Article: The next frontiers in recruitment technology


Author: Pankaj Bansal, 
              Co-Founder and CEO of PeopleStrong

Technology has been rapidly changing our world of work. Every facet of the talent landscape is being impacted by technology tools from talent acquisition to talent management. We all understand that optimal use of technology will enable more intimate and human interactions across various talent processes while also enhancing our ability to capture information, identify trends, and make efficient decisions. Thus technology is now front & centre on the talent management strategy in most organizations.

Pankaj Bansal, 
Co-Founder and CEO of PeopleStrong


As per global recruiting trends 20171 by LinkedIn 83% of more than 4000 executives said talent is their No. 1 priority. The reason is simple more than 20 percent of all workers change jobs every year2, so companies have to be constantly looking for talent to fulfil their business needs. Recruitment has evolved from a simple post jobs, capture resumes and then assess & hire them to a far broader and complex set of activities. It now starts with making conscience efforts to build employment brand, then using multiple sources to market your jobs to the right talent pools, defining a process of engagement with candidates and then finally selection & on boarding while keeping the candidate engaged. Throughout this process companies are now increasingly focusing on what is termed as “candidate experience” which is essentially to ensure that candidates have a positive & engaging experience throughout the process.

With so much happening in redesigning of the recruitment process, the biggest impact of these technologies is obviously on the recruiter. The role of recruiter is rapidly changing to that of a subject matter expert with deep understanding of not just the process of talent acquisition & all its parts, but also that of understanding the talent landscape, identifying the culture fit and ensuring the process of talent acquisition is human despite use of various technology tools. This will cause the recruiter to ensure a balance between data focused analytical skills and people focused social skills3.

In this whitepaper we take a look at some of the technology trends that are shaping the talent acquisition space & how they are fundamentally altering the way we attract, engage and hire talent in organizations of various sizes.



The Big Data race

Most recruiters see a huge potential in the promise of the idea of running algorithms against the increasingly large data sets of candidates available via social media, job boards, and other channels. The recruitment process generates massive amount of data with hundreds or thousands of people applying for jobs but only 2% to 3% of them making to the assessment process. The objective of using algorithms on this data is to help recruiters find the right candidates faster and turn all the data into actionable information. Here while many companies are getting caught in the big data race, we believe small & medium companies can get started with small data. These algorithms can run on data sources available to them and help recruiters achieve the same objectives. These algorithms are the most non invasive piece of technology available to recruiters today. They would just slip into the background and they are not really threatening to replace the recruiter but are designed to help them become more efficient & aid decision making using data.

Cognitive Computing4

Cognitive systems can receive and process unstructured information in ways similar to humans. They understand language patterns and sensory inputs, including text, pictures, and auditory cues. They grasp underlying concepts, form hypotheses and infer and extract ideas. They rapidly synthesize information to produce relevant and meaningful responses. They learn and improve through every data point, interaction, and outcome, building a deep and broad knowledge base that is always up-to-date.

The conditions that suit the cognitive computing world are:
·         Decisions are information rich and complex
·         Interactions by users are frequent and varied
·         High volume of unstructured information is involved
·         The output is expected to be customized and personalized

Since these conditions are satisfied by the complete process of talent acquisition it presents itself as an ideal candidate for application of cognitive computing. With support from cognitive computing solutions recruiters can quickly become marketing strategists and relationship managers thus making them more human and efficient in managing multiple demands of the job.



Artificial Intelligence

In the tech world today AI is talked about more than cognitive computing. As you can see in Google Trends5, AI is more searched than cognitive computing. The use of cognitive computing is popularized by IBM primarily in connection with its Watson program. So how is AI different than cognitive computing? Here we use the definition of these terms given by Herb Simon6, one of the early gurus of AI “AI can have two purposes. One is to use the power of computers to augment human thinking, just as we use motors to augment human or horse power. Robotics and expert systems are major branches of that. The other is to use a computers artificial intelligence to understand how humans think. If you test your programs not merely by what they can accomplish but how they accomplish it, then you are really doing cognitive science.”

As per Sierra Cedar HR systems survey 2017-187, about 40% companies feel AI is valuable to extremely valuable for their business. The same report states that 3% organizations are using machine learning today and 22% are evaluating it for future use. According to this report much of what is currently called as AI in HR technology environments are early forms of Machine learning.

In most AI based recruitment solutions today the focus is on reducing time required to identify relevant profiles from all available sources both internal and external. Since this task can be structured around certain rules and based on user behaviour it can further modify its results, this lends itself very well for AI application. This is a classic example of how new technology will eliminate tasks from the job and create a new job or task for the humans.

Chatbots

One of the very commonly used technologies today in recruitment is chatbots. These chatbots can help with initial interaction with candidates as they navigate the career website. They can even answer specific questions the candidates might have throughout the recruitment process while also reminding recruiter about certain tasks. Since chatbots can be designed to answer contextual questions within a specified framework they are ideally suited for the recruitment environment along with a host of other HR applications.

