Job interviews are an inexact science. You scan the candidate's resume, ask questions to fill in the blanks, ask questions to determine skills, qualifications, cultural fit... and then you hope you make the right decision.

No matter how many interviews you've conducted, though, you're never sure.

Technology is changing that equation, though -- in how candidates are sourced, in how interviews are conducted, in how skills are assessed...

To find out how, I talked with Jonathan Kestenbaum, the Managing Director of Talent Tech Labs, an innovation lab focused on talent acquisition technology. (Talent Tech Labs researches, validates, and helps accelerates emerging talent acquisition technologies... so yeah, he knows what he's talking about.)

As an interviewer, one of my biggest struggles was evaluating skill. Not experience, but skill.

That's why we sometimes like to call this "the year of assessment."

Basically we see three different types of assessment. There are skill-based assessment technologies, behavioral or psychometric assessment technologies, and simulation-based technologies.

Assessments aren't new, but the way you conduct them is. Instead of having a candidate take a 40-minute test to find out if they're a cultural fit, they can now play games. Mercer Match, Arctic Shores... they let you play games and derive a psychometric analysis for the candidate.

Plus candidates can find out their results before they apply -- that way they'll know they're a cultural fit for your company.

Cultural fit goes both ways; the employee cares just as much as the employer.

Absolutely. Finding out ahead of time is great for the candidate, too, since learning that a particular company may not be right for you avoids wasting time engaging in an application process for a job that isn't right for you.

Then there are skill-based assessment technologies. Say, for example, you need someone with JavaScript skills. Companies like CodeEval let you test a candidate in JavaScript or Ruby on Rails to see how well they code.

My personal favorites are simulation-based technologies. Companies like GapJumpers let you put the candidate through a job simulation. Say you're looking for a call center rep: you could simulate a nasty email from a customer and see how the candidate responds?

Simulation-based technologies let you give candidates scenarios and objectively evaluate how they respond.

While those aren't manual processes, they do require the candidate to "feed" your employee selection system.

A big change is taking place. Instead of an assessment system where a candidate has to pump out a lot of information to feed the system, now there are systems that provide automated analysis.

Say I do a video interview. Not only can the company assess my answers, the system can analyze things like my facial movements and voice changes and they deliver other results, like whether I appear to be telling the truth, or when I'm making things up. Some of the technologies analyze yo without you realizing you're being analyzed, and definitely without you as the candidate having to feed the system.

Then there are technologies that are automated phone interviews: the robot analyzes the job description and the candidate's resume and asks questions to fill in the blanks.

Systems are analyzing things like words spoken per minute, fluency in language... assessments are increasingly a lot less about the candidate putting information in.

That's definitely true for technologies that go out on the web to scan information about you: Comments you made, photos you posted, etc. The goal is to gather information that is searchable and helps the company know the candidate on a deeper level than just meeting them one time for an interview. The interview still matters, but technology can provide a much bigger picture.

So say I'm a job candidate and I have to navigate the changing world of getting hired. Tips?

Absolutely. But before we start, as a candidate keep in mind that the tools we're talking about actually help create diversity in an organization. The technologies don't care where you went to school, or what you look like... they just whether you can you do the job, have the skills, do it under the scenarios that tend to occur, whether you will fit into the team...and that makes the company a more diverse workplace, because people who meet those criteria come from all sorts of backgrounds.

That makes sense, since the more objective the process, the more likely the right candidate gets the job.

"Right candidate" also applies to making sure the job is a good fit, so my first tip for job candidates is to be yourself. The more authentic and genuine you are, the better the technology and the people doing the hiring can match you with the right role in their organization.

Ultimately a good company wants its employees to be in roles they want. They want you to like your job, feel good about your job, and stick around. That can only happen when you're open about who you are and what you're looking for.

Next, be careful about what you put online because it will follow you wherever you go, now more than ever. Do your best not to have to look back and explain why you did or said something.

And then make sure you apply for jobs that truly are a good fit for you. Companies understand there will be some degree of training they need to provide, but it's still up to you to apply for jobs that match your skill set and cultural fit.

But also keep in mind you can acquire any skills you're missing; there are so many ways you can learn. You don't have to have a grad degree to apply for a new job. You just have to be able to show that you can do the job. How you learned the skills necessary doesn't really matter.

Now flip it around: How can companies take advantage of advancements in talent acquisition technology?

The past couple years were all about sourcing tools: Finding candidates and getting people interested in the jobs you posted. Technologies were created for social sourcing, aggregating profiles, and creating searchable databases for companies to find candidates.

Tools tools exist to help find the people who should apply -- getting them to apply, turning them from prospects into candidates -- we call those tools candidate relationship management tools. Companies like Clinch, SmashFly, Phenom People... their tools allow companies to email, text, send ads, etc. to all the candidates that should apply.

Those CRMs (candidate relationship management tools, not customer management relationship tools) are now being adopted -- and we can find and engage candidates, so the next key step is to assess every candidate as accurately as possible.

Assessments can be conducted at different points in the hiring process. A lot of information can be extracted automatically. That's why many companies, from small business to enterprise level, are embracing assessment technology.

Ultimately the goal for the company is to hire the right candidate. Ultimately the goal for the job seeker is to find the right job.

People are what make a business succeed... so anything you can do that helps you find the right people is definitely worth doing.

Published on: Apr 24, 2017
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