by Sarah K. White

4 ways technology has changed recruitment — for better (and worse)

Mar 15, 2017
CareersIT JobsIT Skills

Technology has influenced and changed the way recruiters and hiring managers do their jobs. Here are 4 ways tech is already impacting the hiring process.

Businessman selecting a group of people.
Credit: Thinkstock

From professional networking sites and job boards to online applicant systems, technology has revolutionized recruitment, profoundly changing how employers and recruiters find potential candidates. For example, applicant tracking systems and new AI software can help HR departments manage the massive influx of resumes they receive daily, says Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd, a business software review platform. But, while technology can offer easy solutions, it often has a way of creating new problems in the process.

“The new AI-powered systems can do a great job sorting through candidates, but the risk is that non-traditional candidates or candidates with unusual experience that might be a very good fit could fall through the rules-based system, even one that learns and improves with ‘experience’,” he says.

While applicant tracking systems might be the most obvious way technology has impacted recruitment, it has changed far more behind the scenes. Here are four ways technology has changed recruitment forever, and how the industry has had to adapt.

[ Related story: Top 10 recruiting software platforms ]

Data overload in recruitment

Businesses can’t get enough of big data – and it’s certainly valuable in recruitment – but there is such a thing as too much data. And, considering that IDC predicts big data and analytics will grow from $130.1 billion in 2016 to over $203 billion in 2020, it doesn’t look like companies will start taking a more minimalist approach anytime soon.

“More data is not always a good thing if you don’t know what to do with it. They say knowledge is power, but in the wrong hands or with the inability of how to use that knowledge, it can be detrimental and damaging,” says Jeff Mills, director of solution management and talent acquisition at SAP SuccessFactors, a company that offers software for human resources.

More data means more confusion, allowing tiny details to “skew process and drive people to take action on things that don’t matter, while ignoring the real underlying problems with the recruiting function.”

And, as Fauscette points out, analytics and AI are only getting “more intelligent,” with some systems so finely tuned that they can boil a pile of resumes down to one applicant who will be the best fit. As these systems grow and evolve into more sophisticated platforms, they’re only getting more complex to maintain.

That’s why Mills suggests hiring a data scientist or analyst to help make sense of the information, and to maintain the software and hardware used to collect and store the data. Otherwise, businesses run the risk of finding themselves with more data than they know what to do with, which can create more chaos and waste resources.

[ Related story: 7 job boards that focus on remote tech jobs ]

Global reach to find potential candidates

Technology hasn’t just made it easier to apply to jobs, it has also made it easier for businesses to find qualified candidates anywhere in the world. Recruiters can now scan job boards and professional network sites, like LinkedIn, for qualified candidates with the right skills – without the limits of geography.

According to research from Global Workplace Analytics, it’s estimated that nearly half of the US workforce holds a job that is “compatible with a least partial telework” and that 20 to 25 percent of the workforce “teleworks at some frequency.” Meanwhile, 80 to 90 percent of the US workforce says they “would like to telework at least part time” for two or three days a week.

With so many eager candidates looking to telecommute, it makes it easier for recruiters to reach out to candidates they may have overlooked due to location. And it opens a recruiter’s reach to find professionals with a specific skill set that they can’t find locally.

“Recruiters are no longer limited to newspaper distribution and a file of known candidates; this means tapping into a significantly larger talent pool, a more diverse pool – both of which help competitiveness of companies and expand their abilities to innovate and service customers,” says Mills.

Eliminating, or introducing, bias

There is a laundry list of reasons why unconscious bias in hiring hurts companies, but beyond the obvious implications around equality in the workplace, a strong case can be made that diversity can make a business more successful. In one study, Intel cited diversity as a “massive economic opportunity” – to the tune of $470 to $570 billion. Intel estimates that better diversity in tech could add anywhere from 1.2 to 1.6 percent to the national GDP.

And new technology can help businesses not only remove unconscious bias by eliminating anything from a resume that might identify gender or race, but it can also help bring a specific bias into the recruitment process. For example, if a company looks at their workforce and realizes they have predominantly male developers, they can use technology to target female developers in the recruitment process, says Mills.

It can also help companies evaluate their job descriptions to identify any biases in the phrasing, says Mills. Studies even show that “gendered wording” in job descriptions can unintentionally encourage a hiring bias.

“No matter how much a recruiter or HR rep tries to be unbiased and balanced, there often is some level of selection bias present. The AI-based systems, assuming there are no biases in the algorithm of course, doesn’t suffer from the same tendencies,” says Fauscette.

More flexibility at the expense of control

Mills says it’s been a difficult shift for businesses to give up a sense of control over the workforce. Even with the ability to hire workers from anywhere around the world that there’s an internet connection, some businesses are still reluctant to embrace telecommuting.

But companies that can get comfortable with the new digital workforce stand to gain more in employee engagement. Mills says allowing employees the freedom to work however they work best – whether from home, in an office or from a coffee shop – creates a shift where employees start working from a position of “desired duty” instead of “required duty.”

“This flexibility creates an overall sense of ownership; employees feel like they own their own career paths. The phrase ‘pride of ownership’ exists for a reason,” he says.

Technology presents endless tools and resources for HR, and the best way to figure out how they can improve your hiring process is through trial and error, says Mills.

“Operate with a scientific methodology mindset. Observe, question, hypothesize, experiment and analyze. Look at sourcing new channels, try new regions, colleges or leveraging social to build mindset and trust. Break the mold of how you think recruiting should operate. Talk to advertising and PR agencies to help find new approaches. Just be smart about it,” he says.

Related Video