Are Online Talent Platforms Making Life Easier or Harder for Recruiters?

Helpful or harmful? Friend or foe?

With the emergence of online talent platforms, questions have swirled not just in Australia and New Zealand but in the global recruitment sector over the last few years. Will these disruptive solutions ultimately present an opportunity amidst the rise of the gig economy? Or will they pose an existential threat to the industry?

What are Online Talent Platforms and Who’s Using Them?

Online talent platforms, for simplicity’s sake, are self-service applications that allow job seekers and employers to find each other on-demand. Platforms like Upwork, Shiftgig, and Catalant, for example, make it easy for workers to find hourly, part-time, project-based, or contract assignments, and to work how and when they want to work. For employers, these platforms make it easy to find and directly engage with gig workers who are willing to do such temporary jobs.

Part-time, temporary, and contract work aren’t new labor models. 

What is new? The way people search for work, the types of jobs they want to take, and the kinds of companies for which they want to work have all evolved, thanks in large part to how technology has transformed the nature of how and where work gets done over the last decade. And employers’ appetites for hiring more contractors to cope with cycles of demand and the desire to combat skills shortages by recruiting beyond their backyard to find the best candidates continue to grow as well.

Contract recruitment is a long-established industry and one that has continued to flourish despite the rise of the gig economy. 

Beyond using online talent platforms to find workers, customers also use them because they “want to reduce their costs, find more affordable contractors, and eventually find opportunities to downsize their physical office space,” according to Art Papas, Founder and CEO of Bullhorn.

Yet while people are comfortable hiring workers online, Papas doesn’t think most clients want to deal with posting an ad, sifting through the responses, and managing any fallout if the project doesn’t go as planned, which are some of the many valuable services recruitment agencies can offer to clients.

Though the gig economy does not mean the end of traditional recruitment, it’s clear that agencies can’t afford to ignore the growing ubiquity of online talent platforms.

A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates online talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion to global GDP by 2025. McKinsey says online talent platforms includes more traditional stalwart like “LinkedIn, that aggregate individual résumés with job postings from traditional employers, as well as the rapidly growing digital marketplaces of the new ‘gig economy,’ such as Uber and Upwork.”

Online talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

McKinsey Global Institute

How do Australia and New Zealand recruitment professionals view online talent platforms?

Over the last few years, we’ve surveyed thousands of global recruitment professionals to understand how they feel about the emergence of online talent platforms and how they’re impacting their businesses.

At the beginning of last year, the jury was still out, but signs pointed to the belief that these platforms would have a more helpful than harmful impact. Although 65 percent of respondents weren’t sure, 28 percent said digital platforms could help their business, compared to just 7 percent who thought they could hurt it.

Online talent platforms are here to stay, so this year we sought to find out if Australia and New Zealand recruiting professionals believed that the growth of these platforms was making recruiting for sought-after roles easier or harder.

Their response was akin to last year. A similar amount (63 percent) of respondents say they’re not sure, but signs once again point to a belief that they’ll have a more helpful than harmful impact. Twenty-seven percent of global respondents said online talent platforms are making it easier to recruit for sought-after roles and 10 percent said they’re making it harder.

27% of respondents say online talent platforms are making it easier to recruit for sought-after roles

At Engage Boston, Papas talked about how recruitment professionals had a choice to make with how they viewed online talent platforms. They could either choose to embrace them and find ways to partner with them, or they could try to fight them off.

If you think of talent platforms as your friend, you can partner with them and project manage the process. You act as the customer’s concierge, doing all the selection and managing deliverables — and clients would pay a premium for that help. Or, if you think of talent platforms as a foe, you go in the other direction. You could decide they’re your direct competition, going after your customers, and decide to fight back.

Art Papas, Founder and CEO, Bullhorn

In a live poll, more than half the audience (53 percent) said they viewed online talent platforms as a friend rather than a foe.

When asked for his thoughts on the topic by the Recruitment Innovation Exchange (RIX), Bary Asin, President of Staffing Industry Analysts, said, “Of course, no one knows exactly how this will play out, but my theory is that over time you will see more convergence among segments. Human cloud firms will run up against the reality of employment law and handling the compliance needs of large enterprise clients, not to mention the more complex hiring requirements for higher skilled and local workers. They will start looking more like staffing firms and take on more of a human component.”

So if traditional recruitment and online talent platform segments begin to converge as Asin speculates, what will that mean for recruitment agencies?

On the flip side, there’s an opportunity for staffing firms to act more like cloud players, and to promote their ability to access a primarily online self-service talent pool in addition to those they find and manage through traditional channels. Those firms that can move along the value chain will have an edge in promoting total workforce solutions.

Barry Asin, President, Staffing Industry Analysts

How are you choosing to view online talent platforms? Helpful or harmful? Friend or foe?

See how respondents are thinking about globalisation and the increased mobility of talent. Do they present an opportunity or pose a challenge?

Bob McHugh

Senior Content Marketing Manager


Bob McHugh is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Bullhorn. Before joining Bullhorn, Bob spent five years at the digital marketing agency, Brafton, as a Social Media and Engagement Manager. He earned his bachelor's degree from Siena College and his MFA in writing from Emerson College.