30 May

I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

Ok, let’s do the bad: 70% of what you do right now will be done by an ATS or something similar within 5 years……..probably sooner.

Let’s take a tractor analogy. If you go back 90 years, horses first started to get replaced by tractors and it will surely only be a matter of time before we don’t even need a person to drive them. This is the technology revolution. It’s taken nearly 200 years but we are now entering what I would argue is just it’s 2nd phase where the technology starts to make its own decisions based on variables it identifies.

The first technological revolution was the development of machinery and equipment that allowed the human operator to be more efficient rather than purely replacing them. The examples are almost too numerous to count: tractors replaced horses, delivery vans replaced the horse and cart (not sure the horses actually cared) but as a result productivity soared into the stratosphere. Textile looms could produce 100 times the amount of cloth 1 person could make but the good news for the workforce is that the machinery didn’t replace the person. Instead they were just given a new role of managing and repairing the loom (as well as creating massive amounts of extra jobs developing and building the new machinery). Luddites may have smashed up machinery but ultimately society benefited from greater productivity and far from increasing unemployment, new industries that sprang up to support this new growth and technology actually created new jobs from nothing. From textile mills to automotive production lines, humans were still gainfully employed but their roles were supported rather than threatened by technology. Now that’s changing as we enter the 2nd industrial revolution. Machines aren’t just doing what they’re told by their human masters, they are thinking for themselves and replacing the decision making that was once the sole preserve of whoever controlled and/or steered the machine. Whereas previously the machine could be seen as the muscle controlled by a human brain, the machine is now both the muscle and the brain, meaning an awful lot of roles are going to be made redundant, never to return. It’s not looking good for the those in these jobs…..

  • Delivery drivers, taxis, pizzas on bikes: sorry but this will all be delivered by satellite powered vehicles in just a few years.

  • Checkout operators: Amazon doesn’t need you and where Amazon leads…..

  • Claims underwriters: nope, a bot can do your job and doesn’t take sick leave.

  • Want a loan: Who needs a bank manager. AI will crunch all your data in 2 seconds and work out far more accurately if you’re a good credit risk or not.

  • Accountants: look away now. The client will just plug the numbers into the software package and bingo, accounts done. Tax prep calculated.

  • Even medics could be in trouble. A recent study revealed AI to be better than radiologists at predicting the likelihood of breast cancer developing. 

Technology has traditionally been used to assist its human master. That was the industrial revolution of 200+ years ago but stage 2 threatens everyone: the clever and the not so clever. In the case of manufacturing industry an awful lot of jobs will be replaced by physical machines and AI powered software in the case of service led industries like the law, accounting and dare I say it, recruiting.

Walk up and down a Tesla production line and just look at the number of machines or as they prefer to call them, robots, doing the jobs that were once done by hand. Paint spraying, the fitting of complex pieces of equipment, assembling engines, testing engines……...the list goes on and on. Amazon got lots of plaudits for increasing their minimum wage to $15 an hour for warehouse staff and rightly so but what they didn’t mention was the fact that they’ll easily be able afford to do this with no real dent in margins as they switch from humans to robot pickers. The robots, admittedly programmed by humans, can do with ever increasing precision what a human can do. They don’t need sleep, take sick leave or require holidays. They don’t ask for a minimum wage and are unlikely to feel the need to unionise.

Nike and Adidas have started an arms race powered by robots. Both are investing heavily in robots to build sports shoes up to 20 times faster than a human can. Great for the consumer as robots are far less expensive than their human equivalents, but not so great if you are one of those factory workers who are inevitably going to be laid off. The Asian economies, providing the labour to produce the products we in the West have dined out on for so long, are particularly vulnerable.

So how is this bad news for recruiters? Well here’s a list of admin heavy tasks any half decent ATS will gobble up within 10 years (probably much less):

Reviewing resumes:

Even now basic algorithms can rank a list of resumes with a reasonable degree of accuracy. It’s not perfect but they will learn exponentially which applicants get shortlisted and thus can learn to spot the candidate most likely to be interview material. How long before we hear this in the recruiting department…..”Alexa, rank the applicants for the xxxxx role”. 

How long before your AI powered help bot pop ups and says...….”Try blah blah candidate, applied to xxx job 4 months ago but could be more suitable for your yyyy role”.

