Technology: HR Friend or Foe?

By Joe Stubblebine

As new technology changes the way HR professionals find, hire, and train employees, job seekers reveal mixed reactions as to how far they are willing to let tech take over.

In many ways, technology has made our lives simpler – we wake up to our alarms, grab a cup of our pre-programmed coffee, ask Siri about the day’s weather forecast and start our cars remotely before using Bluetooth to dial in to a conference call on our commute.

But at the same time technology has also made our lives more complicated by creating a barrier – albeit in screen form – that often inhibits face-to-face interactions and impedes our ability to read social cues.

Innovations in technology – like video, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) – are changing the workplace, but at what cost? HR professionals, in particular, are tasked with finding the perfect balance between using technology to support their organization’s processes while maintaining the human element that is essential to recruit, hire, and retain top talent.

Beyond recently conducted a national survey of more than 6,000 job seekers to learn more about their preferences surrounding the use of technology in the hiring process, revealing a mixed reaction. Despite respondents not wanting computers to judge their qualifications or make hiring decisions, many see the benefits of incorporating such technologies somewhere in the hiring system, with 73 percent reporting that technology has actually improved the process.

One way HR pros are leveraging technology that job seekers are rapidly embracing is text messaging.

In the past, it was fairly easy to fill most jobs through the “post and pray” recruitment method, or placing a job advertisement online with hopes that candidates with the right qualifications will find it and apply. But as the job market tightens, it becomes more important for recruiters to create targeted campaigns that reach different types of job seekers with different messages at different times. But finding the right candidates means nothing if you can’t get their attention. Recruiters will only be successful if they are able to target and communicate with candidates through channels that are convenient for them. Today, that key channel is the text message.

While job advertising is still used to reach active candidates, advancements like text recruiting enable HR professionals to start a conversation with passive or high-demand candidates, for instance, like nurses, who generally don’t spend time looking at job ads. Text advertising starts the conversation and demonstrates interest in a way that candidates respond to.

Another recent survey Beyond conducted found that 73 percent of job seekers want to receive job openings via text, which may be due to the convenience factor – 65 percent of job seekers already use their mobile device at least once a day for job-search purposes, and 78 percent of mobile users check their phones within the first hour of waking up in the morning.

We took that information and applied it to our recruitment strategy, designing text-messaging campaigns that enable recruiters to choose their audience from among our opt-in list of approximately five million professionals. Recruiters then create their message and communicate with only those qualified job seekers in real-time. This real-time interaction with highly qualified candidates fills open positions fast.

Our campaigns are supported by software that enables employers to send their text message to the target group of candidates, then interface with them individually on a desktop. This human element results in more personalized conversations that can decipher a candidate’s interest in the job and their relevant skills.

We found that text-message campaigns have a 97-percent open rate – far greater than most email campaigns. Did you know that the open rate for email is 17 to 20 percent? One text campaign, for example, was sent to a mere 330 candidates, but because it was precisely targeted using keywords, job titles and candidates’ geographic locations the campaign resulted in five hires.

While they embrace technology as a recruitment tool, job seekers are concerned that it could negatively impact the interview process. In fact, the majority of respondents (56 percent) said technology has already made the interview process too impersonal, with more than half reporting that commonly used video applications like Skype interfere with a hiring manager’s ability to accurately evaluate a candidate’s soft skills. As video becomes common place and new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) make their way into the interview process, job seekers are even more anxious about advanced technologies’ roles in determining if they get hired.

According to the survey, 76 percent of job seekers believe VR job simulations will become common in the interview process, but 67 percent also said requiring these simulations would deter candidates from applying. Respondents who would not participate in a VR simulation believe that it wouldn’t accurately reflect their ability to perform their job (53 percent). When it comes to a more intellectual evaluation, job seekers don’t think AI can get it right, either. Of the skeptics, nearly 70 percent of respondents said that AI is dangerous and will likely result in formulaic hires that may leave great candidates without job offers.

Despite their hesitation to embrace technology in the interview process, job seekers welcome tech’s ability to improve their individual skillsets. Of those who see the benefits of tech in the hiring process, 70 percent believe answering questions from a lifelike robot via AI could help them prepare for an interview, and 58 percent said the greatest benefit of VR simulations is that they can offer a firsthand glimpse into the job to make sure it aligns with the candidate’s desired role.

Most job seekers still believe human evaluation is critical in hiring, with 73 percent saying in-person interviews will not become obsolete. But that’s not to say that tech won’t play a major role in the future of the interview process – the majority of respondents believe VR has legs in areas beyond hiring and recruitment. More than 80 percent of survey respondents agreed that VR simulations should be used in educational and training sessions, 71 percent think these applications would be beneficial in providing virtual office tours, and 69 percent think VR simulations should be used in virtual job descriptions.

While not every industry would benefit from this kind of technology, respondents stated that those in the fields of technology (66 percent) and manufacturing (54 percent) would benefit most from VR simulations.

HR professionals are best served by employing technology that complements their face-to-face hiring practices – for now. Job seekers are scared by the possibility of a computer interviewing them or making the hiring decision. And probably with good reason, as computers often contribute to a less personal experience. At the same time, people have come to embrace technology in many areas of the job search, with most people searching for jobs almost exclusively online, relying on computers and algorithms to match them with ideal opportunities. While it’s likely that one day most job seekers will accept technology’s place at the interview table, today companies that are eager to employ tech in the interview process would be wise to include an option for some old-fashioned personal interaction.

Joe Stubblebine, Vice President Talent Solutions at Beyond, The Career Network

Joe Stubblebine, Vice President
Talent Solutions at Beyond,
The Career Network