For the past few years, I have spoken each semester to a group of college seniors at George Mason University about job hunting strategies and making the transition from college to career. What I cover is usually a mix of three things: 1) a bit of pontification about how the nonprofit sector is a better place to start a career than most people think; 2) advice on how to make the best impression during the interview process; and 3) how to navigate the recruitment process.
Of the three, technology has had the biggest impact on the recruitment process and is the area that I think is the most different now compared to the Stone Ages when I first applied for a job. In Global Recruiting Trends 2018, LinkedIn Talent Solutions offered this assessment:
Hiring talent has become highly transactional. The tedious candidate searches, the endless scheduling, and the repetitive screening are inefficient and mind-numbing. It’s time for a new era of recruiting that focuses on the more gratifying parts of the job — the human part, the strategic part.
The job hunt is frustrating for candidates and your company
However, I think the reality in the trenches — on both the job seeking and hiring front is more complex. Companies still relying on manual processes can come across as relics from a museum to recent college graduates, crippling the ability of these organizations to attract the best talent — before the search even gets going. On the job-hunting side, recruits are growing increasingly frustrated by a process that is growing more impersonal and algorithmically driven by the day.
On the other hand, it is easier than ever before to apply for hundreds of jobs with the click of a button, and most of the young people I speak with understand intuitively how to go down this path. On the “receiving” end, companies that have their HR automation act together can search more deeply and widely for talent than ever before, make a first impression with applicants that can be a competitive advantage. They can focus their employees on the most productive — and personal — parts of the recruitment process. In addition, algorithmic screening carries with it the potential to be less prone to human hiring prejudices (of course, that depends on the algorithm!) and offers the potential for greater workforce diversity.
Will artificial intelligence help or hinder employee recruitment?
The coming explosion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities in the candidate search and screening processes is a good example of this dichotomy. AI carries with it the potential for huge insights and efficiencies — and for increasing concern. According to the Pew Research Center, U.S. adults are around three times as likely to express worry (67%) as enthusiasm (22%) about algorithms that make hiring decisions without any human involvement. “When asked whether they would or would not personally use specific automation technologies, around six-in-ten U.S. adults say they would not want to ride in a driverless car (56%) or have a robot caregiver for themselves or a family member (59%). Views on applying for a job that uses a computer program to evaluate and select applicants are even more negative: 76% of Americans say they would not want to apply.”
How to start your employee recruitment automation initiative
So how do you prioritize your technology spending when it comes to HR recruitment?
How do you balance the need for automation with the need to be personal?
The most productive places to start are the areas where manual processing and paper documents are pervasive – and where the potential for perceived AI “creepiness” is minimal. According to Recruiter.com, automation is best used in the following five areas:
- Resume screening. Rather than hop immediately into thinking about how AI can be used to magically screen resumes, start more simply by looking at some of the core components of the process and whether they can be automated. Are all of the resumes in the same format for review? Has core data (maybe past employer or educational experience) been extracted and made searchable? What is the workflow for reviewing resumes? Who participates in the process? How do reviewers make their preferences known and share them?
- First-round interviews. Consistent and documented steps are critical to improving any process. Are there a consistent set of questions asked of first-round prospects, or do you rely on each interviewer to simply come up with their favorites? Are the answers being recorded? Are you constantly reviewing which of these questions work and which don’t when it comes to acceptance and long-term retention?
- Acknowledging and rejecting applicants. The job application process is tense on the hiring side because you have a need that you must fill. But it’s doubly so on the applicant process because their very livelihood depends on how efficiently and effectively you communicate your progress and decisions. Don’t let paper-driven, manual processes slow things down at this stage, or you are likely to lose many promising candidates. Here is an area where first impressions truly do matter — and where ham-handed rejection processes are likely to find their way onto social media.
- Interview scheduling. Again, a little technology and automation goes a long way. Do you have an automatic scheduler that is updated based on availability in your calendar so that candidates can easily select the timeslot that best works for them? Keep in mind that as busy as you are, the applicants are likely trying to juggle your timeline with an existing job.
- Reference checking. This process is increasingly difficult because past employers are reluctant to say anything that might expose them to legal problems downstream. In addition, most references that are given by an applicant are usually preselected to be positive. So rather than use reference-checking as a “good/bad” check, use it as a way to help you determine fit for the position. Document these conversations to help you assess their usefulness in terms of long-term retention.
What do these five recruitment areas have in common?
- They are all labor intensive.
- They are all document intensive.
- They all tend to be ad hoc and cry out for standardization.
- They are all prone to compliance and legal challenges.
- They all require a need for information and process security.
So, start your automation focus there. My advice for most companies when it comes to recruitment automation is this. Yes, there are a lot of exciting developments coming in the AI field when it comes to talent evaluation. But before you go down that path, focus on getting the basics right. Because the information security and privacy and process integrity and auditability are the foundation upon which your future AI efforts will need to rest.
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