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Is Digital Personalization in Recruiting an Oxymoron?

By Brent Ellis

There is no shortage of talent acquisition technology vendors who claim to have created tools that solve the challenge of sourcing the best candidates. These vendors profess machine learning magic, gamification unicorns and other new-next tools that will miraculously discover candidate gold. Right? But, has sourcing innovation missed a key factor? Has the digitalization of recruiting forgotten that applicants are humans and human behavior is predictable?

The best candidates are either currently working for you, they have worked for you in the past, or they are working for your competitors. These are the illusive passive candidates. What makes passives illusive and hard to catch is that recruiters do not know when to pounce, when to engage. How could a recruiter possibly know when a human applicant is most likely to convert to an active status?

There are useful passive sourcing strategies like using CRM tools to build high-potential talent pools and leverage employment brand marketing and job matching agents to keep these leads warm. But ultimately it is a timing game. It’s sort of like selling tires. We all need them, but when we need them is the tire manufacturers marketing challenge. If a tire company could predict when we need a new set, and use that slice in time to sell them to us in a highly-personalized way, we would no longer see the endless tire ads in circulars that clog our mailboxes. Employment branding and recruitment marketing is no different.

Candidate sourcing nirvana would be if a company had the most current and accurate representation of the candidate. And, behavioral insights into when the candidate might convert into an active status. Then, the pounce would be efficient.

Facebook has mastered this. How many times have you searched for a hotel room on Expedia and then suddenly an ad pops up in your Facebook newsfeed for that very vacation spot? It’s a little frightening. What about ‘checking in’ on Facebook in a location and a flurry of relevant restaurant ads populate your newsfeed? Facebook is using AI and machine learning along with your digital behavior to predict the timing of when to present you with relevant advertising. What if companies could do the same with passive candidates as part of their talent acquisition strategy? Soon they will be able to. In fact, some companies are already doing it now.

This is a result of AI and machine learning technologies becoming more embedded into the talent acquisition cycle. Intuitive chatbots use natural language processing to personalize the candidate experience. Some of these AI technologies capture candidate behavior, know what and when candidates have previously searched, and use these ‘behavioral insights’ to provide relevant data to the candidates, in real time.

The following illustrates how these technologies work. Imagine a candidate revisits a company career site after a previous visit. AI technology can immediately recognize the candidate, use their profile information and immediately present chatbots that recommend jobs using natural language processing to actively communicate with the candidate. It might look a bit like this:

Sample candidate experience on a career website

Candidate: Returns to ABC careers site

Chatbot: Hi David, welcome back to ABC company! I think we might have some jobs that might interest you. Can you share a zip code where you are able to work?

Candidate: 78731

Chatbot: Awesome! We have two openings in this area that might match your profile and interests. Please review these jobs.

Retail Associate, Austin, Texas

District Retail Manager, Austin, Texas

Candidate: Selects job

Chatbot: David, thanks for reviewing our Retail Associate position. Can we provide any additional information about this position like salary or shift availability?

Candidate: Yes

Chatbot: Terrific, this position in Austin, Texas pays $15 per hour, comes with great benefits and is immediately available with mornings shifts 8am-12pm Monday through Friday and weekend shifts 5pm-10pm.

Candidate: Applies

Chatbot: Thank you for your application David! We have notified the hiring manager of your submission and have shared your CV. We will be in touch within two business days.

In this scenario, ABC Company has now successfully sourced and captured a passive candidate using behavioral insights and AI and ML innovation to personalize engagement. But the company has not yet hired the candidate! The next crucial step is for the hiring manager or a recruiter to actually reach out to the candidate at a personal level. Which brings me to a final point.

Can a digital experience be a personal recruiting experience? Well, it depends on your interpretation of personalization. If a candidate is presented with accurate, relevant and timely communications about their interests, that’s a tailored experience, that is personal. But should digital personalization replace more subjective and human stages in a recruiting cycle? Probably not.

Good talent acquisition strategies are, and will always be a unique balance of human interaction, subjective insights and technology. Technology can help us find who to talk to and let us know the right time to talk with them, and even automate some of the early recruiting tasks. But, it is up to us to do the actual talking.

About the Author

Brent Ellis
Global Vice President, Solution Advisor & COE leader, SAP SuccessFactors talent acquisition and onboarding solutions

Brent Ellis is a Global Vice President, Solution Advisor & COE leader for the SAP SuccessFactors talent acquisition and onboarding solutions. In this capacity, he oversees presales and sales strategy with specific responsibilities including year-over-year revenue growth, go-to-market messaging, commercialization strategy, sales enablement, prospect & customer engagement, solution partner development and product thought leadership and innovation.

About SAP SuccessFactors

SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite helps you completely reinvent the entire employee experience. You can shift from traditional HR transactions to engaging, end-to-end experiences, using intelligent technology to make each interaction simpler and more meaningful. And by linking employee feedback to operational data, you’ll understand what’s happening and why, so you can continuously deliver unexpectedly exceptional experiences that keep your business growing.

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