Scheduling interviews:

You probably hate this part of the job and will be glad to see the back of it and rest assured you will. There is simply no reason for you to do this. Interviewers will be able to click a button that says ‘schedule interview’ and the ATS will automatically contact the candidate having read the interviewer’s diary and extracted relevant time slots. The candidate simply books themselves in. This is not the future, it’s happening right now via any half decent ATS.

Rejecting candidates:

It will all be pre-set up by the hiring manager. Stored template messages for different stages will be sent the moment the software reviews your cv which will be seconds after it is submitted. The obviously unsuitable will either be rejected immediately or marked as ‘low quality’ ‘1 star’ etc so the recruiter doesn’t even have to look at them.

Initial filtering/telephone screening:

Will it be necessary if the candidate submits a video based profile? Probably not.

Will it be necessary for the recruiter to do any initial filtering if the hiring manager just picks the best 3 to interview from the shortlist the AI driven ATS has recommended? Probably not.

Posting to job sites:

It’s already happening. The ATS simply posts it out automatically the moment the job is created. The hiring manager will simply confirm it’s a finance job and pre-determined job boards, marked to receive this type of job, will get sent the job. Not only that, as job boards transition to a pay per click model so the software will automatically reallocate budget away from underperforming job boards for that job towards the site or sites performing best. There will be virtually no need for any human interaction other than the initial set up ‘this job goes to this type of board’ or ‘all jobs go to this aggregator’. The recruiter will simply sit back whilst the software moves budget around to maximise both response rates and cpc.

Answering weird and wacky candidate questions

No, bots are going to do that. There’s a whole host of companies developing AI driven bots that sit on your website with 1 simple task: answer questions from candidates. Bots won’t just answer the easy stuff suggesting jobs the potential applicant might be suitable for, they’ll try to identify a really good candidate and solicit a resume immediately, then route them to managers who are currently hiring. possibly for an immediate screen…..’your profile sounds great. Hang on just 1 minute and let me try to hook you up directly with the hiring manager’.

They’ll also answer questions related to a specific job application telling the candidate what stage they are at or if they’ve already been rejected. All the things the overworked Talent Manager has to do now.

Searching your talent pool

‘Enjoy’ it whilst it lasts because the ATS will do that for you very soon. The ATS can scan thousands of resumes in less than 2 seconds, ranking and ordering them for the hiring manager by best fit. Not only can it rank potential applicants in your talent pool with increasing accuracy, the ATS will also automatically email those candidates who reach a given threshold in terms of a match for the job inviting them to apply. It probably won’t be long before your ATS starts going outside its own walls to try to proactively identify candidates who could match up with a job spec. Imagine that: you’re own electronic headhunter scouring the internet finding candidates for you. We’re not there yet, but it will happen.

Need to use staffing agencies?

Well your super duper AI driven ATS will recognise when you are struggling to fill a job and after a predetermined amount of time, will automatically notify relevant agencies….’ok, now it’s your turn’ etc etc.

Will your ATS make mistakes…..probably. Will that mean this AI driven ubiquity will never happen? Highly unlikely. It’s going to happen, so that’s the bad news: an awful lot of the admin heavy stuff will be done by your ATS. But the good news is that that doesn’t mean the role of the recruiter will be made redundant, it just means you are going to need to re-skill. 

So what will the Talent Manager of the (very) near future morph into? Well, here is the good news…... as the ATS does the grunt work for you, your role will focus much more on marketing and data analysis. Your key focus will be on promoting your company as a great place to work applying the techniques marketers use right now to find new customers. That means building a kick ass careers site with the content people want to see. Content that makes them want to work for you. Those are marketing skills. You will be constantly analysing the number around your careers site: number of visits, length of time spent on the site, applications vs visits and you’ll spend a lot of time working out the content that converts or put another way, building a site based on trial and error to see what maximises the likelihood of candidates applying. Just as your marketing team constantly adjusts advert landing pages to see what generates the most sign ups, so to you will constantly adjust both your careers site and job adverts to analyse and identify the best performing content to maximise applications.

