Traditional recruitment is hurting young job seekers, not helping

Traditional recruitment tools are failing South Africa’s unemployed and companies still using them are losing out on key talent as a result. This is adding to the country’s growing rate of unemployment, with adequate job seekers being overlooked.

With a high supply of entry-level talent who have limited experience, businesses need to do away with the traditional recruitment methods, which by their very nature, reduce the exercise to ticking boxes. Instead, businesses should focus on developing the type of talent they need, because the reality is that the unicorns businesses are hoping to recruit are just that – fictitious.

Over the past decade, I’ve seen many examples of where the system is failing local youth – with traditional recruitment being a prime example. When the 2.6-million young people leave matric to enter the workforce, hiring companies default to two prerequisites – level of education and related experience. Before the selection process has even begun, the majority of potential talent within the local market has been ruled out.

If businesses continue on this trajectory using traditional forms of recruitment – such as placing a job ad and matching job requirements to potential candidates – only 20% of unemployed youth would find the advertisements, and an even smaller percentage would be accepted into the formal job market – exacerbating an already serious issue in South Africa. 

The solution? Focusing on cognitive ability and learnability rather than experience and education, through digitisation.


For unemployed youth, without the necessary skills and qualifications, this removes the barrier to entry and provides them with an improved chance of entering the job market. For businesses looking to hire, this presents an opportunity to match the right talent to any available role and provide the necessary training and upskilling to ensure consistent performance and improvement throughout the business.

Staff members are inclined to treat customers the way they are treated by their employers – and with many job seekers being sole providers for their families, job security is a top priority. Staff who feel valued will ultimately provide the best possible customer experience to the end client – giving the business a competitive advantage.

In 2018, after we acquired a digital recruitment tool called MyCalling, we saw the potential to reach an untapped talent pool – which most businesses would pass up – and get South Africa’s youth into the job market, regardless of skills or qualifications.  Over a short period, this tool allowed us to match more than 6 000 individuals with suitable roles, with 74% being younger than 35. About half were either students or unemployed at the time and 15% had no previous working experience – neither of which affected their ability to develop skills and fulfil their roles.  

A business’s most important asset is its people, and any business looking to succeed in South Africa needs to be willing to put in the work to ensure that the roles they are offering are right for their people, and not the other way round. The recruitment of tomorrow puts the jobseeker first.  

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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Mathew Conn
Mathew Conn is chief revenue officer at Merchants South Africa

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