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Dos and Don’ts of Automating Your Candidate Experience

By CHAD GETCHELL
Leader of Innovation

On a sleepy Saturday morning, you grab your laptop and spend two hours applying to your dream job. It’s worth the extra cup of coffee because you like this role and company enough to ignore the annoyance of a long application. Finally, you submit your application. An instant later, you receive a reply in your inbox. “We regret to inform you that, after careful review, you are no longer being considered for this role.”

Maybe that PowerPoint proficiency question you skipped was a disqualifier? With such a general response, it’s hard to know. In the modern candidate’s world, rigid automation rules that lead to a message like the one above rarely make sense. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 82% of candidates report the ideal recruiter interaction is a mix between innovative technology and personal, human interaction. Employers should be on notice, too, as 72% of candidates who have a poor experience share it online, according to the Human Capital Institute.

In this article, we’ll define what automation is, the overall benefits of it, and specific examples of what to do and not do as the use of automation in talent acquisition grows.

What is Automation?

Automation is not new, but it is rapidly evolving. In the industrial revolution, for example, local weavers were replaced by machines that could perform the same tasks in factories. This was an example of a manual task that was replicated into a process and automated. At its most basic definition, automation is:

“The technique of making an apparatus, a process or a system operate automatically.” – Merriam Webster

What, then, is the relationship between automation and artificial intelligence (AI)? The two terms are sometimes confused and used interchangeably, but AI is defined as:

“ … the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.” – Investopedia

Types of AI include machine and deep learning. Machine learning involves computers that learn without being explicitly programmed; an example of this is sentiment analysis, in which computers make decisions about how individuals feel based on their activity on or off line. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that teaches computers to take the next step and learn in the same way that humans do. For example, machine learning is displayed when a driverless car recognizes a stop sign and stops.

Today, modern automation almost always involves AI. Finding and scheduling candidates via chatbots, for example, is a type of AI-infused automation in the world of talent acquisition. Automation using AI also includes tasks that were neither quantifiable nor automatable five years ago – such as measuring the interest level of passive candidates from social media metrics.

How Does Automation Affect Talent Acquisition?

When designed correctly, the right levels of automation help the recruiter and candidate create a better candidate experience.

Automation affects recruiters and candidates in different ways. For recruiters, automation helps reduce repetitive, administrative tasks – such as manual searching or appointment-setting – to focus more time on meaningful activities, like face-to-face interviews. On the other hand, automation can help make the process feel more personal for candidates through customized attention and added convenience in the job search by reducing the time it takes to apply. As an example, candidates know chatbots aren’t real people, but most appreciate the instant feedback bots give them.

While automation can be a game changer, there is such a thing as too much or the wrong type of automation. Each stage of the recruitment cycle has an “automation opportunity,” as well as an associated risk to the candidate experience; the risk may be low in the case of automating a candidate’s onboarding experience, for example. In comparison, the final stage of the hiring process is rarely automated and instead involves interviews conducted by humans.

The most effective automation tools have one or more of the following attributes:

  1. Ability to reach candidates in more meaningful ways. With automation, recruiters can have more timely, personalized interactions with candidates. For example, a retail candidate working at a pharmacy can receive email alerts about new roles matching their skills at another pharmacy as soon as the roles are posted.
  2. Ability to make the hiring process convenient and simple. Long gone are the applications that take two hours to complete. Instead, candidates fill out auto-populated applications catered to their interests and backgrounds in just five to 10 minutes.
  3. Ability to maximize recruiter productivity. As previously mentioned, automation can complete more manual tasks – such as passive sourcing 24/7 – freeing up more time for recruiters to work on activities that benefit from the human touch.
  4. Ability to deliver better performance metrics. With more data comes the opportunity to measure it more effectively. The digitization process helps make these metrics part of the recruiter’s ongoing dashboards to measure success.

How to Avoid Automation Flaws

Automation without the correct supervision can go awry. Consider the programmer who created a social media profile of a fish that was looking for a job. Algorithms took the bait and sent this qualified catfish profile requests for interviews based on keywords and a falsely construed online account. It certainly was fishy.

