Reinventing recruiting by removing automation

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On March 2, 2011, an ailing Steve Jobs stood on stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to announce the iPad 2. “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough – it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing,” he told the rapt audience. Speaking with his biographer, Walter Isaacson, toward the end of his life, he recapitulated his philosophy: “I like that intersection [of humanities and science]. There’s something magical about that place.”

Over the past three decades, recruiting has migrated from analog to digital to achieve greater efficiency. Presently, automation and AI are being used to make recruiting more brutally efficient – leaving the human aspect in the dust. As Steve innately knew, technology used by itself is deficient, if not defective; a preponderance of automated communications with recruits can only yield diminishing returns. So the final frontier of recruiting is the symbiotic use of computers and data to invest in deep relationships. Only then will recruiting be transformed from a banal, heartless process into an inspiring, human, maybe even magical, craft.

Yesterday’s recruiting

The recruiting modus operandi of yore was high-touch and highly personal, out of necessity. Means of contacting candidates were limited to inefficient models such as classified ads, job fairs, referrals and college campus recruiting. Once recruits were located, recruiters with limited tools at their disposal for the organization and consolidation of candidate information were relegated to shuffling mounds of paper in an attempt to locate the right candidate for the job (perhaps the only upside to these restrictions was that they necessitated actual relationships to be formed).

Other than an eidetic memory, the only competitive edges available to a recruiter were either a bigger budget for placing ads and attending job fairs, or a bigger “database” in the form of more filing cabinets. Either way, neither of these advantages could skirt the laws of marginal utility; at some point, they no longer scaled. The bottleneck remained the hours required to hunt people down, receive and file their resumes, and contact them when a position was found.

So it is easy to see why the digitization of recruiting was embraced with reckless abandon. Unfortunately, digital only provided a pretty skin while removing the heart of recruiting. Quasi-skeuomorphic implementations, using a combination of auto-contact tools and Excel, solved the problems of reaching out to candidates and using up file cabinet space. But at the same time, they clumsily removed half of what makes recruiting sing: relationships.

Enter automation

Which brings us to today: The next iteration of digital transformation is ushering in recruiting that is high-tech but completely impersonal. Automation makes recruiters’ workflows easier and more efficient. Big data is used to cull through employee profiles instantaneously, providing the best matches. Online networking gives recruiters the ability to reach out to hundreds or thousands of candidates simultaneously. Rows of filing cabinets have been consolidated into a single search bar: Google. The budgetary and database competitive edges equalized, the new winners are those with the best tools.

Many of those tools perform recruiting functions extraordinarily well. Manual resume screening remains the most time-consuming portion of recruiting, with recruiters spending an average of 23 hours staring at resumes to find a single candidate. Intelligent screening software uses a combination of past hiring decisions and a job description to look through resumes and isolate ideal candidates. Chatbots pre-screen those candidates using neural language processing, both enhancing the odds they will take the position and alleviating the workload on the recruiter.  

The maddening pace at which AI is progressing in the industry has prompted histrionic predictions: “AI is changing the game for recruiting” and “AI is about to disrupt recruiting,” says Forbes. “AI is revolutionizing recruiting and hiring,” according to CIO. Or “Automation with bots will change recruiting forever” says hr.com. Despite those feverish predictions, automation is not and can never be a self-sufficient replacement to human recruiting. No matter how much tools powered by AI reduce the workload of recruiters, they will not provide a lasting competitive advantage.

It will never be enough

Why not? An immediate answer lies in the current job market, with unemployment hitting historic lows. In 2017, unemployment for software engineers was below 2 percent. Due to the nature of the field, employees in senior positions are especially coveted. For example, Mapbox exclusively hires senior engineers and apprentices. Facebook and Google hire a combined 80 percent of the machine learning PhDs on the market, and Google refuses to budge from the PhD qualification. A job market this tight requires a greater competitive edge than ever before – a bona fide relationship with another human, which artificial intelligence is incapable of.  

Second, artificial intelligence cannot even ably replicate the non-mechanical, human functions of recruiting. Take quality of hire, for example; it is the top priority for 60 percent of talent acquisition leaders. Yet artificial intelligence cannot accurately determine, for example, the cultural fit of a candidate. It cannot even prevent or mitigate bias in the recruiting process; despite the best intentions of its programmers, it can exhibit “algorithmic discrimination.” Worse, since it is trained on historical data, it can exacerbate existing discrimination, barring qualified candidates from jobs.

