The Revolution Will Be Digitised

Simon Kent investigates the ongoing march of digitalisation in recruitment

It is safe to say that there is currently no single idea of what digitalisation is or means within the recruitment industry. Drawing comparisons with the dot com boom and the advent and predicted (negative) impact of the job boards in equal measure the fact is that for every recruitment company there is almost a unique take on the move towards the promised land of Industry 4.0. Broadly speaking, there are two major movements in the sector, however: one where recruitment companies are taking on external technology in order to enhance their recruitment work (and can occur at any part of the recruitment process) and one where recruitment companies are directly investing in the creation of recruitment enhancing technology.

According to industry expert and author of The Robot-Proof Recruiter Katrina Collier, the involvement of recruitment experts in this technology is not up for discussion. “The technology must be created with the input of recruiters,” she says. “If you haven’t recruited you don’t get it. The technology must be proven to free up the recruiter’s time so they can give a better experience to candidates, to clients and to themselves.”

James Allen, chief operations director at Airswift agrees many recruiters are wrestling with the issue of how to make digital age work for their businesses. “We’re seeing companies across all sectors in the staffing space trying to work out how to adopt technology,” he observes. “They’re asking do we buy this product or rent the service, and then some companies are doing it themselves. They’ve got their own R&D function addressing technology.

“There’s not going to be a firm formula,” he asserts, “it will be trial and error with everyone trying to find their feet.” Allen indicates that current merger and acquisition activity in the sector is indicative of the stat elf play with digitalisation. While large companies are extending themselves into technology offerings smaller players are still finding the capacity to invest in what could be ground-breaking solutions to take recruitment to the next level.

Chat time

Spencer Symmons, co-owner of CPS Group, is one such example of a recruitment expert moving into the technology space – albeit as the separate SearchBase enterprise. Emphasising that he is not a digitalisation guru, but a recruiter with over 20 years experience, Symmons was approached by an enterprising technology student at a graduate fair. That student was part-way through developing a chatbot dedicated for the recruitment industry.  “I was intrigued because I wanted to get rid of the low value work that my recruiters were doing,” says Symmons.

Aside from the innovative way this chatbot was being created – using a language few had used before – the functionality of the technology appealed to Symmons. Sure, there are other chatbots on the market – some dedicated to the recruitment industry – but the proposal here was a piece of interactive technology which would integrate in real-time with a recruiter’s CRM. This means a prospective client searching for talent can find them on a recruiter’s own system through a few chatbot led questions. The solution is particular useful given some of the other trends developing alongside digitalisation. In todays’ recruitment world few people – candidates, clients or even consultants – actually want to pick up a phone and talk to someone else about their work or talent needs. This solution would seem to take care of that level of interaction, leaving the recruiter to intervene when the personal touch is required. “The chatbot takes the client down the search for candidates and it can sort interviews dates and times without them ever speaking to a recruiter,” says Symmons. Given the amount of phone calls some recruiting staff will make in order to find one client with a demand they can meet, the solution clearly meets Colliers’ tests of being built by someone who knows the industry and has been designed to free up the recruiter’s time to add real value for clients and candidates.

Dan Lewis of Digital Profile believes the recruitment industry is one of the few remaining ‘traditional’ sectors that hasn’t yet seen the level of disruption associated with the world becoming more digital. “Retail has seen it with eCommerce,” he says, “media has seen it with online streaming.”

His business is one which is dependent on the uptake of digitalisation within the industry, a product which ties in with the acceptance of new technology by those in the talent supply chain. Digital Profile effectively does away with the paper based CV, delivering instead a content-rich platform for people to communicate their skills, abilities and more. The interest in Lewis’ product is not just a factor of increasing digitalisation but of the desire within this environment to have more control over one’s own information and image.

“People are increasingly wanting to take back control of their data,” says Lewis, “and this is an increasing trend in recruitment. In addition, people are becoming fed up of a lack of transparency and communication in the recruitment process – not knowing if their resumé has been looked at, or not getting feedback on why they haven’t been successful – and in the sheer length of time it can take. “Just like the uptake of online streaming that saw Blockbuster losing its appeal, so too are we seeing this in recruitment,” asserts Lewis. “Though this change is at an early stage, it’s only a matter of time before it accelerates and we take our digital privacy as the norm.”

Disrupt and build

The disruption Digital Profile offers to the industry is one where existing processes can be carried out faster through automation and further control be given to the individual jobseeker. For Senploy, however, digitalisation has created a brand new recruitment business. Without digital technology, the business would simply not exist because it would be extremely difficult for the business to make the connections it needs to in order to satisfy its customers. Amy Allen is managing director at Senploy, a recruitment company dedicated to the special educational needs and disability sector. “Right from the outset, our aim was to prioritise digital channels,” she says. “Our integrated digital recruitment platform was informed by extensive market research into how and where users search for jobs; as well as how organisations find candidates.”

The digital-first mindset not only helped the company find jobs to fill, but also enabled them to be specific about what they offered to those working with the business. “We can be very specific with how we target our job opportunities, collecting and analysing information and behaviours then segmenting our audiences on a micro-scale, so that each role is only advertised to the people who will genuinely find it of interest,” she says. “It’s a process that’s all the more important because we’re working within a niche sector – sometimes the roles we advertise require a very specialised set of skills.”

The ability to serve this niche area of recruitment is only possible through the use of technology, and that specialism will continue as the technology use increases. Allen expresses a great deal of interest in there use of virtual reality within the recruitment cycle for assessment purposes. She also flags AI as a very important trend for next year.

“In the future, it could become the norm that a candidates have no human interaction until the very end of the process,” she says. “From searching for a role, or having that role suggested to them, to an automated selection and interview, the whole process could be carried out in a far more efficient and productive, yet impersonal way. This may not suit every sector, and certainly within SEND roles we’ll have a keen eye on whether AI can be used to ascertain a candidate’s softer skills such as empathy and the ability to connect with people, that are so vital in our industry.”

James Allen describes the industry current undergoing a ‘gold rush mentality’ of trying to find the killer app – or more widely the killer piece of technology – that’s going to take the recruitment industry by storm. But while some recruitment companies are throwing investment at supplied and bespoke solutions, the way forward is an open mind as much as an open bank account: “As long as you’re open to it, embrace it and don’t just ignore it, it will be OK,” Allen says. “Aspects such as the mobile connected world will change everything but we can’t all spend millions on it.”

With the right leadership and mentality towards the future recruiters will be able to identify the science fiction from the useful facts and drive towards a more efficient and effectively service for the future.

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