January 10, 2020

The Machines Can’t Make Your Hires: Why Recruiters Will Take a Step Away From Tech Aids in 2020 


Over the last decade, we’ve watched as hiring and recruiting processes have become largely automated. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

Who would argue that keyword-reading software didn’t become an industry-saving necessity once sites like LinkedIn and Monster arrived on the scene, allowing every yahoo with a resume to apply to any job they took a shine to?

But since then, have we started to rely too much on automation? Have technical aids assumed too large a role in recruiting?

I think so — and I think other recruiters feel the same way. In fact, 2020 may be the year recruiters begin to step back from technology-based hiring and gratefully return to the HR fundamentals of old, like face-to-face interviews. They will put a premium on phone calls and conversations — and on a candidate’s own capabilities when it comes to employing soft skills.

Why? Many top recruiters I’ve spoken with have come to the conclusion that too much of the decision-making process has been delegated to algorithms and other forms of tech wizardry. And that’s come at a steep price.

The Apps Aren’t as Good at Vetting as You Think

The financial firms I work with, for example, place a lot of trust in quantifiable numbers and math. That’s why they initially welcomed recruiting platforms that eliminated the headhunters and other middlemen from the equation. Unfortunately, those same firms have since come to realize they’ve hired more than a few unqualified or underqualified applicants. When it comes to filling key positions, the numbers don’t always find the perfect match, especially when it comes to characteristics like workplace culture fit. Many of these firms have actually lost out on hiring some great candidates because of this.

It’s no secret that the relationship between recruiter and applicant is always much stronger when it’s forged with phone calls and in-person meetings. You get to know the applicant more thoroughly; you discover what their career aspirations are and what kind of people skills they possess. Emails and text messages are ill-suited for the kind of communication required in recruiting. The written word can lack subtlety and nuance; it can be easily misinterpreted and misread. In person, however, a miscommunication can be cleared up immediately, questions can be answered right away, a laugh can be shared, and a genuine relationship can be forged.

Sadly, in conjunction with the rise of automation over the last few years, I’ve met candidates who don’t want to do anything more than email you their resume. Millennial-age and younger candidates have grown up communicating via short texts and media posts. It’s how they do most of their communication, and because of that, they don’t always readily engage during phone or in-person conversations. They may lack many of the skills we would define as “articulation” — but that alone is a clear indicator a candidate might lack the soft skills that would make them a success in a position.

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But not every candidate feels this way. In fact, I’ve heard from many applicants that they miss the personal touch in the hiring process. They tell me they value a shorter recruitment timeline, more transparency during the process, and a more personalized experience. They are frustrated that they can’t clearly demonstrate their skills and abilities because technology now dictates so much of the pregame.

This isn’t to say technology has been an entirely bad thing for recruiters. However, algorithms are letting through a lot of weak recruits, and if there’s one thing we know from experience, it’s that hiring the wrong person for a business-critical position can be disastrous in the short term and very expensive to rectify in the long term. Character evaluations, body language, and — dare I say it — gut feeling have all proven to be better vetting methods than anything AI-powered software has delivered. At least for now.

Putting the Myth of Fully Automated Recruiting to Rest

Recruiters are rediscovering how valuable face-to-face communication is, and in 2020, they intend to do much more of it. This year is shaping up to be one of the most complex hiring environments we’ve ever seen — and we may finally put to rest the myth that hiring can be successfully managed by apps and algorithms. It surprises me how many firms still think they can fill a VP position using a software platform and a final interview.

In the end, identifying and cultivating top performers is a science, best left to flesh-and-blood professionals who make it their job to study the changing recruitment market every day. The best recruiters understand the menu of different ways to communicate with strong candidates. They use the right mix of technology and traditional soft skills to uncover those elusive indicators that signal whether a prospect is a good fit for the position and the company’s culture as a whole. That’s a methodology too important to leave up to running numbers and unreliable programs.

Paul Solomon is founder and CEO of Solo Management, Inc., Recruitment Services.

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Paul Solomon is a recruitment expert and president of Solo Management, a New York-based executive recruiting firm specializing in the banking and brokerage industries. He has more than 30 years of recruitment experience for Wall Street firms and other top financial institutions.