Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have evolved to a point where they can play a significant role in talent matching and HR leaders need to take advantage of this technology to improve talent acquisition outcomes, according to Indeed’s senior vice president of HR, Paul Wolfe.
There are multiple layers and steps to hiring the right candidate, and Wolfe said that talent matching algorithms, AI and machine learning could play a particularly important role in screening out unsuitable applicants and identifying the best candidates for a job.
“Instead of HR getting 300 applications for a job, the technology can help sift through these candidates and present the top 15 matches for what they are looking for, from both an objective and a subjective perspective,” he said.
“There are many inefficiencies in recruiting today, such as scheduling candidates and screening resumes, and this is where technology can help.”
Wolfe, who recently spoke at the Indeed Interactive conference, previously served as the head of HR for dating website match.com and explained that there are a lot of similarities between online matching of couples for dating and matching candidates with employers.
“The steps you go through in dating to find your soulmate to are a strong parallel to the steps you go through in recruiting to find the right job or to find the right candidate,” he said.
“It’s just a different relationship at the end of the cycle, but it is about kind of looking for the same things.”
Perfecting the recruitment process
Rethinking job descriptions is also important in improving the talent matching process, and Wolfe said that job descriptions need to really talk to the right candidate – almost like writing them a letter.
“Rather than being a static document, job descriptions need to be written in a way that candidates can visualise themselves in the role,” said Wolfe, who gave the recent example of hiring for a chief of staff for HR role.
Rather than copying and pasting from a template or other job descriptions, he started with a blank Word document and wrote the description from the second person, using the “you” perspective instead of saying “the candidate” – hoping they could see themselves in the role.
A passive candidate saw the job description and applied for the job, and about 20 minutes into the interview Wolfe said he knew he wanted to hire her.
However, she was overqualified for the role – but ideal for an upcoming VP HR role that Indeed had not yet commenced recruiting for.
“The steps you go through in dating to find your soulmate to are a strong parallel to the steps you go through in recruiting to find the right job or to find the right candidate”
Wolfe was transparent with her and asked if she would like to learn more about this role, and after a few more weeks of additional interviews, the candidate accepted the VP HR role.
She told me: “The reason I applied for the job is because of the job description; because you were describing me as a person, and not this candidate that seems tangentially related to that,” said Wolfe.
“The job description is what initially drew the candidate to the position and to Indeed, and then the recruitment connection with her was crucial to moving the process forward and finding the right place for her.
“As recruiters, we have to use our intuition and relationships to find the right match, without letting candidates slip through the cracks.”
This is where understanding the subjective aspects of a role and company are particularly important in talent matching, according to Wolfe.
“So, what type of culture does the company have, what kind of company culture is the candidate looking for, and what type of leader are they looking for?” he asked.
“People want to know what it’s like to work at a company from somebody who already works there, to get a feel for what it’s really like, and this might be an existing employee or a recruiter who is well connected to the company.”
To assist in this process, Indeed hosts a number of open houses and hiring events at different locations around the world with a focus mostly on sales and client success, in addition to other functions including engineering, technical operations, IT support, marketing and HR.
“Creating these environments where candidates can come in and learn about a company is important,” he said.
The next step in the process is setting the stage for what the interview process is like, followed by salary negotiations.
“We’ve not seen a technology that’s been able to do all of those things yet, but I think technology will continue to evolve and automate different parts to make things more efficient,” he said.
For the foreseeable future, Wolfe said good recruiters are still required to help identify candidates that would be a good fit for companies and perfect the talent matching process.
“I still believe, at least for the foreseeable future, that there is a human side of hiring that’s going to require a recruiter, and this is really important,” he said.
“Intuition plays a big role in being a good recruiter, and it’s this subjective understanding layered on top of technology that can help in finding placing the right candidate in the right role.”
“We have to use our intuition and relationships to find the right match, without letting candidates slip through the cracks”
The evolving role of HR
The role of HR is evolving rapidly as well, and Wolfe said it is important to think differently about the employee population and their changing needs.
“We’ve got to continue to evolve with how people think about work,” said Wolfe, who observed that the gig economy is pushing HR and organisations to think differently about employment.
Another challenge for HR is generational, with five generations coming together in the workplace – and this requires a different kind of thinking on the part of HR.
“People like to absorb information differently and people like to learn differently,” said Wolfe.
“There’s a lot written about Gen Z and Millennials, which is true to an extent – but they tend to get labeled as a result.”
HR leaders can’t do the same thing they’ve been doing historically, but should understand the business strategy and keep up with business challenges, he said.
For example, the HR team within Indeed is consistently trying and testing different approaches, which are supported by metrics and data from within the company.
“From an HR perspective, we just adopted this product development mentality where we’ll come up with a minimum viable product, call it a program and put it out there and test it with a small group of Indeedians – then get feedback, iterate and let it evolve,” he said.
“Now if I dialed back my career 10 years ago in my career, the expectation would be that HR is going to work on a program, wrap it up with a nice little bow and then implement – but that way of thinking doesn’t work any longer.
“And the approach used to be that ‘one-size-fits-all, but now I think it’s ‘one-size-breaks-all’ and I need the ability to be flexible – especially as a global company across different regions, and even in different states or cities in the US.
“So there still has to be a foundation, but the nuances actually make for better programs and certainly make for a better employee experience,” he said.