Digital is disrupting everything and this includes the recruitment process. Some corporates are going so far as to remove the academic requirements as entry criteria to rely more thoroughly on their own tools to assess talent. What are the unintended consequences though? And how do we find the value amidst the noise?
Back in 2003 when I was applying for one particular graduate role, I had a conversation with the HR lead about psychometric tests where I gave my opinion; 1) that you could learn them and most companies used a small range of suppliers (after a few, my marks were awesome, mostly because I’d seen them before) and 2) they are ignoring a range of skills and abilities that you can’t test with a online paper with some people who fail, who might be great.
Her response at the time was something I hadn’t thought of namely; we get enough applicants so that we could take a random 10%, interview them and get enough quality people for the job. The psychometric tests were there to apply some marginal value to whittling down to a manageable number. Having made it though to the last round myself following 4 tests, 3 interviews and a 3 day assessment centre, I discovered they had a quota of 8 people from the 10 that had made it that far. This was of scant consolation given my finishing position of 9th.
In the subsequent years, the process I don’t believe has become more personal. There are interviews conducted online using webcams, various assessment centres, interviews and a range of new tests. Digital has enabled much more to be done in the process with less human intervention. From engaging quite closely with the graduate process in particular for a consulting firm, I arrived at the end of the process for the assessment centres and the interviews. Over the years, I’ve not noticed any obvious change in the type of candidate.
I think there has been a decrease in graduate candidates from poorer backgrounds and I have seen a definite trend towards private schooled and very polished graduates. This is no disrespect to some of the excellent grads I’ve worked with but I wonder whether we’d profit from looking at a better social mix. Now, I don’t want to speak to wider socio-economic trends or education but as regards just the process itself.
Here are some things to think about;
1) The digital process – Digital allows for a range of new tests, tools and processes to be delivered/off shored and analysed to bring some analytics to the overall process. This now includes recorded webcam interviews, Skype interviews etc. The polish which looks good in that process is actually taught in private schools. These kids arrive at University already better prepared for the type of interview process which is increasingly prevalent. I am guilty myself of being impressed by graduates who deliver a nice presentation but even before the grads get to the interview stage, many have been removed from the process. In the early 2000’s there was a trend towards removing dates of birth and photos on CVs to make for a supposedly fairer judgement. The new process essentially doubles down on the original problem by bringing how people look right to the start.
2) Academic scores – can actually be a leveller. Your exams are the same for everyone so there is some balance in the scoring. It’s easy to say that exams are not the only thing and that all the extra work is important but the hierarchy of needs for less well-off students is that they spend 25 hrs a week working at a shop and then the rest on their studies. Is this recognised in the same way as 5 hours of charity work a week would be? For students working every summer full time to save a bit of money vs 3 months on a volunteer charity program in Africa; is there a fair assessment of value? If you remove the scores as a main driver of selection, do you actually make it less fair for some?
3) EQ vs IQ – I’ve written before about the rise of EQ as a core skill vs IQ as the main marker of value. The combination of this plus Digital is why I think companies are looking to remove academics as the gatekeeper of selection. You could essential allow every university student in the country to apply for 1 job if you have enough intelligence and analysis going into the process. A big AI engine could run through the applications and pick out the best people. However, your fit with the culture, your opinions and way of presenting them, and your approach to innovation and creativity are increasingly important. How ready are the tools and the AI to be able to apply those criteria? And even more so, if we are explicitly looking for more diversity of thought. How can that be built into the tool?
All in all, recruitment faces the same challenges as with anything in Digital Transformation which is to make sure that Digital supports and enables in the first instance and as the technology progresses, you give away more of the qualitative measuring to the AI.
As soon as you measure something, people will find a way to try and game the system. Private schools know that employers like charity work so the pupils are obliged as part of their lives to do charity work (and are assisted in the process). Google constantly change their algorithms not necessary to make them better but because people work out how to get their positioning higher.
The highest position in the search always goes to the people paying the most, the richest not necessarily the best. We need to make sure that’s not the future for recruitment.
PS as a bonus, if you consider recruitment as a CRM process here’s where it might be going.
No touch recruitment – AI searches online information Social Media, LinkedIn etc and just selects the candidates without anything process at all. You get an IM on LinkedIn offering you a job on a 3 month probation – it doesn’t work out, no harm no foul.
The High School Draft – ignore university all together, pick candidates out of high school NBA style, sponsor training for them as university modules across a range of universities and training centres. Get the best candidates before anyone else.