Sourcing and Machine Learning: What You Need to Learn
Posted by Chareen Hodge on Wed, May 23, 2018 @ 12:40 PM

RM_desk_smArtificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are changing the sourcing game, and smart sourcers are adapting. In our quest to stay cutting edge, my team implemented a few new practices discussed at SourceCon, and in this two-part blog I want to share some of those methods. You probably know that AI and machine learning are already a part of our lives. That's how companies like Netflix and Amazon learn your preferences so they can make suggestions. If you use Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa, you interact with machine learning regularly.

These technologies are also impacting work. Gartner, for example, is predicting that by 2020, "customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human." Computers are very good at handling rules, such as "if A, then B" or "if C, then not B." Lots of legal work can be done by AI, and is just one example of how aspects of jobs can be done faster and more efficiently by AI-enabled programs.

Does that mean we're all going to be replaced by robots? No. These technologies will change the workplace significantly, but the key for employees is to adapt. For sourcing professionals, that means learning new skills and approaches. There are some things that machines will always do better than humans can, but there are other things -- important things -- that humans can do better than machines (at least for now!).

One study confirmed this by giving the same task to a group of humans and a computer: Take a job description and 8000 résumés, and then try to identify which five people were interviewed and which one person was actually hired.

While the computer arrived at an answer in 3.2 seconds, the humans provided better answers -- even though it took the winner 25 hours to come up with the best answer. Keep in mind that the contest was to guess what a human hiring manager decided, so it's not surprising that humans were better at guessing about a human decision.

This suggests that not only are humans still essential in the process, but also that those who excel at sourcing and recruitment will transition their focus from activities that AI can do better, and therefore are losing value, to activities that are increasingly adding human value:

  • Rather than creating elaborate Boolean search strings (machines can do that), create creative and engaging job descriptions, leveraging branding and highlighting opportunities.
  • In lieu of generic mass emails, use "hyper-personalized" outreach tactics that that stand out from the rest and are simply hard for candidates to ignore.
  • Rather than relying on email and text interactions, make personal, human contact through phone and video conversations.
  • Instead of matching candidate skills with employer needs, focus on behaviors and soft skills that demonstrate a great culture fit.

I'll explore the first three points in more depth in Part 2 of this blog story. Meanwhile, the last point is definitely an area in which good sourcers can prove their value to hiring managers (HMs). A 2016 LinkedIn study found that 58 percent of HMs believe that a lack of soft skills limits productivity. Further, 60 percent said that it is hard to interview for soft skills.

It may be hard to quantify them, but you can learn to assess soft skills, at least to identify candidates who are highly likely to have them. Focus on behavior that demonstrates the soft skills. For example:

  • If the HM is looking for adaptability, look at the candidates' work history. Is there evidence of career growth or change? Have they moved from one department to another?
  • If collaboration is important, look for experience that involved working with teams rather than being an individual contributor. When you ask about projects or accomplishments, does a candidate talk about a team effort?
  • Looking for leadership skills? Listen for strong opinions. Ask about situations in which they had to (or, even better, chose to) think independently. Look for instances of initiative, such as writing blogs or actively engaging in social media.
  • You can assess professional growth potential by looking at career progress on their résumé.
These practices are working well for us at Engage2Excel, and I believe they are going to transition from "emerging" to "standard" very quickly. Check back soon for Part 2 and more practical advice for staying competitive -- by developing skills that machines can't replace.



Topics: recruiting

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