruitment initiative. It worked for them – but it doesn’t work for everyone.

Technology can improve both coffee and recruitment when the right tools are used in the right way – a beautiful crema on the top of your espresso is deeply satisfying when it comes out of an expresso machine – and automation tools can ensure that recruiters reach more appropriate candidates faster, but there still must be an element of quality.

I’m certainly grateful for the ability of search engines, LinkedIn and conferencing tools to put me in touch with people around the world who want a job or have one to offer – but I don’t believe it’s okay to leave it all up to robots.

I still like it when a barista takes the time to make my drinks the perfect drink for me

6)      When it comes to coffee and recruitment: one’s person’s waste is another person’s treasure

The massive consumption of coffee around our cities means that there’s a lot of waste created from the leftover coffee grounds. Once, these grounds would be disposed of and go to landfill. Today, people collect coffee grinds and are using that to grow mushrooms or even make biodegradable coffee cups. There are even coffee logs that you can burn on the fire made from leftover grounds. One person’s waste is another person’s treasure.

It’s similar in recruitment. While many candidates fit into a specific mould, others aren’t an obvious match. At collective-I we make 100% certain that we don’t let companies dispose of excellent candidates because they might not look right on paper. We know how to see their hidden gold and some of our most unlikely-looking matches have proved to be their most successful employees over time.

We make sure that none of our candidates are ‘ground up’ and thrown onto the waste heap.

7)      We can live without coffee and recruitment – but life is better now that they’re here

If we’re recruiting someone for a specific job, or head-hunting them – it’s an emotional journey. We think that it’s great to give people choice, to check if they’re happy in their job, to call them up and maybe raise a spark of interest. We think people should have a look around at job alternatives. But it has to be the right decision for them.

Trying something unusual (either a different role or a different coffee) can broaden people’s experiences. If I were a cappuccino drinker and I never tried anything else I would think that the whole world of coffee boiled down to only one type, and I’d never drink anything other than cappuccino. If no-one ever made me taste a latte or an espresso I wouldn’t realise that there are other options. It’s the same for recruitment.

At collective-i we believe that head-hunting someone is about helping them make different decisions, thanks to having more information and more choice. If we approach someone for a new job and they don’t take the job it’s not the end of the world if we’ve been able to open their eyes to new possibilities that help them get to the right place in their career.

If you’re finding that your role just doesn’t taste right anymore, try something else instead.

8)      Neither coffee nor recruitment can be replaced by AI!

AI technology has changed the recruitment process massively. For example, when it comes to social recruiting – according to UndercoverRecruiter 56% of companies were recruiting via social media in 2011 but by 2016, 84% of companies were recruiting via social media and as for now I am sure the % is much higher and that does not include those using AI technologies somewhere in the recruitment process.

Technology makes the recruitment process simpler, smoother and more efficient – but it is no substitute for a human being. At collective-i we educate people. We help them make a decision. Some of that education can be automated, but you can never replace the true conversation because you have to have the ‘doing’ and the ‘thinking’ together. Ultimately, there will be more of a convergence of these technologies. Today, it’s possible to have your (coffee) cake and eat it. For example, I am always looking at different technologies to improve our own business activity; and I’m also considering the technologies that our clients expect from the people they recruit.

Technology can make us all quicker, more efficient and more effective – but it’s no substitute for a real human being.

I don’t know about you, however completely automated ‘vending machine coffee’ doesn’t hit the spot for me.  If it works for you, at the end of the day, I’m human enough to know that no matter who brews the coffee, what matters is that we can all find our own way to enjoy it.


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