Automation, how far should you go?

Automation, Robots and AI have been prolific in my career as a recruiter. I find myself talking about it a lot… competing against them often, but actually making it work is something I still haven’t cracked fully. The biggest players in AI; Google and IBM are moving into the HR tech space, startups are turning to bots to try fix traditional recruiting problems and yet I’m still having to stitch together spreadsheets and manually de-dupe data to make any real predictions or rankings.

With all of these new fangled tools being so on trend right now, I thought it would be fun to write down from my own quick guide to how far you can go with automation and what it really means for you as a Recruiter or Sourcer in today’s world.

When I was at TruParis this year, I lead a track called; Automation, how far should you go!

It wasn’t me that bought up a slightly utopic vision of a world where when HR person is asked to make a new hire, turns to her laptop, drops in the job order and sits back and waits; A few months/weeks/days later she gets an alert saying that the new hire was starting next week. Maybe it is only a French HR person could be so lazy to dream of this… but without a doubt, this is probably the most advanced vision I have ever heard of automation within the sphere of recruitment. I loved it, my inner cyber punk jumped for joy!

…but there is something seriously wrong with this vision. Even if Google Hire plus Google Job Ads plus Google Apps multiplied by the fact they know everything about you and your company means that one day (soon) they could start to put something like this together. The limiting factor is the data we provide to these systems is still human. If we were hiring robots it would be easy, I want a robot to do X, Y and Z… a few months later a robot shows up that can do that.

You Can’t Go That Far

Even if Google Hire plus Google Job Ads plus Google Apps multiplied by the fact they know everything about you means that one day (soon) they could start to put something like this together. The limiting factor is the data we provide to these systems is still human. If we were hiring robots it would be easy, I want a robot to do X, Y and Z… a few months later a robot shows up that can do that.

For now though, If we were to automate the recruitment process from end to end then we would need consistent data. Humans are not consistent while computers are, you can only go as far as the data allows you. Data on a linked in profile or on a CV are controlled by the person who puts them there. How many times have you read a CV that is unbelievable?

In a world where you don’t need humans to do interviews, you don’t meet the new member of your team?

You could probably validate the human discrepancy in the data provided to the system with Blockchain or a similar technology verifying claimed experiences, with references from hiring managers and colleagues. Companies could be on a system that would mean sharing career data, appraisals and salary data but this seems a complete impossibility.

You would also completely eliminate the human elements… Humans need to talk to each other before they work together.

The utopic vision of the magic recruitment button means a universal way of tracking people’s career and acceptance to not talking to people before you work with them, Humans don’t do that.

Most people would hate that!

So as a Recruiter/Sourcer don’t be scared, you are not about to be replaced but your job will be changing really fast in the next few years. As an interesting study from the MIT Sloane Management Review suggests, you should be changing your career now and upgrading yourselves. So here are my simple tips for what to focus on!

Adopt the Right Mindset

In your non-recruitment life, you probably have a voicemail and a direct debit set up… you facebook your friends.. you have a smartphone… this is all automation.. why not apply a few of the same principles to your daily job? Accept the tech!

When I asked how many people who were actually in the room at TruParis who was actually using automation, only a smattering (i.e 3) people that were actually using in their daily work. You can go further than that!

Automation is about mindset (thanks Ed) if you find yourself doing the same thing twice, and it takes you ages, figure out how to automate it. You are probably going to need to do it again so you may as way remove the pain. Sourcing, Recruitment is not an exciting job, you find people, interview them and hopefully recommend that your company or the person you are recruiting for, hire some of them. If you take away some of that boring stuff that you are doing every day, then you can probably start to find some more fun things to do.

Focus on the few simple, tedious things that you wish you didn’t have to do and see if you can automate them, quickly!

Adopting the right mindset of acceptance of these new technologies, coupled with a hunger to explore them will set you apart and make you more productive. It’s a win win, right? You do less tedious stuff and make more hires, no one is going to complain here.

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Become a Data Guardian

Data in recruitment is a pain! Accurate data is difficult to find in the open market and our own Data (if we are lucky) is stored in an ATS that often has an analytics function designed by someone who learned UX at the same time as finger painting.

When we get accurate data out of these systems though, the story it tells and we can tell with it are fascinating and beguiling to our hiring managers and clients. We finally open up the block box of how much work goes into recruiting someone into a story made accurate with facts.

Don’t hate the fact that you are going to spend a lot more time handling data, inputting it into a system and being checked on it! The evolution of a recruiter in a data lead world is someone who cares about data, understands why they are collecting it and can tell good stories with it. It starts by the boring admin stuff, we need to make sure we put data into whichever system we use accurately so we can tell cool stories about it afterwards.

Here are some interesting articles to get you started on data in recruiting:

A little Data sparks big change

Data and HR Number are nothing without insight

– Cred to Matt Buckland and Matt Bradburn cos working with them got me to understand this

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Become More Human (Seriously?)

Sadly, I believe HR people and recruiters remove themselves so far from the human element of the hiring process that they forget about their own humanity in the work place. The truth is this is the bit we need to focus on. Looking at the world today and the influx of technology, our human interactions are going to become less and less frequent and more and more important.

When I was writing this, I was thinking about where can you learn to be Human? Does someone really need to teach me? When are people going to stop saying this to me?

As Recruiters, we flex HR, sales and marketing skills. We need to be on brand but at the same time, human and building relationships. Yikes. Glen Cathy goes as far as saying we need to be focusing on social engineering but having read books on social engineering, mind control, the art of persuasion, I really don’t think that is the way forward.

Most recently I got into a muddle writing a bot version of me – yes my half finished bot will talk to you – and it was only doing this exercise that I realised what it meant being more human. I needed to inject my humanity into a blank canvas that would hopefully build excellent relationships with people. Reverse engineering like this made me realise I need to understand the overall experience I want to give a candidate and understand how I am going to get there.

I believe that as recruiters we should understand the same type of techniques used in sales (Open questions, closed questions, yes ladders etc) coupled with a strong underastanding of what we are looking to get from people in our day to day conversations to create an amazing experience for ourselves and our candidates.

The easiest way to exercise you empathetic muscles is to consistently put yourselves in the shoes of the person you are talking to. Think about what does a good conversation to my candidate look like and why. You won’t find tips in recruitment media on this sort of stuff, go outside the box, watch some Ted talks or find a cool book about it (and send it to me when you have read it 😉 )

The most important thing to remember here is at the end of the day, every experience you have, every candidate you talk to is a person and they will talk about you. Try and create a something real with them, don’t act like a machine!

Paul Wolfe sums it up here far more eloquently than I just did…

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