Here are some common automation mistakes to avoid so you don’t get caught on the hook:

  1. Putting your automation on auto-drive without ongoing input can create unintended bias. While the catfish profile is a more humorous example, you may recall a case study of what not to do from a leading online retailer. The company was hiring programmers, and while well-intentioned, accidentally built bias into the program based on patterns in its database of resumes from the past 10 years – which were mostly male. The company responded quickly, scrapping the program and retooling its efforts to make its profiles more gender-neutral. These types of mistakes are not only bad for your recruiting process and candidates, but can also create issues for your compliance and legal teams, as well.
  2. Too much automation can cause candidates to lose interest. This can occur when interactions lack a human element, causing candidates to tune out during the hiring process.
  3. Too much communication may make candidates disengage. Once a tipping point is reached, it’s hard to come back from a failed interaction; most people have experienced applying to a role and then receiving an influx of unwanted emails. Furthermore, for candidates looking at multiple job opportunities, less personalized forms of communication can create a quick change in interest.

How can these automation flaws be avoided? Test every automation step you incorporate into your hiring process – from both the experience of the recruiter and the candidate – all the way through the candidate journey. Are there any gaps you need to review or hazards you encounter? You can also pilot larger, more disruptive automations with a control group of internal employees to assess results. Make your mistakes up front, fix them, then release to a wider audience. If you think your automation strategies could create biases or a negative hiring experience, stop and retool.

You can also bring your partners along with you on your automation journey. For example, consider establishing an advisory committee to make sure concerns are alleviated, and conduct candidate evaluations to make sure the candidate experience is improved.

When Automation Works

So, when is automation helpful? In addition to eliminating manual tasks and creating time for recruiters to be more strategic, there are five key instances when automation benefits candidates and recruiters.

Automation helps when:

  1. It enhances the candidate experience. An example of this is sending an email to passive candidates asking them to apply. If this process is automated, the candidate gets an identical email, but the recruiter can focus time on other recruiting activities, instead of sending individual emails to multiple candidates.
  2. Flexibility or convenience is added to an existing recruiting process. This benefits recruiters by reducing manual work, by using text reminders to the candidate to select and systematically schedule an interview, for example. This way, the hiring manager and the candidate avoid playing phone tag.
  3. A recruiter can add a personal touch in an automated way. As an example, candidates interested in accounting roles can receive personalized content through career pages and only see positions that apply to their personal skillset when they search.
  4. High-volume positions create hundreds of applicants with a short interview process, such as during the holiday retail hiring season. Quick “yes” or “no” text screens with lower thresholds can help sort candidates through specific questions, such as availability and hourly salary requirements. Doing so helps bring in a smaller, more qualified applicant set to the interview process.
  5. Recruiters need to send reminders to a specific group of candidates. For instance, perhaps you want to invite to a hiring event candidates from the Midwest who have engineering degrees. In this case, automation rules can help determine a discrete set of candidates that meet these requirements and then send the alerts on your behalf.

Automation works well in specific parts of the recruiting process, depending on your target hire. For example, high-volume roles benefit from automated sourcing, screening and basic assessments, whereas only automating the search for passive candidates may be necessary for highly skilled roles.

Your Guidelines to the Dos & Don’ts of Automation

Keep these guidelines as you scale your automation rules to meet your talent acquisition goals.

Do:

  • Measure and phase in automation and measure again to determine effectiveness.
  • Involve everyone in the process to determine where automation makes the most sense.
  • Take advantage of A/B testing to help measure different ideas.
  • Treat every situation as unique; don’t assume that what works for one will work for another.
  • Remember that candidates want a personal touch, and what you don’t automate is as important as what you do.
  • Use your people to make critical decisions.

Don’t:

  • Proceed if it doesn’t feel like it’s best for your candidates.
  • Influence the candidate experience in a negative way.
  • Assume that automating your entire hiring process is the right thing for your business.
  • Make an automation change and assume it will work forever. Always be reevaluating!

Want to learn more about the positives and negatives of automating your candidate experience?

Check out this article’s accompanying webinar at peoplescout.com/webinars.

