Recruitment 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 with Recruiting Technology?!?

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!

Do Recruiting Automation Right, 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.


Recruiters 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…

Why Sourcers are racing the machines

AI is changing the way the world works! Big who ha you might say, but the evidence is in front of us. We are helping the world evolve due to our warm embrace of technology into every part of our lives. Recruitment is the same! Some neigh-sayers fill us with fear that all of our jobs will disappear, others take the time to educate us on how to keep up with the changing landscape. You could believe the apocalyptic science fiction scenarios but my peers and I do not. We design, use and compete against more complex technology every day.

You may ask me why we would want to race against the machines but the reality is it is a way for us to embrace the technology as it evolves. Having competed in the SourceCon Grandmaster vs a Robot, I thought it would be fun to bundle together what losing to a robot taught me about my job and how Robots and AI are helping the world of recruiting evolve.

The problem presented to the SourceCon Grandmaster finalists this year was a simple one, we were given 3 anonymous jobs and a bunch of CV’s and asked; “who got the job?”

The machine finished 3rd and took about 3 seconds, I didn’t.

It’s the problem we face every day, minus all the real work a Sourcer and Recruiter does. I am not surprised that it was so easily and quickly completed by the machine, I was more surprised at its accuracy. It’s an input/output style question: Here is a bunch of CV’s please find me the best ones… yet the reality of what most Recruiters do is more than just throw a bunch of CV’s at a wall and hope that one sticks. Hiring is a subjective choice by both interviewer and interviewee, that’s why robots haven’t taken over.

No one wants to be hired by a Robot Recruiters!

– Hat tip to Matt Buckland who shared this idea with me some years ago.

Controlling the machines was the overarching subject for SourceCon and this will probably be the 100th blog post you read about AI in recruitment. While industry soothsayers continue to amuse us with the threat of replacement, ERE media amused us with presentations of new technology and how to embrace it. I believe that robots will never replace me in what I do. For now, that is because we are not yet comfortable interacting with nonsentient’s in our day to day lives, even though it is now cheap technology, not many people have an automated personal assistant running their lives, yet. As humans, we are still not sure how much we should trust the robots and I’m sure it’s true when we are talking about looking for a job. Personally, I would not be happy if you tried to recruit me with a robot.

That’s why, even with the advance’s technology is making, we are not ready to replace all of the elements it takes to hire people with robots. Sourcing is seen as one of the parts that it can optimise. A miss-understanding that Sourcers are just baby Recruiters is understandable if you have never done either role. From an outsiders perspective, a tool that gives someone who is hiring a list of people makes sense but finding people is easy, especially if you know how to look. A Sourcer and a Recruiters role is more, we all have to engage with potential candidates and have a conversation before we can hire them!

Glen Cathy’s blog was one of those that taught me that finding stuff on the internet is easy, and yet Glen has been working on building and testing these tools coming to replace himself for years. He concluded in his keynote this year that while machines are getting better at looking for people it is the “social engineering’ in recruitment that machines can’t get right. While social engineering is a bit of a scary concept, his slides highlight the humanity that helps us make hires and that what humans do, AI can’t… yet…

Flexing Robot Recruitment Muscles

We like to race against these machines to prove that we are still better. The race and embrace of robotics and AI in recruiting has created smarter Sourcers and Recruiters who flex both empathy and engineering muscles to fill jobs and make hiring people easier. The best Recruiters and Sourcers I know leverage data and automation to fill more jobs quicker. As our industry evolves we evolve with it, it’s not just by wielding the tools that makes us more effective but by also honing the skills we need to use them more effectively that ensures we can continue to bring value to our candidates and our clients.

The role of the Sourcer has moved, we don’t have piles of paper CV’s, we have millions of data touch points readily available. Jeremy Roberts highlighted the shift away from one Recruiter and many Sourcer model to the one Sourcer many Recruiters model and proposed in his talk that there were two archetypes of a Sourcer, Tech or Talker. The truth is that it is the tech that is allowing sourcing teams to be centralised units of experts leveraging data and machines instead of the Recruiters assistant who is ploughing through hundreds of dusty resumes. During the talk, I polled twitter and 69% of respondents felt they leverage technical skills to do their job, while only 8% were left behind with little knowledge on the matter.

I think the response is indicative of how sourcing has evolved, we feel more comfortable using more technical tools to make more hires.

Randy Baily, Sara Goldberg and Guillaume Alexandre BEAT THE ROBOT used in the SourceCon Grandmaster Challenge by using their human ingenuity and gut feelings. While the machine only took a few seconds to match the candidates to the roles. Randy won by leveraging his human ingenuity to take a deeper dive into the data provided. No robot could have done what he did as he went beyond what the challenge asked. The reason why he won is that he took a centaur approach (a phrase coined at the conference to refer to the half man half machine approach to sourcing) No machine can call and convince a human to tell them if they previously interviewed with a particular firm, only a Sourcer with an advanced understanding of all elements of recruitment can. Well Done Randy!

This is what I walked away from SourceCon with.

“Human AND AI” NOT “Human OR AI”

Me plus a machine is better than me on my own. I don’t feel scared by the technology I have seen, only empowered to do my job better.

LinkedIn flirted that 90% of professionals are open to new opportunities. The myth of passive-active candidate (which I never believed in) dies with this statistic as it proves that more people are open to having a conversation. Anecdotally, people are always going to be open to the right conversation if the message is delivered in the right way (Edited – Hat Tip for the comment RB.)

Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly active users, LinkedIn 467 million; with so many potential people to hire.. we need to get better at identifying the right time and the right people to be having those conversations with. We then need to spend time and energy to craft the best approach. Easier said than done. We all have a glut of data available at our fingertips and sifting through it is a painful process. That’s why we need tools to help us do this, that’s what the robots are for, to make us more effective.

I’m not scared of racing robots, they aren’t stealing my job, they here to make me better.

That’s why I raced robots at SourceCon and lost.

If you agree or disagree, please share your thoughts with myself and your friends.

If you want to flex your empathy muscle and learn how to enhance the rest of your sourcing muscles with cool tech. Come work on the bleeding edge of technical and human engineering with the sourcing team Inside Indeed, we are hiring Sourcers!