Recruitment Automation: Putting the “H” Back In HR

Increasing human interaction is key to recruitment success in this tightening labor market

by Nina Merklina, Founder and CEO of LineHire


We live in the very interesting times. Things that have never before been automated are now becoming machines; the inevitable result of progress. Don’t take me wrong, I am not suggesting to slow down progress, on the contrary, I am an avid supporter of innovation. However, there are a few things that we are now frantically trying to automate, which we should approach a bit more carefully. In particular, I am talking about things requiring human contact.

May I speak to a real person, please?

Human contact has become almost a luxury. Whether it is a helpline or a call to your friend, the fact that a human being actually picks up the phone almost takes us by surprise. The default expectation is to leave a message or press 1 for English etc. We are more than ready to listen to “your call is very important to us” for 20 minutes as a necessary toll to get to a living, breathing person.

The ease, reach and speed of communication via the Internet has made it impossible for many of us to handle the deluge of incoming requests. What previously took days or even months, can now take fractions of a second. Consequently, ways to filter, streamline, prioritize and automate Internet generated communication have been created. In general this is good and greatly needed, but for certain industries automation may have played a cruel joke. One such industry is recruitment.

You can always contact, but you can’t always reach.

I am old enough to remember the times when resumes were creeping out of fax machines, one agonizingly slow page at a time. The whole “one-page resume” rule is largely owed to the sad fact that the second page was often lost or did not go through. : ) Now applicants can leverage technology to send hundreds of resumes in an instant and organizations have countered by using technology to protect them from the onslaught.

Despite recruitment’s resistance, the power of technological advancement has nonetheless barreled its way into the farthest and the darkest corners of its back offices. The most obvious result has been a parade of clunky Applicant Tracking Systems, which on the surface sounded great, but in practice, wound up piled mile high in a graveyard of outdated contact data from applicants we never responded to beyond coldly automated “Thanks for applying” messages.

Just pick up that phone!

The truth is we live at a time where no machine or AI can yet fully replace a person picking up the phone and calling a candidate. A machine can send an impersonal email “thanks, but no thanks”, but it can not replace a constructive conversation between a professional recruiter and a concerned candidate and in fact is nowhere near doing so. It is way too early to heavily rely on technology in the very personal process of recruitment. Recruitment is highly personal as jobs equal livelihoods, hopes, and dreams. It has to be handled with care. The need for special care is what makes a critical difference in the candidate experience. I know very few companies that realize how personal each job application is and act accordingly. But I know of endless examples, when relevant candidates, who went through numerous interviews, never heard back from the hiring company. This is a common occurrence despite companies heavily investing in all sorts of live chat and best of breed HR information systems.

The vast amount of information that many internal recruiting teams have to deal with leaves them very little room to invest in human contact. Yet it is human contact that brings great candidates and that seals the deal. It is human contact that makes or breaks a brand and it is humans who make hiring decisions.

The recruitment industry is suffocating under a mountain of information that it is unable to use effectively. The recruitment process must slow down and revisit its roots where a high level of commitment to people is paramount. The effort to circumvent this fundamental aspect of professional recruitment has not proven effective. A proper balance between technological tools and the commitment to candidates as people is the only way forward.

It is a fragile, but necessary equilibrium; a careful blend of technological and human processes where recruitment success is found. The organizations that manage to get personal with their applicants are sure to win the war for talent. It is as easy as picking up the phone.

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