Can Employers Improve the Process for Recruiting Interns and Those Seeking Their First Real Job?

6/19/17

As we were preparing for the upcoming Jobipedia Networking Conference in Fort Worth, TX, on July 27-28, two questions kept surfacing.  First, are large employers taking full advantage of the available AI resources to recruit and retain first-time jobseekers?  Second, are large employers putting themselves in the best possible position to solicit and receive the type of information they need to identify the talent for which they are searching?

Jobipedia is a collaborative of hiring managers from nearly 30 HR Policy member companies led by Cheryl Johnson, Executive Vice President, Human Resources at Textron.  These managers are not only promoting their companies in the talent space, they are doing an important societal good.  They provide a free career advice website that contains a variety of resources to help college students and early career job seekers navigate the job hunt and successfully enter the workforce. Not only does its rich database provide answers to nearly every question a job seeker might have, anyone can submit a career-related or job hunting question that will be personally answered.

With more than 2 million people now using this unique resource, Jobipedia is addressing one of the nation’s most significant challenges: moving students into successful careers.  These hiring managers are demonstrating the commitment large companies have in their success.

There are two reasons we began asking the questions above.  First, companies have already been challenged on these points by Laszlo Bock, the former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google who recently addressed our West Coast membership meeting.  In his 2015 book, Work Rules!, he upends much of the conventional wisdom regarding recruiting and talent management practices, describing how he took the company from 6,000 employees to 50,000 while attracting and retaining a number of the most talented people in the world.  Yes, you would expect him to say that “each year, technology makes it easier to find great people.” But he goes on to describe most corporate job sites as “awful.”  He said they are “difficult to search, filled with generic job descriptions that don’t tell you anything about what the job really is or what the team you’ll be part of is like, and provide no feedback on whether you’d be good for a role or not.”

The second trigger was an article in the June 1, 2017 issue of Fortune.  Entitled “How AI Is Changing Your Job Hunt,” it reports how artificial intelligence is being brought to hiring, “with some 75 startups scrambling for a piece of the $100 billion HR assessment market.”  It’s already well established that robotics has begun automating most routine administrative functions, but with recent advances in cognitive computing and artificial neural networks, machines can also process information intuitively in ways that can be applied to recruiting.

Let’s look at the challenges recruiters face today. For applicants coming out of universities, there is a degree, the institution awarding the degree, and a GPA.  Beyond that, not much.  Several HR Policy members share Bock’s experience that the three are not good predictors of success.  At the same time, we are told by members that the turnover rate for those in their first real job is very high, with the average tenure two years or less.  Yes, we all remember our first job out of college, and for many the experience was a shock.  But perhaps it was the wrong job because it wasn’t a good match.

Recruiters are also inundated with large volumes of applications because interns and entry-level job seekers, unsure what will catch a recruiter’s attention, have learned to game the system and flood the zone, applying to as many companies and for as many positions as possible.  Yes, there are pre-screens, but we are told that applicants are adept at wriggling through them.  This means a recruiter may need to sift through hundreds if not thousands of resumes for a single position.  How can a recruiter have time to figure out in any systematic way who is truly serious about the position and whether an applicant will be a good fit?

On top of that, where underrepresentation exists, recruiters are under great pressure to meet various diversity goals, women in engineering being just one example.  Again, what is the best way to sift through hundreds of applications to target potential prospects when many of them seem so similar?

The Fortune article describes some of the new software that enhances applicant tracking systems being developed—Avature, Entelo, Talent Sonar, HireVue, Fama, SkillSurvey, and Koru, for example.  One program, Interviewed, is described as using “natural language processing and machine learning to construct a psychological profile that predicts whether a person will fit a company’s culture.”  Some of our members are using a Google product, Cloud Jobs, that enables a company’s career page to more likely match the intent of jobseekers.  It’s ironic that while millions have been using dating software for years to produce matches, that same technology hasn’t been applied broadly to developed employment relationship matches.

Perhaps, therefore, our Jobipedia initiative should add additional components.  For example, could it develop a benchmark service through which recruiters could learn about and share information regarding advances in recruiting software?  Imagine if the Jobipedia team could identify resources that use AI to sort through 1,000 resumes in a few minutes to come up with the ten best prospects for the recruiter to explore.  What if the average tenure of a first-time job seeker increased from two to three or even four years because a better match was achieved?  Further, we could look at those “generic job descriptions that don’t tell you anything about what the job really is or what the team you’ll be part of is like.”  Could they be changed to take advantage of all the advances in artificial intelligence?  Everyone would agree with Bock that we should be all about “finding the very best people who will be successful in the context of your organization, and who will make everyone around them more successful.”

Our Jobipedia meeting next month should be fascinating.