Don’t be put off by the terrible drawings and ludicrous prices. NFTs could liberate businesses in the ways they share and sell data.
By now, you’re probably aware of the phenomenon of NFTs. Those digital artworks that sell for millions of pounds, despite being nothing more than a computer file on a desktop somewhere.
The fluff and inflated figures around NFTs has probably convinced you that the entire field is nonsense. In terms of their sales (and the recent prices), you are probably right.
But there is more going on below the surface in the world of NFTs. More than bad, digital clip-art selling for life-changing amounts. More than the hype. NFTs solve one of cryptocurrency’s biggest problems.
What’s really exciting is how this solution came about as a by-product of a different puzzle. Cryptocurrencies exist because they are fantastic at transferring value. In fact, transferring value is incredibly cheap and easy with cryptocurrency networks – much easier than traditional financial systems.
What is more tricky is for that same network to recognise and verify value of assets whose qualities appear to be easy to duplicate, but which are affected by other factors like scarcity and demand.
What is an NFT?
An NFT is a digital asset that is “released” onto the cryptocurrency blockchain. An NFT can be a file on a computer: be it a spreadsheet, an audio file, or a brightly-coloured meme. It is saved to the next block to be minted on the blockchain. Once published in this way, it is impossible to edit or remove. However, absolutely anybody can view it freely – or even make a copy.
NFT stands for ‘Non-fungible token’.
OK. So what does ‘Non-fungible token’ mean?
Fungibility describes an asset whose value is easily transferable or replicable. Cash is fungible. Your £10 note holds the same value as my £10 note. More than that: your £10 note holds the same value as my ten £1 coins; my two £5 notes, or even my $13.80 of American change left over from a recent holiday.
Non-fungibility is the opposite. It is the weight of scarcity, desirability or any other such immeasurable factor which increases an item’s value. It’s the difference between a Banksy mural and an obscene spray-paint sketch in an underpass.
Non-fungible tokens try to re-create that second element of value for digital formats: their scarcity and desirability.
This is actually quite difficult for a crypto network to achieve. A blockchain can understand the value of a crypto coin because it is a prime number. It is hard to divide and therefore has value as defined by the network. But attempting to express this type of value for a physical item is surprisingly much more challenging. A database or an AI can create matches between two pairs of shoes, or two handbags. But it struggles to allocate value to those Air Jordans or Mulberrys above what you might find in the middle of Lidl.
NFTs are one solution. An NFT enables a digital creator to associate their creation with a specific block on the blockchain. Upon its sale, the value of the NFT becomes indelibly marked on the blockchain. And, because it is impossible to go back and edit past blocks on a functioning blockchain, the NFT acts as a certificate of authenticity for the creator. Other users may copy and duplicate the file which was sold many times over. But there will only ever be one original file. The NFT demonstrates its provenance – and its value.
How is this helpful to recruitment?
Having read all that, you may be thinking about leaving the recruitment game for good, cracking open MS Paint, and trying your hand as a millionaire digital artist. Be warned: that market is likely to be a flash in the pan. While NFT artworks are here to stay, that marketplace will become increasingly sophisticated, with less opportunity for making a quick buck.
But the application of NFTs will go a long way beyond digital hype and marketing stunts. The system itself is likely to underpin many forms of data exchange in the future. The blockchain could be used to regulate fields such as education, healthcare and employment.
And where this becomes interesting is the idea that a recruitment NFT could regulate – perhaps even monetise – the humble CV.
Think about it – what part of a CV does not fit that definition of a ‘non-fungible token’?
It is a digital file. Each CV is a CV. Yet each one holds unique information which itself creates a different and highly subjective market value.
And it is increasingly necessary to track the source(s) of successful CVs. No recruiter wants to lose their fee to a dishonest employer, or have their candidate poached.
Were CVs to be published as NFTs on a dedicated recruitment blockchain, every participant would be able to see the progress of the hiring process. The CV would be anonymised and published by the recruiter. The employer could freely access the recruiter’s candidate, or a tranche of candidates. Should any CV grab their interest, the employer would purchase that recruitment NFT and the recruiter would release the personal details of the specified candidate.
We may even get to a point where jobseekers themselves receive micropayments for sharing their resumés to recruiters.
So… Can I sell my resumé as an NFT?
Not yet. But, in time, there is likely to be a much wider adoption of NFT technology.
In fact, the idea of the monetised resumé has been floated many times over the years. It is simply that NFTs have now provided the most secure and realistic platform to make that achievable.
The fascinating part of this ecosystem is just how much data can be shared freely and openly – because it is all strictly controlled, recorded, and anonymised. Recruiters need not fear their talent being poached because they are the only participants able to connect the resumé to the natural person it describes. The candidate will be able to see when their data is being used. And the possibility of micropayments incentivises active participation in the employment market.
Employers will benefit from being able to openly view vast pools of data and know with absolute assurance that they are buying valuable CVs. Future blocks on the blockchain will offer the capability of revising or updating data on past NFTs. The network offers the capacity to act as a living resumé for all of its participants.
But there are hurdles
So why isn’t this happening already?
There are several hurdles sitting in the way of a successful recruitment NFT launch. First and foremost is the cost. It costs money to mint a new NFT. Your file will need to be verified by the whole network, and that requires a fee.
Currently, Etherium is the blockchain most commonly used for publishing NFTs, which means that you will need to hold some amount of ETH digital currency to cover those fees. And the cost of that fee is variable depending on how quickly you want your NFT published. At busy times, the cost of publishing a single NFT could amount to hundreds of pounds.
This means that issuing a new recruitment NFT is currently prohibitively expensive, should you attempt to publish each CV individually.
There are alternative options. Could it become cost-efficient to publish a tranche of CVs as a single NFT? Back in the olden days of recruiting, we used to call those things “shortlists”. Building on-chain shortlists may answer some of the cost factors. But it may also sacrifice some of the potential functionality that appears further down the line. It would be harder to update or edit individual resumés, for example.
Or a new chain, one which is cheaper to maintain, could provide an answer. This would reduce the real-terms costs of minting a recruitment NFT by making a more lightweight digital currency. The challenge in this instance would be to build a network that provides the security and incentives of current chains, while increasing the efficiency of the mining and data transferral. While the outcomes would make this the ideal answer, the likelihood of this happening any time soon is pretty small.
Recruitment NFTs will be more than a meme
But in the long-term, these are teething problems. The core technology exists already. The use case is incredibly compelling. And the benefits in terms of fairness, transparency, and incentivised participation are going to be enormous drivers in the future of all industries.
It seems inevitable that the solution to better recruitment is faster and more open data transfer – and blockchains provide that in a fast and secure manner.
So the next time you see somebody asking “Can I sell my resumé as an NFT?”, the answer could be “Yes”.