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OK Google, Should I hire this candidate?

Last month, I had the honor of speaking at a local start-up incubator about the impact of technology on recruitment. My talk was called "Interviewing in the Digital Age: OK Google, Should I Hire this Candidate?" This is a topic that I personally find very intriguing as the recruitment process moves closer and closer to an overreliance on technology and further and further away from a human-centric candidate experience. A recent article in HR Dive sums it up well by saying, “The message to potential employees is that they don’t deserve to talk to a human being until a robot gives the “OK.”

Asking a candidate to invest time and effort before investing any human thought in return is a recipe for alienating top talent. 
-HR Dive, 6 May 2019

Whether we realize it or not, we have all experienced the impact of technology on recruitment. For most of us, we only see the positive impact. For example, when was the last time you brought a hard copy of your resume to an interview? It’s no longer necessary since your interviewer can look at your resume on their tablet or you can pull it up on your phone. If it is too expensive to fly a candidate to your office for an interview, Skype and similar platforms means there is no need to ever meet a candidate face-to-face until their first day with your company. Background check companies have always been expensive and inefficient. Now, you can save yourself the trouble and just use social media to do a background check. If you see something you don’t like, you can reject the candidate immediately. In fact, a 2017 Career Builder survey found that 70% of employers use social media to research candidates during the recruitment process.

These things are so normal to us now that we don’t even give them a second thought. That said, when I work with clients, I am often shocked by the number of them who have never heard of an ATS system, who don’t know to set their social media profiles to private and delete embarrassing pictures, and who don’t realize that chat communication with a recruiter should be professional with no emojis and no grammatical mistakes. In particular, these clients worry me because they will be wholly unprepared for what awaits them in the future of recruitment technology, including:

·      Chatbot interviews: Think the person you are interacting with on the other side of the computer screen is a human? Think again! Chatbot interviews are becoming more common for the simple reason that they are inexpensive, efficient and ask basic questions that screen out clearly unqualified candidates. However, how can you really build up a rapport or get an understanding of the culture of an organization from a chatbot?!

·      Pre-recorded video interviews: Of all of the ways that technology is impacting recruitment, this seems to be the one that clients hate the most. The option to upload videos of yourself answering questions to an online portal makes many candidates feel awkward and uneasy. In addition, many of these videos will never be viewed by a human but instead will be screened by an algorithm. It’s easy to understand why so many clients hate this interaction!

·      Receptionist as robot: “Be friendly to the receptionist. First impressions count.” Remember this advice? Receptionists are the gatekeepers at companies. He or she is the first person you physically interact with at the company. Managers would often ask the receptionist for their feedback on you. Were you late? Were you rude? But soon enough, this simple human interaction will fall to the wayside as receptionists are replaced with robots or simple screen interfaces where you self-register your arrival. The most obvious example of this is in Japan, where the world’s first hotel fully staffed by robots was founded. Although the robot hotel ran into some trouble with it’s staff, this is a trend that is set to continue.

·      Gamification: Many companies from Google to the French postal service have rolled out gamification in their recruitment process, some with mixed results. What exactly isgamification? Gamification provides a simulated work environment that tests a candidate’s creativity and aptitude through things like company related quizzes. However, clients tell me they don’t like the gamification of the recruitment process because it trivializes something that they consider to be very important: finding a job!

And finally…

·      Interviews with a robot!: This March, the BBC released a story that made quite a splash about a Swedish company that is testing a robot interviewer called Tengai. Tengai doesn’t engage in any pre-interview chit-chat and asks the same questions in the same order every single time. The aim is to eliminate potential bias during the interview. At the moment, the transcripts of Tengai’s interviews are passed to the hiring manager who then makes a decision about whether or not to invite a candidate in for an interview. In the future, the goal is for Tengai to decide for herself whether a candidate is strong enough to move ahead in the interview process. How do you feel about a robot deciding your future?

“There should always be a human in the loop when there’s important decisions about hiring being made.”
-John Jersin, LinkedIn, Wall Street Journal, 14 March 2019

I think it is worth asking what impact all of this technology has on candidates when it comes to the candidate experience.  Of course, there are upsides like speed, efficiency, reduction of costs and freeing up time for managers and HR to do more value add work. But as human touchpoints are slowly stripped away from each stage of the recruitment process, could this overreliance on technology lead to a reduction in candidate stickiness, thus leading to reduced employee engagement and higher new joiner turnover? Could we get to a stage where candidates never meet another human during the recruitment process?

Remember, if you are a business owner, Talent Acquisition head or manager looking to implement more technology into your recruitment process, make sure it is fit-for-purpose, aligned to the culture of your organization, and helps your candidates get to know your people more, not less. Use these three guiding principles when you are considering the appropriate balance of technology and human interaction in your recruitment process.

1.      Despite rapid advances in recruitment tech, humans still have an important role to play in the recruitment process.

2.      Employers should balance the speed & efficiency provided by technology with the value add of a personal touch with candidates.

3.      Candidates should engage with employers both on-line and off-line to ensure maximum engagement.

Renee Conklin is an HR Leader who writes about talent attraction, employee engagement and the future of work. She is the founder of RC HR Consulting.

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