The New Normal of Talent Acquisition

How hiring organizations can use technology to recalibrate the balance of power.
 

By Brent Skinner 
 
 
Hiring organizations are losing their power. Despite the sluggish economy, today’s jobseekers wield a great deal of control over the recruiting process. Some jobseekers, unaware, toil away as if the year were still 1997. But the savvy ones are able to lead recruiters from behind by capitalizing on the new normal of talent acquisition. Whether they know it or not, passive candidates have power over their suitors, too.
 
 
What empowers all these potential and existing employees is technology. Because of its empowerment of the jobseeker, technology affects the search and talent acquisition alike, in profound ways. It has made recruiting (mostly) better and rendered talent acquisition more exciting.
 
 
Because of social media, “it’s easier to find people than it used to be, and it’s easier to identify people, and it’s easier to solicit them,” says Dan Arkind, CEO and co-founder of JobScore. “That’s a pretty serious difference, compared to 10 years ago. The other major consideration, given social media, is that it’s important for a professional to build and maintain a professional identity online, so that not only are they able to be discovered, but a recruiter can figure out what they’re good at.”
 
 
Various activities punctuate the talent acquisition process, and much of the activity revolves around the passive candidate; the elements of talent acquisition focused on the active jobseeker are themselves passive. As it stands, recruiters focus on sourcing and wooing a candidate to the point where a talent acquisition system (TAS) can further vet him or her, and finally, a hiring manager can make a decision based on the best information possible. The power of this job candidate, the passive one, has led companies to design technological systems that infuse as much excitement and remove as much tedium as possible from the talent acquisition process.
 
 
Concurrently, the marginalization of the traditional resume continues apace. Tech-enabled environments allow jobseekers to interact with opportunities in particular and the market in general by, for instance, submitting or posting a video resume or answering employers’ questions via text or audio.
 
 
“Hiring managers and recruiters are very receptive to adopting technologies that help them reduce their costs and make their lives easier, for sure,” says Suki Shah, CEO and co-founder of GetHired, an all-in-one talent acquisition platform—including an applicant tracking system (ATS)—that marshals the elements of social interactivity to give hiring organizations dynamic options for soliciting information from jobseekers. That information is found only when hiring managers delve beyond jobseekers’ resumés. The idea: By replacing one-dimensional information with multidimensional information that is centrally located, systems can improve the accuracy of recruiters’ and hiring managers’ decisions, and help them make those decisions faster.
 

Continues Shah: “The sentiment is that the resumé is a part of the application process, but can be supplemented in many ways to help both the jobseeker and employer/hiring manager find ideal matches. For the vast majority of hiring organizations, they need to see the traditional resumé, for a snapshot of the person. But that’s not who the person really is, right? You can tell a lot by a picture, by a video, by hearing someone’s audio. You can really differentiate and vet candidates in a very effective way if you are able to use technology.”
 
 
And, by embracing the savvy jobseeker’s tools and modus operandi, the employer can shift the balance of power, ever so slightly, back into the hiring organization’s column.
 
 
Clues and Referrals
Social media itself is not the new talent acquisition platform, but to try to acquire talent today without integrating social media is folly.
 
 
“You can use social networks for searching, for identifying the talent,” says JobScore’s Arkind. “You can use social media to get a warm introduction to the talent. You can use social media to screen the talent, because you can look at what they’re interested in. You can use social media to develop a relationship with the candidate pre-hire or pre-interview, so you can actually use it as your CRM [customer relations management] communication mechanism. And you can also use it as a reinforcement mechanism to close the candidate.”
 

Social media provides critical clues for finding the very best-fit candidates, passive or not, for the talent acquisition process, not just the job itself; the talent acquisition process has its own culture, which hews to the hiring organization’s workplace culture, and only the prospects who fit that organization’s pre-hire culture will proceed.
 
 
The one-dimensional picture provided by the traditional resumé was all that hiring authorities used to have to suggest whether or not a prospect was worth prospecting. But today, recruiters, along with everyone else who sources, vets, and hires new talent, have a treasure trove of data at their disposal, in social media, on every possible candidate for the position.
 
 
That’s the premise of TalentBin, which bills itself as a talent search engine. TalentBin’s technology mines a large cross-section of professional networking sites for clues. TalentBin is actively integrating with larger, complementary solutions, having recently announced doing so with COMPAS Technology and with SilkRoad Technology, Inc. Passive candidates by definition aren’t active in social networks in ways that a hiring organization would notice, but their activity often exists nonetheless. “Obviously, recruiters and hiring managers are on sites such as LinkedIn a lot, but petroleum engineers, for instance, aren’t as much,” says Peter Kazanjy, co-founder and CEO of TalentBin.
 
