Digital Transformation in Talent Acquisition: How Technology Gets You to the Best Talent

Talent acquisition is a hot topic in talent management as a whole. Recruiting the top talent in the market and developing this can lead to competitive advantage. Employers are going to great lengths to get the right people for the job and technology is playing an important role in that process.

Talent acquisition is being reshaped by digital technology.

Digital technology can play a valuable role in ensuring companies get the skills, knowledge and expertise they need to deliver on and exceed their strategic goals. In this blog I will discuss five ways digital technology is transforming the talent acquisition process.

ONE: Industrial Level Recruitment

The most common software used for TA is known as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). These systems do exactly what they say on the tin, their job is to track applicants coming into the system and allow companies to manage these effectively for recruitment processes.

Glassdoor, a popular website for tracking HR and employment trends, estimates each corporate job receives on average 250 applications. That’s just on average.

Large companies such as banks, tech firms, consultancies and luxury retailers will probably be dealing with much larger numbers. Graduate jobs deal with even higher numbers. I have heard of more than 30,000 job applications for some posts.

If you get a human to go through 250 CVs, that is potentially a week or two of man hours to give every CV proper consideration. Get them to go through 30,000… you do the math.

The best ATS systems are allowing companies to manage huge volumes of applications. These systems allow the application of search algorithms to look for certain things in CVs and answers to questions. This can help whittle down the numbers to something more manageable.

Artificial intelligence and analytics

For example, an internal recruiter at a firm could search for degree subject, number of years of experience, skill sets and competencies, amongst other things. This is highly useful to focus on CVs that meet a certain profile.

This is helpful to find what you want quickly, but as I will discuss another day, there is a risk you start eliminating good candidates from the talent pool just because their CV doesn’t contain a certain keyword. The other risk is eliminating diversity by employing the same algorithms again and again.      

TWO: Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff

This is similar to the point above, but worth mentioning separately. When there are high numbers of applications, there is bound to be a lot of ‘noise’ with people trying to get recognized and get their foot through the door.

The problem with some jobs is that certain job hunters are not particularly selective about what they apply for. This means that when hiring for a job, for instance a Marketing Director, you may receive 500 CVs of which many will be irrelevant or from candidates who are vastly unqualified for the job.

I remember when I worked as a corporate recruiter for four years. I would advertise on major job boards for a computer engineer with a very high skill set. I would leave the advert overnight and arrive in the morning to an email box with 400 CVs. 380 were often neither IT engineers nor legally eligible to work in the country. Finding a needle in a haystack comes to mind.  

Good quality ACT systems, for example the modules within SAP SuccessFactors, are now much better at filtering candidates. They allow companies to optimize their time and money by ensuring the CVs their human resources and talent acquisition teams see are mostly relevant.

Again, one weakness of these systems is that the system is only as good as its data. Therefore, it is important that companies think proactively about how to ensure candidates know what is expect. If good quality applicants have poorly structured CVs, perhaps the algorithm will miss them all together. There is still a lot of merit in varying recruitment strategies to ensure a wide pool of talent is captured.  

Some may say this is the problem of the candidate, but when companies are fighting to land the best talent, it would be foolish to rely solely on candidates to make themselves visible. It is for this reason why some large firms I have worked with are going the extra mile.

For example, Cisco go direct to source for some candidates, even setting up networks in schools and universities on recruitment days. By providing access to the internet, they take the pain out of sending a CV. Candidates upload their stuff there and then and a whole new talent pool is opened.

Companies should not be lazy here. So much talent exists outside of normal search areas. Digital technology, cleverly applied, can be powerful in unearthing some hidden gems.

THREE: Social Searching

Probably one of the most controversial elements of using ACTs for talent acquisition is social network searching. Many people do not realize just how much of their personal data is on the web. Our ‘digital footprint’ can be much larger than we think and companies are often able to see this information.

What kind of information is out there? Pictures at parties… comments in feeds… personal details about your family and your relationship with others… For example, a messy divorce and public arguments about unpaid childcare could all be picked up online if things are not kept private.

It really is quite scary what these systems can detect. More scary, nonetheless, is that companies can, and in some cases do, use this information for hiring decisions.  

