Resolution: Keep the human in HR

When hiring humans, technology is not a panacea
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/01/2019

One of the HR profession’s core mandates is recruitment. Finding the best talent is arguably the biggest difference maker for any organization.

While we have seen fascinating strides in technology, from cutting-edge applicant tracking systems to artificial intelligence (AI), we’re still a long way from taking the human out of human resources. I’ll go out on a limb and say it will never happen — and should never happen — when it comes to recruitment.

You don’t have to dig deep to find disgruntled chatter from jobseekers about the application process. It has become too automated, too impersonal and frankly too easy to apply for many positions. And algorithms don’t always do a great job of shortlisting truly top candidates.

Abandon AI

One of the more fascinating HR stories I read recently was written by editor/supervisor Sarah Dobson for the December issue, and posted to hrreporter.com. Titled “Is AI biased in recruitment?” it looked into Amazon’s use — and eventual abandonment — of AI in sorting through resumés.

The problem? It was biased against women and screened in too many unqualified applicants. Which, really, we don’t need a machine to do — we’ve already, unfortunately, mastered those processes.

Perhaps abandoning AI is too drastic, but proceed with caution and skepticism. It can be a useful tool, but everything in moderation.

Ditch the one-click

This won’t be popular among jobseekers, but I’m not a fan of LinkedIn’s one-click application process. It lets you apply simply by clicking “apply” and moving your LinkedIn profile to the hiring company. Does it get you a good quantity of applicants? Undoubtedly.

But if I can sit at my desk and apply for 15 jobs in 15 minutes, that’s not doing the employer any favours. We’re talking about careers, not speed dating.

Bring back the cover letter

I’m amazed at how many positions don’t require a cover letter. That’s a mistake, for most positions. Sure, if you’re doing mass hiring to staff up a retail location for the busy holiday season, or hiring students at McDonald’s, you can forego the need for a cover letter.  But for most openings, you should want to see a cover letter that specifically addresses the job.

It accomplishes so many things — first, it weeds out the casual speed-daters hoping to win the job lottery. Second, it demonstrates the candidate’s understanding of the job and your organization. You want people who have a passion for their profession, and a strong desire and belief in the company’s mandate.

Third, it can tell you a lot about a candidate. How well can she communicate? Can she spell? Does she know the basics of grammar? These are critical skills in an era where so much communication takes place in written form.

Stop making me create a profile

The first step in many application processes is logging in to the careers portal of the organization. This is a head-scratcher. For most professionals, there are essentially one or two jobs in any company they are qualified for and interested in — why are you asking them to create a username and overly complicated password?

It almost feels like a message from the hiring gods: “You have no shot at getting this job, but create a profile and keep coming back regularly and applying for all our jobs and maybe, just maybe, you’ll eventually get lucky.”

It’s not a great first impression.

Don’t rely on keywords

Recruitment technology often parses resumés for certain keywords. If a candidate happens to miss one of these in his brief resumés, it won’t land in front of a human. It’s time-consuming, but every resumé should be reviewed by a recruiter.

Plus, one of my favourite jobseeking stories came from a guy who gamed the system by including every keyword under the sun — hidden in four-point text, in an invisible white font, at the bottom of his CV.

Don’t forget to say ‘Thanks, but no thanks’

Yes, 99.99 per cent of the candidates who apply will not get the job. But every single one of them deserves a response. Here, we can sing the praises of automation. For jobseekers who are screened out, a form email will do just fine.

For people who came in for live interviews or via video conferencing, a more personal touch is required. Don’t skip this step — it doesn’t take much time and says a lot about your organization.

While technology can do amazing things, and make the lives of recruiters easy, it’s not a panacea. We’re hiring humans, after all, and nothing can replace human judgment. Instead of investing in technology and AI, keep the focus on bias-free hiring and finding the best candidates.

That has always been, and will always be, the heart of great HR.

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