Robotic Recruitment

At the risk of taking a defence from racists, I"m not a recruiter myself but some of my best friends are recruiters. I dabble on the edges of a number of overlapping industries so my LinkedIn network is awash with recruity foks and they seem to be quite prolific on the posting front. Online and IRL, I've observed one particular trend with concern: automatic applicant filtering systems. I get it; I really do. And I know, for the most part, it's not actual recruiters driving this approach. It's bean counters or time poor execs who view people as interchangeable commodities. My recruiter buddies are actually pleading for some humanity to return to the hiring practices of the primarily large employers employing robot recruiters.

Applicant Tracking Systems is one term. There are others. (SkyNet is one I suspect). I've been an employer. I appreciate that time is money and it may seem a super low-value use of time to have a human or humans look at early-stage applications. Even the time-old tradition of farming out the early-stage grunt work to recruitment agencies is diminishing. The latter's argument, often true, was that they added value by having an expertise and an appreciation borne of specialisation. But that ain't free or as cheap as a robot. And what most of these systems do is not added-value triage or assessment or filtering - it's culling.

I'm not a tree-hugger, bleeding-heart type. Time is money. Open vacancies are a cost and a burden. Online job ads have created an influx of highly unlikely applicants. The obvious, instant and superficial benefits of robots is clear. But, I'm not sure their users appreciate the costs and risks. Babies and bathwater. 

It's even gotten to a point where a mini industry has mushroomed coaching potential applicants on how to write CVs and letters and tick boxes in online forms so as to cheat the test. I bet there's an automated system you can pay to do your automated application for you.

One filter might be 5 years relevant industry experience. Humans might have that filter too but they can see a CV from someone who is a superstar in every other respect but they only have 4 years experience in a relevant industry. A human might toss that CV on the yes or maybe pile. A mindless, soulless robot culls without hesitation or appreciation of the consequences. A talent is lost to the employer, plus that system rarely replies in any meaningful way to the culled applicant, if at all.  

My view is that one of the major attractors of genuinely top level talent to an employer is that employer's 'employment brand'. I know there's a lot of consultant-speak and management gobblegook terms but this one I like. If you're an employer, even if you don't know what an employment brand is, and you haven't done anything conscious or deliberate to create one or mantain one or change one, you've got one. If you advertise a vacancy and a couple of talented potential applicants discuss it as follows, you've got one type of employment brand:

Talent 1: "Have you seen that job ad for ABC Limited? Are you going to apply"?
Talent 2: "I'd rather stick rusty fish hooks into both my eyes".
Talent 1: "Yeah they talk a big game and dangle money but we've got choices and I hear they treat people like crap".

Or words to that effect. Or the opposite of that. Or somewhere inbetween.

Would any of your current employees recommend you as a place to work to anyone they cared about who wasn't absolutely desperate for any job? On a scale of one to ten? You don't need to hire a consultant. This is pretty lightweight DIY inhouse research. Just like you might do some net promoter score research for your products or your brand-brand, how do you do with your employer brand? And, if it's less than a nine on that scale of one to ten, what can you do about it?

There's lots you do or don't do (or say) that can nudge you in either direction but one that hits early on and one that affects more people outside your business who'll tell their networks about you is that application process, especially that automated one.

A lot of manufacturing processes are automated and for logical, obvious reasons - efficiency, cost, time, etc. But you know what, they don't trust those factory robots entirely. They have human intervention and assessment and quality control. They can't affod to have a messed up Toyota make it past the robots or a perfectly fine Toyota get rejected by the robots. 

I'm not saying to cull the culling systems. They have obvious efficiencies. But within the system's electronic pathway needs to be a human element to the applicant's journey. That's not hard. There's probably an AI robot that can write the code and you can play chess with them afterwards.


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15 December 2017

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Once a month you'll get a single email digest of the article postings and updates from Terry Williams - keynote motivational conference or after-dinner speaker and leadership author. Sometimes funny, sometimes inspirational, often provocative. A unique New Zealand perspective from a thought leader generating and challenging ideas to help you learn to lead, motivate, influence, engage and move your team. Engage people; Improve results!