Just yesterday I listened to a talk by Giuliana Aguilar, a Senior Consultant at Michael Page Mexico. Giuliana rightly encouraged people to read the small print on websites such as Linked In, Facebook and Instagram. Many times, clicking agree on the ‘privacy agreement’ meant opening your profiles to prying eyes. This is sage advice.

It must be noted that companies choosing to look for this information (and then use it) can be very country specific. In certain countries there are laws preventing its use, but in others are not. While some will argue this practice can help companies ensure they hire the ‘right’ person for their culture, others will argue it is immoral and actually counter intuitive. I will leave that discussion for others…

Shifting the discussion to something more relevant here, social searching can help corroborate the content of a CV. While candidates may write CVs that boast (privately) about their achievements and that enhance their job title, they may not be willing to publicly change their job title (for fear of being called out).

The possibilities exist for companies to use social networks to find out the bigger picture and whether someone is telling the truth or not.

FOUR: Competency Monitoring with Analytics

One of the most popular ACT tools on the market is Taleo, from Oracle. A short video about a Taleo deployment can be seen here. A cloud based tool, Taleo is extremely powerful in gleaning insights about potential hires.

Powerful tools such as Taleo can be used for a myriad of tasks by talent acquisition teams. On one side, they can optimize talent searches by ensuring recruiters look in the right places. Talent teams can see where adverts get the most exposure, shares and clicks etc.

They can also see how many people are recommending others for different jobs and this can help them identify if they are tapping into different talent pools or not.

Equally, analyzing data can help recruiters build a bigger picture of a candidate’s personality. For example, it is possible to use algorithms to analyse and predict the personality of someone through the way they write their CV. Just how effective is this analysis? That depends on what you want to find out.

It is also possible, in some cases, to identify how many jobs someone is applying for. Is someone being selective about their choices or simply pasting their CV everywhere. All this information can be used to build up a bigger picture of someone’s career and the value they can offer.

How much weight one applies to these factors will depend on the person and organization. But one of the most important benefits of using analytics in recruitment is that these can be used later on…as I will discuss now.

FIVE: Measuring Talent Acquisition Success

Leading on from the previous sentence, an enormous benefit of ACTs is the ability to use data later on. In other words, it is now possible for companies to measure the success of their recruitment processes.

The data captured from before, during and after hiring can be used to see whether hiring decisions were effective or not. To give some context, a Sales and Business Development recruiter can look at the algorithms used to source talent and then look for how those they hired performed in the job. If you want to learn more about this, I recommend Coursera and Wharton’s Data Analytics course titled People Analytics.

If there is a positive correlation between the profile sought and performance, a company may choose to look to replicate this for future. A winning recipe can deliver consistent value. As always, though, I preach caution in making such inferences. Use of such data comes with benefits, but also risks. Making the wrong connection can be very costly.

Risks aside, this kind of opportunity did not really exist before. Never have companies had so much access to data. If ACT systems can be configured and made compatible with internal analytics systems, i.e. tracking comparable data, then opportunities to optimize recruitment are huge.

Digitized Talent Management is the Future

Whether one is happy about a computer making decisions or not, it seems that digital talent acquisition / recruitment processes will gain further popularity. Companies and job hunters alike, must however, make sure they adapt to the new environment.

A system is only as good as the data in it, thus it is important for companies to make sure they know how to maximize the use of a system and the data within.

Organizations should be aware that candidates will become smarter at out-gaming the system; that is, finding ways to get their CV to the top by creatively writing their CVs. If you don’t scrutinize the system regularly then it will work against you.

For me, this means the human element of talent acquisition is still very alive. Rather than letting computers replace people, it is better to train people to work more effectively with the machines. I dedicate a huge amount of my L&D work to this very task.

Adapting to all these digital changes requires a well-managed change management process. Don’t just assume that people will accept a break in the status quo. I invite you to visit Conversari Global and see how the human element of innovation is so important in fostering effective, digitally supported workforces.

Talent acquisition may be more digital today, but we hire humans and we must not forget that…

Tom Scott

Consultant @ Conversari Global and Founder / Managing Director @ TrainGrad

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