Recruiting support technology in a talent sellers’ market

Recruiters don’t get much respect at a time when sought-after prospective new hires are being contacted constantly about job opportunities. Efforts to connect with prospects are often ignored. In this environment, technology that streamlines or eliminates routine aspects of the recruiter’s job enables them to put their greater skills to work. To explore these issues, Employee Benefit News recently spoke to Kristen Hayward, the vice president of people at Hustle, a San Francisco-based peer-to-peer messaging platform. Edited highlights of that conversation follow.

Employee Benefit News: Recruiting talent isn’t easy for most employers these days. Can you describe changes you’ve seen, and the corresponding evolution of recruiting technology?

Kristen Hayward: I used to work for a Fortune 500 company. Not very long ago I was the first person to make a passive candidate hire at that company that was sourced and recruited in-house. A few years ago Fortune 500 companies wouldn’t need to go out to the market and recruit talent; it just came to them. But they do need to make that effort now. That’s just an indication of how competitive things have gotten.

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EBN: The balance of power has shifted?

Hayward: Yes, it’s really much more of a candidate-driven market. Another big change is the amount of selling that’s necessary. When I entered the talent market, candidates were really following up, updating their resumes, coming in for formal interviews. Now the market has really shifted where candidates are interviewing us just as much as we’re interviewing them. And it’s not just for people with advanced technology skills. If you’re looking for top talent in any field, it’s always a competitive market.

EBN: Speaking of technology, what are the implications of this from a recruiting technology perspective?

Hayward: So it’s really important that we lower the barrier to entry for passive candidates to get into the process. Technology can definitely help with that, along with basic procedures. For example, we don’t ask passive candidates to update their resume. We have hiring managers who talk to the candidates directly to make it easier for them to get in touch with the people within the company that they’re excited to get in touch with. We spend most of our initial calls with candidates actually selling, and that’s for both passive and active candidates. Also, just because someone applies online doesn’t mean that they’re interested or that they don’t need to be sold.

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Job seekers wait in line to speak with representatives during a Choice Career Fair in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits declined from an almost three-month high ahead of the presidential election, indicating the job market remains competitive for employers. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

EBN: How have the technology tools evolved to allow you to identify passive candidates?

Hayward: The “booleans” [logic-based search engine criteria-prioritization and search result winnowing capabilities] used to find candidates have become increasingly sophisticated. We’ve spent more time doing research using them to come up with lists of target companies and target job titles. It’s a huge game-changer for us when we actually go to sort the candidate universe.

EBN: So you can streamline your own talent search function within your department?

Hayward: Building talent pipelines can be very time-consuming, and I don’t have anyone on my team who’s a full time sourcer. So the technology now really helps make the job easier when resources are limited.

EBN: I know that maximizing workforce diversity is a priority for most employers today. Does your recruitment platform help with that?

Hawyard: Absolutely. It enables us to do much better searches to make sure that we’re finding a diverse pool of candidates. For example I have booleans for things like graduates of historically black colleges and universities. It’s hard to get the mix you want — it doesn’t just happen organically, especially if we recruit for more senior roles.

EBN: Can you elaborate?

Hayward: Yes. Our system — we use Entelo — has something called an “unbiased sourcing mode” that’s supposed to block unconscious bias. It lets you use some filters if you want. For example, you can do things like just get the first letters of a candidate’s first and last name if you think certain names would indicate a candidate’s ethnicity or where they’re from. It can also hide pictures.

EBN: Of course there are other forms of unconscious or conscious bias, right?

Hayward: Sure. So the system also can do things like replace gender-specific pronouns to address gender bias, or not show employment gaps that might indicate a candidate has taken time off to take care of children or other family members. And it can also hide graduation dates to keep a recruiter from thinking about the candidate’s age, and even the candidate’s school. Of course if you’re interested in a candidate you would get that information, but at least you wouldn’t have just not considered the candidate on the first pass based on unconscious bias.

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EBN: What else does your platform enable you to do?

Hayward: It helps me automate the follow-up process more, which is really important because we’re finding that most candidates are not getting back to us until the second or third message has been sent. It automatically follows up with people who have not responded. Not having to go back and re-ping people is huge for me after I’ve taken the time to craft that custom message. Our system also helps me know whether someone has opened up my email or not, and clicked through my links.

EBN: Anything else?

Hayward: Another thing it does is it uses AI to determine if someone is more likely to be looking for a job based on their activity on the Internet. That’s helpful for me because if I think someone is looking for a job versus I think someone is just like a shot in the dark, I have a different strategy for how I’m going to go after them, how aggressive I’m going to be.

EBN: How does that work?

Hayward: I think it’s their total activity online and on their social media platforms, like LinkedIn. And it must also leverage competitive intelligence from their company.

EBN: Is all of your initial communication electronic?

Hayward: I personally don’t do cold-calling. I’ve tried it before, and I’ve just found people nowadays don’t answer their phone, which is actually one of the cool things that my own company, Hustle, does. We’re a peer-to-peer texting pool.

EBN: What are the limits of recruiting technology?

Hayward: Recruiters will always be needed to advise the business on strategy and best practices based on their experience, ability to analyze data, and basic human qualities like empathy.

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