HR Technology Q & A with Ross Smith

With the HR Technology Conference (#HRTechConf) just around the corner, we're inviting our Next Official Bloggers to offer their perspective on how technology is impacting the profession today -- and their predictions for the future.

The following is a Q & A with Ross Smith:


Q. What's your social recruiting prediction/trend for 2015?

RS: I think we will continue to see LinkedIn as a popular tool for recruiting. LinkedIn launched in 2003 and had 4,500 members in the first six months. In August 2014, there are more than 313 million members in 200 countries.  For those not familiar, LinkedIn has a talent blog. My prediction, however, has nothing to do with LinkedIn features or what the service can provide to recruiters. I write this from the perspective of a candidate. I notice this because in my top 10 most connected candidates, there are always recruiters.

Using LinkedIn to connect has very little cost or risk - to either candidate or recruiter. There is a simple 3-4 step process that is almost frictionless for both. The recruiter can reach out and send a LinkedIn request, with job title and profile view for the candidate to explore if interested. If not, that’s the end – a 15-second investment for a candidate to decide whether to accept and explore more. If there’s interest, the next layer of the onion is peeled back and the recruiter can share a job description. For the candidate, perhaps a 2 minute investment for the candidate to read through and learn more. So with a total investment of under 3 minutes, the candidate can filter by company, location, job, industry and then decide if they want to take things further.  And of course on the recruiter side, they can search profile information, target industries or candidates, and then reach out to initiate the process above.

The reason I see this is as a growing trend in 2015 is that compared with many other forms of finding and engaging with candidates, the cost is low and the return is high – particularly for the candidate. The social norm is starting to suggest that it’s acceptable, because potential candidates who are not interested and don’t want to be bothered, simply ignore the connection request. Spammers can be identified, so the service can separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality recruiters. 


Q.  As technology evolves, what do you think the future of recruiting will look like?  Will software programs and computers replace recruiters?

RS: Workplace demographics showing the globalization of the workforce will force an increased use of technology. Virtual interviews are commonplace now and mobile technology increases our ability to connect. It is a broader question whether or not software can replace the human side of anything, including recruiting. There was some exciting press in June that a machine passed the “Turing Test” of machine intelligence, but upon further review, lots of skepticism. I don’t believe this will advance in the next few years, as humans have a name for Turing test failures when applied in business, commerce, and enterprise – and that name is SPAM. I suspect there will be tasks that recruiters do today that will be done by machines, but the human connection is important, and the Uncanny Valley is still wide enough that, as long as the candidates are human, the future seems to suggest the continued need for recruiters, though I’m confident that recruiters performance, effectiveness, and reach will continue to be enhanced through software.

Q.  Now that everyone is using technology to find candidates, how can organizations use technology to attract them? 

RS: There’s some interesting Wikipedia reading on “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is nearby, does it make a sound?”  “Build it and they will come” from Field of Dreams. The point here is that generational and technological changes are influencing communications channels. Claude Shannon’s information theory explores the effectiveness of two-way communication – and to summarize, employers cannot act like the proverbial drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight because it’s easier to see – and rely on legacy channels – they need to change to communicate where the candidates are – and that is social media. This is an area where the best companies will excel. Media channels are changing, particularly as Gen Y and Millennials advance in the workplace, and organizations need to adjust to deliver messaging on the channels where the candidates are, and leverage technology to invite a two-way dialog, using those channels. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, and other channels are great ways to tell the story and invite the conversation.

Q    Technology is enabling HR to look at how their strategy affects organizational performance, in addition to HR-specific problems. To what extent are today’s HR professionals able to step outside the box that has traditionally defined their role?

RS: Given my perspective, I will tweak the question a bit from “are they able” to “should they” – and answer that I think in the global competition for talent, leading organizations will be those that can best engage candidates and find the best talent, wherever it may be, and shepherd them through the hiring process. Hiring managers are not paying attention to shifts in the talent pool, hiring limitations, and talent shortages, global and generational demographic changes. I think it’s incumbent on HR professionals to jump out of the box and innovate in the way their companies compete for talent. The world is changing, and I think HR professionals on the front line see the leading indicators, and driving change through out-of-the-box thinking will set the best companies apart and help them recruit the top talent.

Q.  What are the advantages of combining both HR professionals and technology process experts to design software that will address HR’s future challenges?

RS: In the world of advertising, the term ‘reach’ describes the number of people exposed to a particular medium or message. Channel is the means by which a message is transmitted.  Imprint or eyeballs is a description of measurement on the receiver side.  The channels through which humans communicate have changed dramatically in the recent past, and continue to evolve more quickly than at any time in history. Clay tablets were used for hundreds of years, as was Papyrus. If we were to do some creative time travel, let’s go back to about 1000 or 1100AD – the time of the Crusades, when the Tower of London was built, or streets in Paris were paved for the first time – and overlay the LinkedIn member population – every human alive in the world would be on LinkedIn. Fun to imagine William the Conqueror using Twitter or Facebook.

It’s no secret that communication is a critical component of human existence, and it’s no different for HR professionals. As the world changes how they communicate, and next gen workers migrate from traditional channels to social media, it’s critical that leveraging technology become a core competency for tomorrow’s HR professional. Building cross-discipline teams that partner HR professionals with technology experts will result in creative solutions that bridge these two formally disparate worlds in ways that address ways to reach candidates where they live…

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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