Hung Lee on the Evolution of Employee-Employer Relationships
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Jakob Gillmann ·  May 2021  ·  5 min read

In August 2021, we spoke with Hung Lee, founder and curator of the talent acquisition newsletter Recruiting Brainfood. Hung shared his thoughts on the future of recruitment: what’s broken, what’s changed, and what we need to improve.


Hung’s insights originally appeared alongside those of 11 other talent acquisition experts in our eBook, Reimagining Recruitment. You can download your own copy of our 50-page guide for free here


Here’s what Hung shared with us:

1. The Employee/Employer Relationship Has Fundamentally Changed

“Our negotiation with work is changing. It’s no longer just something we do with an employer, in the same way our parents did. Lots more people are realizing that they make too many sacrifices for their career and they want more — either more flexibility, better compensation, or more choice over their environment and what they do.


“We assume that employees and employers are a bonded unit that is very consistent in every context, which is not the case.”


“Work is the value we create somewhere — and yes, you can do it through a traditional employer/employee relationship, but there are other ways to do it too. We assume that employees and employers are a bonded unit that is very consistent in every context, which is not the case.


“The future relationship employers have with workers is going to be a shared definition — and in a way in which we can both accelerate or decelerate depending on need. Maybe both parties have the same degree of urgency at the same time. Or maybe the timing isn’t right, and a candidate asks to talk in six months. In our traditional view of recruitment as a ‘funnel’, the answer to that request is almost always ‘no’. 

“It throws up interesting challenges for employers because, what do you do? Do you try to force someone to be a full-time employee? Or do you find another way for that person?”

2. The Recruitment ‘Funnel’ Is Holding Us Back 

“For employers, this changing relationship is hugely problematic, because a lot of the tools and processes that we’ve used in the past are no longer fit for purpose. So we need to rethink and retool — there’s no such thing as business as usual.


“We can’t pipe everyone into the same funnel and have the conversation about commitment later on. Because that’s the key thing — commitment. The employer-employee relationship is basically a marriage. We marry forever until death do us part — but that has no term to it, and things always change.


“We shouldn't think of recruitment as a case of funnelling people — recruitment is about different ways of building confidence that the fit is right”


“When we talk about ‘pipeline’ and ‘funnels’, we’re using what is effectively a hydrological metaphor to describe recruiting — it’s a pipeline of human beings. Why is that a problem? Because water only flows in one direction, and it never stops. Recruiters are constantly trying to control that flow over time and maintain it at a consistent pressure.


“If we change the metaphor, we shouldn't think of recruitment as a case of funnelling people — recruitment is about different ways of building confidence that the fit is right. And if we clear the stage before, then we should be able to play around with the order of the stages, and in fact, completely separate them.


“You need to provide multiple entry points, or ways in which the [recruitment] interaction can take place. And you need to have a very clear idea how to make decisions.”

3. Interviews are Traumatic—There Are Better Ways to ‘Assess’ Compatibility

“The current interview process is a traumatic experience. The employer is assessing the candidate at every stage to see whether or not they’re good enough to join the company. But it’s impossible to make anybody feel good when you’re judging them. The last thing candidates want to do is a song and dance routine over several months to figure out if you’re going to hire them or not.


“Technically recruiting will disappear because we’re not performing the old recruitment rituals any more”


“Interviews are basically rituals we use to build our own confidence to make what is inherently a risky decision. We have the first interview, second interview, technical tests, background checks and the meet-the-boss chats… And we use them because we’re predicting the future is not going to change, or that it’s going to change in such a way that you and the candidate are going to manage it together.


“Every current company who recruits full-time employees will all do the same processes. And they're all trying to reduce the risk that it's a bad decision. But you'll spend so much energy trying to assess, attract, and validate your choices that you're still never going to get it right.


“What will happen in the future is that we’ll end up doing trial bits of work, or giving someone a small contract. It gives both sides the opportunity to find out more about working with each other — and technically recruiting will disappear because we’re not performing the old recruitment rituals any more.”


Get more expert opinions on the future of recruiting in our free eBook.