THE DOS & DON’TS OF AUTOMATING YOUR CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE

Key Takeaways

  • Finding the right balance between automation and human expertise is key to managing the influence of automation in talent acquisition.
  • When designed correctly, the right levels of automation help the recruiter and candidate enjoy a better recruiting experience.
  • When scaling your automation rules, the most important steps to remember are to plan, measure, test and phase in your automation changes over time, as well as make sure that all appropriate parties are involved in your decision-making.
  • Remain cautious and avoid automation elements that could damage the candidate or recruiter experience.

Legal Implications of Video Interviewing & Artificial Intelligence

By KYLE TRETHEWAY
Senior Corporate Counsel

People have always sought out new employment opportunities by convincing someone that they are the best choice. While the art of persuasion has not changed, technology and customs have shifted rapidly since the days of papyrus, vellum and fax machines; what was once strange and new becomes the norm, while the tried and true seem outdated. For instance, going door to door with the classifieds in search of work seems as absurd now as recording a video interview on your phone would have been just a few years ago. As technology matures and hiring practices change, it’s important for employers to understand the new solutions being put into place.

This article explores video interviewing and related technologies and some of the legal implications to keep in mind before implementing a new tool as part of your hiring process. Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Benefits of Video Interviewing

The most common form of video interviewing, and the subject of this article, is asynchronous or one-way interviewing, in which the candidate records answers to a series of predetermined questions on a laptop or smart device as part of the initial screening process. The recruiter or hiring manager is then able to review the candidate’s video and see how the questions were answered. There are a number of advantages to this approach to the hiring process.

Larger Candidate Pool

The hiring manager is able to review the interviews of a much larger pool of potential candidates. While a traditional interview might only be extended to the top five candidates, video interviewing allows the hiring manager to review every candidate who meets their other screening requirements. Additionally, candidates are not restricted to local markets, as interviews can be recorded from any location.

Consistency

The questions asked in the interview are consistent for all applicants. This allows for clear comparisons in responses. Furthermore, recording a set of pre-determined questions prevents interviewers from getting sidetracked or asking inappropriate or illegal questions during the interview. Finally, other decision-makers in the hiring process don’t need to rely on the impressions of the interviewer because the videos are available for review by multiple people.

Speed

Screening speed can increase with video interviewing because there is more flexibility for hiring managers. All questions are preset, so interviewers don’t need to spend time preparing for multiple individual interviews or coordinating schedules. Because the interviews are recorded, they can also be screened in batches and at convenient times for the reviewer.

PeopleScout’s Affinix™

The video interview and digital assessment capabilities of PeopleScout’s proprietary talent technology, Affinix, provides our clients with a clearer picture and more insight into potential employees. This simplifies the screening process, allowing PeopleScout to share top candidates with hiring managers faster. The video interview process embedded within the Affinix platform is easy to use:

Your team creates the questions you want candidates to answer. You can choose a combination of video, multiple-choice or essay-style questions as part of an assessment.

Candidates respond to your questions just like they would in a face-to-face interview; the only difference is that the responses are recorded and stored for you to review.

Your team evaluates, reviews and rates responses when convenient. Because responses are recorded, your team can go over answers as many times as needed, allowing for a more careful analysis of candidate responses than traditional, face-to-face interviews.

Built on the Amazon cloud (AWS – Amazon Web Services), Affinix is a stable and secure platform. All information is secured in the AWS cloud for you to access at your convenience. Using the digital interview capabilities of Affinix is a great way to replace or supplement telephone or first-round interviews.

Legal Implications to Keep in Mind

The advantages of video interviewing and other emerging technologies help promote a more consistent process that gives a greater number of candidates the opportunity to present themselves for consideration. However, the use of video interviewing technology does not absolve companies from their legal obligations in the hiring process from the risk of discriminatory practices; related technologies may even increase these risks. Companies should check with legal counsel, as well as human resources and information security experts, before adopting new hiring practices or technologies.

Emerging Technologies and Non-Discrimination

Video interviews have been around for a while. But, as they grow more common, new technologies emerge to complement them. One such technology is AI-assisted assessments, which use computers to analyze responses, facial gestures, intonations and other displayed characteristics to screen out applicants that fail to meet the requirements of the specific algorithm. While technology that can prevent the hiring manager from having to even physically watch the interview has a powerful allure, AI-assisted assessments are not yet proven to be effective or non-discriminatory. For instance, a leading online retailer encountered the unintended consequences of AI screening out protected classes of employees and determined that such solutions are not yet feasible. Plus, privacy advocates have requested government investigations into the secret algorithms used by a provider of AI-assisted interview technology. And, in the U.S., states are starting to look critically at AI-assisted hiring, with Illinois leading the way with new legislation.