The chatbots are designed to help recruiters in repetitive and administrative tasks thus helping them become more productive & efficient in other activities which require human interaction & judgement. Many individuals argue that using chatbots in recruitment process especially to answer candidate questions is to dehumanize the process; however data suggests that most candidates do not mind talking to a bot for initial conversation and processes, while many prefer a face to face interaction at a later stage in the interview process.

Since chatbots are interfaces, for them to be smart to understand the context and be able to share relevant information with its user, they need to be trained. This requires data and underlying algorithm for the bot to understand the context & hence be able to reply effectively. While many chatbots can thus be trained in the “factory” as the data & context of recruitment is similar in many organizations, however what would need some customization could be the personality and intonation of the chatbot conversation.

The ambient operating system

The biggest advantages of technology solutions are they never go to sleep unless you put them to. This means that the technology solution can continue to capture information and analyse the same to form patterns and learn from those patterns to make decisions or decision support mechanisms. This presents a very real possibility for the system to start recommending candidates, help recruiter take actions just in time, provide insights about recruiter behaviour along with candidate behaviour. The always on system can thus provide enormous power in the hands of the recruiter and make him/her focus on more strategic and human interaction focused tasks. With most such capabilities possible on the mobile phone, the recruiter can even be pointed in the direction of a potential candidate in a social environment providing him/her a brief about the person in real time, thus helping them have a meaningful conversation about a particular position.

This system can thus help the recruiter do his/her job better while also providing continuous feedback and coaching to him/her based on his/her action/s. Such ambient operating systems coupled with AI will thus enable next level of performance in individuals and organizations.

Virtual Reality

After AI if there is another technology trend that is widely talked about in HR technology world and has a wide spread impact & appeal its virtual reality (VR). By using existing technology solutions companies are able to create immersive audio & video experiences which then can be used for various purposes. While VR has been widely used in gaming environments, recently companies have started to experiment with its application in HR particularly in recruitment & learning. By creating VR scenarios within an interview process or even simply conducting the interview process via VR platform will greatly enhance the interview experience and evaluation mechanism.

With existence of systems like SpatialOS by Improbable8 the future of VR in various HR applications especially recruitment is very exciting. Using VR companies can then create scenarios in which potential candidates can work with distributed teams on real or virtual projects thus providing deep insights into their behaviours thus helping them capture a lot more information about the candidate. Such platforms thus can soon become a very important & indispensable tool in the recruitment ecosystem of the organization



Video Interviewing

Before companies migrate to VR based interviewing they are likely to adopt & experiment with video based interviewing. Today with video based chat applications like Google Hangouts, Skype and even quick messenger apps with video call capabilities, like WhatsApp available on mobile phones, use of video for interviewing has seen a steady increase. With the advent of technology platforms like HireVue have emerged to provide real time analytics using the video interviewing platform. Such platforms are using AI and I-O psychology insights to provide talent insights that were not easily available earlier. During a typical video interview such platforms can collect a huge amount of data on various parameters like intonation and non verbal communication clues to help recruiters make more informed decisions. Such information can also be compared with on job performance to build predictive models right at the time of hiring, thus making the entire hiring process more scientific and data driven.

Analytics to Insights

With the advances in technologies and ability to capture large amount of data will mean that businesses will look to get actionable insights than simple analytics from the technology solutions. As pointed out by Josh Bersin9 talent analytics will eventually mature to a predictive stage where we are able to develop predictive models, do scenario planning, and identify risks & mitigation mechanisms while integrating this in the strategic planning process.

Companies are using big or small data to understand their present, to identify what they do well & not so well. Companies are also using analytics today to identify trends & project them to future to take actions today. Data based decisions are being the norm in most business situations and HR leaders are expected to test their assumptions based on data. This also allows HR leaders to look at multiple variables at play in a particular business situation or outcome.

With the advances in analytical technologies and capabilities HR does not necessarily need to be skilled at using complex tools to do statistical analysis. With use of natural language processing companies are enabling HR & businesses to ask the right set of questions. By creating a Google like user interface for internal information companies can ensure that right questions receive the most relevant answers thus aiding effective & efficient decision making within the organization.

In Conclusion

While the above mentioned technology advances working in tandem would mean that overall process of recruitment is going to be highly automated and data driven, it would also mean recruiters will have to move up the value chain and learn new skills. The overall process while being automated will also focus on the candidate experience of technology and human interactions.

The combined forces of skill shortages and willingness & availability of more talent on freelance or contract basis would mean that the responsibility to identify, engage, & hire such talent would become a strategic priority for talent acquisition function. Traditionally these relationships have been managed by Supply Chain function while now they might be jointly owned by HR & Supply Chain. This would mean the emergence of even newer technology tools and skills required by the recruiter to deal with a completely different category of workforce.

It is very clear that technological and social changes are fundamentally altering the way recruitment is conducted. Just like our personal lives have been impacted & we have adapted to newer routines, the recruiters will have to adapt & create newer routines for themselves to thrive in this technological environment.

“We believe that the real power of artificial intelligence is to augment what humans are great at and make them better at what they do – making humans super.” –Paul Daugherty, Chief Technology Officer, Accenture.

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