 
A computer code expert is hanging out in a computer code forum, sorting through a computer code dilemma with his or her computer code peers. A crisis communications whiz is arguing the finer points of crisis management with likeminded crisis management whizzes in a forum for that. Professionals such as these, interestingly, are among the least likely to have big three social media profiles that are up to date. (Google+ might soon make that the big four, joining Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.) The goal is to find passive candidates’ implicit activity everywhere on the web, in order to aggregate composite profiles of candidates who might otherwise slip past recruiters’ radar.
 
 
And then there are the employee referrals lurking in social media. A hiring organization’s employees’ existing social media connections might harbor just the right referrals for an open position. The key is to simplify the process of harvesting those connections in ways that an organization can replicate again and again, efficiently. Technologies such as Zao.com automate the process of identifying referrals, integrating social networks and managing rewards (e.g., through social gaming).
 
 
“My background is not in recruiting,” says Ziv Eliraz, founder and CEO of Zao. “Out of the pain of trying to source talent on two occasions the conventional way, through job boards, what I started to do was reach out to my company’s business partners and ask them if they knew of talent that would fit what I was looking for. And I got amazing referrals from these people. Everyone who I got referred to was someone I wanted to hire. The hire ratio was probably about two interviews to one hire, and the people I did hire are to this day doing a great job. The thing that I love about referrals is that you get them before you interview the person.” That is the inverse of the typical process, whereby the hiring organization checks references last.
 
 
The Catch-22
Recruiters typically face a central paradox: The candidates they desire most are least likely to care to dance. Put differently, a passive candidate’s inclination to respond to a recruiter and go through the necessary steps, whatever those are, to make it into an ATS, any ATS, correlates with not only how alluring the position itself is, but also how easy, fun, courteous, and expeditious the steps to get to the job offer are.
 
 
One way to break through the firewall of inattention is to hit passive candidates upside the head with an employer brand they just can’t ignore. Technology makes doing so easier. During the recruiting and pre-hire phase, organizations can brand themselves as never before. Some of the technology is basic, such as video, to capture the feel of the organization’s workplace culture and, thus, appeal to the right-fit candidates’ sentiments. Then comes the technology-facilitated test or trial, drawing in passive candidates.
 
 
The permutations of such scenarios are many, for they work best if tailored to each hiring organization’s needs and the desired demographic of passive candidates’ proclivities and inclinations. And creating these technology-facilitated talent acquisition environments is the forte of Human Resource Management Center, Inc. (HRMC).
 
 
“Employers don’t realize, when they’re thinking of branding, that how the candidates and applicants are treated during the recruiting and selection and hiring process is part of the brand,” says Ron Selewach, founder and CEO of HRMC. “If candidates see a slick corporate video that gives them an impression, but then don’t receive feedback during the progress of their application, or if that process is disjointed, or takes forever, that affects their perception of the brand.”
 
 
And today, with the technology at hand, the greatest and most avoidable sin is to allow a recruiting and selection and hiring process to move at a glacier-like pace. Furthermore, if that online process resembles the offline application, built around and dependent on the traditional resume, the best candidates will walk. They probably won’t even stop by.
 
 
“With our system,” says Selewach, “we whisk candidates through the whole process—which normally takes anywhere from 90 days to six months—in 90 minutes. And they get feedback at the end. They always get closure. And now the applicant tells peers, ‘You know, I just went through this interview over the internet. It wasn’t with a real person. But it sure felt like it.’ That goes a long way in reinforcing a positive employer brand, especially among passive candidates, because the two things passive candidates don’t have are patience and an updated resumé. They don’t need your job. They’re not interested in jumping through a bunch of hoops.”
 
 
In other words, retention of top talent begins before the talent becomes an employee. The talent acquisition process that gives passive candidates something to look forward to, a positive challenge, retains them through the pre-hire phase and leaves all of them, those hired and those not, satisfied.
 
 
“There’s really a huge opportunity for organizations that are good organizations to show that they’re good organizations and have people opt in,” says JobScore’s Arkind.
 
 
The Martial Artist’s Approach
A central tenet of many a martial art is to use an opponent’s moves against her, in order to gain the upper hand and prevail. No, let’s not pit candidates against hiring authorities. Yes, hiring organizations are losing their power over job candidates, whose moves are now leading the process of talent acquisition; by employing a martial artist’s approach, however, hiring organizations can harness candidates’ power to the benefit of all parties, over the long term.
 
 
The new normal of talent acquisition means that, on one platform, a holistic approach to talent acquisition yields as its byproduct all that pre-hire data in one spot. The opportunity is there to expand that platform to encompass all other elements of talent management. This idea is not new; the issues of platform integration and consolidation remain at the forefront of debate in HR technology. But this idea is also a big idea, a vision that embraces big data, the possibility of aggregating one employee composite whose data spans the entire employee lifecycle, a lifecycle that begins before he becomes an employee and comprises everything that takes place thereafter. Such systems inform an organization’s management and optimization of its workforce in ways impossible, in their absence. They make sense.
 

Posted October 5, 2012 in Talent Acquisition

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