An HR director's guide to recruitment tech

Talent attraction expert Elmen Lamprecht discusses tech applications for each stage of the recruitment cycle.

We live in very exciting times.  Not since the dawn of job portals and social media has technology caused such positive disruption in the recruitment process.  On an almost-daily basis, we are learning of new and exciting applications that improve, streamline and enhance the recruitment cycle for all parties concerned:  candidates, recruitment experts and business executives alike.

In this article, I will highlight the various types of recruitment technology and their applications throughout the recruitment cycle.

At the centre of the recruitment cycle comes technology that enables the recruiter to manage the entire process flow, automate certain actions and steps, communicate quickly and easily with candidates and line managers and interfaces with other systems and software applications.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are workflow software, ensuring a seamless flow between all steps and parties.  This is the master software, dictating what happens when and how. The most potent aspect of any decent ATS is its ability to automate.  Based on pre-programmed rules and communication messages, the system can manage large parts of the application and candidate engagement process without the intervention of a recruiter.  Although automation is not new, it is modern ATS’s ability to personalize automation that sets it apart, improving organisations’ ability to engage with candidates on an individual basis. And individualised communication is vital.  Recruitment today is all about the candidate experience and your ATS must be able to provide the foundation upon which your candidate relationship management strategy is built on.  Any decent ATS offers a module that is focused on building and maintaining a strong candidate community, similar to a Sales Customer Relationship Management System (CRM).  Without a decent recruitment CRM module, an ATS runs the risk of being too robotic. The benefit of a centralised CRM is its ability to help recruiters build, maintain and engage with talent communities, turning candidates into brand ambassadors.

Step 1:  Identification of vacancy

The first step of the recruitment cycle is to identify possible vacancies.  Unfortunately, the method used most by organisations is the ‘wait-and-see method’. Either they wait to see who resigns next or they wait for operational management to identify an urgent need for new staff.  If your organisation still uses this reactive method, I have good news for you:  Breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data now allows organisations to be a lot more proactive in understanding the movement of talent inside their organisation

Creating bespoke AI software that is plugged into various systems such as payroll, employee self-service, facilities access, performance management and succession planning, enables organisations to predict resignations and create stronger, more dependable success plans.  Additionally, organisations can add data such as quarterly surveys asking execs what skills they believe would be needed in the next 12 months that enhances AI’s ability to predict which new skills would be needed in the next 12 months.  

At this point, it is important to note that all standard ATSs have some very basic form of AI built in (e.g. keyword search and pattern recognition).  However, deep machine learning still escapes most ATSs. The power of predictive analysis brought by machine learning cannot be overestimated.  In order to harness this potent power, companies need to approach specialist AI (data science) companies.

Step 2: Analysis of internal talent

Now that we know which vacancy to fill, the Recruitment Department needs to decide on the Recruitment Strategy.  To make an informed choice, two distinct databases will have to be analysed.  Firstly, databases containing data of current employees (e.g. payroll, performance management & succession planning) need to be analysed to identify if the internal skills are available for the new vacancy.  The purpose of this analysis is to determine if the company will source from candidates internally only. 

Should internal skills prove to be inadequate, the next step is to analyse the internal recruitment database (on ATS) to identify if the needed talent has already engaged with organisations in the past.  The purpose of this analysis is to determine if the needed skill is already easily attainable or if the vacancy will have to be advertised externally (and if 3rd parties such as Agencies will be used).

This type of analysis can easily be done through AI software.

Step 3:  Job posting and recruitment marketing

Once the decision has been made that the vacancy needs to be advertised externally, Recruiters can turn to their modern ATS that have the built-in ability to identify which sources have been the most successful for specific vacancies in the past.  The recruiter can then choose to run job posting campaigns on most successful platforms first (e.g. specific social media platforms and/or job portals). Should this generate an inadequate pool of candidates, the job posting campaign could be expanded to other platforms.

However, recruitment today has evolved to reflect sales and marketing more than traditional HR functions.  

Therefore, recruiters need to develop and execute solid recruitment marketing strategies in order to attract top talent.  Although the elements of a good recruitment marketing strategy fall outside the scope of this article, a special mention needs to be made regarding the use of virtual reality videos.  Recruitment is all about the candidate experience and companies today are using virtual reality videos to brilliantly showcase their operations in a way that immerses the candidate in their environment.  There is no need to tell the candidate about what it feels like to work for your company – just show them.

