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How does the recruitment industry look from “new Europe”? Przemek Gacek, CEO of Poland-based Grupa Pracuj, will talk demographic and technological challenges at the RecPlus Conference in Barcelona, taking place this week. Recruitment verticals will have to adopt the tech models used by the younger generation, in what he calls “Alexa for CVs”.

In your opinion, what are the major challenges facing the recruitment (classified) industry in the next three years?

Przemyslaw Gacek

I would say the upcoming technology changes, which are the use of AI and chatbots. In recruitment, I call it Alexa for CVs or voice recognition — it is more like an experiment, but I think the younger generation is used to that and will be using it, so recruitment sites should experiment with it. At the end of the day, [new technology] should help to better match candidates and make things more user-friendly for both the candidate and the employer.

The second challenge will be the limited supply of candidates, driven by the current growth cycle. I know that there will be a slowdown coming soon. Still, in many markets (including Poland) we have historically low unemployment. There is also the problem of demographics: populations are aging in Europe so there will be fewer and fewer candidates on the market. The question will be: will the job boards remain efficient enough? Some employers will be complaining that we are not supplying enough candidates.

The third challenge will be increasing competition. I know that some of the European markets are very well penetrated with hundreds of different sites and business models, while Poland and Ukraine still remain shallow markets. There are a lot of start-ups coming up trying to disrupt the big players. So we are a big animal and everyone is trying to bite our part of the market. Employees want to experiment — if we are not good enough they are happy to try some other sources.

What will most surprise conference attendees in your presentation at RecPlus?

It might be the number of ideas we had tested over the years and that none of them could even come close to the core business.

What unique challenges does your business face in your market?

First of all, changing technology, which I described in answer to your first question. Secondly, the market is deepening, providing more space for the other players that I mentioned, like OLX, LinkedIn, niche websites. The latter have become trendy in Poland.

The challenge will be to grow our SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market). We have quite a large share of the market and we just need to grow the market. So the challenge is how. Looking to the future, the question is should we remain doing what we are doing right now — which is recruitment — or should we go into other spaces? This is the type of question we are asking ourselves.

Where has the major recent disruption in your sector come from?

We don’t see any disruption on our market. We see competition growing slowly. We thought for some time that LinkedIn would be the disruption in Poland but they didn’t do it. So I would say we have a lot of other players, and perhaps one will provide the disruption, but this is not something that is visible right now.

How is digitalization further going to reshape your business?

The main thing we are doing is matching, so we need to have a strong matching technology. I think matching will become more and more automated, with AI. This is a big thing: how to match the candidates in the best possible way. We need to look into new ways of looking. Not everyone wants to come to a website and search; not everyone wants to use an app. They want a different or easier way to get this information, like chatbots or Alexa.

I believe that AI will be in our homes in 10 or 15 years. It will ask you, “Would you like to find a new job?”, or maybe, “You’re not happy at work; we’d be happy to help you find a new job.” They will know everything about you and everything about the employers, and basically, they will give you the 10 best possible options, — which will be much better suited to you.

I think that HR people need to speed up and be more efficient. Historically, HR has lagged behind marketing and other spaces. I think this will happen in the next couple of years. In our space, there might be a lot of disruption for the recruitment agencies. This is a market that’s usually quite high, and with the new technologies, there might be lots of players that would like to disrupt this business model — which is quite profitable — using modern technology. Why pay three salaries to find someone excellent for us if we can pay half a salary and technology will make the jump?