So what’s the difference between your company’s conventional marketing department and your ‘talent attraction staff’ currently sitting in HR / hiring? Answer: not much. One focuses on marketing programmes to attract clients/customers for the firm whilst the talent attraction staff do the same but for prospective employees. The techniques will be no different, only the end goal.

So you will need to get comfortable with google analytics in order to identify which sections of your careers site are most appealing to your potential customers i.e. job applicants. Your gold standard metric will be your conversion ratios. Visits vs number of people who actually apply. Is it going up if we tweak the look/feel of our careers site? Test, test and test some more. What happens when we add a video job description, not a written one? Do we get more responses, less responses? What happens when we add an employee testimonial in the middle of a job description? What happens when you do a pay per click Twitter campaign promoting a certain job? How does that stack up against results you’ve got from Facebook etc etc. Not using your Instagram channel? Whoops…..get on to it. Then track and analyse the results. This content was viewed tons on Instagram and led to 45% of those eyeballs visiting our careers site.

How about your talent pool. Why are you still paying vast fees to staffing firms when you should be sourcing these great people direct? Probably because you haven’t pipelined properly. Pipelined? Yeah, that’s where you are constantly marketing/sourcing candidates for key roles you are regularly recruiting for, before you actually need to hire them. You might not have a role right here, right now but if you can build a pipeline of profiles that look relevant, when you do have to hire you can just email out the job or target them on Linkedin. So this means you’re likely to do some market scoping. Literally creating lists of profiles of people working at other firms you’ve identified as being right for certain key positions in your company so when they become free you’re ready to move quickly. 

You’ll also be tracking and analysing your open vs apply rates so you’ll need to develop copywriting skills to invite people to join 1 of your pipelines. Pipelining is used by all the major football teams across Europe (soccer to our American cousins). The best players from opposition teams are analysed and a hit list of potential recruits for each of the 11 outfield positions is developed. Should the need arise to find a replacement centre forward the club has already done the preparatory work and can go after who they want immediately. So it will be for the hiring of the future for your key positions, not all your roles, but those key ones you have to get right as well as the ones you are constantly hiring. Instead of advertising on job boards you will simply mailshot your talent pipeline which you’ve been keeping warm for exactly this moment with a continuous drip feed of marketing info about things your firm is doing and why you’re a great place to work. Alternatively you can look at your ‘not yet contacted’ list and try and reach out to them on Linkedin.

Identify - nurture - hire. Such will be the emphasis on marketing it’s perfectly possible that the talent attraction teams of the future will actually sit within the marketing team, or vice versa.

But your other key role will be in the analysis of the hires your company makes. What were the characteristics of the ones that turned out to be duffers vs the ones who flew to the stars. Then working with your ATS to build basic algorithms to predict, given all the data you have put in, how likely is it that this person you are considering will be a success. We all know the costs of a bad hire so imagine if your ATS can help you build a predictive model of their likely success rates. That’s a long way off, but it will happen. Your ATS will analyse the resume and interview responses to assess not just likely fit, but will compare it to resumes of your superstars. It won’t just look for key words/skills, it will analyse word patterns, phrase structures, educational background, type of degree, number of jobs undertaken, variety of companies worked for, type of company worked for then add in the results of interviews, psychometric testing you’ve done and the ATS will give you a predictive rating from 1 - 5 with 5 being hire them immediately ‘you’ve found the next Steve Jobs’ or 1…. ‘don’t go near this one’. In many ways that is the Holy Grail of recruiting: superstar profiling. After all, it’s far easier to attract the right type of applicants when you know the characteristics of previous applicants who have subsequently gone on to knock it out of the park.


You won’t necessarily be required to actually develop this kind of superstar profiling algorithm, your ATS will develop it for you but you’ll need to plug in the data and the weighting allocated to each different data point entered. So learn how to work with these algorithms along with the techniques of digital marketing and you will equip yourself well for the future of hiring. The new front line in the war for talent is closer to home than you think. It’s you, the talent manager, the recruiter, the head of talent marketing or whatever you want to call yourself. Once Covid-19 has run its course and we return to the kind of universally low unemployment across numbers seen over the last 3 years, the talent manager is absolutely the key person in the company. Are you ready to be a next generation recruiter?

Nick Leigh-Morgan

CEO, iKrut.com

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