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Talent Acquisition Trends from the 2018 HR Technology Conference and Exposition

Evaluating and selecting talent management technology is a growing challenge for HR directors and managers. Senior talent acquisition leaders gathered at the 2018 HR Technology Conference and Expo to discuss how they've taken on the challenge to support their companies' recruiting and hiring goals.
HR Tech tips

The market for talent management technology is exploding with multiple startups and expanded capabilities from well-established companies. However, evaluating and choosing talent acquisition technology, such as applicant tracking and candidate relationship management (CRM) systems, has never been more complex. Especially when so much of the information and hype is focused on what these systems can do, rather than what they can do for you.

At the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Exposition, a panel of senior talent acquisition leaders, including Gail Blum, manager of talent acquisition operations for NBCUniversal, Kelly Cartwright, head of recruiting transformation at Amazon, and moderator Madeline Laurano of Aptitude Research Partners discussed talent acquisition trends and ways to simplify how to evaluate and select HR technology to support your company’s recruiting and hiring goals.

Talent acquisition challenges

“What talent acquisition is focused on today is different than it was a year ago.” – Madeline Laurano, Aptitude Research Partners

In a changing labor market, how can companies best leverage HR technology to better attract and capture talent? And how can they more efficiently convert those candidates into employees?

For Kelly, the sheer number of different job types at Amazon makes it difficult to find technology that can help manage it all. Gail at NBCUniversal has a similar issue: figuring out how to make technology efficient enough to manage many different types of talent and ensure that the company’s employment brand is consistent across departments. Madeline sees her company struggling with the fact that the market for talent is tight and competition is growing.

One place technology can help solve these issues is candidate experience.

What does a successful candidate experience look like?

“It’s not just about the experience when they look for a job, it’s their experience the entire way through the process.” – Kelly Cartwright, Amazon

The HR Tech Conference panel agreed that in order to have a great candidate experience, you must also have a positive recruiter experience. According to Gail, focus on recruiters first, make a concerted effort to communicate with candidates (but don’t be obnoxious about it), and streamline the process, so they still have a positive impression of the company when it comes time to hire, or when they may apply for another position in the future.

Constantly evaluate the entire candidate journey and use data to know what they want and expect from the process – then deliver it, Kelly added. Try to dig into areas of opportunity to make improvements, and try to avoid a communication “black hole” where candidates never hear from you.

To Madeline, it’s not just about a “good or bad” candidate experience, it’s about how the experience helps achieve what you specifically want to accomplish. This helps you frame your mission around it and decide what to prioritize. To do this, you need to understand your candidates’ journey. She recommends learning where the blocks are in your process and removing them. There are many things you could do to improve the candidate experience, but you should focus on what’s reasonable and scalable.

What should you expect from recruitment marketing technology?

“If it doesn’t all connect together and navigate people through the journey successfully, it doesn’t help me.” – Kelly Cartwright, Amazon

In other words, the recruitment process needs to be seamless. There are many new vendors in this space, with just as many new capabilities. Artificial intelligence is a big trend, for example, but how does it help your candidate move from talent acquisition to the transaction of hiring, Kelly asked.

Chatbots are another trend in recruitment marketing technology. Gail noted that if your company has non-intuitive job titles that don’t match candidates’ expectations, chatbots allow them to upload a resume while keywords are matched with available jobs. This gives applicants a list of the top matches for them. In the past, companies may have lost those candidates, because job seekers didn’t recognize how the title applied to what they do. After a candidate applies, Gail says NBCUniversal moves them into the company’s CRM platform and follows up with timely communications.

Madeline’s fundamental requirement for recruitment marketing technology is that the CRM needs to be integrated with the applicant tracking system and assessment capabilities. Solutions should allow you to take all passive sourcing and manage that communication in one place, capture applicants, and manage them in the applicant tracking system. Her company uses a mix of best of breed and in-house, proprietary technology to accomplish this.

With so many providers, how can you stay on top of talent acquisition technology?

“Be the expert. Take control of the demo.” – Madeline Laurano, Aptitude Research Partners

It’s important to stay abreast of what’s happening in the market. Kelly recommends experimenting and running pilot programs, but start with a clear problem you’re trying to solve. Do you need more candidates? More candidate diversity? Be cautious, know what you’re delivering today and figure out how much time and tasking it requires. Get in the weeds, so you know exactly what you need to improve. The vendor shouldn’t need to lead that conversation.

Gail agreed that it never hurts to do occasional demos and free pilots. See if a new vendor has the capabilities to help solve your specific problem. Integration is also important. Is it another system where you’ll need a separate login? If you require people to use disparate systems, usage stats likely won’t be as positive as you’d hope.

In other words, the barrier to entry is how simple and connected the technology is. To Madeline, it’s great to have demos to see what’s going on, but you need to know what you’re really trying to accomplish. Don’t choose technology for its own sake. Vendors don’t necessarily know what they need to supply in order to solve your specific problem – unless you help them. They’ll come with ideas for how to use their technology; you need to know what you absolutely need it to do, so they can show you how their technology can meet your needs.

The increasing challenge of managing internal mobility

“The responsibility for internal job postings has been shifting from HR to talent acquisition.” – Gail Blum, NBCUniversal

In the past, there hadn’t been much impetus to help people move from one department to another. And besides, there was the added issue of how to address a manager’s feelings when an employee has been poached by someone else at their own company.

Eliminating that stigma starts with communication from the HR team making it clear that the company wants employees to further their career there rather than go somewhere else. Look at the increase in the number of boomerang employees who return to a company after they’ve left for supposedly greener pastures. The real question is how can you stop the initial movement. Gail recommended looking at external tools that can help with candidate experience, then have employees use the same tool external candidates receive.

Lynn said you should look for technology that integrates employees into the main talent acquisition pipeline, sources them, and serves up the most talented candidate agnostic of whether they’re external or internal. In a tight labor market, companies can’t afford to lose qualified candidates from within the organization to competitors.

Kelly is looking beyond internal mobility to total talent management. She sees a future where the recruiter sits with the hiring manager and discusses whether a position is full-time, contingent, a gig worker, what their demographics are, where the workforce population is going, and more. The industry isn’t at that point yet. She says companies know where they want to get, but processes, technology, and people all need to be able to work well together first.

There’s a lot of excitement in talent acquisition thanks to new technology

“Reduce the scrambles and be able to scale as necessary.” – Kelly Cartwright, Amazon

At the end of their HR Tech session, each panelist talked briefly about something that excites them about the current state of talent acquisition technology.

Lynn feels that there is a convergence of best in breed solutions starting to connect the dots with each other. This will help improve adoption, which is an important requirement for successful HR technology.

Gail is excited about leveraging the expanding capabilities of existing technology that employees are already used to using. Make sure you know what return you need from your investment. If a vendor is helping you with a problem you don’t have, it’s not helpful. For example, a vendor’s ability to decrease time to hire may be irrelevant if you don’t currently have an issue with time to hire.

Kelly is looking forward to a real pipeline. HR professionals have been talking about the same problems for a long time, but we’re finally getting to a state where we’re doing it efficiently and well.

When it comes to talent acquisition technology, finding the right solution is a challenge. But it’s a positive one. The many recent advancements we see today mean that you’ll have the ability to choose an excellent solution based on your specific needs. And that’s an exciting challenge indeed.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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