In recent years, the automation of recruiting and hiring has developed beyond the traditional job boards of yesterday (if we can consider the early Internet traditional) and into outreach and applicant tracking systems.
These systems have helped companies keep their cool during the exponential increase in resumes and cover letters received since job listings left newspapers for the web.
Still, in the eyes of some HR thought leaders, recruiting technology hasn't quite gotten where it needs to be. Career-based sites like LinkedIn have begun developing outreach systems to passive candidates on behalf of companies. (Ever get the emails from the social network that read "Company X, Company Y, and Company Z are looking for candidates like you"?)
This kind of automated outreach points to what experts expect to see soon from recruiting technology: Advanced outreach specifically tailored to specific candidates and based on more than the employment and education information they've listed on the Internet. And we can expect to begin answering a big question: Will human managers ever be fully removed from the recruiting and hiring process?
The Near Future of Recruiting
That sort of active recruiting is at the heart of what Lou Adler, CEO of search and training firm the Adler Group, sees as the way forward in hiring and recruiting technology. Adler takes issue with most such tech to this point, which he says is "still about weeding out the weak rather than finding the best."
That is, most recruiting technology works by collecting a bunch of potential recruits and chopping off those who don't meet certain qualifications, or don't use certain buzzwords in their resumes or cover letters. This sort of parsing generally isn't the best way to make talent judgments.
Advancements, Adler says, should aim for more active initiatives to find the right candidate. That means not letting computers make judgments based exclusively on a minimum number of years of experience or certain degrees, but finding ways to judge skill and ability, and to predict success in a given role, based on available information and data. Think of it as the smartification of the recruiting process.
Oh, the Humanity
And ironically, Adler suggests, companies will benefit from a more human touch. Even if it's robots shooting off the recruiting messages, Adler thinks messages with an the hiring manager's actual name on them work best, and that the software should find ways to emphasize specific applicant.
Adler says the best recruiting technology will ultimately craft the kind of "decision tree" processes that go into sales and marketing software. For instance, the first recruiting note might be an introduction and an invitation to apply to a position. Once the person applies, they might be hit with a message thanking them for doing so and explaining the next steps. Or if they go a week without responding to the message, they might get hit with another message. And so on. Adler likens this to the kind of upselling processes used by ecommerce sites, repurposed for HR.
It's not for nothing that Adler makes a sales and marketing comparison. He thinks techies should be working with marketers in developing the next wave of recruiting software, and faults the shortcomings he's seen in previous recruiting tech with leaving it solely to technologists. Marketers, he surmises, would help make sure the right people are targeted--after all, that's what they're paid to do.
That suggestion speaks to a greater truth: It is unlikely that the "human" will ever be taken out of human resources, at least in terms of what the department does. Adler thinks managers will be slow to totally hand off their entire recruiting processes to machines. "If I'm going to hire you, I'm going to want to meet you," he says.
Sharlyn Lauby, the president of HR consultancy ITM Group and author of the HR Bartender blog, agrees. "When you automate the right tasks, then it frees up time to do the in-person ones better," she tells Inc.
But to a degree, even tasks best served in person are facilitated by technology.
Technology Has Its Place
For instance, Lauby expects 2014 to see more companies embrace Skype and other video services for interviewing.
And for collaborative interviews, where multiple people at your company interview each candidate, Lauby says software is being developed to help share notes on given candidates, that can be integrated with other candidate tracking applications. Quick workarounds on this front would include cloud-based documents.
These aren't necessarily groundbreaking ideas, but they do show the ways technology is being integrated even into the most human elements of the hiring process.
As for big changes on the recruiting tech horizon, Lauby sees a major space for software that helps to organize and manage contingent workforces, like contractors and freelancers. The merger between freelance marketplaces oDesk and Elance last month might represent one major step in this direction.
Lauby cautions that recruiting technologies whose goals are limited to identifying the right candidate or to making things easier on an HR department inundated with resumes aren't going to do much. They need to also make sure to improve the candidate experience.
DIY Recruiting Tech
Joris Luijke, the vice president of human resources at Squarespace, writes on his Culture Hacking blog about some of the at-home ways to leverage tech to create an overall better experience for candidates.
For one, he suggests setting up automatic reminders for all candidates so that you're alerted when a candidate hasn't heard from you in a while. Luijke writes of his team's experience doing so: "Every day, our recruitment team browses through this list. The automation allows us to find those people whom we have forgotten to give a status update in time. This means candidates know the outcome faster and we don’t miss people in the process. In some ways, this simple automation has made our process more 'human.'"
Luijke also suggests using, at the end of the hiring process, candidate satisfaction surveys--surveys that measure how well all candidates considered for a position felt about the process. This helps you gather data on how your company's recruiting process is perceived, and has the added benefit of keeping the lines of communication open with somebody who might have been your second or third choice.