The third answer can be found in the natural progression of the recruiting sector alongside the development of technology. It is human nature to attempt to find the fastest, easiest way of completing a repetitive task. As technology has decreased the cost and increased the efficiency of one-to-many communication, recruiters have used it to play the numbers game, knowing that the percentage of replies to n number of messages is a constant.

The result is senior technology experts receiving an onslaught of messages every day. The more superior the candidate, the more he or she is annoyed with the people who reach out to them and cynical of the technology used on them. They purposely shutter modes of correspondence, ignore InMails and avoid encounters with recruiters. Recruiting is a two-way street. Viable candidates must be found, but they must also be provided with an experience that makes working for a company desirable. AI cannot provide that experience to them in such a way that will keep them from shutting off communication.

The very method that is being hailed as the future of recruiting serves to defeat the purpose of recruiting. Companies and employees will certainly hate recruiting based on pure AI, and as recruiters lose this new competitive edge in a sea of unread messages, they will begin to despise it as well. Technology alone as a method of recruiting will become obsolete as quickly as it becomes entirely ineffective. What will slice through the Gordian knot of efficiency and efficacy in recruiting?  

Recruiting 3.0

Przemek Berendt, VP of Global Marketing at Luxoft predicts that the solution will come in the form of hardwired systems that require human interaction. The final iteration of recruiting, then, will comport with Steve Jobs’ sage advice: It will combine the advances in artificial intelligence with the human aspect of old-fashioned, analog recruiting. Put simply, the future of recruiting is high-tech, high-touch. The new competitive advantage is to depart from automation and technology-driven recruiting: to inject art back into technology, humanities into science. That is the only way to effectively access and obtain the candidates experiencing such high demand in the job market.

This means being smarter with available data than the competition. It means obtaining access to new sources of data first, and retaining sole access to the data. It means getting data other people do not have access to at all, or have not thought to use. It requires a solution unlike any other sourcing tool on the market, one that provides deep knowledge into the candidate and provides the recruiter with a means of forming a strong relationship.

To develop a relationship, you need insight into what piques their interest, what inspires them to work or what might cause them to change jobs: What do they care about? Are they motivated by money? Do they care about working for a socially responsible company? Are they looking for autonomy in a position, or strong leadership? This method of developing data-rich relationships will have staying power because it combines the efficiency of tech with the effectiveness of rich human interaction. Together, human recruiting plus AI will be what they never could have been separately.

Where it begins

The theory sounds incredible; but the practical demands of such a system are high. A solution needs to show precisely the data necessary to recruiters so that they can spend time forging relationships. It needs tools to help them have the right conversations with the right people at the right time. It should be able to sift through enormous amounts of data, generate accurate insights and pass them on to savvy recruiters, who can use it to create a personalized connection and make better decisions.

What if AI could check engineers’ personal websites, GitHub, LinkedIn, and other social media profiles every evening, and generated a report for the recruiter the following morning that included information on salient profile updates and actionable behaviors? What if AI could learn to accurately narrow resumes down to the top 2 percent, drastically reducing the time spent reading them? What if it could predict when a candidate is ready to make a transition, allowing the recruiter to reach out at the perfect time and in the perfect way?

The final solution

We believed that technology could be leveraged to accomplish all of that. So we built the solution. Our tool applies a sophisticated algorithm to a continuously updating dataset that includes millions of aggregated data points, effectively predicting how likely candidates are to change jobs or even consider a new job opportunity. The success rate of these signals is not available anywhere else on the market. This is the final competitive edge of recruiting.

At humanpredictions, we supercharge intelligent, relationship-focused recruiters by giving them tools that perform their research automatically. The decisions of who to email, when to call, which events to attend, and ultimately where and with whom to spend their time are automated. By rebuilding the craft of recruiting, we empower recruiters to do the real, human work: crafting messages and building relationships.

Apple ran an ad in 1981 that sarcastically (or seriously, as it stated) welcomed IBM to the personal computer race. The final paragraph of the long-form ad simply stated: “What we are doing is increasing social capital by enhancing individual productivity. Welcome to the task.” At humanpredictions, we are making the process of finding human capital more effective and efficient by reshaping it as a craft and prudently applying technology. Welcome to the future of recruiting.

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