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Hudson RPO’s Darren Lancaster on the Top Skill Needed in Recruitment Today

SeekOut's Talent Visionaries series features innovative leaders and their extraordinary work in creating and scaling high-performing teams. The personal philosophies and invaluable insights of these workplace champions offer new perspectives in an ever-evolving talent landscape.  

Darren Lancaster is the Chief Executive Officer (Americas & EMEA) at Hudson RPO, a recruitment process outsourcing provider (RPO) that delivers innovative, customized recruitment and talent solutions to organizations worldwide. Darren has over two decades of experience in talent acquisition, starting his career as a recruiter and working his way to CEO. He encourages a culture where curiosity is embraced and employee ideas are valued, expanded, and acted upon. 

On the perfect alignment between skills and interests

I had a neighbor that worked in recruiting that suggested I’d be a natural at it. I wasn’t shy and enjoyed sparking conversation with anyone, so my communication skills stood out. I had experience in computer and technology sales, and that’s how I landed my first role in IT recruitment. I loved everything about it.  

Being in recruitment opened many doors for me, especially in the financial services industry, an original interest of mine. Progressing from recruitment to business development to eventually being a managing director, I worked with clients like Goldman & Sachs and Barclays during times of business expansion. That’s how I got to where I am today as CEO of Americas and EMEA for Hudson RPO. 

On the top skill needed in recruitment today

To be successful in talent acquisition, you need to have a curious mindset and be willing to learn. Practicing continuous learning and staying open-minded will allow you to keep up with rapidly advancing technology in the industry. We strongly encourage this learning mindset in our people as well, through our people-led learning and development program, Accelerate, and our online e-learning platform. The way recruiters work today will be different even one year from now, and AI is only going to evolve further. It’s crucial that recruiters of all levels of experience understand how these tools work to prevent diluting the human experience that is deeply essential to talent acquisition. 

“There are ways to use AI without eliminating key elements of the human connection, but we have to stay curious to understand how.” 

For example, a candidate can have generative AI craft their resume and have the same technology write an email to the recruiter. The recruiter can use AI to write a response email and set up an interview. Then, the recruiter can use AI to create interview questions, and the candidate can use AI to script answers to those questions. In modern-day recruitment AI enables incredible efficiencies, but it is just as important to not lose sight of truly getting to know the person in front of you—the old-fashioned way. There are ways to use AI without eliminating all human elements, but we have to stay curious to understand how.  

On how a shifting workforce will challenge recruiters

At the moment, the economic landscape, whilst challenging from a jobs perspective, is actually better than pre-COVID with more jobs available. But many of these jobs don’t offer the flexibility to work from home. I see a mismatch between employers and candidates. Many employers want people back in the office, but ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of candidates are looking for flexibility in the way they work, and where they work. This has become the new normal, and further, candidates expect it. If employers can’t design work in a way that works for their people, they’re going to continue facing challenges filling these roles. 

I believe recruiters have an essential role to play in this shifting landscape. Having daily conversations with both candidates and their hiring managers and stakeholders; recruiters play a consultative role for the employers they work for and a bigger role in helping those involved in the hiring process understand the candidate market. Not only can they advise what candidates are looking for, they also know what it takes to stay ahead of the competition for talent. 

“If employers can’t design work in a way that works for their people, they’re going to continue facing challenges filling these roles.”

On the books that all talent leaders should read

I take inspiration from people who have been successful in business, so I’d recommend anything by Richard Branson or Alan Sugar, particularly Sugar’s book “As I See It: Rants, Revelations, and Rules for Life.” From a talent perspective, “Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead” by Laszlo Bock is excellent. Also, I would take a look at “Social Media Recruitment: How to Successfully Integrate Social Media into Recruitment Strategy” by Andy Headworth.

“Acknowledge failure and be willing to understand what went wrong to minimize the chances of it happening again.” 

And I love the book “Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn From Their Mistakes—But Some Do” by Matthew Syed. It focuses on the aviation industry’s practices around failure. When any type of accident or crash happens the plane’s black box is analyzed, and the findings are published so that everyone can learn from them. The lesson is to acknowledge failure and be willing to understand what went wrong to minimize the chances of it happening again. I’m a big believer in this methodology, and it translates to any field. 

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