Techno dreams become reality

Sue Weekes wrote an interesting article on Recruiter Magazine. She looks at four technologies that are gathering momentum in the recruitment world.

Not all technologies take off in all sectors straightaway. Machine learning and predictive analytics have roots going back to the 1940s and 1950s, while anyone who remembers the original 1990s Total Recall movie will know that virtual reality was once the future many years ago. Meanwhile, the origin of serious games (see p34) can be traced to video gaming. For reasons of accessibility and affordability, as well as the natural evolution of technology, all four have increasing resonance for recruiters. 


Machine learning

What is it? Where a computer learns to do something even though it hasn’t been specifically programmed to do that task. A form of artificial intelligence, it picks up on patterns in data and, based on this, makes adjustments to its own actions. Even though we don’t notice it, machine learning features in many of our daily online lives: it is the technology that picks up on our ‘likes’ and preferences to deliver content or product recommendations that interest us.

Examples in recruitment: Machine learning is already used within several recruitment and HR applications and could well be the next buzzword. It can be applied in several ways: identifying patterns in data to help recruiters find the best candidates; it can ensure potential candidates are delivered relevant content; and it can help a recruitment system continuously improve. 

In the case of the recruiting platform Meritocracy, for example, machine learning keeps its search tools up-to-date by gathering data about a recruiter’s preferences and embedding them in the platform. Meritocracy explains that its platform “studies” at night, to give candidates and recruiters a better product by the morning. One of the most powerful machine learning systems is IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform and Watson Analytics are already being used in recruitment to help identify future superstars.

Why recruiters should explore its use: Machine learning is a part of predictive analytics that is helping recruiters to use technology far more intelligently. “Machine learning raises the potential of being able to analyse even deeper patterns within the data produced within and around recruitment,” says Jon Ingham, people and organisation development strategist at the consultancy Strategic Dynamics. He believes that while recruiters and candidates are busy getting on board with social media and mobile, technology development has hit a plateau – but that is set to change. 

“The drivers of these changes are around IT analytics, particularly when blended with machine learning systems to deepen the amount of insight we can generate quickly and easily,” he says. “The next five years will be really exciting as these technologies take hold.”

Predictive web and data analytics vector icons

Predictive analytics

What is it? A form of analytics that helps to predict future events or outcomes. It does so by exploring historical and current data, and picks up on patterns or trends. It uses techniques such as data mining, machine learning and modelling to reach its conclusions.

Examples in recruitment: With recruiters having recognised how reporting analytics can make them more efficient and improve performance, many are ready to take the next step and use more proactive predictive tools. Predictive analytics has many applications across recruitment, from assessing how a person may perform in a role to working out when a top performer could be on the move. Companies such as PredictiveHire and Firefish Software have been among those leading the way for recruiters. 

PredictiveHire’s platform allows employers to carry out a data capture on their workforce which, when overlaid with performance data, provides a picture of the type of people that perform well – or not so well – in a role. The top performer’s data can then be plugged into the recruitment processes (employee information in the data capture is gained from answers to a broad-based set of questions). Meanwhile, Firefish’s software can track an individual’s level of engagement and behaviour, and alert a recruiter to crucial trigger points such as when they might be ready to talk to a recruitment agency.

Why recruiters should explore its use: Businesses across all sectors are making the shift towards data-driven decision-making, and predictive analytics are a cornerstone of this. Firefish Software chief executive Wendy McDougall describes predictive recruitment as letting the technology “join the dots”. 

“It presents the trends it finds in your database to guide recruiters in the right direction and maximise hidden placement opportunities with their clients,” she says. A major benefit of such tools is that they have the ability to continue learning.

Steven John, business development manager at PredictiveHire, explains that new performance data is continually input into its algorithm so it remains valid for as long as the client is using the tool. If a group of people flourishes unexpectedly, it shows that a particular pattern of answers in the data capture has become more significant to the business, he says. “It tells you what good looks like before the business has a chance to notice it.”


Serious games

What is it? Use of computer games in a non-entertainment context, although they can still entertain as well. 

Examples in recruitment: The use of serious games in recruitment is different from gamification. The latter is where gaming techniques and tools such as leader boards and badges are used in the recruitment process. Serious games involve the invitation of a candidate or potential candidate to play an actual game, which typically challenges them to do something. Among the most high-profile examples are L’Oréal’s REVEAL game, which helped Gen Y students and graduates define their professional preferences and to explore their suitability for different types of careers within the organisation. Meanwhile, AXA’s award-winning Great Global Adventure game was designed to raise brand awareness among a particular demographic. GCHQ has also used games to help it to engage with future talent. As well as perform a specific function, serious games can also capture valuable profile and performance data in the background.  

Why recruiters should explore their use: Marcus Vlaar, chief creative officer and game director at Ranji Serious Games in the Netherlands, believes serious games can help recruiters see the real candidate by “triggering” authentic behaviour. “If you are playing a game you tend to get immersed in an experience where you lose your critical distance and tendency to show social and desirable behaviour because you want to achieve the goal of the game,” he says. Vlaar’s ideal is that serious games could take over the whole process: “My dream is a player who reaches level 20 and they sign the contract.” 

Mark Beavan, head of digital at ThirtyThree Bristol and who worked on the AXA project, says the use of competitions or challenges is becoming prevalent in the recruitment of technologists and says, where appropriate, recruiters should embrace the use of games. Because game development can be expensive, he acknowledges clients must realise a return on their investment. “But if the return, such as quality of hire, justifies it, they will invest in it.”


Virtual Reality (VR)

What is it? A realistic computer-generated 3D environment in which people can immerse themselves (see Tech & Tools, Recruiter, September 2016). The 3D environment can be viewed through a special headset, with gloves and other equipment helping an individual to experience what seems like real-life sights and sounds. In a more scaled down version, it could be a realistic computer-generated image viewed on a personal computer, such as a 360-degree panorama.

Examples in recruitment: VR has been around a long time, but its use is only now being explored more seriously for recruitment purposes. Its main benefit is that it can make the process far more experiential and insightful for the candidate, such as in the case of the British Army’s campaigns, Army Vision and With Heart. With Mind by JWT and Capita and VR specialist Visualise. In one scenario, for example, the viewer is placed next to the commander on a machine gun turret. 

Meritocracy is launching a VR recruiting experience on its platform that aims to show prospective candidates what it is like to work in an organisation and communicate its vision and ethos. Like the British Army campaign, it makes use of Samsung’s Gear VR tool, which can be used with a Galaxy smartphone. Meritocracy is working with Samsung Italia to test its recruiting tool. Other uses of VR in recruitment could be for video interviewing and skills and capability testing.

Why recruiters should explore its use: VR can literally bring the recruitment experience to life. “With talent harder to come by and the jobs market being so competitive, it is a great way to attract the best to a particular company,” says Will McMaster, head of production at Visualise, adding that VR can also help seek out “exaggerated claims” on CVs and put candidates truly to the test. “We’ve worked on campaigns where a clip will be played to the user, and they are presented with a number of choices as to how they’d react in the situation. It’s a far better way to judge someone’s character.”