Step 4:  Candidate sourcing

Often, the active candidate market does not produce the quality and/or quantity of candidates needed to fill the new vacancy.  This is especially true for very scarce skills.  Recruiters will then have to approach the passive talent market.  Many organisations might view step three and four as one single phase of the recruitment cycle.  Although recruiters often embark on both steps simultaneously (especially when they are hunting for a very specific scarce skill), I believe that these are two separate steps since it involves two separate approaches:  During the job posting phase, candidates that apply already seriously consider the organisation as an employer and the job as a possible career step.  During the candidate sourcing phase, recruiters still need to convince passive candidates to consider the organisation and the job – which is akin to cold calling in the sales cycle.

Identifying passive candidates remain the primary challenge of the candidate sourcing phase.  Since passive candidate’s behaviour do not always mimic those of active candidates (e.g. they might not have their CV on any job portal), Recruiters have to utilise technology normally reserved for online advertisers.  Just like online advertisers use social media profiles and online behaviour of individuals to push very specific advertisements to their target market, recruiters use candidates’ online profiles and behaviour to find very specific skills and engage with them. Social media screening allows recruiters to zone into and engage with individuals with very specific skills that suit a vacancy.  

Once recruiters have engaged with potential candidates, AI algorithms can combine data from the ATS (such as previous successful hires), payroll (employee retention) and performance management system (current top performing employees) to screen various candidate databases (internal ATS, job portals and social media) as well as the applications received to help recruiters identify possible candidates more accurately.  Sourcing and screening processes (via keyword search) that previously took hours of human intervention are now completed at the push of a button.  Instead of wasting time scouring through various databases, recruiters can now spend more quality time engaging with talent.

AI can be particularly useful during steps three and four. Firstly because, more often than not, recruiters are bombarded with hundreds of applications that need to be screened for minimum requirements.  Although most ATS allows for the elimination of candidates through a series of up-front qualifying questions, recruiters can still end up with hundreds of applications to screen due to candidate dishonesty and/or a large number of candidates actually meeting the minimum requirements.  AI software can allow recruiters to screen and rank applications received based on individualised algorithms.  Instead of wasting hours on a repetitive task, the AI algorithm can do it in a matter of minutes, providing a list of your top candidates, ranked from most likely to be hired to least likely to be hired.  

AI can also simplify communication, which is a big challenge.  On the one hand, recruiters need to communicate with the list of (AI ranked) shortlisted candidates to test their level of interest in the vacancy.  This is where Chatbots can be particularly useful.  Since the ATS already has all the contact information of the candidate, a chatbot can contact the candidate via text or email to guide them through the screening process (see step 5).  Additionally, real-time text software (whether part of the ATS or a software plug-in) can also allow the recruiter to contact the candidate and have a real-time discussion with them via text.  Once the recruiter determines the candidate’s willingness to take a call, a meeting can be arranged for a first telephonic discussion.

The additional benefit of chatbots becomes clear when many candidates engage with the organisation regarding basic questions such as the application process, salary level, job location, etc.  Chatbots are able to manage these kinds of generic, easy to answer questions in real-time, thus enhancing candidate engagement.  

That said, there are recruitment chatbots (Robocalls) in the market that can contact candidates on the phone.  My opinion is that credit companies and debt collectors have abused this technology to such an extent that most people have formed negative connotations with ‘robocalls’.  Therefore, from an Employer Branding point of view, I believe it is not a good idea to use chatbots to robocall candidates. 

Combined, this means that after the job posting and candidates sourcing process, you should have a shortlist of quality candidates, screened for minimum requirements, ranked in comparison to previous successful candidates and current top performing employees, all with minimal input by the Recruiter.  Chatbots and real-time texting software allowed the Recruiter to engage directly with candidates. This collaboration with technology decrease recruitment time considerably, improve candidate engagement dramatically and reduce recruitment costs at the same time. 

Step 5:  Candidate screening

It is during the candidate screening process that technology really gets it time to shine.