In the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) allows for video interviewing, but the rules against non-discrimination in hiring and employment do not change. Meanwhile, record-keeping requirements apply equally to video interviews; if a candidate has a disability that prevents them from providing a video interview, the employer must provide an alternative method of applying. And, while it is not illegal to learn of an applicant’s disability, such knowledge cannot be used to discriminate against that applicant.

Technology cannot eliminate human prejudices, and there will always be a risk of discriminatory behavior by bad actors. However, this risk can be mitigated to some degree by good processes, which can include video interviewing for the reasons set forth above.

Internal Condsiderations

Internationally, the European Union has one of the most expansive digital privacy laws in the world. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects the data of EU citizens, giving them a broad array of rights including the “right to be forgotten.”

The regulation, which became official in May 2018, requires companies that recruit and process job applicant data to reveal all of the information they have on file about an individual when asked by the candidate. Under the GDPR, companies must rectify any inaccuracies and, at the candidate’s request, delete the information within 30 days.

The GDPR applies to all companies recruiting Europeans – regardless of whether the company itself is inside or outside EU borders. Fines for non-compliance to GDPR can amount up to a staggering 20M ($22.2 million USD), or 4% of a company’s global revenue, whichever is higher.

What’s more, in Australia, before an Australian Privacy Principal (APP) entity discloses personal information to an overseas recipient, the entity must take reasonable steps to ensure that the overseas recipient does not breach the APPs in relation to the information (APP 8.1).

An APP entity that discloses personal information to an overseas recipient is also accountable for any acts or practices of the overseas recipient in relation to the information that would breach the APPs (s 16C).

New technology will not eliminate the need for employers to have a compliant hiring process or absolve them from decision-making. But, carefully selected solutions like asynchronous video interviews can bring significant advantages for both hiring managers and potential employees. With more candidates able to apply and a more consistent experience for both sides, video interviews can benefit everyone.

PeopleScout’s Resourcing 2025

Imagine artificial intelligence that can source qualified candidates with near-instant speed and help improve outcomes for recruiters and candidates by making applying for a job simpler and more convenient. This is not a vision of the future or the wishful thinking of talent acquisition and workforce management leaders. This is real and existing technology — and it is transforming the world of talent acquisition as we know it.

In September 2019, PeopleScout introduced its award-winning Affinix™ technology in Europe to help employers expedite and simplify the process of acquiring new talent. The power of Affinix was on display at PeopleScout’s exclusive Resourcing 2025 event at London’s world-renowned Science Museum.

Resourcing 2025 brought together industry leaders, analysts and prominent technology experts to consider the future of talent acquisition. At the event, attendees explored the rapidly evolving recruitment landscape and the way that AI and other technologies can benefit and challenge the way we engage with talent.

Resourcing 2025 featured keynote speaker Dr. Rand Hindi, a data scientist and entrepreneur. Dr. Hindi described recent developments in AI and machine learning and their implications on the talent landscape of the future. He shared that, for the best results, AI and humans will need to work together to make recruitment decisions. AI provides speed, accuracy and algorithms, while humans contribute empathy, emotional intelligence and the ability to solve logical paradoxes.

Based on the lively discussion that occurred that evening and in follow-up on how to strike the right balance between human and machine, we expect this to remain a hot topic in 2020 and beyond.

Inside London’s Science Museum.

The entrance to PeopleScout’s Resourcing 2025 at London’s Science Museum.

Andrew Wilkinson, Executive Leader, Group Managing Director – EMEA & APAC at Resourcing 2025.

Dr. Rand Hindi speaking at Resourcing 2025.

Allison Brigden, Global Leader of Affinix Success & Strategy, presenting at Resourcing 2025.

Listen to Dr.Hindi’s presentation on our Talking Talent podcast at peoplescout.com/podcast.

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