Executive Search Technology Opportunities & Risks

TCS Insights' Simon Townsend discusses the impact of evolving technology on our profession.

Technological advances have forever altered the executive search process, helping talent specialists more effectively source talent, interface with clients and improve overall productivity. As we look forward to the next decade, we can only expect further evolution as AI and machine learning grow in prominence. With such an abundance of opportunity comes the issue of increased cybersecurity risks. 

Simon Townsend, Director and Co-Founder of TCS Insights, explores these technological opportunities and risks for our profession in a conversation with AESC ahead of his panel discussion at the Australia Forum on Feb. 10.

1. Technology has evolved greatly over the last decade. In what ways do you feel technology has changed the search process in recent years?

With so much information now available, we’re often able to paint a detailed picture of a potential candidate, particularly in areas such as tech, where examples of work can be shared and reviewed. The use of machine learning in algorithm design is making great strides in identifying and connecting multiple data sources and providing holistic profiles with contact information. While technology has, in many ways, made it easier to find people online, the sheer amount of information we process has made it harder to connect with people quickly in a way they will respond to. Email is ignored, phones aren’t answered, and people are hit with waves of contact from recruiters as the barrier to entry into search has reduced.

2. What are the challenges and opportunities of such a technological evolution for the profession?

I see engagement as the biggest “right now” challenge, but there’s a time bomb of data privacy and security just over the horizon. Finding ways to pass through the information filters people have created is becoming increasingly difficult as we have monetized attention; every social media platform, advertising agency, sporting event, etc., vie for our attention all the time. And we’ve gotten great at ignoring stuff. Presenting a real opportunity in a way that is compelling is vital but presenting it at the right time is paramount. The greatest opportunity ahead of us is the ability to, through data sources, predict when someone will be most receptive to a conversation from a trusted source.

3. There have been several major events that pose security risks in the past few years. With the continuation of the War on Ukraine, are there any increased risks around cybersecurity?

The amount of data we collect on potential candidates is dramatic, and it’s particularly dangerous after so many data breaches from larger organizations. Theoretically, resumes or candidate profiles could be augmented with harvested information and quickly be detailed enough to be used for fraudulent purposes. Hopefully, everyone is using an ATS or similar that has strong data privacy and security processes in place, but we need to ensure that any personal data we hold and share with clients, etc. is always secure. We’re always playing catch-up legally, no matter which country we’re in. Realistically we should all be using GDPR and the CCPA as a baseline and be looking to improve. It seems that many of us are becoming complacent given the number of data breaches, but with the increase in the ability to pretend to be someone through artificial intelligence, we need to be far more aware than ever.

4. You will be speaking at AESC's Australia Forum on Feb. 10. Can you give us insight into what attendees can expect from the "Technology: What Are the Opportunities & Risks for our Profession" session?

I do not doubt that we are about to live through the biggest period of change ever known. The speed of change will only continue to increase as artificial intelligence becomes more embedded in our lives, and improves exponentially. I think it will be a very exciting time with lots of new platforms we haven’t yet thought of becoming the hammer and nails of our trade. Engagement is, I think, the next big wave as we create mass personalization of opportunity presented at the right time. We’ll need to be able to offer people skills over roles, and do so when they are eager to learn.

Many of us are already acting as career coaches to a key group of clients. I can see this becoming far more prevalent as the sourcing side of our business continues to become easier. We’ll need to demonstrate more value to candidates if we want to keep building trust, and we’ll be doing so through AI-tailored education pathways and mapping out career steps two or three moves in advance. There will be large risks involved, particularly around security and privacy, but we’ll need to ensure we’re secure enough to effectively use personal data at scale.

Gain more technology insights by joining us at the Australia Forum on Febraury 10. 

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