  • Online Assessments: Collaboration between Industrial Psychologists and Software Companies is causing assessments screening for hard skills (e.g. literacy, numeracy, computer literacy, software development) and soft skills (e.g. behaviour) to be deployed online.  By using camera technology, organisations can even mitigate the risk of fraud during the completion of online assessments. 
  • Video Job Application: Another way that organisations can screen for soft skills and personality is to include some form of video during the shortlisting process.  Whether it is a 30sec video clip requesting a motivation or a more in-depth video session, video is allowing organisations to screen for the personality behind the CV without engaging directly with a candidate at this point during the recruitment process.  Additionally, facial recognition software (AI) that can screen for a variety of behavioural traits can be used in conjunction with the video application.Naturally, video can also be used during the interview stage.  Due to geographical challenges, the hiring process could be expedited by conducting the first interview via video and only request face-to-face interviews from the 2nd stage onwards.  During video interviews, facial recognition software could be used gauge candidates' emotional intelligence and truthfulness by analysing facial expressions, word choice, speech rate and vocal tones.
  • Social media screening:  Social media screening tools give employers insight into candidates’ behavioural traits.  Xerox in the United States, for example, has successfully used a social media screening tool to predict culture fit based on applicants’ online behaviour. The incredible thing is that online assessments, video job applications and social media screening are so scalable that it can be deployed during the application phase.  Once the AI software has assisted to shortlist candidates that meet the minimum requirement (step 3 and 4), the ATS could automatically engage with candidates via email, requesting them to complete their application via links to a video job application and online assessments. The candidate already gave the company permission to run background checks during the initial job application, so at this point, the Recruiter can run the social media screening tool. The proliferation of smartphones and ever reducing cost of mobile data are allowing organisations to screen candidates’ hard and soft skills, in addition to company culture at a time and place that suits the candidate, all during the application phase. All this gives recruiters a lot more information to guide decision making regarding which candidates to move forward to interview stages. Furthermore, recruiters can share these candidate profiles with line managers before interviews to support the final hiring decision. 

Note that, in order to comply with international legislation, include a disclaimer during the application phase where candidates give the company permission to conduct various background checks, including credit, criminal, reference and social media.

 

  • Chatbots, artificial assistants and real-time texting:  We are very familiar with the practical use of Artificial Assistants such as Siri (Apple) and Alexa (Amazon) in our daily lives.  Now, the same type of technology brings us Artificial Assistants for the Recruitment Industry.  The Artificial Assistant is a special kind of Chatbot that automates the communication process with candidates during the application and screening phase. It assists with the arrangement of interviews between all parties, ask questions of candidates based on job requirements and answers applicants' questions about the job and the company (e.g. salary, benefits, policies and culture).  The benefit is that it saves recruiters from managing the scheduling of interviews and having to field the same questions time and again. Should you prefer not to use artificial assistants, more basic chatbots is certainly a must-have.  Although every vacancy is a unique process, it is made up of activities that are often repetitive and require very basic intelligence.  Refrain from wasting your recruiter's time by forcing them to engage with candidates for very low-level activities such as information exchange (e.g. address for the interview, dress code, etc.).  By allowing Chatbots to take care of the low level, repetitive activities you free your Recruiters to engage with candidates on the more complex, interpersonal matters. We have already discussed the use of real-time Text software.  In the work context, the use of personal emails and walking outside of the office to take phone calls places candidates in a very compromising situation.  Using text allows real-time communication to take place between the recruiter and the candidate and avoids placing the candidate in awkward situations during work hours.
  • Data analytics:  The biggest advantage of bespoke AI Software is its ability to analyse massive amounts of data from various sources, combine it with machine learning, to provide a kind of predictive analysis that would be impossible for humans or basic ATS software. The overall integration of AI software into all HR systems, combining data from the ATS (candidates being regretted/promoted through the process), Online Assessments, Payroll (retention rates, leave applications) Performance Management (current top performing employees) will empower companies to identify candidates that will perform better and stay longer.  

Step 6: Onboarding

Once the hiring decision has been made and employment has been accepted, most companies have an intensive administrative process to onboard new employees.  From the completion of medical aid and pension fund forms to signing of company policies (e.g. IT, Ethics, Sexual Harassments, etc.), every new employee must move through the same administrative process.

  • Communication:  Since this process is very generic and repetitive, Chatbots and real-time texting will allow the organisation to answer generic onboarding questions and assist in completing documentation. Automated messages from the ATS can remind IT, Security, Line Management, HR, Payroll, and any other Department on the start date of every new employee with messages one month before, one week before and on the start date of the employee.
  • E-Learning:  Furthermore, an E-Learning platform can be used to give quick training and sign-off on policies. Additionally, new employees could be requested to learn and complete certain policy modules (e.g. Ethics policy, values, Employer Value Proposition, etc.) during the 3-month incubation period.  This will not just guarantee that all employees are familiar with company policies and procedures but will add value in ensuring that policies and values become part of everyday company life.
  • Integration into all other HR systems:  Lastly, it is important that the ATS becomes integrated into the full HR Systems that allows for the quick transferral of data.  Candidate information can be imported into the payroll system and can be used to automatically create a personal development plan.